News & Views

IPA / Eff Fest

by Contagious Team

How creativity drives business is the theme of one-day event in London

'We need to think about what's at the core of British design and creativity and nurture it,' said a characteristically vibrant Mary Portas, chief creative officer, The Portas Agency in London, as the first guest speaker to grace the stage at Tuesday's IPA Eff Fest. The theme? Learning from  the value of creativity in other industries. Talking about her own passion for using creativity to reimagine British high streets, Portas said: 'Shopping is the most popular pastime for the human race and our high streets are our heart beats.' She left all delegates with an optimistic mantra: 'Nothing is dead if there's a possibility of reimagining it'.


Sam Bompas
, co-founder of food experimentalists Bompas & Parr, delighted audiences by handing out samples of his company's jellies (pictured). He recounted tales of sticky floors, whisky tornadoes and chocolate waterfalls. But it's the jellies - structures inspired by his partner Harry Parr's architectural training -  that have made his company famous. 'The power of this idea - the absurdity of architecture and jelly going together - hit the zeitgeist almost by accident,' he said. The take-out for the advertising industry here was to 'think of the person at the end of the experience who can understand all the stuff around it.' He also invited people to ask themselves the question: 'Is it just us or are other people going to be interested as well?

Jude Kelly, artistic director, Southbank Centre, responded well to Portas and Bompas. 'What I note from Mary and Sam is massive idealism. They're people who don't put up with second or third best. Sam recognises that it's more than jelly: the palate is an amazing ingredient of human nature and we should make it desire a variety of things.' She implored the audience to 'never underestimate other people's creativity' and recounted her own experiences of transforming London's Southbank from a 'moribund' place to an energetic pick'n'mix of inclusive artistic experience. She added: 'Enthusiasm is attractive in humans and people respond to the energy of other people.'

Russell Davies outlined the work he'd been doing at Government Digital Services (GDS) in the UK, transforming it from a red tape-laden mess to a clearly defined user experience. 'The web isn't IT. It's not a marketing channel. It's where your business is,' he reminded. GDS shared code and design guidelines and has since 'created a language for public services digital.' He finished by echoing Sam Bompas: 'Focus on user needs, not the needs of the organisation.'

Herd author Mark Earls introduced an esteemed selection of speakers for what was dubbed the 'science part of the day'. Former Unilever and T-mobile client and author of Decoded: The Science Behind Why We Buy, Phil Barden, made a case for brands to be on autopilot: 'The greatest success a brand can achieve is to be chosen without conscious thought,' he said. This was backed up by Nick Southgate, the IPA's behavioural economics consultant, who advocated for brands to be in the 'flow', according to a theory identified by Hungarian psychology professor Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi in his book Flow. This entails not boring people but not making them anxious either. Citing prime examples such as the John Lewis Christmas ad ('the music helps, you're engaged and there's a nice twist'),  he said the industry needs more 'creative stuff that sticks you in the 'flow' zone. In other words, where 'craft meets science in story-telling'.