Rola Ghotmeh: 'This Industry Is Good at Adapting'
Posted on 2020 Jul,08

Rola Ghotmeh, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of The Creative Nine, a Beirut-based boutique agency, shares how along with her team they have tried to adapt, innovate, survive — and even thrive — through this unprecedented global pandemic.


Overall feeling

As a Lebanese I lived and grew up accepting uncertainty. I rarely remember a time where everything was certain in this country, and that became the status quo. You’d think this would prepare you, but when it hits the world -Uncertainty on all levels- it becomes a new normal. The impact of not being able to forecast or to plan is crippling, because the safety net of the overseas becomes problematic too.

Nevertheless, when faced with this global phenomenon, uncertainty pushes you to reflect and seize the day. It’s an assertion that, at best, we can somehow control our present but not guarantee the future, and this helped me forfeit the constant race to grasp or control what’s yet unknown. You could plan, and forecast, and do your risk assessment, but there will always be unexpected variables.

Being in confinement changed the way business is done and shifted our daily routines. Many of us were more productive at work, and found time to attend to personal chores that wouldn’t be possible from the confines of your office space, as well as cross out those long-outstanding- to-do’s (that became engraved on that paper).

Dare I say, I was as productive working from home, as I am when I work from the office, because surely it all boils down to self-discipline.


The shifts to come

- More flexibility with the working hours and options to work remotely becoming the normal in the industry. Of course, this would be done with guidance and a set of tools given to employees who should also be accountable and deal with this flexibility with maturity and discipline.

- The way we go about our daily business while overcoming the face to face constraints imposed by the pandemic. Even beyond that, I wouldn’t be surprised if more businesses recurred to replacing Live meetings with Digital meetings. Zoom, Google Hangout, Microsoft Teams to name a few, are as efficient, and quite frankly, a great way to save time on the road without compromising on your human interactions. Evidently, not all meetings can be made digitally, for instance, negotiations are better done live. We also can’t underestimate the importance of live human interactions; the morning coffee chat with colleagues, the random topic raised over our computer screens, the small tips and feedback that you get from a collaborative open space.

-Another shift is on the employment and budgets level. As clients review their budgets and their spending, some ad Agencies will recur to reducing their overheads, to be able to accommodate to the budgets and build more competitive rates, and in return work more with freelancers or contractual talent. Smart solutions will need to be found on every corner to be able to maximize quality and reach without compromising on the quality of the services.

- People are online. Online presence is at its highest levels, and online engagement- for certain topics- is too! Consumers will hear brands if they’re conversing and employing relatable language. The media channels have been constantly evolving in recent years, but today’s social media numbers will encourage brands to invest more on their online creative content and advertising. I also think that there is an opportunity with investing in TV since most of the audience is confined in their homes. This is where the audience is.

The agency has been adopting the above approaches- some more than others- and the impact is positive. I’ve always been fond of the idea that as ad people are not bound by a geographical space, that we can do work and deliver results across continents regardless of where we are. We just need to understand the market, and off we go!


The Future of the ad industry

Brands need to advertise. That’s a constant.

After the shy period under the shadows of Covid-19, brands will need to remind people of their purpose and tell their stories, and reassure their audiences in these times of uncertainty- which are both health and economic. The ‘How’, the ‘When’ and the ‘What’ remain to be defined.

Marketing budgets continue to plummet and are a real pain point for both the advertisers and the ad industry players.

Advertising is constantly shifting to and recruiting new touch points, and with that the need to be agile continues to take the spotlights. We are always on the lookout for new trends, new tools, new apps and any other best practice to be on top of the game and propose those to our clients where applicable. Advertising doesn’t get a break. But we can survive this. One of the things we are good at in this industry is adapting, and finding creative solutions for the most challenging situations.