Tons of enthusiasm: Three days at White Square, Minsk

If you want to get an idea what motivation, inspiration, curiosity, and enthusiasm feels like in advertising, you should spend a few days at a festival in Eastern Europe. And I don’t mean Golden Drum or PIAF – they are great festivals too, but you don’t really get in touch with people and their mentality as much as you do – for example – at Kyiv International Advertising Festival, at Golden Hammer, or Ad Black Sea.

Or at White Square, for that matter. It’s a perfect example. Most of you will probably think what most people think – why the hell should I go to Belarus, one of the most economically troubled countries in Europe, and a dictatorship on top, and look at how they do advertising?

It’s not primarily the work that you get to see, even though Eastern Europe has more to offer than Western European advertising professionals tend to think. Most of the Eastern European festivals are international shows – so you get to see work from the whole region, and there is increasingly interesting stuff happening, and not just in Russia. Just take a look at recent work from Georgia, and you will agree.

But what really makes the trip worthwhile is the experience in itself, and the striking difference to Western European festivals. You won’t find more dedicated, hardworking, and motivated people than you will meet at White Square.

In Minsk, they don’t just have one stage for their key notes, lectures, and workshops – they have three. They don’t just have one day of lectures, they give their attendees three full days of content, from 10 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon. And everyone comes to listen and learn.

One great example for how eager and motivated the audience is: I have met two young guys from a Minsk agency who decided to each cover one of the two big stages. They both pulled out their iPhones and filmed every lecture – so they would both have the content of all of the lectures in both halls.

I don’t want to talk bad about attendance behavior in our part of the world, but I know plenty of people who get their Cannes registrations and passes for you know how much money – and don’t show up at any of the keynotes. Yes, there is plenty of stuff to do on top of that, but let’s be honest – we are never short of an excuse.

People come in large numbers, they listen closely, they have plenty of questions, and they really give you the feeling that they appreciate your effort of flying in to talk about something they care about. It’s truly gratifying.

And don’t underestimate the added value of experiencing a completely different culture, both professionally and recreationally. Minsk may not be amont the most beautiful cities on the planet, but there is plenty to see and enjoy.

Loads of tiny differences that make you wonder, smile, think. Like the entrances to the subway. At first I thought they were broken, the passage between the posts open, the barriers withdrawn. I asked, and my colleagues said no, they’re not broken – you don’t insert the token to let the barriers move to the side – you enter the token to keep them from blocking your way when you walk through.

I went to an office party at a local agency – and no, it wasn’t what some clichés might suggest, no vodka heavy binge drinking, just plenty of good talk, a round of poker, and good friendly fun. Might have been Berlin as well, not much of a difference there.

It was a good thing to stay for the whole festival. Even though I caught a nasty bug at the closing party and had constant trips to the restroom for two days after I returned. But that’s something that might happen to you in Cannes as well. A week at the Croisette can really make you sick 😉

White Square was well worth the trip – and a return trip next year. If I get invited.

PS: A huge thanks to Yana Bakun, Nastya Kuchur, Alena Ustsinovich, Maxim Lazebnik and Sergei Savchuck.


Working in advertising and communications. Founder of wrage/antwort, a business consultancy in search of creative answers to business problems. Based in Switzerland, working anywhere you need me.

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