Orson Welles, in an old movie once said that in Switzerland, 500 years of brotherly love, democracy and peace produced the cuckoo clock. In Italy, 30 years under the Borgias facing warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed produced Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci and the Renaissance.

As an Italian creative, I do not mean that I like a crisis with thousands of deaths. But as a creative, I also believe problems nurture creativity, changes are opportunities and we are going to experience an outbreak of creativity. This the best moment to be in the creative business. But also, the hardest one.

During the last month or two, we have seen brands change their logos to promote social distancing. It is nice to remember social distance but who really cares for brand logos while we all scuffle to find masks and gloves? Do not get me wrong, some of them are cool, creative ideas but are they really relevant? Especially when we are in a supermarket, facing possible impact with an housewife and her grocery-full trolley approaching quickly from the right and a disoriented CEO in shorts from the left?

We repeatedly saw the same video manifesto from different brands. Most of them are well crafted, considering the moment. But they have the same empty streets, the same video chats, the same happy moments and the same people on balconies. The message is also quite often the same, staying at home. Not great for a brand and not something to be proud of for a creative. But it is not easy, it is actually very hard.

It is tough to produce and shoot something different and fresh, staying away from cliché or gimmicks, when you are sinking in your sofa at home. 

(There is always hope, as the beautiful video from Ohio department of health shows:)

It is tough to be deep and fresh when we are still in the middle of this epic turbulence.

Luckily, what we know for sure of the current situation is like any other crisis, it will end. Sooner or later. 

We already knew that acts are much more effective and relevant than most of the ads. We know that brands, able to improve people life or to solve small/big problems are able to connect on a deeper level with people.

This was already clear with the rise of brand purpose, but it is accelerating today. And people will remember it.

Like every crisis, many companies will face turmoil and many people will lose their jobs. People are locked at home, stressed and anxious about their future.

So, agencies and brands are trying to understand what the context means for them and what’s next. I don’t have a new formula, just some simple advice I’m currently giving myself. 

We must go beyond using data mainly as a way to reach people, but – now more than ever – we have to use them to better understand new needs and behavior, to add value in people’s life. 

People are using social media to stay connected and to find information and tips. But they are also looking for more meaningful things. So, social media is the best way for a brand to stay close to them and show what they are concretely doing to genuinely help solve small or big problems. 

As creatives we need to keep in mind that the biggest risk for the brands is to be too opportunistic. We must help brands to be real, authentic, genuine, responsible, vulnerable. 

This is not the time to sell more products or to win awards. This is the time to add value.

In short, this is the time for acts not ads. 

Giorgio Armani wrote recently an open letter to the fashion industry: “This crisis is an opportunity to slow down and realign everything; to define a more meaningful landscape.”

He adds that more than profit, what is needed is to regain a more human dimension. I stress that, he is in the fashion industry. It would sound opportunistic, but he wrote that letter after having converted the production of his factories in the north of Italy to produce medical overalls which he is gifting to the closest hospitals.

He not only makes me look at my only Armani t-shirt differently. He makes me think, again, that acts are much more powerful than any campaign. This also reminds me that Italian geniuses didn’t end with Leonardo.