Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Reasons to be Cheerful: An outbreak of creativity and ingenuity

As the coronavirus pandemic has quickly become the new normal, NDA wants to celebrate the positives of our current situation.

We talked to the inspirational Nicole Yershon, former head of Ogilvy Labs and now a best-selling author and founder of The NY Collective to find out what she’s so excited about in these crazy times.

What positive impacts have you seen on how your business operates?

My expectations have been reset. On reflection that’s been the biggest positive of all. Isolation has taught me how appreciative we should be. It’s made me prioritise what to value and it makes me determined to keep pushing to change what we all know needs changing. 

I’ve recalibrated my life in a whole host of ways. Before the crisis, life was a well-trodden and mixed path of calls, meetings, travel and Keynote talks and a kind of routine that we all fall into. 

This has represented a wonderful wake-up call for someone like me. 
A shock to the system is a signal for those of us who’ve always constructively disrupted in pursuit of better. It’s another chance to tear down those terrible systems and processes. Especially the ones that deliver inequity and stupidity in equal amounts. 

This situation will almost certainly give birth to new opportunities and creativity. As someone said – “It’s a shame to waste a good crisis.”
On the positive side of this has been the forced reassessment of everything. I’m sure everyone felt similar initial impacts. These times have been scary and frustrating but at least we’ve kept healthy as a family and a business. 

On a practical level, I had 4 jobs cancelled and 2 more postponed pending re-emergence. But that’s OK. I’m guaranteed to be in better shape than countless others far worse off than me – and that upsets me. So, it has sharpened up the entrepreneur and humanitarian in me. 

Running your own business is always up and down but now it’s neither – it’s just a vacuum to be filled with different priorities. 

We’ve had the opportunity to focus more on research and ideation projects that were not on the radar before. We’ve been thinking hard and riffing on what’s to come. Always seeking new models and alternative revenue streams to suit this new regime. 

And as I’ve continued to connect and share insights with my networks I’ve spent a lot more time in ‘real news’ feeds – avoiding the traditionally negative sensational headlines of mainstream media. 

I’ve been subscribing to Tortoise and Positive News and have enjoyed their delivery of the news. I will seek out news anywhere if it means I can avoid the low rent/patronising media content that still runs riot and dumbs down our society.  

What have you been most heartened about in how your staff, partners, customers or clients have reacted to the new normal?

The daily stories of incredible creativity and ingenuity of people. 

Whether it’s humour, a new app for PPE, a sponsored climb of Mount Everest using a staircase or a globally connected network of computers and scientists working to emulate DNA or molecules to find treatments and vaccines. 

I’m staying close to people doing things like that and reaching out to help or communicate with them so that this creativity is sustained when we all get back to it.

When the shock first hit I looked at the Kubler-Ross change curve and wondered where my family, friends, employees and clients were on it. How were they coping, what were they feeling? 

Those that came through the bottom of the curve have already done amazing things. Many are prepared to get back up or already are. Some never went down the curve – they went straight to integration! My dad for example!

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I’ve developed an easy acceptance of staying home – because it makes sense. At the same time, there’s a healthy respect for the completely uncertain future. 

As I write this I can’t stop thinking about how we help fellow humans and especially those incredibly brave people on the front line of the health service and the totally unmentioned workers keeping other services and systems running.

We’ve developed a new appreciation for so many previously undervalued people.

What technologies have you been most impressed with during this new situation and do you think coronavirus will hasten their uptake or development?”

Without doubt all of the technology that’s powering the acceleration of healthcare solutions. Look at what’s happening in 3D printing to overcome the shortcomings of supply chains. Robotics and automation are transforming so much in every industry. Inspired by the prospects of contact tracking and keeping us all safe as we get back to work.

I’m fascinated by the powerful tech behind all the remote screening and monitoring of patients that’s happening. Things that will be applied across other industries with other applications. There’s the pandemic of Zoom and the virtualisation of every form of cultural activity – events, TV programs, esports – everything. 

There’s going to be massive changes in how we travel, how we congregate and quite possibly how we will accept monitoring and tracking of us as individuals – but hopefully this time for positive outcomes. 

There will still be the cynics and conspiracy theorists but hopefully, technology will eventually overcome them too. 

Without naming brands, I have always been an advocate for the technology that can connect people virtually. The new platforms that are bringing musicians and singers together from around the world.

Now we are cooking and having dinner together, holding quizzes, parties and virtual marathons. Captain Tom. OMG.

Whatever next!

What, if any, positive long-term impact on the digital industry will coronavirus have?

I think all my previous answers touch on this as well. Never before in such a crisis have we had the amount and quality of tools. Tools that give every individual with a mobile phone (~3.5 Billion) such immediacy of information. Albeit, on the down-side, it comes with a high dose of misinformation.

The challenge is the manipulation of information like this will be used politically for personal power and corrupt objectives but I think that this crisis will have pricked the conscience of enough good people to challenge them and turn technology for good again. 

I’ll mention no names but there’s been notable clowns, puppets and self-obsessed capitalists behind governments and big tech but there are also notable heroes too and those of us who can choose will choose. 

Many have taken themselves off the corrupt platforms and started to seek out the ethical businesses who give a shit about this. They will get our votes because they deserve it. We can trade, shop and collaborate with organisations of purpose and I think when the dust settles many more will have done precisely this. 

Some of these technologies have been around for a while. Many people have now experienced the opportunity to work from anywhere and that will move yet more people away from the 9-5. 

The future of work now sits firmly alongside technology. Together with a new leadership style – more trust and empathy, better application of AI/ML – supported by fundamental retraining – there’s a whole new movement on this alone – our challenge and my job will be to make this stick. 

Read this for example.

What positive impacts on long term consumer behaviour shifts will it have?

I think it’s too early to say or put another way – I have no idea.

We saw how, after the crash of 2008, little actually changed but let’s be optimistic – we did see changes after 911 – travel has not been the same – other crises have seen other benefits/side effects to how society thinks and behaves differently. 

My purchasing attitude and behaviours have totally changed. It’s been amazing to see new ‘direct to consumer’ sites pop up. Just one small example – using Farmdrop instead of Amazon Fresh for example – a valuable move away from the traditional supermarkets with their plastic packaging – a move to support the little guy as well as a better quality of food in organic paper bags. 


Let’s See!