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  • Dom Lisi


Thoughts on creative work during the lockdown

It’s June 2020. I’ve been working from home for roughly 4 months with zoom meetings back to back and long solo working sessions. When the final call would end, I’d find myself sitting alone in my apartment, well partially alone; my dog Frank was often at my feet, my soon-to-be fiancé returning home shortly from work. It didn’t help that weeks earlier, I severed two tendons in my hand, cleaning the dishes, and had to learn the left-handed mouse. It was a weird time, so much to complain about, but so much to be grateful for.

As a self-taught creative director, you’d think that working alone was something I was used to. I thought the same thing going into the pandemic — I was even looking forward to more “Dom time” and less social obligations. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Around June, I started to notice the difference in my workflow, I was churning out ideas, but there was no magic. Satisfactory was a word I’d use to describe the concepts I was creating for campaigns — they got the job done, but I wasn’t jumping out of my seat; it was more like “ya, that works”. At the time, I started to question my ability —” is this what I’m truly supposed to be doing? If I can’t do this alone, am I good at what I do?” These thoughts continued for months as the imposter syndrome blocked my rational thinking.

I’m sure this was a common experience for creatives during the pandemic. Our jobs changed. For my photographer friends, gigs completely disappeared. For those lucky enough to be able to work remotely , we were thrown into a whirlwind of video chats and Slack messages. Being locked in my apartment for the better part of a year started to show me how much I took my environment and collaboration for granted. I was missing an essential element and my process wasn’t the same without it. My team was the magic, and without them in the room, the energy wasn’t the same. Sure, we did brainstorming sessions over zoom — but people were on different wavelengths, in different time zones, and experiencing different levels of stress and anxiety surrounding the lockdown.

It wasn’t until this August, when we got back into the office, that I realized how severe the impact of the pandemic had been on me. Only days into returning to the office and I felt like Austin Powers when Beyonce got his mojo back. New ideas started flowing, not only work ideas, but stupid new nicknames for friends, ridiculous business ideas, all types of thoughts and dreams. 2020 taught me that energy is a real thing — especially for creative people or really anyone who’s coming up with ideas for work. Being in the room, feeling the body language, tossing out crazy thoughts and bouncing ideas across the table. The simple act of ordering pizza after work over an argument about cannabis branding. These were essential parts of my process.

So what am I trying to say? Collaboration is key? Creative work is easier in teams? These are obvious statements. The truth is, I took all of these things for granted. I didn’t pay enough attention to how the energy in the room impacted my team’s work. I didn’t work hard enough to replace the collaborative environment that we loved in the office. Now, every day I remind myself: Appreciate your team, cherish their energy and their ideas, even if you’ve got ideas of your own. Get back in the room, be safe but don’t be lazy, it’s easy to hop on a zoom call, but it’s also easy to give a zoom call half of your attention. At the end of all of it, realize that good creative isn’t built in a vacuum, it’s built holding hands in a field or eating pizza in a boardroom.

  • Brand of the Year ADCANN and

    Canadian Cannabis Awards


    Best Marketing Campaign

    O’Cannabiz Awards


    ADC Awards 2022
    Gold for Media Innovation

    MR. SATURDAY (2022)

    Cannes Bronze Lion for Brand

    Experience and Activation

    MR. SATURDAY (2022)

    Atomic Awards, Gold for Niche Targeting, Collaboration, Engagement

    MR. SATURDAY (2022)

  • CRUEL is an independent marketing agency based in Toronto, exploring contemporary themes through art, marketing, and culture. We find deeper meaning emphasizing the power of human connection, and in doing so, embed brands in the conversation; whether digital or in-real-life, launching a new product, or creating an immersive brand experience.


    Founded in 2013 as a university lifestyle platform in Montreal, CRUEL quickly became a hub for young people to connect, driven by the surge of social media. By 2015, after hosting thousands of events and launching localized content initiatives, CRUEL transformed into a marketing agency, drawing clients keen on understanding youth culture and younger demographics. In 2016, CRUEL further demonstrated its newly formed marketing acumen by successfully launching Snapple Spiked across Canada through an authentic, grassroots driven campaign.


    CRUEL's creative capabilities flourished in 2018, winning Campaign of the Year and Brand of the Year for the launch of the 7ACRES cannabis brand in Canada. The arrival of the pandemic in 2020 tested CRUEL's adaptability as a younger agency. However, with agility and a solutions-oriented mindset, CRUEL was able to seamlessly pivot from traditional event marketing to a fully integrated offering, combining Branding, Content, and Experiential to provide increased value to clients. As people everywhere returned to real life, so did CRUEL. This was on display with the LottoMax Dream Drop campaign in 2022, winning several awards, most notably the agencies first Cannes Lion for Experience Design. 

    In 2023, CRUEL has continued to grow, being featured in Hypebeast, Highsnobiety, Vogue, Strategy Online and other publications. By delivering fully-integrated brand experiences that capitalize on contemporary trends, CRUEL is always designing new ways to connect brands to with the next generation of consumers.


    Research and Insights 
    Brand Strategy and Planning
    Brand Identity
    Art Direction
    Graphic Design
    UI and UX Design 


    Brand Storytelling
    Digital Strategy
    Content Production
    Commercial Photography
    Channel Planning
    Community Management
    Digital Platform Development
    Emerging Tech Integrations
    3D Motion Design


    Activation Development
    Installations and Pop-Ups 
    Event Strategy and Production
    Interactive Product Sampling
    Logistics Management
    Staff Recruitment/Training  
    Retail Environments


    Strategic Partnerships 
    Negotiation and Contracting
    Sponsorship Framework 
    Property Representation 
    Sponsor Activation
    Valuation and Measuremen

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