Issue 3, 2017. June-July

   

THE AVANT-GARDE OF TECHNOLOGY AND ART: GEORGIANS REDEFINE DIGITAL MARKETING

A few months ago, a Dutch tourist traveling to Georgia was treated to an incredible surprise: he was Georgia's sixth-millionth tourist and got VIP treatment, which included a dinner with Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili. The viral video of the sixth-million tourist campaign, created by a Georgian marketing company, was yet another sign of the creative boom in Georgia's digital marketing industry.

Tbilisi has been hailed the last few years for its cultural revolution, which includes its techno clubs, fusion restaurants and stylish hotels. A cultural boom can also be seen across all creative industries in the country, and advertising is definitely one of them. The recent campaign of the sixth-millionth visitor is yet another example of how the industry is flourishing.

Windfor's Communication campaign


Windfor's Communication is the creative mind behind the sixth-millionth tourist viral video (viewed over two million times). The company's creative director, Beqa Meparishvili, told Investor.ge that the video was a marriage of modern communication tools and Georgian tradition. "With this video we wanted to tell the Georgian people that we had a record number of visitors in 2016 and, simultaneously, we wanted to show foreigners how hospitable this country is." The Georgian campaign was so popular it was covered by international newspapers, as well as advertising publications.

Cannes Lions

Over the past few years, there has been increased international interest in Georgia's advertising industry: in 2015 a Georgian marketing company, Leavingston, became the first in the country to win an award at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, the most prestigious international event in the advertising world-it attracts 11,000 registered delegates from 90 countries each year. Leavingstone won Georgia's first Cannes Lion (Bronze) in the category "Launch or Re-Launch" for its internet commercial "Statue Just for Loving Beer," which promoted Georgian beer company Natakhtari's new product, "34 beer." That was only the beginning. A year later, Leavingstone won another Bronze Cannes Lion in the PR category for the internet commercial "100% Real Virtual Reality." In this commercial, random Georgian people got to wear VR-glasses, through which they saw an Irish pub. As soon as they took off the glasses, they found themselves standing in the actual pub.

Windfor's Communication campaign


And there were more successes in 2016. Bank of Georgia won a Cannes Lion (Gold) for their campaign on climate change. Furthermore, in the Cannes Young Lions competition-a competition for marketers under 30-Georgia was selected as the best representative of 2016.

Georgia's Success

While it took several developed countries years to gain success in these international competitions, Georgia has become successful within a relatively short period of time. Vakho Vakhtangishvili, co-founder of the company Leavingstone, believes that is because "every Georgian thinks like a hacker."

"When you don't have enough resources, the only way to beat the system is to hack it. Look at what happened in the '90s when we did not have electricity. People were tapping it from hospitals and railway stations. Even if there are no resources, we still manage," he said.

"It appears that we are compensating the lack of profound knowledge of technology with creativity. And people here have an internal drive to create something. It's in their DNA to leave their signature in some way."

Leavingstone was the first locally-based company to fully focus on digital campaigning. Today they have 115 employees working in eight departments, from social media to web design and creative campaigns.

Vakhtangishvili noted that the "digital marketing industry in Georgia is not designing something of Georgian quality, but something of international quality. It has outgrown Georgia." This trend, he said, is reflected in the company's clients and portfolio. "In all units, the strategic goal is to decrease the percentage of business of Georgian companies in favor of international clients," he said.

"Technology as the tool, art as the communication"

"Within the last six years, things have changed," says Vato Kavtaradze, founder and CCO of Windfor's. He founded his company in 2004 and saw Georgia develop from a country with no advertising to a country with a booming advertising industry. "People have become culturally aware and have realized that life is about responsibility. That it's not about others, but that it's up to you to do something. There is an entrepreneurial spirit, which is like a wind that is blowing away the Soviet atmosphere that was here," he said. He believes that several factors have influenced Georgia's success.

Windfor's Communication campaign


"First of all, people want to be part of success. Success is contagious; it attracts. And there is also a degree of sport-there is competition. You can bring the flag of your country to international heights. The establishment of a platform (www.marketing.ge) and of Georgia's Association of Communications Agencies (comprised of 13 Georgian advertising companies) have also been essential for this development," he noted.

Kavtaradze added that Georgians' passion for the work is pushing the local industry forward.

"For me, this is the most interesting profession. It's a synthesis of making art, business and combining it with psychology. You are always in the avant-garde, with technology as the tool and art as the communication," he said.