FEATURE16 October 2013

What we learned at the IPA’s Eff Fest

Why jelly is like advertising, that the web is not IT, and why we should never underestimate the creativity of others.


Yesterday saw the advertising industry gather at the top of the Millbank Tower for the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) Eff Fest event: How creativity drives business.

IPA president (and founding partner of VCCP) Ian Priest, set the tone for the day with a classic quote from Darwin: “It’s not the strongest who survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most adaptable to change.”

With that in mind, Priest presented the IPA’s ADAPT programme, which encourages agencies to focus on five key areas: Alliances, Diversification, Agility, Profit and Talent, in order to adapt faster to accelerate growth. He then urged advertisers to “broaden our definition of creativity” by looking to other industries for inspiration – this was to be the theme of the first session of the day.

Knickers, jelly and trust

The first speaker was the indomitable Mary ‘queen of shops’ Portas, who explained how she used her love of theatre and the arts as inspiration for her early-nineties relaunch of Harvey Nichols as a gallery-style retail space. She gave that project, as well as the success of her UK-manufactured Kinky Knickers (each pair has ‘love your country’ sewn into the crotch) as examples of how “nothing is dead if there is the possibility to reimagine it.”

Portas was followed by ‘jellymonger’ Sam Bompas (one half of jelly entrepreneurs Bompas & Parr), who – in between handing out jelly samples – explained how changing the environment in which food is presented can change a diner’s taste experience: “That’s the impact of engaging people’s senses properly.” He insisted that successful advertising should also consider the importance of context: “You have to set the frame to make everything you’re doing legible.”

Other speakers in that session were artistic director of the Southbank Centre, Jude Kelly, who described artistic projects that had required the participation of members of the public in order to work, as examples of why we should never underestimate other people’s creativity, and Sandra Schembri, CEO of homeless charity The House of St Barnabas, who explained that “innovation can come from anywhere,” but that it is vital to have complete trust in people in order for them to innovate.

Activities, not audiences

The second session focused on organisational creativity. Host Jonathan Obermeister, managing partner of the Change Agency, introduced two distinct but related questions for consideration: how to make your organisation more creative and how to make your organisation more receptive to creativity.

Speakers Paul Feldwick, consultant; Barry Clark, chairman of Wiki-Solutions; and Russell Davies, creative director of Government Digital Services (GDS) all presented their own ideas of how organisational creativity can lead to success. Feldwick told us that “our ability to learn is hindered if we’re not clear what our outcomes are,” highlighting the importance of not only collecting sufficient data, but knowing precisely what we want to get from that data from the outset. Clark used the example of his Wiki-Solutions business, as well as companies like Threadless and Crowdspring to highlight the value of co-creation, not only within organisations, but with stakeholders and customers too.

Davies talked in detail of his involvement in the hugely successful overhaul of Gov.uk, which won ‘Design of the Year’ award earlier this year. He explained that digital should be about “activities, not audiences”, i.e. it’s not just another channel to broadcast what you’re doing. “The web is not IT,” he said. “It’s not a marketing channel, it’s where your business is.”


I’ll have what she’s having

After lunch, ‘herdmeister’ Mark Earls introduced a session exploring how the industry could learn from social psychology and neuroscience in order to better understand consumers. First up was Alex Bentley, professor of anthropology from Bristol University, who introduced a compass-like model of decision-making, where north/ south was represented by well-informed and poorly-informed decision-making respectively, and east/ west by independent and social decision-making. He argued that fast-paced diffusion of messages over social media could point towards a ‘shift to the south’, i.e. a move towards indiscriminate copying.

Phil Barden, managing director of Decode Marketing, then used theory from neuroscience – that there are two ‘systems’ for decision-making: intuitive and reasoned – to explain why “the greatest success a brand can achieve is to be chosen without conscious thought.” Finally, Nick Southgate, a behavioural economics consultant, described the importance for adverstisers to keep potential consumers in a ‘flow state’ – between boredom and anxiety – engaging them enough, but not too much. “Asking for thinking is easy,” he said, “but it doesn’t guarantee success.”

Always on

The final session of the day was an update from IPA Social Works. Social Works is a collaborative effort between the IPA, the Marketing Society and the MRS, with backing from social networks including LinkedIn and Twitter, the aim of which is to come up with standardised metrics for social media activity. Stephen Maher, chairman of the Marketing Society, and Fran Cassidy, founder of the Cassidy Media Partnership, called for the industry to submit case studies of their social marketing successes and failures that could be used to develop a system of ‘case law’ to apply to social media. Examples of the Icelandic tourist board and Mattesons Fridge Raiders were given to illustrate the success of social media campaigns.

Chris Macleod, marketing director at TFL, Kristian Lorenzon, head of social media at Telefonica UK and Joanna Howard, general manager of customer service at BT, also talked through their organisation’s social media activity.

A lively panel discussion brought the day to a close, one of the key themes of which was the idea that the use of social media is an indicator of how the industry needs to adapt to an ‘always-on’ mentality. Lorenzon of Telefonica summed this up: “This really illustrates the importance of getting better at measuring the impact of our investment in social media, not just of one-off campaigns.”

Potential case studies can be shared by joining the IPA Effectiveness LinkedIn group and via twitter: @IPA_Updates.

1 Comment

10 years ago

If you are interested in learning more I certainly recommend Brand Immortality: How brands can live long and prosper by Hamish Pringle and Peter Field. Excellent coverage and interesting read.

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