Marcin Gaworski of CEO and Partner at 180heartbeats + JUNG v MATT tells us about how they create brand excitement.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Marcin Gaworski: Considering the times, we are doing well. It is more difficult to live an active life at the moment, but we manage to cope with the situation. As a family, we definitely spend more time together. We found new ways of engaging in different types of activities compared to what we did before the pandemic, like board games, long walks or jumping on a skipping rope. We are quite lucky because we live close to a forest that is handy for long walks without having to drive there.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded 180heartbeats + JUNG v MATT.
Marcin Gaworski: I have always felt the urge to change, improve and create things around me. I joined the interactive marketing business in 2001 – international advertising agency McCann Erickson. A few years later, I started my own company in partnership with my colleagues, an independent interactive agency 180heartbeats + JUNG v MATT. Then another one F25 production video studio and then another one NapoleonCat – social media system for marketing and customer service. But my heart, mind and creative energies are devoted to 180heartbeats + JUNG v MATT. Over its 13-year history, 180heartbeats + JUNG v MATT has proved that its mission to “create brand excitement and partner with brands who want to make a change” works well. That excitement makes consumers’ hearts beat faster and gains hearts of Ad contests’ juries. 180heartbeats has received over 300 awards and honours at international festivals, including Cannes Lions, Clio Awards, Epica, Andy, D&AD, to name a few. The agency made headlines with Ben & Jerry’s after it brought back the controversial rainbow in the centre of Warsaw. It was also named one of the Top 20 most effective agencies at the 20th anniversary of Effie Poland, and just recently it received the title of the Agency of the Year, according to KTR awards, Poland’s most prestigious advertising competition.
More about Unbreakable Rainbow the most awarded 180 campaign:
How does 180heartbeats + JUNG v MATT innovate?
Marcin Gaworski: Innovation is in our DNA. As a creative agency, we are flexible, we not only must continually adapt to the situation we work in but at the same time, we must try and stay ahead of it. We must be the ones who show what the trends in communication are and will be, or we die, as they say. If we do not communicate with our clients and resolve their issues, we lose business. The last example of such thinking is our campaign for car-sharing innogyGo!. The aim of the brand is to strive to have a smog-free city. In Warsaw, there were only five official points measuring the level of smog. Residents of many districts and streets had to rely on readings that often came from meters placed many kilometres away from their place of residence. We have equipped emission-free electric cars innogyGo! With air sensors and created the most accurate, updated in real-time, mobile smog map in the world. Now, measurements are taken from air sensors in innogyGo! Cars enable data collection even from districts where there were no stationary sensors before. 25 cars equipped with sensors deliver up to 108 thousand readings per day. The information provided by the Mobile Air Check helps Varsovians make daily decisions: whether and where to go for a walk, or whether they should go to work by bike.
As a result of the pandemic, we continue to reinforce our creativity. At the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, our clients demanded a quick response to the hitherto unprecedented circumstances. At times we had to work without a brief, but brainstorming input ideas and working together during workshops which, I must add, has given splendid results.
Another thing that makes us stand out is that we do not employ a designated job titles of innovation manager or innovation director. What is important in this kind of agile approach is bringing all of our talents to one table: strategy, creative, technology, social media, all working together.
I think it is now, like never before, that the agencies can and probably must embrace their creativity, not only in the way they work but also in the way they deliver the product to the client bearing in mind the new normal. Through our agile adaptation to the new reality, we are demonstrating to our clients that we are always there to assist them, no matter what. We reassure them that we understand their brands, and actually can work to very tight deadlines delivering high-quality creative productions.
In the past months, we have received many briefs that simply stated: “Do something in line with our brand image that would respond to the COVID-19 situation in a way that adds value to our brand”. And we did!
For example, since the first lockdown in March we developed the campaign ‘Clothes Reborn with Pride’, Zalando’s first CSR campaign in Poland, in which we drew attention to the problem of homophobic attacks. All the activities, including video production, podcasts, and photoshoot for this campaign were developed remotely in cooperation with the Zalando office in Berlin. Our other vital campaign rolled out during lockdown include ‘The Lockdown’ for Theatre 21. When the pandemic started, we all read the comments on social media. People complained that they lost easy access to entertainment. Unfortunately, people with disabilities will still be excluded from numerous social activities, even when the pandemic ceases. The aim of the campaign was to raise money for the Centre of Inclusive Art in Warsaw, a place that will help people with disabilities on an equal footing express themselves by means of art. Both campaigns are live, regardless of whether the pandemic is spiking or temporarily receding. As an agency, we felt that our moral duty was to involve ourselves in helping those less fortunate by auctioning some of our creative products. We started an ‘Allegro creative charity auction’ where not only our colleagues but also other agencies and freelancers were able to donate some of their fantastic work to raise much-needed funds for WOŚP’s Intervention Fund (Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity).
Mobile Air Check
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Marcin Gaworski: 180 is rising to the challenges of the very real crisis we are facing. Due to the pandemic, some processes accelerated. Agencies working in a close relationship with the client are lucky. Social isolation requires the marketer’s close collaboration with the agency, be it via Zoom when the agency is not waiting for a brief to come in but takes the initiative and lays out ideas ready to implement. It is for this reason that the Coronavirus era is often described as something called VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) VUCA is a term coined in the U.S. Army in 1987 to describe wartime reality. Even though soldiers have their tasks and tactical objectives set, they cannot predict what is about to happen – their position, therefore, becomes highly unstable. In other words, we are those soldiers in their trenches ready to react to anything thrown at us, a situation quite uncomfortable if you consider the state of mind you have to sustain to be able to cope with the uncertainty of it.
The global pandemic of COVID-19 has only intensified the feeling of uncertainty in people. Can the consequences of growing uncertainty be predicted at all? They can’t, unfortunately, as the situation is unprecedented and human nature unpredictable. The only thing that is getting more and more increasingly apparent to us is that the pandemic won’t be over anytime soon. Even the biggest enthusiasts of optimistic scenarios need to think again as it seems that the ‘new normal’ is here to stay in one way or another and no one can possibly predict what economic, political, and social consequences it will entail. Therefore, we had to adapt, regenerate and evolve to meet the new normal.
The pandemic reality does not make marketing agencies’ work easy. The fact is, fostering a company culture and sense of belonging with a team pre-pandemic was much simpler. We have developed it for years based on our DNA. Creating brand excitement and making consumers’ hearts beat faster, of course, with brands who want to make a change is recorded in it. The same as diversity. We have always been a culturally diverse team. The agency has always been a place for free and not just work-related talks. Each of us has our favorite rituals, places, and working styles. Many things like birthday celebrations, cooking breakfasts, common brain trains, celebrating birthdays and many other occasions we did together. Also, the animals are with us for years. Social gatherings, like many others across the world, were an easy way to create a moment in the day for team members to come together and connect socially.
We do our best to make sure that, in the current situation, nobody feels disconnected from it and has no difficulty in recreating these spontaneous relationships.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Marcin Gaworski: Scientists already know the terrible impact the pandemic has on human behavior and the brain. Within a group of a few thousand people, who underwent an MRI scan, it turned out that one area of the brain was particularly stimulated as a result of the pandemic. It is the amygdala, the ‘core fear system.’
What we have learned from the pandemic is that the consequences of social isolation and the scale of anxieties it has led to are still difficult to assess. If you look back in time, you will see it is not the first time in history when the human race has had to adjust and reform: for example after 9/11 people had to adjust to the new safety measures and travel regulations. They followed the guidelines to take off their shoes when going through airport security or pack travel-size shampoo into plastic bags. All this became a new travel reality and having learned from the past we realize that similarly to post 9/11 travel, the post-pandemic world will differ from the pre-pandemic one.
Similarly, the post-pandemic audience, with their amygdala affected by the fear of uncertainty caused by the virus, will differ from the pre-pandemic one.
It doesn’t simply go into remission from one day to another but persists for years. It is now, particularly in times of VUCA that the distance between consumers and brands should and can be reduced: by the communication and creative solutions designed with the ‘new normal in mind.’
At the moment companies desperately try to reduce spendings, by eliminating what seems to be the most obvious to cut, i.e. marketing, when actually transparent communication is needed more than ever, especially in building and maintaining a relationship between consumers and companies. The pandemic is not the time for tempting sales and profit generation. This is the time for brands to communicate their compassion and support towards their consumers. This is the time for communication that builds trust and shows that the brand is close to people. People will respond with loyalty to such brands in the future.
You do not need to look far for examples. Aviva has funded free insurance for health workers. By supporting this profession, the company has gained consumer trust. Starbucks is another example. They based their distribution model on mobile delivery as well as drive-thru and kerbside pick-up spots.
To sum up, what we have learned is that it is possible to survive these difficult times if you find a creative way to meet the new normal and adapt your ways to it.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are helping you navigate the crisis?
Marcin Gaworski: As an agency with a digital heart and everything innovative is close to us. The transition to hybrid work was relatively smooth. We learned that we need a central navigation tool that would unite our work even though the team might not be physically in the same place. Now we are implementing an application by the working name of 180 Digital Blood Stream which is a tool facilitating the implementation of tasks, free flow of information, inspiration, common knowledge go-to-place, and creating a common understanding sphere of cooperation. The platform integrates everyday company tools to ensure the smooth work of the agency, access to personalized workers profiles, information about clients, and projects. We realize how important our employees’ mental well-being is, and 180 Digital Blood Stream also serves as a social medium for us all. For example, you can arrange a virtual meeting with friends or watch a local award competition KTR’s gala together. It gives us all the opportunity to inform the team about events within the agency. It is simply a virtual equivalent of a blackboard in a company’s social room or kitchen. This app makes remote work possible and minimizes the employees’ need to monitor other communication channels. Thanks to this, the employees are able to focus on their current tasks, stay in touch with everyone else, and what is very important switch off outside of working hours. We can’t deny after almost a year of remote working, and being disconnected from our usual social networks, most people are overloaded with technology and never-ending online meetings both in and outside of the ‘office’.
On the one hand, 180Digital Blood Stream could ensure delivery of various services and better optimizing time. Still, it allows us to separate work and home life. We can pause and re-energize. The app could stimulate employees’ creativity or simply can help to take their thoughts away from work when they need it.
Another thing we found out during the crisis time is that it is important to keep our team’s morale up in these uncertain times. Thus, if an agency wants to still be in touch with their employees, they should try to address some of their issues in social distancing time, such as lack of inspiration going out to the theatre or cinema. We learned that creativity is the strongest tool in fighting crises. That very same creativity though requires open-mindedness and freedom in thought flow. Therefore, you can imagine how difficult it is to keep it going during such uncertain times we are experiencing at the moment. It is only natural that people need a laugh and a daily chit chat let alone a talk to somebody about their problems. In 180heartbetas, we have created opportunities for our colleagues to experience those social interactions. We celebrate special events together. We had a hybrid Christmas party, where staff on-site took part in a socially distanced small gathering while staff working remotely joined in via zoom with food ordered at the agency’s expense. Remembering the crucial role of mental health in times of a pandemic, introducing online zen, yoga sessions, or free online sessions with a psychologist could also influence maintaining the company culture. We also have weekly virtual coffee meetings with the management wherein the relaxed atmosphere we share our thoughts. We believe that regular and transparent communication regarding the current projects and the agency’s situation between all the employees is a great way of showing the team that they are not left on their own and that their voice is being heard regardless of where they are physically. On a more tangential level, we make sure our colleagues are equipped with whatever they need when working from home to be able to provide the service required, irrespective of what it might be: wifi or a chair or a device.
By fostering the sense of belonging and ensuring team members’ morale are on safe levels, we aim to create a perfect foundation for their partnerships with brands to be even more successful.
We recognize that it is important for everyone in the team to be on the same page and understand our goals in the same way. When all this is observed and followed, we do not have to wait for a detailed brief from our client, know the brands we work for, know the problems faced by industries, and meet their expectations more easily. We can proactively translate our know-how to solutions for clients.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Marcin Gaworski: We treat the spectrum of our competitors very wide. From startup creating marketing tools, agencies, media agencies, brand consultants. Generally, all competent entities solve business problems creatively and innovatively.
The pandemic has reshaped the world. Ideas have no boundaries, and this is a belief we have long embraced as an agency. We have a successful track record working with a number of global clients whose operations are outside of Poland. Our technology-driven solutions are also a strong example of top-level creativity – a blend that has benefited clients, including Absolut, Ballantine’s, Google, Burger King, Nike, and Velux. The agency has launched successful campaigns in Central and Eastern Europe, China, and the Asia Pacific. Last year we launched the UK office is just an extension of what we’ve always done.
With many brands scaling back marketing and advertising budgets, we feel that as an independent agency, we are competitively positioned to rise to the challenge set by current market forces.
Your final thoughts?
Marcin Gaworski: As a creative agency, we are lucky to work in a business that changes all the time. As I mentioned before, innovation is in our DNA, and contemporary marketing uses a lot of complexity and technology in order to deliver surprising, unique, and innovative communication that draws the attention of many to the product. You or die. The pandemic made our business up to our game; you might use a game metaphor; it added the next level to advertising where you have to accommodate, predict and meet the new tomorrow.
COVID-19 waged war on humanity. There is a long way to go before this vicious virus is defeated. We will all win only if we remain strong and calm and encourage brands to communicate with transparency, dedication, and consumer engagement. We are bound to win if we recognize new opportunities in an intensified digital presence. And from a purely humanly standpoint, in these difficult times, all we need is solidarity and decency. For in moments like these people remember the support they were granted and will more willingly reciprocate the support received in the future.