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Havas CCO Harry Bee on how he's helping clients deliver 'in-home' creative

The Drum 31 Mar 2020 02:16
Harry Bernstein, CCO at Havas NY

With many feeling claustrophobic and anxious as the coronavirus lockdown continues throughout the globe, Havas New York chief creative officer Harry Bernstein – known as Harry Bee by many – has found reasons to be positive, highlighting how creativity can help lift people up.

“When you're dealing with a situation that has no map, we need to create the map – and the map is created through creativity,” Bernstein tells The Drum. “I believe in the power of creativity. That's why I took this career and now…creativity is needed more than ever.”

Creativity comes in many forms for Bernstein, lately. One is staying connected while remaining apart. Havas has created a virtual community with its workers. The team connects on Zoom meetings and virtual fireside chats while setting up production studios at workers’ homes.

“Me and our team at Havas have been really focused on what is happening, and what is happening is working from home,” he says. Havas NY’s chief executive, Laura Maness, recently commented to Bernstein: “Over the past five years all these companies have been in-housing all their creative. Now, everyone's in-homing.” That means that every business that brought creative in-house is now wondering how to get work done, while Havas is successfully building in-home studios.

“You want to be service in this time, not prey upon fear or take advantage of someone in this situation,” notes Bernstein. For instance, Havas works with New York power company Con Edison, and beyond the ad work the agency does, the team also helps with messaging, using a mix of strategic, cultural and consumer insight to keep people informed.

Bernstein said the agency is ready to expand its influencer reach through TikTok campaigns, which it’s in the process of building.

“We were starting to embrace the TikTok community (before the coronavirus), which is flourishing and growing at home. If everyone's at home, either dancing or telling stories or doing life hacks, it'll be easy to incorporate products. And also it helps to show how the products will live when people are under these circumstances. It kind of plays together,” he says.

“It's just irreverent and fun. Twitter is a powerful tool, but sometimes it's so heavy. (You say) OK, I'm going into Twitter, better be ready for what's going to come down my pipe…it's a wild ride. Sometimes, you look at Twitter for a half hour and then you cardboard all your windows and hide in your closet,” he jokes.

“Then TikTok is this irreverent, lighthearted, fun, music-driven, culture-driven tool that just is like an anomaly. The birth of it is people dancing at home. The tone right now is refreshing sometimes,” says Bernstein.

“In some other channels it might be seen as crap, but in the irreverent world of TikTok it's just fun,” he notes, saying that TikTok can help people feel creative, energized and optimistic in the face of all that’s going on.

Bernstein says that Havas has always tried to create a solid work-life balance, but now it’s making sure people stay connected to that ethic. The agency is taking its offline programs online, consisting of its wellness programs of yoga and meditation, plus family time art classes and inspirational chats.

Its yoga and meditation programs are also available to anyone on Instagram Live as well, and Bernstein says the sessions have grown from 50 employees to getting over 1,000 views.

Build in creativity and remain positive

“If you're confined to a space, as much as you love and appreciate your space, that can be redundant, so the ability to augment that reality (is important),” he says, suggesting the augmented Zoom backdrops, Facebook AR and other ways to alter reality.

“I think true creativity has an optimism to it. Our job is to solve problems in a creative way. So now we have this huge problem,” but there are creative people working to solve problems in the creative space, whereas people in other industries like finance might see the sky as falling.

What’s next?

“I really think it will bring a new freedom because we've done it at such scale now. It will give the ability to have more (people) work from home and free up some of the office life. There might be a new kind of attitude towards a work from home kind of scenario that we've been dancing with for five years and, and the value of it,” he says.

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HavasBernsteinTikTokTikTokchief creative officer Harry Bernstein
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