News & Views

Event Debrief / Contagious Now Next Why London 2016

by Contagious Team

Now Next Why comes to New York on May 10 and Los Angeles on May 24; limited tickets still available.

Yesterday we hosted our annual event Now Next Why in London, where external speakers and Contagious members alike discussed the most important topics in marketing for the year ahead. From a lesson in Snapchat hacks to a cry for the end of creative rock stars, here’s a rundown of what happened on the day.

‘What is the single biggest challenge facing businesses over the next 12 months?’. That’s the question that Contagious senior writer Patrick Jeffrey set out to answer. He spoke to some of the industry’s most influential names – everyone from revered agency heads to CMOs of billion dollar brands and esteemed university professors – to gauge their opinions for Contagious’ first ever Genius Survey. Patrick then shared these findings with the audience at Now Next Why. In his talk, he touched on six of the biggest challenges facing creative businesses in the year ahead, from avoiding short-term strategies in periods of low growth to the need for companies to disrupt their ways of working and identify new growth areas. Many of the themes that Patrick touched on, such as the complexity of the agency landscape and ways of better motivating employees, were tackled in detail throughout the rest of the day.

Among those surveyed was WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell, who believes that ‘the biggest challenge for the year ahead is the ongoing short-termism among corporates’. Contagious Insider strategist Dan Southern came on stage to explain exactly how audience members can adopt a more long-term view. He presented Contagious’ MaShCreaTr tool which makes it possible to understand and navigate the agency landscape in the future. Four quadrants represent different agency offerings, spanning create, transform, make or share. He left the audience with the questions, ‘what do you promise your clients? And where are the opportunities?’

Next up was football platform Copa90 leader James Kirkham. ‘Football has never been bigger. But the fans are being ignored,’ he said. For Copa90 however, ‘the audience are the engine room.’ He went to explain how he is using new technology – such as Snapchat and Periscope  to enable fans to become the driving force behind Copa90 content. He claimed that content like this requires speed and agility and that ‘the future belongs to the fast’. Kirkham argued that to succeed creatively we need to change our language around data. He said, ‘It shouldn’t be so harsh. Embrace data, work with data, don’t scrape data.’

Contagious writer Raakhi Chotai urged the audience to pay attention to an often ignored part of the consumer journey: queuing. Burger King's Personal Queuer and Starbucks' Mobile Order and Pay were among her favourite examples of brands getting this right. She argued that easing the pain of queueing, or finding a way to great rid of it completely, shows that the brand is on the side of the consumer.

Earlier in the year, Contagious editor Alex Jenkins interviewed the agency leaders on the Contagious Pioneers list to find out how they consistently deliver great work. Unsurprisingly, none of their great campaigns were happy accidents or happened organically. In fact, Colenso BBDO creative chairman Nick Worthington told him that he consciously re-evaluated what ‘good work’ meant. His agency now defines it as work that is ‘creatively brilliant, extremely effective and makes the client happy.’ Another key theme among those Alex interviewed was a belief in collaboration and the end of ‘rock star creatives’. During his interview, Droga5 founder David Droga explained that he used to be a very ‘selfish’ creative, but has learned that a good creative leader makes everyone around them better.

One of the companies on the Contagious Pioneers list is Marcel, Paris. Creative director Remy Aboukrat took the Now Next Why audience through a few of his agency’s most notable projects. For example, French supermarket Intermarché’s Inglorious Fruit and Vegetables campaign, which helped tackle food waste by selling funny-looking fruits and vegetables that would normally be rejected. The campaign promoted the ugly produce, which customers could buy for 30% cheaper than their more perfectly formed counterparts.

Following a sunny lunch break, Contagious I/O deputy editor Chloe Markowicz discussed the best ways that brands are using Snapchat. Some are encouraging users’ artistry or launching live stories, while others  like Beats and Gatorade  are creating fun Snapchat lenses to share with their friends. Chloe advised the audience to think about how they could use Snapchat for their brand. Should they use it primarily as a conversational tool or as one to broadcast content? She concluded by encouraging the audience to consider the platform for a variety audiences  with 35+ being the platform’s fastest growing segment, Snapchat is no longer only a concern for teen brands. 

Next Truffle Pig CEO Paul Marcum explained ‘how to put a brand on snapchat without it looking like the same old shit’ (his agency is an alliance between the messaging platform, the Daily Mail and WPP). His practical advice included, ‘Find your new tone that’s appropriate for the platform’, ‘Don’t over emoji’ and ‘Try, but not too hard.’ He said that brands can leverage other channels to help grow their audience and as well as work with influencers.

Contagious researcher Kristina Dimitrova discussed how advertisers are gaining advantage by taking the dramatization of product benefits to the next level. She cited Shiseido’s online film The Secret of High School Girls and Icelandair's Stopover Buddy as key examples of the trend.

‘For You is a better offer than For Sale,’ claimed Contagious Insider strategist Katrina Dodd. She explained that marketers are ‘Pushing the limits of available tech and infrastructure in absolute service of the individual customer’. For example, Record Bank has enabled people to scan any car ad with an app on their phone to reveal a customised loan for that vehicle. This helps extend consideration that might otherwise not have had the chance to flourish, according to Katrina. Meanwhile, retail startup lets people shop without spending any money (at first!) The company lets users try clothes at home for free, paying only if they decide to keep an item. Brands who have signed up so far have seen conversation rates increase by five times. Katrina also noted how increasingly people will be contacting and interacting with businesses in the same way they would would their friends, thanks to developments like chat bots and Facebook Messenger for Business.

Following Katrina, Grabble co-founder Daniel Murray gave a presentation about his fashion app's journey so far. Grabble helps users discover new clothes and beauty products within a Tinder-like interface. People swipe right if they like an item, left to discard it. Liked items are saved and can be purchased with a few taps. Daniel explained that getting to this stage has taken constant iteration, in fact his company policy is to release a new version of the app every two weeks. ‘It’s about trying stuff, having a go and if you’re wrong, starting again,’ he said. Grabble is now the fastest growing mobile commerce app in the UK and the App Store’s best new app in 34 countries. Its mission is ‘to make mobile content simple, addictive and truly shoppable’.

Moving from fashion to feelings, Contagious managing editor Emily Hare spoke about emotional tech. For years we’ve fussed over technology running out of power or picking up viruses and finally tech is starting to care about us back, argued Emily. She explained that technology can now recommend how to improve a person’s state of mind rather than just measure their physical steps. Her examples included emotion sensing wristband Feel and connected facemask Mappo.

‘Clients are a problem – I can say that because I used to be one,’ said senior strategist and creative capabilities lead Arif Haq in his talk titled ‘From dumb luck to creative leadership’. He explained that people have a cogitative bias that leads them to reject creativity, despite saying that it’s what they want. ‘The hardest job in the industry falls not to those who come up with creative ideas, but those who risk their careers in approving them,’ he said. According to Arif, creativity has inherent ambiguities that need to be embraced. He exemplifies this with Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches, where the creative team admitted they had no idea if their theory  that women are more beautiful than they think – would be correct. ‘The fact they didn’t know meant it had never been done before. While self-confidence is the critical element in defining your creative ambitions, self-doubt is what it takes to actually achieve them,’ said Arif.

He explained that some creativity happens by accident, but we must ‘move towards a more systematic and deliberate quest for brilliance’. While clients tend to have a lot of capability in brand planning, they are often less skilled at evaluating creativity. Heineken’s global marketing capabilities manager Josefien Olij came on stage to explain how she and Arif have developed a system to help with this. The creativity ladder creates a common language around creativity and makes it easy to assess how good a piece of work actually is. With number one being destructive advertising, the scale ranges up to number ten for legendary ads.

[illustration by Scriberia

Now Next Why will be in New York on May 10 and Los Angeles on May 24; limited tickets still available.

Now Next Why