Communicate chats with Mauricio Sanaiote, Creative Director at Geometry MENA to learn how creativity has been impacted during the pandemic and what the Geometry Creative Week hopes to achieve.
What is the Geometry Creative Week and what does the event hope to achieve?
Normally at this time of year, we would all be getting together on the French Rivera to celebrate Cannes but due to [the pandemic,] that won’t be happening. [But we needed to ensure] that despite the cancellation, creativity was still front and center within our industry. So we introduced the Geometry Creative Week, [a virtual event that] brings together a host of industry leaders across the world for a celebration of creativity, with a focus on the five key pillars that sit at Geometry’s core: Retail, innovation, brand experiences, e-commerce, and design.
What are your thoughts on creativity in the MENA region?
I believe that our region is full of opportunities from a creative perspective. Last year the region won its first Grand Prix at Cannes. We’ve also seen big agencies recruiting talent from the region to their creative hubs in New York and London as well as [sitting on the jury panel] at major creative festivals. This demonstrates that the region has gained momentum and relevance in the creative industry.
We can also note that the region as a whole is still in a dynamic transition phase, converging traditional versus digital platforms. Of course, this is a global trend, however, this movement is accentuated here, mainly because large markets, such as Saudi Arabia, are undergoing profound socio-cultural transformations. I would not be surprised to see a rapid digitization of the region as we saw in China, for example. This digitization, in my opinion, should be driven more strongly with the post-pandemic transformations and what we have called the “new normal”.
By the way, speaking of socio-cultural transformations in the region, I see that the agencies in MENA, and consequently their creatives, are in a unique position, in which they can both surf this wave of social transformations or they can also accelerate these transformations, generating a positive impact in the society. The Blank Edition campaign for Arabic-language daily newspaper An-Nahar in Lebanon or Dasani Hidden Influencers made by Geometry last year in Pakistan are prime examples.
The region is also at the epicenter of major world events, such as Expo 2020 in Dubai and the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Not to mention major regional events such as Sole DXB, Jeddah Season, and Riyadh Season that are catalysts for large investments and excellent opportunities for business and creativity.
I also see a H2 full of challenges ahead. Primarily because the economic turmoil that has been going on since last year tends to accentuate this year due to the pandemic. Consequently, we creatives will have to adapt to increasingly lean budgets both on the client-side and internally. This will certainly shape our final creative product in one way or another. However, I don’t see any of this as a problem – creativity has always been an ally of transformations and revolutions throughout history. And it will be no different this time.
How has creativity been impacted during the pandemic?
On the contrary, it’s the opposite: I see the pandemic being impacted by creativity. I’ve seen wonderful ideas and campaigns around the world, helping to raise awareness about the gravity of Covid-19. I have seen an acceleration in innovations: new tools and apps that help us to work better, with more connectivity and efficiency. I have seen creativity and innovation offering new methods of protection, ways to reconnect, services that increase the safety of both consumers and employees, business models, etc. Creativity has never been more important than now. It’s a game-changer amidst this difficult moment.
The pandemic is a worldwide tragedy and we will forever mourn every life lost in the midst of this chaos. Along with a pandemic came a socioeconomic crisis. Within this context, we have put our creative talent to help our clients to reinvent themselves and have focused our energy to [help] improve people’s lives.
How has creativity particularly in the field of commerce been impacted during the pandemic?
Since the pandemic broke out, two words, in particular, have gained even more strength in the daily lives of agencies and clients: innovation and e-commerce. We all had to innovate at different levels. And we could spend hours here enumerating the number of things we have changed or innovated – from the way we live and work to the way we do business. As we all know, innovation and creativity go hand in hand.
If there is an impact that the pandemic has had on creativity, that impact is that we have been working [alot] more harder, especially in the field of commerce. Obviously, Coronavirus is shaking up business and consumer behavior on a massive scale. The main change in behavior when it comes to commerce was the sudden and massive migration of people to e-commerce platforms. Suddenly we were all pushed into e-commerce due to social isolation measures. Although these e-commerce platforms already existed before the pandemic, consumer’s shopping behavior was different. Before, the vast majority of people used to go to the physical supermarket in order to choose their fruits and vegetables, touch what they were buying. People used to go to the fashion store to try on the clothes they wanted to buy. In many cases we had a friendly relationship and a certain complicity with the owner of the laundry shop or the bakala clerk. The mystique of the consumer’s experience with the physical store has collapsed.
For now, it doesn’t exist anymore. And here comes creativity as a powerful weapon to reconnect people with brands, consumers and retailers. Creativity has played this role of repurposing the commerce and e-commerce businesses – from the tone of voice of the brand, through the new media that are needed and the new engagement experiences that this brand can offer within the digital environment.
Geometry aims to use this time to rethink what has come before, to rethink what currently exists, and to transform to the cultural beat of today and tomorrow. How exactly do you plan to do so?
The global pandemic has given us the time we need to really assess what is and isn’t working for brands. We aren’t going back to what we knew as ‘normal’ any time soon, and so we need to be one step ahead for when we do go back to a new sense of normality. This has made us think differently, look further ahead than we ever normally have done or would do, and consider what society might look like and within that what role brands and products will play in the lives of consumers. Commerce is something that exists all around us in various forms, and it’s these channels that have had to adapt throughout the pandemic and will do so moving forward. What brands never thought they would do, they’re doing [it now.]. Our focus will continue to be to reimagine the way we transact and interact while providing sustainable innovations and creative solutions for brands, to support them on the next stage of their journey.