With Ian Priest’s ‘commercial creativity’ agenda in full flow, and the 2014 IPA Effectiveness Awards just around the corner, the IPA’s Value of Creativity Group decided that it would be a great time to stage a one day event looking at how creativity can help to make every aspect of a business more effective.
Our aim was to create the effectiveness equivalent of Glastonbury: a festival that brought together diverse people and points of view, and that celebrated the business transforming power of creativity. And like all the best festivals, we wanted to do something that left your head spinning just a bit.
Ian set the context for the day, outlining his plan to develop a better shared understanding of the value of commercial creativity between agencies and clients through his ADAPT programme. His parting shot was a plea to encourage the agency world to shake up the business model and invent new ways for it to profit in these changing times.
So it was only fitting that the first panel session of the day looked outside our industry to get a window on the world of four very different creative businesses.
What we can learn about creativity from other industries
Our speakers were Sam Bompas, one half of ‘jellymongers’ Bompas and Parr, Jude Kelly OBE, Artistic Director of the Southbank Centre, Sandra Schembri, CEO of the House of St Barnabas, a charity for London’s homeless, funded by the capital’s first not-for-profit private members’ club. And kicking the session off, Mary Portas, ‘queen of shops’.
Each of our speakers has made their careers by questioning conventional wisdom and turning standard practice on its head. So perhaps it wasn’t surprising that each of their very personal talks on what creativity in business meant to them yielded lots of common themes.
The first of these was idealism, best summed up by Mary: “nothing is dead if there’s a possibility to re-imagine it”. Jude spoke eloquently about her work at the Southbank to make the arts more inclusive, and told us that the key is not so much your own creativity, but “how much you believe in the creativity of your audience”.
Sandra reminded us of the power of asking, “why?” whenever you’re told you can’t do something. The refusal to take no for an answer leads ultimately to a lateral solution – in her case a highly innovative way to fund the work of her charity.
And Sam talked about his adventures in jelly: from a model of St Paul’s Cathedral, to a mooring for the SS Great Britain. Jelly proved to be the perfect metaphor for “taking something forgotten and neglected and doing something fun with it”.
Structuring your organisation for effectiveness
The second session of the day looked at organisational creativity. Chair Jonathan Obermeister, Managing Partner of the Change Agency kicked off by examining different models of creativity in organisations, one of which – co-creation – was picked up by Barry Clarke of Wiki Solutions.
Paul Feldwick talked about the multifarious challenges of getting organisations to learn. With characteristic simplicity and clarity, he challenged the industry to move from a stance of measurement and accountability to one of learning and performance improvement.
Russell Davies’s presentation on the work of the Government Digital Service was the perfect response. The work of the team at GDS is to make online services so good that they become the default choice for anyone needing to interact with Government.
The process he described was one of continuous learning and performance improvement, making users’ experiences easier, saving millions on taxpayers’ money – and helping to consolidate and simplify policy. He reminded us that “the web isn’t IT, it isn’t a marketing channel, it’s where your business is”, and that “if the Government can do it…”
How understanding the modern consumer can increase effectiveness
In the afternoon, we turned the telescope around from organisations to people. Mark Earls hosted a session examining how we can make more effective marketing decisions by looking through the lens of different types of ‘people science’.
He proved just what herd creatures we are by encouraging the post-lunch audience to ‘Mexican wave’, before bringing together an anthropologist (Professor Alex Bentley), a neuroscience expert (Phil Barden, MD of Decode), and a behavioural economics consultant (Nick Southgate) to offer their views on how their discipline might help us navigate our way to changing behaviour.
It was clear from all the speakers that we need to get better at understanding what people can’t tell us; in other words, the sub-conscious influences on their behaviour.
Fortunately, each speaker had some practical tools to help us on our quest. Alex Bentley urged us to get better at spotting patterns in data: simply looking at sales diffusion curves in a market can tell us a lot about how choice in that market is driven, and what marketing strategies might be appropriate.
Phil Barden suggested, “the greatest success a brand can achieve is to be chosen without conscious thought”. Key to this, he argued, is understanding the implicit goal that the brand helps its users achieve.
Nick Southgate talked about the creative challenge of developing “ideas that people won’t really have to think about”. Instead, he suggested we thought about the concept of ‘flow’; the easy mental state where we’re engaged, but not having to think about it too much. And he argued that storytelling is our best chance of connecting with people in this state.
Introducing the #ipasocialworks project
Our closing session focused on one of the hottest topics in marketing at the moment; how to evaluate the effectiveness of social media. Stephen Maher, CEO of MBA and Chair of the Marketing Society and Fran Cassidy updated us on a joint initiative by the IPA, the Marketing Society and the MRS to further our understanding of how social media delivers profitable returns to businesses.
This cross industry research project has been seeking to develop methods and tools to make the discipline more accountable, and to identify robust case studies that clearly demonstrate a return on investment.
It was striking that perhaps the most profitable role identified for social media so far is in customer service, as evidenced by the case studies presented by Chris MacLeod, Marketing Director of TfL, Kristian Lorenzon, Head of Social Media at Telefonica UK, and Joanna Howard, General Manager Customer Service at BT.
These showed that not only does the right strategy impact positively on retention rates, it also helps to make the organisation more customer centric.
To echo Russell Davies’s observation earlier in the day, “social isn’t a marketing channel, it’s where your business is”.
And so concluded the Eff Fest: 8 hours and 18 speakers covering topics as diverse as architectural jellies and designing with data. We hope that delegates left us as they would any great festival; slightly overwhelmed, buzzing with ideas, and eager to do it all next year.
Last updated 21/10/2013