Category Archives: Creativity

Data & Creativity – Cannes Lions csuitepodcast with Microsoft & H+K Strategies

In part one of my third csuitepodcast from Cannes Lions, I spoke with two previous guests of the show, Scott Allen, CMO of Microsoft UK and Vikki Chowney, ‎Director of Content & Publishing Strategies, H+K Strategies about Data & Creativity.

Chatting with Scott Allen and Vikki Chowney

Chatting with Scott Allen and Vikki Chowney

Scott had been part of a panel session at the Festival with other CMOs from Pinterest, Dropbox and Hilton Hotels in a session entitled ‘Clash of the Titans – Where data clashes with creativity’.  He explained that it was to see how CMOs can best use the wealth of data available to them, as they tend to be rich in data but poor on insight.  Within his panel, Scott said they discussed whether or not companies are too data focused at the expense of creativity within your marketing plan, or visa versa, hiring for a modern marketing organisation if you are thinking about data and having more technical proficient people in your team, how we make data more meaningful and whether there is a need for both global and local content anymore as the data is so specific and so does the word ‘glocal’ go away now.  It was therefore a number of those topics that I wanted to therefore expand on during our podcast interview.

Vikki said that one aspect of this area that excited her was audience mapping, explain that from a PR perspective, you are now able to get great and very granular audience insights, something that is no longer cost prohibitive, which if used appropriately, can inform creative ideas.

In terms of hiring, Scott had previously said on the show that I produced in association with MOI Global, that he would like to hire people who are part creative and part scientist, but he added that it’s not a skillset that is easy to find. However, he said he looks to employ people who are business savvy, i.e., those who look at business objectives first rather than marketing tactics first, but he also wants them to have an analytical and data interpreter’s mind set. He added that whilst there is a growing use of AI technology, without the human intervention and interpretation, it doesn’t become that meaningful for you. Finally, Scott feels that the ideal people need to be comfortable integrating into the creative side of the marketing team, so the data team and creative team can lead the campaign strategy and planning together.

This all aligned with the profile of people that Vikki said H+K Strategies are recruiting too, which has changed from people with classic traditional agency experience. She said that her agency are now hiring from publishers and digital agencies, plus people who build things, so that they can work with data creatively, giving them very specific roles built on those outputs and expertise, rather than broad/brushstroke agency titles.  She said that the key to making it work is to ensure that everyone collaborates and doesn’t work in silos.

When it comes to data and creativity working together, Vikki gave an example from a recent Intel project where, using audience mapping, they looked at where people spent their time and what they were interested in. The project was in partnership with the RSC, during the showing of the Tempest at the Globe Theatre in London. She explained that by using data, they saw that the audience Intel were trying to reach about the project were high users of Snapchat, and so as a result, they came up with the idea to run a Snapchat filter – a nice simple way to use a platform already being used by the audience in a cool way.

Finally, Scott explained that data can also help you decide what not to do. As an example, he said that instead of doing something you’ve always done because you thought it was successful, data allows you to be even more uber-targeted.  He gave an example of instead of running a generic event on a particular date, you could use data to say, we need to do an event, in Manchester, on this date, with this audience and this profile, because we’ve done some propensity modelling, and these customers are likely to want to purchase from us so that you bring the right people to the venue at the right time, which will make the event more successful. Scott always tells his team to look 90% forward and 10% backwards and he said that this is a good example of how they do that.

The Cannes Lions episodes of the csuitepodcast were sponsored by Capstone Hill Search.

Thanks to ICCO for allowing us to carry out the interviews in their House of PR.

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on the websiteSoundclouditunes and TuneIn.  There is also a growing community on Facebook and Twitter, where you can get involved in the discussion.  Finally, if you subscribe to the show, please can you give it a positive rating and review on itunes in particular as this helps it up the charts!

Malaria No More – Cannes Lions csuitepodcast with Publicis LifeBrands

Interview starts at 16:20

In part two of my first csuitepodcast from Cannes Lions, I spoke with Khalid Latif, Associate Creative Director and Shaheed Peera, Executive Creative Director EU, both of Publicis LifeBrands.

Chatting with Khalid Latif (middle) and Shaheed Peera (right) of Publicis LifeBrands

Chatting with Khalid Latif (middle) and Shaheed Peera (right) of Publicis LifeBrands

Khalid and Shaheed talked about ‘Malaria No More’, a Pro bono project they are working on, but one that also had an interesting story in how the creative ideas came about, as it links to the hot topic of finding and nurturing new diverse talent in the industry.

Shaheed said that Malaria is the single biggest killer of humans in the world, having wiped out 50% of the population since time began and whilst this claim can’t be necessarily by substantiated, there is still plenty of evidence that it is the world’s biggest killer disease, having claimed billions of human lives.  Therefore, as he explained, it has an economic impact on countries and governments across the world but crucially, it can be completely killed in our lifetime with the right resources and finance.

Shaheed said that Malaria No More decided to approach their fundraising differently by wanting to approach CEOs of businesses and inviting them to be part of an exclusive club through which they will contribute towards fundraising for the charity. They therefore needed something very creative that would engage the CEOs and make them pay attention and even shock them.

However, instead of approaching their top in-house creative, Khalid said that Publicis LifeBrands used their initiative called ‘The Lab’ – a programme that has been running for three years – that aims to bring young or old talent into the business from anywhere, whatever they have been doing, from any walk of life, addressing the issue of diversity in the industry.  Shaheed added that 86% of those in the industry come from white middle class backgrounds and described The Lab as their version of The X Factor to give an opportunity to people who wouldn’t normally get a chance to work in the creative industry, where they don’t even look at the CVs of people who apply.

The team that worked on Malaria No More included Rosie, who had been living in Ireland with her parents who Shaheed described as looking like Ziggy Stardust, but what was key was that she had drive, passion and desire in abundance.  Another member of the team was Sophia who had been unemployed for 18 months before coming across The Lab.

It was from this process that the idea of a film for Malaria No More was generated – a film that needed to shock and, as Khalid explained, to get people to say “What the fuck”.

The resulting idea, given they were targeting high net worth individuals, was to put Malaria ‘out of business’.

Shaheed said that the video was released on World Malaria Day and within the first two weeks, had been shared millions of times, being retweeted by the likes of Richard Branson, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UNICEF, and even Rentokill (which makes sense when you see the video).

Shaheed described the campaign as a huge success, generated from an idea by two girls from diverse backgrounds, who have never worked in the industry before.

Shaheed’s recommendation is for all business to look at how The Lab works … and do the same!

The Cannes Lions episodes of the csuitepodcast were sponsored by Capstone Hill Search.

Thanks to ICCO for allowing us to carry out the interviews in their House of PR.

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on the websiteSoundclouditunes and TuneIn.  There is also a growing community on Facebook and Twitter, where you can get involved in the discussion.  Finally, if you subscribe to the show, please can you give it a positive rating and review on itunes in particular as this helps it up the charts!

Convergence of art, technology and healthcare – Cannes Lions csuitepodcast with Havas Life Medicom & Lucy McRae

It was fantastic to be back at Cannes Lions again this year, made possible by my show sponsors Capstone Hill Search.  Once again, I was set up in the ICCO House of PR, where I managed to improve upon last year’s efforts by interviewing 23 fantastic guests across four podcasts, producing over 2hrs 15mins of content.

The series of shows started off with a fascinating chat with my first two guests, Zuleika Burnett, Executive Director for Creative and Innovation at Havas Life Medicom and Body Architect, Lucy McRae, who had spoken together on the Inspiration Stage at the Festival, probing healthcare frontiers through convergence of art, technology and health.

Chatting with Zuleika Burnett (left) and Lucy McRae

Chatting with Zuleika Burnett (left) and Lucy McRae

Their talk covered three key aspects: vulnerability, serendipity and exquisite risk.

Zuleika explained that they looked at extremes from the superstars in health, to the speakers at Cannes, to the healthcare heroes, i.e., those on the frontline. She said that art and science fiction can drive culture and innovation and that design thinking can shape the future of health.  She was particularly excited to be speaking with Lucy as she felt that lessons can be learnt from the way Lucy approaches creativity and that agencies don’t focus enough on the artistic and creative type of work that she produces.

To understand how creative Lucy is, you simply need to watch some of her work, two examples of which, ‘Make your maker’ and ‘Future day spa’ are below –

MAKE YOUR MAKER Short Film from Lucy McRae on Vimeo.

FUTURE DAY SPA from Lucy McRae on Vimeo.

Lucy’s work is incredibly creative and reminds me of episodes of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror.

Lucy said that ‘Make your maker’ was about exploring the extremes of genetic manipulation, that she was curious about the deliberate modification of life and genetic engineering and that she became fascinated in her own genetic makeup.   The film is about a woman who uses technology as a liquid, who then blends together gender and ego, like a chef would make a cake, with the aim of cloning her own body and eating it to enhance your senses.

Whilst Lucy admitted that the idea of this is absurd, she said the point is to hover the imagination and question which ‘what ifs?’ could exist. How can we bring in mindsets that design with doubt, as this is seen as a weakness?  However, she feels we can use this as a tool or gateway to innovation.  She believes that pivotal moments occur when you are out of your comfort zone and told a story of being on a bus in Canada and willingly putting herself in an uncomfortable position as she introduced herself to a NASA economist. He went on to explain that NASA are concerned with the complications of growing a foetus in zero gravity. It was from this time on that she wondered how can we understand far future ideas like zero gravity and how can it benefit health and life now.

Another example of Lucy’s innovative thinking is in the creation of swallowable perfume – a cosmetic pill that works from the inside out. It turns the body into an atomiser and if colour is added too, we sweat cosmetics. Lucy had presented this idea before the market was ready for it but she’s since had interest from cosmetic houses about commercialising the idea.

Bringing this back to the theme of their presentation, Zuleika said that they had referenced six stories from the Havas Lynx healthcare heroes campaign, which show how vulnerability, serendipity, and exquisite risk come to bear.

One example that Zuleika talked through was when the Royal Free Hospital wanted to grow tissue into a human nose and were looking for someone to mould a human nose, so they could grow it biologically. They found Matt Durran, a glass maker. He took on the challenge and went into experimentation mode and came up with an ideal solution that worked.  The hospital never thought they would work with an artist and Matt never thought he would work in healthcare. This is an example of Serendipity, which is about beautiful chance.

Both guests had a final message to the industry summing up what we’d discussed:

Lucy was interested in provoking people – are they coming from a place where they want to be or are they coming from a mindset that utilises doubt and vulnerability. What if everyone operates from a place of more risk how would that pan out?

Zuleika said that there are exciting opportunities of how we do things in the future. As designers and innovators in healthcare, they play a role in bringing patients and healthcare workers into their work, and there is a need to break down barriers between agencies and the people on front line.

The Cannes Lions episodes of the csuitepodcast were sponsored by Capstone Hill Search.

Thanks to ICCO for allowing us to carry out the interviews in their House of PR.

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on the websiteSoundclouditunes and TuneIn.  There is also a growing community on Facebook and Twitter, where you can get involved in the discussion.  Finally, if you subscribe to the show, please can you give it a positive rating and review on itunes in particular as this helps it up the charts!

Creative Success in Business: csuitepodcast show 36

image via Amazon

image via Amazon

Show 36 of the csuitepodcast was recorded at the Cass Business School in London where Claire Bridges was launching her book, In Your Creative Element.

Claire is founder of Now Go Create and she invited two of her book’s contributors to join us on the show, Gerry Hopkinson, Co-Founder of PR agency Unity, who were recently awarded Creative PR Consultancy of the Year by the Holmes Report, and Dr Sara Jones, Senior Lecturer and Course Director for the Masters in Innovation, Creativity and Leadership at Cass.


L-R: Russell Goldsmith, Claire Bridges, Gerry Hopkinson, Dr Sara Jones

If you’re reading this post before Friday 24th February 2017, you’ve still got time to win a copy of Claire’s book.  Just follow @csuitepodcast on Twitter and then tweet that feed the answer to the question Claire asks in the Show (Terms and Conditions apply).

Claire explained that the question she set out to answer when she started writing the book was ‘What does it take to be creative in Business?’, but beyond that, she also wanted to find out whether you can encourage and give people the skills to be more creative, whether you can drive and develop a creative culture and what makes companies stagnate or thrive or even die if they are not creative.  That led Claire to study the Masters in Innovation, Creativity and Leadership (the MICL) at Cass and in the final module of the course, she, along with the other students, had to actually be physically creative.

Having been binge-watching the TV series ‘Breaking Bad’ and therefore constantly seeing chemical symbols in front of her (see below), she was inspired to create a Periodic Table of creative elements as a poster, and from there it led to the book!

As we recorded the podcast, we delved into some of the individual creative elements listed in the book, but in terms of ensuring that creativity comes through in your company, for Gerry, it’s really about the little things that you bring together that create something that is greater than the sum of its parts.  He said the key things that you can point to are Culture [C], Leadership [Lr] and setting the right Environment [Ev] where people can find a way to realise their creative potential.  First and foremost, that environment has to be one of Trust [T], where people are allowed to experience Failure [Fe] and where people are believed in – where they have the Freedom [Fr] to share ideas.   Gerry also believes that creativity comes from diversity and therefore the more different kinds of people you have together, the more likely you are to get to good ideas.

Sara agreed with the point about diversity and added that for her, one of the lovely things about the MICL was that the students on the course come from so many different directions.  She also felt that it’s not impossible for any business that may be established in its ways to bring in new creative thinking and processes, perhaps by bringing in some new influences and that whilst change may be difficult, ultimately, it comes from individuals within the organisation.

When it comes to those individuals being creative, Claire thinks a huge part of it is about confidence, about being disciplined and practice.  In fact, she believes Creativity [Cr] can be taught out of us – she said there are quite a lot of studies that show that the creative output of many 3-6 year olds is at a genius level, but when tested again at 11 years old, only 2-3% are still at that level, not because they didn’t have it in the first place, but because they now don’t believe in themselves as creative individuals.

Sara added further to this about the fact that creativity can be stifled in the business environment and that there is research around the social factors that come into play when people are being creative in a group context, such as ‘Evaluation [Ev] apprehension’, where people are too scared to say anything because they think their ideas might be poorly evaluated, or ‘Production Blocking’ where one person holds the floor and won’t let others contribute.  However, there are digital tools that have been designed to support the creative process to mitigate against social factors, for example, making ideas anonymous through an electronic brainstorming system to help get over evaluation apprehension.

One of the elements in the book that Gerry’s business was quoted around was that of Courage [Co] and he said that one of the most courageous things he and his business partner Nik Govier did when setting up Unity was to completely reinvent the planning function and the way they thought about what PR is.  They believed PR should be about humans, and trying to increase human happiness,  They therefore went against the grain of the whole industry (PR, Advertising and Marketing), which Gerry believes is still based on behaviourism, i.e. watching what the target audience does rather than asking what people want out of life and what employees want when they come to work and how can they be happier at work.  They therefore invested, at the very early start up stage, in bringing in someone with a PhD in Social Psychology to set up a planning function, which helped them learn things that are now the bedrock of their business.  Building on this, Gerry said that they also brought in completely different disciplines to their team, for example, introducing product design to what is essentially a service industry, which Gerry said was fantastic as the people they brought in had a completely different way of thinking, energising the way the company worked and responded to briefs.

Gerry said that the key elements that make up Unity’s success are Love [L], Trust [T], Curiosity [Cs] and Play (interestingly not featured in the book, although Fun [F] is), the latter of which he thinks is underrated.  For example, he is a firm believer in people actually going taking their allotted hour lunch break tother, that nobody uses anymore, enjoying each other’s company and not talking about work, as suddenly ideas will pop into your head!

There’s so much more we covered in the show, you’ll just have to listen to it – where of course, you’ll hear the question, and answer, to win a copy of the book too.  Good luck!

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on Soundclouditunes and TuneIn.  If you subscribe to the show, please can you give it a positive rating and review on itunes in particular as this helps it up the charts!

The show also has a Facebook page and Twitter feed so please do follow and get involved in the conversation.