Wednesday, July 11, 2012

One Greek's Idea for Saving His Country

July 11, 2012

The economy is in abysmal shape and state finances are disastrous. But former advertising executive Peter Economides has a plan to save Greece. He wants to transform the old Athens airport into a space where young Greeks can realize their business ideas. And give them an incentive to stay home.

It ought to be easy, says Peter Economides, as he sets his iPhone to silent mode and waves his hand in the direction of a row of windows. Behind the glass, his balcony juts out toward the water; pine trees frame the view of a thin strip of beach and the sea beyond.

Greece, Economides says with a sigh.

He knows that it isn't easy, despite the sand and the sea. Economides, 59, is wearing jeans, a T-shirt and Crocs, and he is sitting at a table made from the wing of an airplane. "If you can't convince yourself, you won't be able to convince others. Then you don't get the girls," he says. "And then you're the loser."

In this case, the loser, the one who feels bad and doesn't inspire the confidence of others, is called Greece. And Economides, whose name sounds straight out of a B-movie about the crisis, wants to change that. He is an advertising man by profession, and a very successful one at that. His ideas have won prizes in Cannes.

He sold Nescafé to the Chinese when everyone was betting that they would stick to tea. He convinced women to use Gillette razors and he was partly responsible for Apple's "Think different" campaign. He turned the slogan that initiated Apple's transition from a near-bankrupt insider company to a global technology icon into a formula for success -- worldwide. That was in 1997.

And now Greece.

At the moment, the country is in worse shape than Apple was in 1997. The sun shines almost every day in Greece, a country blessed with plenty of islands with white sandy beaches, and with places like Delphi, Olympia and the Acropolis, and yet its image couldn't be worse. Even though it's no more than a three-hour flight from the rest of Europe, tourists are avoiding the country. In May, bookings were 50 percent lower than at the same time last year.


No comments: