When the going gets tough, the tough get going

Covid-19 has offered an unexpected opportunity for creatives to reset and innovate

In a report produced by Cannes Lions and WeTransfer earlier this year, Isobar’s Global Executive Chairman, Jean Lin said something that really stuck with me. Typically crisis moments cause the risk-averse business community to retreat to established modes of thinking. But her view was that the pandemic was unleashing a different response, that “Post-Covid creativity is absolutely in the driving seat, as the world does need now, more than ever, an outpouring of unbridled creativity, at pace, to help solve challenges.”

This sentiment echoes a trend that we’ve seen at WeTransfer too. We’re seeing that, among our creative community, this year has been a chance to reset, to think more creatively and more expansively. 2020 has undoubtedly been a hugely challenging year. For sections of the creative community it’s been devastating. Anyone who’s involved in live events, music, theatre, film, travel, hospitality—and the list continues, has experienced shocking uncertainty and financial insecurity. But it has also seen a major shift in how our work and home lives intersect. And from that sometimes difficult change to our typical daily routines, there has been a positive impact on our creative thinking and our creative output. 

Indeed, in the recent WeTransfer Ideas Report (a survey of over 35,000 WeTransfer users across the globe) the dominant sentiment was that the changes to our working lives has resulted in us having more creative ideas. 45% of respondents felt this way, versus only 26% who reported having fewer creative ideas.

We’ve also seen that people are taking the time to look at the bigger picture, with over 46% saying that they are reflecting more on what they want from life. Interestingly, this number jumps to 55% for those under 36, suggesting its the change to our daily lives more than the threat of the virus itself that is prompting reflection. In much the same way that change is challenging, having challenges imposed upon us can bring about positive change. Or at least make us think about it.

Shifting gears in the digital world

These two themes, of thinking more creatively and looking at the bigger picture, are also reflected in the way the brands that advertise and collaborate with WeTransfer have adapted this year. In fact, this year we have seen a major shift towards a more ambitious way of thinking about the digital world.

Compared to 2019, there has been more than a 15% increase in the amount of our work for brands that is a totally custom solution, built in collaboration with the WeTransfer Studio. This means that clients have been coming to us with a brief that goes beyond the typical digital currency of reach and clicks, and we’ve developed a creative solution - typically involving elements of animation or interactivity - that helps them change the way people think, feel and behave. 

This is a much bolder and much more creative use of digital media than the prevailing market norm that conflates digital media with ‘performance media’, and by extension conflates the word performance with clicks. It’s very refreshing to see this trend that brands are thinking more about the journey, and not just about the destination.

Furthermore we have seen a threefold increase in the number of brands with whom we have developed editorial collaborations. These are activations that are resolutely, defiantly, not about driving traffic. Instead they are much bolder in their scope. Brands like Adobe, Spotify, Samsung and Seiko have chosen this route because they recognise the value of authentic, user-centric, content and the need to be distinctive to consumers.

So what does this mean? What can you, dear reader, learn from this? My hot take… in 2020, brands are starting to allow themselves to expect more from the digital world. The race to the bottom has been run, and we are now starting to climb back up.

Creativity, great ideas, and a focus on the bigger picture will help us make that ascent.

Creativity, great ideas, and a focus on the bigger picture - not just the next click - will help us make that ascent. Because when the going gets tough, the tough get creative.