I'm writing this in the afternoon of Kathari Deftera - Greek for "clean Monday". Considered one of the most important religious holidays, it starts the 40-day period of fasting leading up to Easter. It's also seen as the beginning of spring. After three days of solid rain, the sun is shining bright in a clear-blue sky and I can't help but draw the parallels: after five years of the worst crisis to hit Greece since the Second World War, we are seeing the first glimmers of a brighter future.
Greece has gone through tremendous difficulty and change. A once-confident country, it has lost a quarter of its economy, unemployment is at 27 per cent (and double that for youth), wages and pensions have been slashed, and consumer purchasing power has vastly decreased. Indeed, it has been difficult to experience this tearing of social fabric. However, as the spotlight shifts to other areas around the world, the story that’s unfolding is one of resilience and optimism. Greece keeps on going; it hasn’t collapsed. In fact, it’s picking itself up and brushing off the dust. Greeks are reinventing themselves and learning to live in the new normal. Despite all the hardships, many feel the changes are for the better and will make Greece stronger.
In a country known for its philosophy, it is apt to quote Heraclitus: "Nothing endures but change." This holds true for Greece, and very much so for the advertising business. Media spend has fallen by almost 70 per cent from the pre-crisis peaks, making for an extremely tough environment. However, those of us still standing are getting stronger. In just a few years, we have helped Greek and international brands through drastic change in communication messaging and style, in some cases even helping brands reinvent themselves – from talking about Greekness and support for Greece, to highlighting local origin and relevance.
Media spend has fallen by almost 70 per cent from the pre-crisis peaks, making for a tough environment
Today, the emphasis has shifted once again. "Greek" and "local" have become secondary priorities for consumers; their paper-thin household budgets mean that value- and price-based communication have taken centre stage. The challenge for us today, and our means to thrive thereafter, is to find new and relevant ways to communicate value messaging in appealing and engaging ways, while still providing seamless, but not standardised, brand experiences. New digital tools are ideal for delivering value messages that people want to engage with and will appreciate, particularly in the new Greek economy.
We have also seen the birth of Greek start-ups, which will hopefully evolve into the power brands of the future. Our job is to support and guide them.
Greece is moving forward and we have to reinvent ourselves to thrive in this new future. By doing so, we also have an integral part to play in shaping that future, and I am optimistic about what it holds.
Dimitris Kordas is the joint chief executive at JWT Athens
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