As we come to realize that climate change is a massive global issue, a few campaigns come to mind. UK’s Neat Streets had passersby decide whether Ronaldo or Messi was the best football player using cigarette butts, and French Intermarché’s award-winning Inglorious Fruit brought to light the unreasonable waste produced by unsold grocery produce. In countries like Georgia, climate change is no less of an issue, and one digital agency, Leavingstone, is further demonstrating that with any campaign subject, a deep understanding of culture and bold creativity go a long way.
The agency knows how to wholly communicate with its audiences, not only inviting users to interact digitally, but expanding their interactions into IRL campaigns. Pay for the Air You Breathe, a campaign meant to highlight air pollution in Tbilisi, is an excellent example. The stunt included fake officers issuing an “air tax” to car owners and a fake online news report with experts and opinion leaders to create a public context. They additionally launched a micro-site listed on these fake tickets that provided information on the harmful impact their car had on the environment.
Based in Tbilisi, Georgia, Leavingstone started out with four friends. Bored by managing social media accounts and creating branded content for major Georgian banks, they decided to start their own agency. Five years of steady development, and they’ve become one of the leading digital creative agencies in the region. In fact, they won their first Cannes Lion — and a first from Georgia — in PR with their “Statue Just for Loving Beer.”
We briefly spoke with Levan Lepsveridze, Creative Director, about how the agency came to be, their role in the Georgian creative commerce space, as well as their plans for the future.
Inspired by Richard Bach’s 1970 parable about a seagull named Jonathan Livingston who, through the adversities of life, learns to passionately fly and becomes a teacher for other birds, Leavingstone hopes to equally become a leading pioneer for the region.
“Nowadays we still see ourselves as a business-value boosting company, not just a communications agency. Entrepreneurship is always welcomed here. We have even supported several startups inside Leavingstone’s teams.”
They certainly have the lead, since the country has only shifted into the free market 25 years ago post-Soviet rule. This also means that for Georgians, global giants like McDonald’s are valued as a premium. But the novelty of an iconic brand does not diminish established local traditions either:
“My favourite type of campaigns are those that combine the two different polarities in our society. Inspired by Western modern culture such as Hollywood movies, pop songs, indie band lyrics; but interacting with local traditions like Georgian folk stories, ancient tales, literature, poetry, etc. Campaigns with that mixture always deliver better results.
At Leavingstone, we call it the philosophy of “Batman in Chokha” (Chokha is the Caucasus’ traditional clothing). It’s one of our interior guidelines. We always try to apply this philosophy while working on new ideas, and this enables us to efficiently deliver every kind of content to mass audiences across the area.
Another remarkable example of such an approach is our colleagues’ wonderful work, The Man Who Always Talks – a campaign for Geocell by Windfors communications. It was endless improvisation. The Man Who Always Talks spoke for 15 hours straight telling funny stories, jokes, and local tales with every keyword the user typed on a special web-page. The outcome was breathtaking.
This perfectly shaped content has generated a huge amount of free positive media. I believe it was the result of this unique communication style. For the first time in Georgia, big brands started to use [colloquial language] instead of official ad offers. People loved it.”
Digital guerilla-style marketing is something we commonly see in smaller countries. According to Levan, Georgia is experiencing a “smartphonization” where over 70% of online users are mobile, but bigger brands have been slow to adopt new technologies. For brands willing to take some risks and have some fun, however, IRL-to-digital is an enticing, cheap, and creative strategy. Top that with the increasing globalization, and the international stage is keeping an eye on underdogs like Leavingstone.