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Reasons to be Cheerful (In Adversity)


INFLUENCER: Our faith in our power as a collective can make a real difference, writes Ruffian founder and EP Robert Herman

Reasons to be Cheerful (In Adversity)

Advertising is the second oldest profession. Which means it has survived multiple attempts on its life and come back stronger each time. It is woven into our culture, mostly reflecting it, and at times blazing a trail through it. The formats may change, but one thing that remains constant is that it is always about the idea. We consider that our North Star and the most crucial consideration. Everything we do, or decision we make, should be in service to that basic principle. From there, it becomes about producers and directors finding innovative ways to express that idea. That is why the dynamic of an agency (in whatever form) creating ideas, working, and collaborating with production companies is such a powerful, symbiotic relationship. Despite all notions that it will collapse, it has not, through crisis after crisis. Rather, that collaboration and exchange remain a critical process that ultimately elevates the work we all produce.

Over the last few months, historic events have shaken the very foundation of the world as we know it. First, Covid-19 and lockdowns closed offices and halted production. Then, the protests and anguish following the death of George Floyd exposed a lingering societal pandemic in America and globally, as well as within our own industry.

Our post Covid world - or, 'the world', as it will eventually, simply, be known again - will look different from what came before, and that’s a good thing. There will be, in practical terms, the things we simply can’t do for a while but eventually return to, and then there will be the things that we forever do differently. The process of distinguishing these is such a tremendous opportunity. How often do we talk about adapting and hoping things change, and how often do we actually take action to do it? We change when we must. Technologies will evolve, mindsets will shift, resolutions will be made. We will ask ourselves in this new environment of real consequence: why are we doing it this way? In this time of radical disruption, every working practice should be reviewed and updated. Not should, in fact. Must. This is an opportunity we are not often afforded. Let’s seize it. In an ideal world, these changes will have not only a positive impact on the work itself, but also on our environment, our society, and our relationships with each other.

And for those concerned that we will somehow lose creativity along the way, history offers us many precedents that the opposite is true. Creativity tends to improve as the obstacles increase. For example, the incredible culture of animation in Eastern Europe was not borne out of a passion for telling animated stories. It came about for the simple reason that any kind of anti-communist storytelling was forbidden by the authorities, so filmmakers had to retreat to darkened rooms, to work silently and quietly to tell the stories they wanted to tell. To quote Harry Lime in The Third Man, “In Italy under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed – they produced Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love and five hundred years of democracy, and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock!”

Knowing that dark times can give birth to great creative movements isn't a reason to minimise the momentous trauma we are experiencing together. We are navigating enormous death tolls, loss, uncertainty, anger, and confusion that is nearly incomprehensible. But looking to history, in search of some hope and perhaps a path forward, is a necessary exercise right now. Our faith in our power as a collective can make a real difference. 

Robert Herman is founder and executive producer of Ruffian

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Ruffian, Fri, 03 Jul 2020 14:41:57 GMT