You first fall in love with Georgia, and then you learn to respect it. That’s probably the shortest possible summary of week two in Tbilisi. It’s not really surprising, because it’s easy to love the incredibly good food, the energy of the people, and the beauty of old Tbilisi. It takes a little longer to understand that all of this isn’t something that you can take for granted.
Even though this may not be obvious when you drive through town – this is a country that was at war with Russia not even a decade ago. Which means that even though the average age of an employee at Leavingstone – the digital agency I am working at for these five weeks – is probably somewhere around 25, everyone will have some kind of memory of war.
As much as this might have been one of the more economically fortunate parts of the former Soviet Union, just 20 years ago, large parts of the country didn’t even have electricity. Today, Tbilisi is the home of one of the most famous clubs for electronic music – Bassiani.
Dancing under the stadium – at Bassiani, one of the best clubs on the planet.
While many of us are working in advertising networks that have been founded in the early 20th century, the largest agency in town is just seven years old. And even the older ones were all founded some time after the new millennium started.
All of this development happened in less time than it took me from copywriting at Ogilvy to what I am doing today – helping a bunch of dedicated and hardworking people to cope with the speed of growth.
Of course, there are some strange things that I did have to get used to. Like the fact that whenever the traffic on the large boulevards is light, some freaks will put the pedal to the metal and scream down Kazbegi Avenue at up to 200 km/h. Never have I been more obedient in front of a pedestrian’s traffic light.
Pedestrians only in the old town of Tbilisi – and plenty of beauty.
I tend to think this is something that happens when people suddenly earn a little more money, can somehow pay for a second hand BMW and discover the attraction of speed. There are insanely many cars in this city, and they are parked wherever there is enough space, and there are endless herds of Taxis which obviously can’t be compared with the ones in Zurich.
But even here, you can order one with an App – Taxify. Leavingstone even has a corporate account, and within no time, I was added to their list. So whenever I need a cab, I order one on the app, get the arrival time, the model of the car and its license plate number. Love it.
Nice touch: flower pots on the highway bridge.
I don’t have to cross a big boulevard on the way to work, and I don’t need a cab – it’s just a three minute walk. Very helpful, considering that I hardly ever go to bed before 2am. Several times a week, I sit together with the board and discuss the future with them, and I simply have to admire their entrepreneurial spirit. Founding an agency right out of university, and bringing it to Cannes Lions fame in just five years – that’s quite an achievement.
It won’t be long and people in Central Europe will take a closer look at the advertising scene in this country. People are well educated, have a great spirit and lots of creativity, they do quality work – and yes, at a fraction of the price we usually pay.
The Berlin Techno scene already knows. Quite a few of them are taking a plane to Tbilisi this weekend for the season opening at Bassiani. I will simply call a cab. With my app.