Mark Tungate, journalist, author, editorial director of the Epica Awards.
How has creativity changed in the Covid era?
“There was a radical change at the beginning, when we saw a lot of ads being shot at a distance, mostly on mobile phones, and more animation work. But then production companies began shooting films again in studios and on location, while respecting social distancing and barrier gestures. But there are also some changes in tone and message. Brands want to reassure consumers, rather than focusing on sales messages. So there are a lot of campaigns about now brands can deliver familiarity, optimism and hope for the future. In films, nature seems more present than ever – there are fewer city and of course crowd scenes. I also have the feeling that we’re seeing a resurgence of print campaigns. Presumably because a print campaign is easier to execute than a film during the current circumstances, and also because you can spread it via Instagram rather than just relying on billboards and magazines”.
The Epica Awards this year will be all online, but can creativity live only in virtual?
“Well, creativity is always virtual, unless you’re talking about the theatre or live music. In most circumstances we experience creativity second hand. What will be missing this year is the social aspect of the jury meeting and the ceremony: the fact that these events bring people together to talk and exchange views, or just to relax and party. Plus it’s always great to give the creative teams their trophies in person and show their work on a big screen. But we will try, as much as possible, to create space for discussion and to celebrate the winning work. We’ll still show the winners on a screen – but it will be the screen of your computer! By the way, talking of virtual creativity, we have a Virtual and Augmented Reality category. These technologies can allow people to travel, for example, without leaving their homes. Or experience an opera, or a football match, during the Covid era. Creativity can find a way in every context”.
In the era of efficiency, data, budget restriction, does creativity lose?
“For the time being I am optimistic. I’ve seen many ups and downs in this industry – healthy economies and recessions, big budgets and small – and my experience is that creative talents love to innovate, especially under pressure. So a tight budget can lead to a smart solution. In terms of data, I worried about that at first, but as far as I can see the creative departments have not let the data overwhelm them. Instead, they use insights about how consumers behave to drive and inspire their creativity. There is more targeting and segmenting, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing. The right message stands a chance of reaching the right person”.
How must trade journals change and evolve to ensure prosperity?
“It’s all about content. They have to deliver vital content, ‘must have” content, of a high quality, across several different platforms. Not just print and digital, but video, podcast, social, seminars (or webinars, right now). This requires working with good journalists, those who have a personality and can really engage with their readers. And the trade journals themselves should ensure they also have a strong personality. Don’t be afraid to be witty, daring, provocative. But never arrogant: people right now want to trust media they regard as friends and supporters. In a way, everything that is true of brands is also true of media brands. Great brands tell stories in an entertaining way. And so should trade magazines”.