Stuck in the Office? Goodstein’s Freestyle Working Mode May Light You Up
It’s 7am, when most advertising people haven’t yet woken up from their exhausting overtime work the night before, and Georg Warga - the Austrian creative in Shanghai - has already started the main part of his work routine.
Georg is the founder and creative Director of Goodstein. He is also a filmmaker and although Georg doesn’t speak Chinese, he does have a very poetic Chinese name-汪山乔. Maureen is his Creative Producer.
Georg founded this small independent creative agency in 2010 in Beijing. To date, Goodstein has won awards awards in Cannes Lions, Clio, Spikes Asia, Adfest, London International, DMA, Epica, Effies, John Caples, Crystal Awards and AME amongst others. In 2013 they won the first Gold Lion in Branded content for the most successful campaign Volkswagen ever did in China- The People’s Car Project.
Here is their story.
Q: What did you do when you firstly came to China?
G: I arrived in Beijing in 2006 to open a new full service digital agency- Interone (Part of BBDO). We did all the ATL, BTL and “digital” work for BMW. At that time, advertising in China was in its early stages. Digital was not big at that time - this is before Weibo, Kaixin, before social media. Digital is something that has always interested me and after working for BMW for four years I just knew I didn’t want to do traditional advertising anymore. It didn’t make sense to me anymore. I always thought there has to be another way to engage with people. It should be more content-driven, more story-telling driven, more social driven. This is why I created Goodstein and I spent almost a year thinking about how to create a social program to create products in China.
Volkswagen-Building the People’s Car won the Gold Lion of Cannes in branded content.
What I came up with was The People’s Car Project for Volkswagen. The first co-creation platform of its kind. The aim was to create the first People’s Car with the help of the people’s ideas. At that time, no car brand was asking car consumers what they really wanted. Cars were invented in the west, and were mostly designed according to westerners’ aesthetic taste. Chinese people might not necessarily want the same cars. Maybe they want a car that is different from what we westerns like, so I came up with an idea where Volkswagen could engage with consumers even before the cars are launched. You talk to people about what the car is, and create a product based on ideas that people tell you. A social network in the making. For me, this is what we want to do. Something that is meaningful for brands. Something that is not an advertising as such. Not a buying media exercise. Media is not an idea. Media is just spending money on something. I think media can be minimized if you have content that people are going to watch.
Q：Then why did you move your office to Shanghai ?
G: There is a better creative environment here. It seems that most creatives don’t want to stay in Beijing anymore if they can avoid it. But I also believe good creatives want to breath good air and good quality of life can inspire creativity better. After so many years of breathing bad air I just couldn’t anymore. I don’t want to spend my time looking out of the window, seeing nothing but grey smog and not being able to go outside. In fact I don’t want to sit at a table in an office at all, I want to be outside.
I think creative people shouldn’t work in an office if you don’t have to talk to colleagues frequently.
Q: That’s interesting, tell us more about that.
G: I remember when I worked in agencies, most creatives often came to work late, like 11am, they then have a cup of tea and talk, then have lunch and after 1:30 they return to the office tired. Eventually they started work at wound 3pm. As a result of this, the creative team would fall into the unstoppable cycle of overtime work.
For me, this is not a good or productive way to work. That said, I know everyone has a different “prime” time where they work best. For me, its as early as possible, ideally from 7 to 10am. This is impossible for people who have to commute to an office during that time or work till late the night before.
I believe that ideas don’t come in front of your computer in an office, they come out at anyplace in life. It can be in the parks, bars, coffee shops, even concerts..Basically anywhere where real life happens.
We often work remotely and travel to different places to do our creative work. We also work with different talents that are in different countries. They don’t have to stay in an office either. We can communicate on the phone, Skype or WeChat. We take the advantage of the time different too. For example, we talk to the creative in Spain at 4 pm, he or she can start work at 5 pm, and when I wake up in the morning the next day, the work is done!
I don’t have to micro manage them. They can do their work as they please where they please. All I need is that they bring me good stuff back. That’s what we call the Goodstein Way of Work.
Q: So you don’t do overtime work, right?
I think it’s unnecessary. I try to get up at 7 o’clock in the morning and I go directly into writing. I will work for two or three hours trying to do all the creative work before having breakfast.
I think your brain can only work four hours a day. You don't need anymore. The most successful writers write only four hours a day. For creative thinking, four hours is enough. The rest is just correspondence, emails, phone calls, meeting people, this kind of stuff. I know that by 10 pm, I am not in a good state to think creatively anymore. The morning is the most effective time for me to think.
Q: What do you usually do in weekends?
G: We love to walk our dog, go to galleries, visit museums, go to concerts. Eat and watch a lot of films.
Since we can’t speak the lingo, we use apps like Smart Shanghai, Sherpa’s, Bon App!. They help us silly foreigners find out what's going on in this great city. Check new places, buy tickets for events, concerts, summer festivals, shows, find new restaurants, order food, etc.
Wechat is also a great app. We not only use it for work as many do, but also recommend it to our parents and friends abroad. We only connect with them via WeChat now. That’s the best way to do it. They love it.