By Christina Clarke, Managing Director of C21  Christina Clarke

According to a 2010 study by IBM’s Institute for Business Value, business leaders identified creativity as the most important ‘leadership’ competency. This could be because it’s long been recognised that challenge can foster better creativity. Psychologists label this ‘post-traumatic’ growth – an ability to problem solve and create in the face of serious difficulty. An appreciation for channelling trauma that has fuelled many artists and writers over the centuries.

Amongst his numerous insights, the 20th century artist, Henri Matisse once said that ‘creativity takes courage’. For many, this rings true right now. Within our sector, creativity elevates what we do, separating our offering from a predominantly knowledge based economy. It gives us edge and creates kudos. It’s what we fall back on when our backs are up against the wall.

And, it’s never at its sweetest, sharpest or more vital, than when it’s born out of adversity. This is certainly the case for C21. Since we began life back in 1998, we’ve been thrown two major curve balls – two defining moments. Each time, the team has geared up into creative overdrive and the output of the agency has not only been prolific but has undergone a momentous step change.

Creativity, it’s claimed, comes from messy minds. So, maybe, when we’re thrown into turmoil – or, at least, thrown out of our comfort zone – we find it reassuring to create. And maybe that’s what leads us to a better place, maybe it’s that, which gives us clarity of purpose. There’s certainly been a lot to focus on this year – Black Lives Matter, Mental Health, Climate Change, Child Food Poverty, MeToo and, of course, COVID. Considering the restrictions imposed by lockdown, this hasn’t stopped an outpouring of emotive creativity. Championing causes now so pressing, so impossible to ignore and so culture changing, that they’ve altered how we view our world forever. Here’s a few that stood out for me.

Black Lives Matter:
Creativity comes in many forms and this performance by Diversity was amazing. It’s sad that ITV needed to take out the advert below in support of them, after Ofcom received nearly 25,000 complaints.


Image credit: ITV

Sometimes the best way is to keep the creative simple. I love this from Coca-Cola and, as it seems COVID is here to stay for the foreseeable, we need to remain united in our fight to protect each other from it.

coca cola
Image credit: The Coca Cola Company

Child Poverty:
Finally, I love this concept. Supporting Magic Breakfast, Heinz teamed up with BBH to create Silence the Rumble. Their animated film tells the story of a hungry schoolgirl and links to a donation campaign to help feed the 1 in 5 children at risk of going without a meal. Child food poverty, helped admirably by Marcus Rashford, has recently been placed front and centre on the political agenda. And, about time too.

silence the rumble
Image credit: Heinz

Whilst the effects of WFH may have some impact on social connectedness and collaboration, we will still find ways for creativity to flourish – in art, in literature, through advertising, on social media – who knew TikTok could be so entertaining! And, as we all adjust to the new normal, I believe that creativity will be resilient, flexible and adaptive.

On our C21 coffee mugs, we have the Friedrich Nietzsche, quote, “You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.” This seems really appropriate for us now, as we work together to create a new version of C21, a new version of our working selves, a new normal. Yes, it takes time to adjust to pitching via Zoom, meeting clients on Teams, messaging colleagues through What’s App or the proliferation of alternative apps we’re all becoming familiar with. And the woes and frustrations of dealing with ‘laggy’ internet abound. But, out of all this madness and uncertainty, out of all this chaos and adversity, the one thing I know is that creativity is still alive and kicking.