Special Briefing: Coronavirus: A Lesson in Creativity? - OZY | A Modern Media Company
SourceShutterstock, Composite by Ned Colin

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

Because old solutions aren’t going to work.

By Dan Peleschuk

This is an OZY Special Briefing, an extension of the Presidential Daily Brief. The Special Briefing tells you what you need to know about an important issue, individual or story that is making news. Each one serves up an interesting selection of facts, opinions, images and videos in order to catch you up and vault you ahead.

WHAT TO KNOW

What’s happening? The U.S. is now the global capital of the coronavirus, surpassing China and Italy, with more than 86,000 cases as of Friday morning. And it’s taking its toll on the economy: A record 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, almost five times the previous high. That’s why businesses ranging from restaurants and museums to advertising and sex work can no longer count on traditional modes of operation. But some sectors are adapting smartly, and swiftly. 

Why does it matter? The economic crisis and unprecedented global restrictions on movement are forcing businesses that haven’t changed in decades to embrace new models that could fundamentally reshape those industries for the future. Their success, or failure, could determine whether we emerge from the pandemic stronger — or weaker.

Some Restaurants Close, Others See Increase in Sales

An employee of Carmelina’s in the North End of Boston tapes up paper in the windows of the restaurant, which is temporarily closing during the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

HOW TO THINK ABOUT IT

New (virtual) realities. With galleries closed and major fairs canceled, art dealers are turning to innovations like internet sales and private online viewings to hawk their work. In the long run, insiders say, that could help democratize an industry dominated by major galleries otherwise resistant to change. Meanwhile, many of the world’s leading museums, such as Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum, have begun offering new virtual tours. London’s National Gallery, which already boasted a similar feature, clocked a 1,000 percent increase in digital traffic compared to the same time last year.

Back to basics. Others are innovating in the opposite direction. With commercial video and photo shoots on hold, creative agencies are relying more and more on basic tools like user-generated content to realize their ideas. One agency cobbled together a Buffalo Wild Wings ad using video footage of folks playing made-up sports at home. Stock footage and animation are also options, further forcing producers to sharpen their creativity with minimal resources. “It’s a challenge a lot of creatives secretly cherish,” one director told Adweek.

Male influencer recording for video blog about VR goggles

Many of the world’s leading museums, such as Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum, have begun offering new virtual tours.

Source Getty

Stay hungry. While restaurants around the world are closing their dining rooms, they’re keeping their kitchens open. Take-away orders and contactless delivery are now the norm — with restaurants from New York to Kyiv offering do-it-yourself assembly kits that allow customers to prep their meals at home. But the shift poses a unique challenge to fine-dining establishments: Adapt to the decidedly less elite format of delivery, or close up shop. Meanwhile, it’s a gravy train for third-party delivery apps, which one Manhattan restaurateur says “have become one of the most powerful forces in the industry.”

New pleasures. The global sex industry is changing too. And in many places, like the Ivory Coast — one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies for the past seven years — it’s facing a major test of survival, OZY reports. Small businesses like massage parlors are still catering to moneyed customers making frantic, last-minute appointments for their guilty pleasures. But now, with streetside solicitation of sex workers bound to diminish, some are sending videos in exchange for mobile money.

WHAT TO READ

Coronavirus: Now Is the Perfect Time to Get Creative, by Grant Stevenson in Stuff

“Just as we gear up for the health emergency, so too we can gear up for the biggest chance for self-development and passive recreation since the invention of the internet.”

How Restaurants Can Survive Right Now, by Rafi Mohammed in Harvard Business Review

“My advice to restaurateurs — after ensuring the safety of their food — is simple: Lower Your Prices Now.”

WHAT TO WATCH

Coronavirus Has Put These People Out of Work

“If I actually go out there and get sick, I’m screwed.”

Watch on VICE News on YouTube:

Media Organizations Get Creative About Coronavirus

“Every network and local news outlet has made dramatic changes in operating procedures, reducing studio crews and making sure anchors are at a safe distance.”

Watch on WGBH News on YouTube:

WHAT TO SAY AT THE WATERCOOLER

Keeping the faith. A range of religions have also been forced to adapt in the pandemic. Services — including Buddhist meditation sessions — are being live-streamed on various platforms, while Jehovah’s Witnesses have reportedly stopped going door-to-door, holding smaller meetings where possible. Jewish ceremonies, like bar and bat mitzvahs, have gone virtual too.

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