News & Views

Grey Matter Event: Risky Business

by Contagious Team

Contagious attended a discussion about the true nature of risk at creative agency Grey London’s Grey Matter event in London. The agency’s head of planning, Leo Rayman, opened the evening by explaining why risk is relevant to the advertising industry today. 

'We think it's time to reframe the debate and change the language around risk. To rebrand so-called "brave work" (a misleading term!) to what it really is: "smart work". To understand that the only real risk is invisibility. Sometimes the safest choices are the most dangerous ones.'

Rayman went on to introduce the evening’s speakers including Jo Hudson, founder of online erotic boutique; David Spiegelhalter, Statistician and Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk at the University of Cambridge and Chris Bovill, joint head of 4Creative, Channel 4’s in-house creative agency. Here’s what we learned from the perspectives of these three different risk-takers.

The Sexy Toy Startup

Jo Hudson claims she left her marketing role to join the erotic toy industry precisely because it’s risky. Starting up any new business has its obstacles, but for Hudson it took six months just to open a bank account. Her brave attitude comes through in everything she does, making self-confessed ‘commercially ridiculous decisions’ such as shooting every product in-house, because she believed it was essential for building the brand she dreamed about. Her main piece of advice was to not just make brave decisions but to see them through till the end.

The Cambridge Professor

Professor David Spiegelhalter offered a new perspective on the way we analyse risk and how it is communicated to us by the media. ‘Numbers don’t speak for themselves’ he said, ‘they are framed. We take numbers and turn them into stories’. The statistics in newspaper headlines about many supposed ‘risks’ can be misleading. When you look at the numbers behind stats more closely – as Spiegelhalter showed us – many shock headlines are not as scary as they seem. He urged us to be more aware of positive and negative framing when analysing risk and try to look at the bigger picture.

The Creative

After becoming joint head at 4Creative, Chris Bovill’s job has been to live out Channel 4's government remit to be ‘original, irreverent, challenge the status quo and champion the alternative voice’. As a creative to whom risk-taking comes naturally, Bovill explains his delight at having a job that expects this of him. He emphasised that he is not about risk for risk's sake. Risk must have substance and a purpose. He illustrates this with his agency’s recent work where five people with speech impairments were hired to do the channel’s voice overs.