Discussing creativity in Lockdown and how it is still possible to collaborate and find inspiration when your usual channels have been closed down with Cordell Burke, Creative Managing Partner at UP There Everywhere, the world’s first full-service, global, cloud-based agency. Cordell has been an inspiration to me since we met many years ago when I was client and he managed the creative team at the agency we used. We’ve remained in touch and I always enjoy our chats. We caught up recently to explore how Coronavirus lock down has affected him and his work and how has, within his additional role at the DMA, continued to be able to support youngsters get their first job in the creative and marketing industry.
1 .Where are you spending lockdown and how do you manage your day?
I’m at home juggling work and life to keep my wife and work colleagues happy whilst trying to keep occupied and not get bored.
2. What are the biggest adjustments you’ve had to make in terms of your work, managing your teams/ clients?
I’m fortunate that UP There Everywhere is a cloud based international agency that frees me to work from home if and when required. We work regularly with colleagues from around the world as well as the UK. So luckily working via Skype or Zoom has always been natural to us and therefore, I haven’t had to make many adjustments.
3. How has your business been affected by and reacted to the crisis?
Like everyone else, we’ve had projects postponed. But fortunately, a couple of clients are still keeping us busy. One client had already started some key projects earlier this year and we’ve also started working with a new client that’s keen to develop their offering. We’re being proactive and supporting everyone where we can and so far, that appears to be working. However, we are not taking things for granted and are keeping our spirits up.
4. Do you expect that your company will return to BAU post lock down or do you think there will be some changes? If so what?
As I mentioned previously, we don’t rely on a formal office to be able to do business, so day to day operations haven’t changed. However, I believe clients will take advantage of how we operate and meetings in an office or boardroom may not be a necessity going forward. Clearly, client budgets will take a hit and work needs to be done to convince clients to continue spending. But even though they have internal challenges to deal with, one thing won’t change. And that’s our commitment to working closely alongside them to navigate them through what will inevitably be economically challenging times.
5. Have you been impressed or put off by any particular brands in how they have responded to the crisis?
I love the fact that some businesses have completely changed their business models to help out during the Coronavirus crisis. Brewdog changing their operation to produce sanitisers, Mercedes producing ventilators, H&M producing PPE – these and others like them are helping the NHS, their employees and the needy so they are truly inspiring. Companies who ‘do’ rather than ‘advertising what they do’ will be the biggest winners coming out of this crisis.
6. What has been the hardest part and the best parts about lockdown?
The social side has been missed. Not being able to hug family has been hard. Also, I have lots of friends in the business and popping out for a beer and a chat about anything and everything is sorely missed. While I’m grateful to chat to them via Zoom and the mobile phone, it’s clearly not the same.
The best bits about lockdown have been using the time to brush up on or learn various skills that I normally don’t have time for. Also, (enforced) early morning walks with my wife and ‘PE with Joe Wicks’ has made me the fittest I’ve been for ages.
From a work point of view, I’ve enjoyed working alongside the GRT and DMA to produce a Virtual Big Book Crit for design and advertising students whose courses have been cut short by the lockdown. This involves matching a student with a Creative Head online so that they can link up to get hints and tips to develop their portfolios. I’m really grateful to all the Creatives, my fellow GRT Trustees and DMA staff who have given up their valuable time so far.
7. How do you find inspiration when the creative process is often such a collaborative one?
Firstly, it’s still possible to collaborate via the likes of Zoom. At UP, we’ve held workshops where we’ve encouraged our clients to brainstorm and tease out insights and ideas they’d never thought possible. Some of my colleagues abroad have organised and held webinars on our clients’ behalf. I’ve been recently working on ideas across Skype with a team consisting of a moving image guy in Edinburgh, a designer in Brighton and a writer in Warwick. We work together scanning, sending, throwing ideas around as if we’re in the same room. Thankfully, both we and our clients are happy with the results so we must be doing something right.
Regarding inspiration, I have a good collection of reference books covering various subjects including art, design, advertising, typography, digital and moving image. Obviously, the internet is useful for reference and I keep an eye out for what’s happening via magazines like Creative Review and The Week. But yes, I do miss my occasional museum visits to the V&A and the Tate.
8. There has been talk of massive changes to how we live our lives and how we work due to the lessons learnt from the Coronavirus – do you think this is true?
Workwise, the Coronavirus should be the catalyst that forces all businesses to look at how digital, dealing with constant change and innovation must become even more central and important to the way they operate. This is vital if companies want to emerge stronger from this crisis.
I’m not entirely convinced that there will be massive changes to people’s lives on a day to day basis. I believe people will go back to their usual habits. There may be some minimal changes regarding approaches to hygiene and health but people at the moment are desperate to embrace their loved ones and get out and about again so I think all restrictions and inhibitions will be off.
Having said that I’ve been impressed by how the general public have found creative ways to keep going and I hope that continues.
9. What one thing do you hope will continue post lock down?
The flexibility to work remotely and from home where necessary. Agencies are missing out on a huge market of talent who have to work from home for various reasons. Perhaps everyone in a leadership position in our industry will now work harder to make this a natural option for all existing and potential employees.
10. Have you learnt anything about yourself during lock down that you didn’t know before?
The emerging issues of the lockdown have reminded me of the importance of always trying to learn something new. No matter how much we think we know, we’ll always be blindsided by the unknown. Although we’ll never have all the answers, continually learning means that we’ll be better prepared and able to cope with challenges, no matter how difficult they may seem. I’ve had to put into practice most of what I’ve learnt from people much wiser than me and therefore stretch myself more both professionally and personally.