IPA Eff Fest – Millbank Tower

First up, Mary Portas
Mary Portas believes in the reimagination of things.
And it’s something that she’s been doing all her life.

(Rubbish pic – sorry!)

Firstly, with Harvey Nichols.

When she inherited the role off Creative Director at Harvey Nichols in the early 90s, it was a loss making department store. The few customers that did visit it would simply travel up to the top floor restaurant and have a quiet sherry or a cup of tea. Nothing more.

The clothing market at the time was all about boutiques from egotistical designers.
The department store model was broken, and she had no real budget to spend her way out of it.

She found inspiration in the theatre and art world – a near-nightly excursion of hers at the time. She decided she would make the department store like an art gallery space. Her and her staff painted everything white – walls, ceilings the lot.

One of the painter-decorators turned out to be a fine artist. He was spotted reading an art magazine on the rooftop smoking area. She asked him to paint all of the mannequins in the store.

She offered window space to talented student artists (Tom Heatherwick was one of the first.)

She asked studying creative to design the food court packaging and asked them to help install a bar on the top floor.

She was also struggling to get established & desired designers through the doors – whenever she’d try and get them in, Harrods would gazump them and offer to purchase five times as much stock from them.

So instead, she went to art colleges and asked for the most talented fashion designers. And she gave them each a space on the shop floor, without charging them for the space.

Potentially business crippling – they wouldn’t make the shop any money for being there…

BUT, they were the perfect loss leaders. They made the whole store cool, and people started to come in and buy from all of the other designers that they housed.

After Harvey Nicks, she then reimagined Manufacturing,

She was challenged to manufacture a £4 pair of jeans in the UK, at the same quality as the Chinese imports that were hitting the supermarkets.

Instead, decided to jolt the manufacturing industry back into life – but not at bottom prices like that.
Created premium underwear – kinky knickers.

Hired 8 staff that had never worked before, and 1 seamstress that was working part time in Tesco. Now has 32 staff, and the knickers are best sellers in Libertys. And stocked in many other shops including John Lewis.

Nothing is dead if there’s a way to reimagine it.

After Mary Portas, Sam Bompas took the stage.

I haven’t got much written down from his talk – apart from a beautiful German word ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ – which means ‘total work of art’. Bompas and Parr have a fantastic talent for creating experiences, not just pieces of art. It’s a really interesting premise – ‘how can I touch every sense?’ It’s certainly something we could think more of in terms of pitching.
Bompas and Parr have some fantastic projects that are well worth looking up – Mercedes food drive-thru, atmospheric Gin and Tonics, a jelly moat around the S.S Britain etc.

Next up was Jude Kelly OBE.

She summed up all of the morning’s talks: Take something that is unloved, and turn it into something with confidence, something that’s loved, something that is desired.

The Beatles came from a horrible town – Liverpool was a rather grimy, rather poor port.
But their confidence made that town a hive of energy and ambition.
They were the outsiders that were trying to get into the establishment, and that’s what allowed them to revolutionize creativity.

You should never underestimate your own creativity.
It’s all about having massive idealism. We do not have to live like this.
It’s not about stamina for a challenge, it’s about idealism. What sort of society do we want to live in?

She believes that everybody should be able to realize his or her own potential.
We should be celebrating difference.
It even applies to the advertising world – we didn’t believe in the Soviet Union, because one product for each category wouldn’t do. It was about diversification. Different products for different people.

She turned the Southbank centre from the concrete jungle of homeless people and skateboards, to a place with a festival atmosphere. All because she believed that more people deserved more art.

She introduced foot markets, buskers, boating lakes on the roof, art, music – and best of all anyone could just come along, they didn’t HAVE to buy anything.
18,000 people were asked to perform at the opening event.

The Southbank Centre was created for a post-war Britain that needed a pick up.
It was created to delight, to celebrate innovation and creativity.
And that’s what she based everything upon.

She believed that the place still enjoys celebrating fun and people’s right to colour.
She believed it was only grey because the paint had washed off.

And people will respond to energy, and people with energy.
She urged us all to ask ourselves, what do you believe in?
Once you’ve got it, follow it.
And others will follow you – because they’ll see someone that desires something.

Essentially, you need to move something from conventional and a little tired, to something that is desired, something that others can buy into and join you on the adventure.

Russell Davies talked a little about organizational creativity and the great work the GDS are doing with regards to reforming government communications online.

Here’s a few of the soundbites that I managed to scrawl down:

– The strategy is delivery
– Do the hard work to make it simple
– You shouldn’t have to know how government works to find out what you need
– Activities not audiences – The internet is not a broadcast medium, it’s for things you want to do. There’s an assumption that you should aggregate audiences to your own website, with potential ad revenues off the back of it. But if you’re not profiting from advertising, why not give it to them where they are not where you are. (E.g answers to some questions are answered in google, by data from government.)
– The web is not the IT department’s job. It’s all of ours.
– The web is not a marketing channel. It’s where your business is. So you need to be able to do it yourself.
– We’re of the web, not on the web.
– The unit of delivery is the team. It’s a collaborative effort. And the product is the service is the market.
– We’ve learnt how to be good at building bridges. But you can’t build websites like you build bridges. You can test and learn, you can share code (and should, it lifts all ships), you can change as you go along.
– You should obsess over user needs, not client problems.

He left us with a wry smile and the sentence “And if the government can do it, surely you can too…”

Alex Bentley talked a little about mapping social behaviour.
He mentioned that we often think in terms of our category, not in terms of consumer.
But consumers will take the line of least resistance – social learning.
And in fact, our success as a species rests heavily on our social and networking skills – knowing who, what and when to copy.

The accepted wisdom with social campaigns is to try and tap up the experts.
But that only works for one quarter of situations.

The benefits of targeting influencers will only really work in the top right field (‘expert’)
Each quadrant actually has a different time scale and shape for uptake.

E.g longer time scales for social, shorter time scales for independent…

We need to be able to plot our own categories into the correct quadrant – this will help inform what action we should take in communications, as each product/category has a characteristic data pattern.

For example:

Phil Barden was next up.
His talk was hugely interesting – all about the the use of decision science to help improve what we’re doing.
Decision science is a blend of different disciplines, and can shed new light on consumer behaviour.

We’ve moved from an economic rational model, to an emotional vs rational model. And now we’re moving to an implicit process model.

Much like Kahneman, Phil talked about the pilot and autopilot processes in the way people think.
The autopilot works incredibly quickly, we don’t notice it.
Pilot works slowly – us consciously taking the time to think through something.

The greatest thing a brand can achieve is to be chosen without conscious thought.

In the first four seconds, your autopilot can subconsciously process a number of things.


When the reward is sufficient to overcome the pain, we’ll buy.
Our autopilot drives our attention and shapes our perceptions.
In fact, we can actually track out autopilot much like we track our pilot.
Explicit tracking (standard brand tracking) is used by most businesses.But very few companies are tracking implicit reactions – and we’re not getting the full picture without it.

These implicit associations will have to line up with our goals, if we’re going to behave in a particular way.

Again, we have explicit AND implicit goals.

For example, we may believe that we buy washing detergent because we want whiter than white clothes. But it may also be for security – to show warmth to our family in exchange for belonging.

We can map these goals on a map – they broadly break down into:

We can map our brands (and whole categories) against these goals.

E.g difference between Cadbury Gorilla and Cadbury Trucks may explain the difference in success of both films.

Nick Southgate’s talk was fantastic too.
He started by debunking a widely held view: that we want people to pay attention to our ads.
Deliberately pay attention and consciously think about it.

But actually, when we look into what people aren’t consciously thinking, but subconsciously thinking.

It’s much easier to say ‘we want people to think this’ – the brief format works that way.
We can get people to think ‘this detergent washes whiter than anyone.’
But it’s much harder to get people to not think something.

He beieves that you enter this ‘not thinking’ stage when creative operates in the flow zone.

Sitting in the flow zone doesn’t make you feel anxious or confused. And it doesn’t make you feel bored.
Angry birds? It’s in the flow zone. Ikea Chuck out the Chintz? It’s in the flow zone.

The reason why it works so well is that it keys into something that people already feel about something else.

John Lewis for example? You’re not working hard to decipher that advert – you know what’s going to happen. Even if there is a twist, it’s one that is predictable.

A little like genres of fiction or films.
You don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, but you know what’s going to happen.
You know what you’re getting with a rom-com. You know what you’re getting with a horror.

When you come to present work to clients of – make sure you sell the answer and show them the science if they want it.

What definitely doesn’t work is saying ‘Here comes the science bit.’ That is just going to make people say no to work in revenge.


All in all, a fantastic day.
One niggle – why hold it in a place with amazing views like the below, when the talks are interesting enough to hold your gaze all day?! What a waste! Haha.


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