An Unstoppable New Russia Business Culture Getting 50’s Ink
Russia’s re-emergence cannot be dampened furthermore by Cold War containment strategies, or either by useless economic sanctions. Vladmir Putin’s energy dealings with China and others, news of Aeroflot’s low-cost airline, and the Russia Internet Entrepreneurship Forum of late, these and other moves foretell of an all out economic competition the west may well lose. There’s a secret weapon in Russia’s new battle for coming to be mainstream media has overlooked, the real Russian innovator, the ordinary and extraordinary citizen there.
I had the opportunity to visit for a second time one Russian entrepreneur and activist, Alla Polishchuk, who’s dedication to Russia and Russians has led to new business potential. What you are about to read is a story of how Russia becomes the “50’s America of Today” – a phrase floating like an urban legend beneath the surface of social media. Ukraine and its EU ascendancy, the renewed interest in conflict in the world, will certainly play out differently this second time. Here’s a short story that could as easily have been an American one.
Alla Polishchuk is a pretty, young, intelligent Russian lady who’s focus has been on helping people via the Civil Emergency Corps Volunteers and other humanitarian efforts. When three months of rain hit the Krasnodar Krai region of Russia in in a few days, Alla was there to help. When her countrymen anywhere in Russia were in need, Alla helped as a volunteer for Greenpeace, UNICEF, or as a coordinator for the Civil Corps, a fundraiser, any way, this has been Alla’s way. I spoke with Alla before about Russian government, and today, so my thoughts below bear scrutiny from all sides.
The most phenomenal thing about Alla’s efforts is, if propaganda from western mainstream media were true about Putin’s Russia, she’s probably not exist at all. You see Alla and the groups she often works with, they come into staunch conflict at times with Russian government policy. So this story is not only a Russian media executive’s story, it’s a real life repudiation of inaccurate perceptive of Russia business too.
If Vladmir Putin were the tyrant he’s made out to be, there would be no discussion, no dissent, within that huge country. This is a crucial fact to understand in understanding the enormity of Russia’s potential right now.
The former brand manager for Open Projects Foundation, producer at Business FM, and once editor of Novoe Russkoe Slovo, Polishchuk is a graduate of Moscow State University, and the National Research University – Higher School of Economics, two of Russia’s leading universities. She’s now formed up a new media company called Escape Production, a media creative agency there in Moscow. I spoke with Alla about this new venture, here’s part of the Q & A.
Everything PR– What’s the market for media production like in Russia Alla? How will your company compete?
Alla Polishchuk – Media production is ultra-competitive here in Russia, with many companies having longstanding expertise and connections. Our strategy is actually pretty simple. We’ll attract business through a combination of better pricing and a higher degree of creativity.
EPR – Why should companies choose your agency above all the others available?
Alla Polishchuk – Because our products, our understanding of advertising campaign goals, revolve around getting sales and for our clients, and not about just making noise.
EPR – Your humane efforts, how has that affected your take on business?
Alla Polishchuk – Persevere, and you will.
EPR – Looking at the Russian media industry, do you see a “Hollywood” of Russia on the horizon?
Alla Polishchuk – I’m not sure that a “Russian Hollywood” will appear soon. This is primarly due to the fact that cinema is not entrenched here. But, we have several great film directors to be proud of, and who will inspire still more who might influence the world.
We discussed further just what influences and innovations Russians and the world might come to expect from not only film, but from adverting and business overall. Several things about doing business there came to light, not the least of which was a certain dogged confidence almost all Russians exhibit. What I mean is, the “isolation” that some have insisted upon these people has had an effect. Russians like things from the outside world, the even admire much of western culture, but they simply do not “need” it. This sounds cold perhaps, but there is a huge difference in between need and “desire” – one which is crystal clear for Russians.
Back to the point of “Putin’s Russia” being like America in the 1950’s, I asked Alla to elaborate about movies and this “Hollywood” aspect. For Russians, Alla says; “they’re a little bit slower than Americas to be influenced by video because in the US video proliferates everywhere, while not all here understand the power and utility of video.” This is a very ’50s synergy, combined with various economic factors such as Russia’s current status as an energy supplier, the country’s low debt comparatively, the cohesiveness Putin’s administration cements, all this and more makes today’s Russia a prime candidate for explosive growth.
Finally, reading from Mr. Putin’s discussion the other day on just such subjects as small and mid-sized Russian entrepreneurs (SMEs), it’s quite clear the Russian administration will be fast forwarding cohesion in between huge business initiatives in collaboration or support of smaller innovators like Polishchuk. I quote Mr. Putin on his personal pledge:
“There is really no secret, I am personally trying to organise this kind of work for our major companies on the domestic market, so that they ultimately give more attention to possible cooperation with Russian SMEs, particularly innovation oriented ones. A year ago, I gave instructions to nearly all the heads of companies to develop such a system of working on our domestic market. I don’t know how much progress has been made, but I have returned to this topic many times. Indeed, that is why we created this fund for online start-ups.”
Now here’s the driving point that prompted my report here. When I was a kid, the late 50’s and early 1960’s in the United States showed similar features Russia is now undergoing. The advent of a boom in media, energy, and utilization of American resources propelled the middle class in the US to predominance, socio-economically. Back then humanitarians and students easily transitioned and empowered future generations of American prosperity. I chose Alla Polishchuk to pose in front of you, but I could have as easily told you about photographer Nina Zotina who helped us in Sochi, her photos grace the New York Times now. Pasha Kovalenko is another young Russian entrepremuer who works more than one job, makes stunning wedding and event photographs, and exhibits this same Russian coolness and confidence that made Americans the innovators like American actor Sidney Poitier icons of society. Russia right now is a bit like a 50s pop culture pinup girl, with some 21st century ink.
The names are a show reel of firsts and best knowns now. Beat poet Allen Ginsberg and the “generation gap” to TV westerns and later soap operas, American media changed everything for Americans. It can easily be said too, that in the late 1950’s and early 1960s nothing could stand in the was of an emerging great society in America. Aeroflot’s Dobrolet versus Ryanair and German Wings, Gazprom versus Exxon Mobil and Qatargas, and with Google and other Internet companies in the bomb sights, somebody out there has to be wondering “why” oh why the west engaged over Ukraine in the first place. (or they may soon) If you think I’m crazy consider a whacko toy company called Wham-O sold 25 million hula hoops in two months back in 1958, and 100 million in less than two years. Russia’s international fad has yet to happen, they’re due.
And if my guess is right, there’s nothing standing in the way of Russia coming out today. I leave you with a video production from Alla’s creative new company. Yes, business is tough in Mother Russia, but not without humor.