Throughout this season, we will be spotlighting past winners who have defied the limits. Defied the limits of lockdown, defied the limits of geography as well as shining a light on those producing award-winning work from diverse and minority communities.
We spoke with Millie Elston, CEO, Executive Producer of Relativity Communications. A veteran of advertising and marketing industries: From award-winning creative director, to executive accounts director, to producer/entrepreneur, Millie Elston has the ability lead her team and thrive under the pressure cooker of the industry. In the industry for over 30 years, and CEO of Relativity Communications, a woman-owned marketing communications firm since 2015.
With her diversified background and a variety of interests to draw inspiration from, Millie has expertise in Retail, Consumer Packaging Goods, Healthcare and Hospitality and Non-Profit sectors. From working on a major luxury hotel brand and all their projects from their identity and graphics to marketing materials to branding their lobby bar, to enhancing visual experiences, she operated with a solid grasp of Brand Aesthetic.
How did your creative process change given all of the unexpected turns of 2020?
I must say we were pretty fortunate. We have a great creative team, and a big part of being creative is being open to new ideas and making the most of new circumstances. And we’ve always been accustomed to working lean, to delivering On Time, On Budget.
We also understood that it wasn’t just us–that our clients have also been experiencing the “unexpected turns of 2020”. So, more than ever, we needed to communicate, be flexible, improvise, and hope that they too understood that we were all in this together. That everything had changed, except our commitment to them and to delivering good work, On Time, On Budget. They have given us every confidence that they will continue to partner with us.
What do you think is the secret to having a successful creative team?
Winning awards, for one thing! And, while we have always shown that we value our creative team, the pandemic has given us yet another, if unwelcome, opportunity to prove it. By suspending studio filming for as long as their safety depended upon it. By following official medical guidelines and instituting strict health precautions for them and for all of our show participants. By looking after their mental as well as physical well-being, as we have all been taught to do through the many years of producing our show together.
Our team has always been fueled by mutual energy and our ability to brainstorm and bring ideas to life. Luckily, we’ve still been able to do this remotely throughout the pandemic. Though nothing is quite like being in a room together, working “together” separately has forced new challenges–and new perspectives–on all of us. And, as in many families, we appreciate one another even more now that we are all back together again.
What’s the most important lesson you learned while needing to adapt to an unpredictable world environment?
This crisis has demanded flexibility, quick thinking and, above all, communication. As a communications business, we were prepared for this to a very great extent. But this crisis has reinforced those principles and brought them into even sharper focus as we implemented them in new and unforeseen ways. So the big lesson is that, while the tried and true philosophies and methods have held up, they’ve also become the foundation for working in this current, new reality and solidly positioned us for the future, whatever that may hold.
What was the biggest hurdle you faced and what surprised you about creating during a lockdown?
These new constraints became a springboard to seeking alternate approaches to the way we do business. We are delivering work that acknowledges and responds to the challenges of this pandemic while nurturing creativity under quarantine. From existing footage, we’ve crafting new, culturally relevant ads that reflect current developments and feelings; abandoning creative executions that don’t represent this new environment; seeking to strike the right tone during this crisis; responding to changing client needs in innovative ways. But what surprised me the most was how well and how quickly our team adapted to these new rules and to thrive in what may well be the conditions for some time to come.
What do your Telly wins mean to you?
It’s an honor, it is humbling. It’s our abiding wish to develop and create work that is as good as or better than the work that won us our past Telly Awards.
These awards allow us to spread stories of hope and to help eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness. Our slogan, “Let’s Talk About It!” is an everyday reminder to each of us that the work we do is truly important in promoting the conversation, support and acceptance that is so critical to the one in five Americans suffering from some form of mental illness.
And it’s an honor for our entire organization. Not only is it our goal to provide our clients quality collaboration and solutions, but we know how important it is to provide our employees with an environment that encourages creativity and offers them recognition. These awards validate RELATIVITY Communication’s reputation and commitment to our clients, community and team.
This could never have been possible without the dedicated work of our Team and Crew through everything we’ve faced this year. For this I thank them all, as well as those brave heroes who have continued to share on our show their stories of triumph over the most unimaginable odds.