News & Views

Most Contagious 2014

by Contagious Team

Most Contagious, our annual innovation event, held in London this week, delved into cities and content, empowerment and mobile messaging.

In addition to presentations from brands and agencies, including Kenco and LEMZ, shared how they are going beyond a traditional marketing remit to change the world. Meanwhile, Dentsu Tokyo explained how it created powerful emotional stories using data in Sound of Senna. As well as presentations from Contagious staff on the biggest themes of 2014, the event also saw pitches from startup companies who demonstrated how they were punching above their weight in retail, footwear mobile and communications. Click here for a look at what was shared about #MostContagious on Twitter. 


Most Contagious kicked off with Contagious Insider's director of content and strategy, Will Sansom, looking back at the events that have shaped the cultural landscape over the past year.

His Movements section recapped how Disney's Frozen claimed the title of highest grossing animated film of all time, topping $1.7bn since it was released at the end of 2013. Also this year, the ALS Icebucket Challenge proved that lolz (and a dose of vanity) can affect change, generating $100m for the ALS Association charity along the way. Kim Kardashian attempted to break the internet, although Rosetta's comet landing actually came closer. Action and reaction to these events, and others, on social media helped to create memes in memes. Despite Kardashian's relentless attention seeking, the leaked celebrity pictures from platforms such as iCloud and Snapchat and the subsequent backlash showed that privacy is something we continue to hold dear, while reminding us that value is still defined by public demand.

More seriously, we are coming to terms with the revelation that peace costs privacy: only 11 countries in the world were free from conflict in 2014, so, post-Snowden, people and governments are starting reassess human rights. Robert Hannigan, director of the UK's intelligence and security organisation, GCHQ, has said: 'Privacy has never been an absolute right, and the debate about this should not become a reason for postponing difficult and urgent decisions.'

In a year when leading thinkers such as scientist Stephen Hawking and Tesla founder Elon Musk have warned against the capabilities of artificial intelligence, part of the threat posed to the advertising industry by AI is exemplified by the fact that 50% of online ads may never be viewed by humans, but automated bots instead, according to the Association of National Advertisers. This equates to a worrying $6.3bn of wasted ad spend. 


Contagious I/O's editor, Alex Jenkins, and deputy editor, Chloe Markowicz argued that it's near impossible to predict what content will prove popular, citing the phenomenon of the Serial podcast about a real-life murder – now with 20 million downloads and a crowdfunded second series – as evidence.

The pair explained that branded content is becoming a more appropriate strategic response to times when you don't have a budget for TV, for when you want to dramatise your brand's values or for reaching an audience that is spending a majority of time on new platforms. They proved this by sharing learnings from Contagious I/O Insight and Strategy interviews with the people behind some of the best branded content, including Saddleback Leather's How to Knock Off a Bag (above), Leica's Most Boring Ad Ever Made and Chipotle's Farmed and Dangerous.

Demonstrating killer content that has proved highly successful in terms of both storytelling and distribution, Tobias Nordström, Forsman and Bodenfors' head of planning, showcased the agency's award-winning work for Volvo Trucks, which includes the phenomenal Epic Split video. Nordström shared that a brave client partnership was key to the work, as well as strategy and creative that were developed hand in hand. He explained: 'There is no recipe for success, but there may be a method. Organise the agency to build agency and client partnerships.'  

Melissa Coker, founder of women's clothing brand Wren, told the story behind First Kiss (above), a video showing strangers kissing for the first time. By putting content first, she was able to connect the brand with millions of viewers, and saw sales increase by 13,000% as a result. Coker spoke of how the 'bored at the work' audience craves more human connections, and asked 'Why shouldn't companies strive to make content that people genuinely find interesting and care about?'


Contagious writer Patrick Jeffrey spoke about the hot topic of mobile messaging, sharing that WhatsApp is processing more messages annually than the entire telco industry combined. However, he also stated that many other mobile messaging apps, such as WeChat, Snapchat and Line, are looking beyond messaging and moving into payments, content and money transfers. He described how mobile apps are shifting more into the position of mobile operating systems, creating a range of opportunities for brands to facilitate personal and direct communications. 


Data isn't the answer, warned Contagious Insider strategist Chris Barth, sometimes it can even conceal enlightenment. Barth's process for dealing well with data is to gather, interpret, transform, and repeat, tweaking and refining along the way. Barth showed how brands are gathering more data and using it to change their business, citing the example of Dallas Museum's membership programme.

Barth said it was vital for marketers to consider what data might look like in five or ten years' time, as people increasingly use images and speech to search. He advised the audience to 'get a hypothesis and content from your data, not concrete singular answers'.

Unilever's global brand director, haircare, Renato Rossi and Malin Hanås, creative director at Razorfish London, told the story of how they created All Things Hair, which has become YouTube's top haircare channel. The channel was inspired by the insight that there were 11 billion hair-related searches per year on Google, the majority of which were unrelated to brands and products, but were mostly people looking for haircare tips and instructions on how to recreate styles. The global platform was developed with no brief and no pre-assigned budget, but impressive agency/client collaboration. Not only are users engaged in the content, rating it four times more enjoyable than traditional advertising, they are also three times more likely to purchase Unilever products after having watched the channel.

Honda's Sound of Senna campaign has claimed the double whammy of the Cannes Lions Titanium Grand Prix and D&AD Black Pencil award. Kaoru Sugano, creative director and creative technologist and Nadya Kirillov, copywriter, at Dentsu Tokyo, explained how the work evolved from Honda's brief to make an iPhone app. At first, Honda didn't know where, when or how the line chart detailing all the information of Senna's record breaking lap was stored. When he received the piece of paper (shown in the image above), Sugano spoke of how 'My hand trembled when the data was handed to me.' He went on to explain how the campaign purposely didn't show too much of race-car drive Ayrton Senna, allowing the sound and light installation that recreated Senna's movements around the track to leave room for the audience's imagination. 


Over lunch MyFitnessPal's VP marketing Tara-Nicholle Nelson shared how the calorie and exercise tracking app has built an audience and developed a stronger relationship with its users with the help of Marketo's engagement and marketing platform. 


Contagious Brazil's president and director of content, Janaina Borges, shared insights about the 2014 World Cup, which saw 3 billion interactions on Facebook and ten times as many tweets as the London Olympics. Her key takeouts included: people are great at creating content, so brands have to be creative to compete; real time increases relevance; and choose your battles  speak up only when you have something worthwhile to say.

Next, adidas Football's brand director, Tom Ramsden, took the audience through the epic amount of content that the brand created for the World Cup. Adidas's content plan worked around the three strands of planned, anticipated and reactive content, with video assets, Vine films and Instagram pictures all contributing to the brand's high engagement levels. Ramsden spoke of context and content, saying great content becomes even more powerful when shared in an appropriate context.  


Tara Hirebet, Contagious' head of Asia Pacific, shared the prediction that 66% of people globally will live in cities by 2050, saying 'If our cities work well, we're going to work well too.' Hirebet explained how brands are helping make cities run smarter, more safely and contributing to open space. For example, Helsinki plans to improve its transport systems to provide mobility on demand, Chicago has embedded smart sensors to help make its citizens healthier, happier and safer, lighting brand Halonix has used its billboards to provide lighting in dangerous parts of India's city streets. The real test for smart cities, Hirebet believes, will be if the technology can be used successfully in unplanned and sprawling cities like Rio and Lagos.  


Daniel Franklin, executive editor of event sponsor The Economist's World In... series took the audience through a whirlwind tour of economic and political predictions for the year, citing rising interest rates and falling oil prices as contributing to tensions between growth in the US and UK, compared with the stimulus packages in Japan and the wider Eurozone. He explained how the world's centre of gravity continues to shift eastwards, with China starting 2015 as the world's largest economy and Asia as a whole becoming richer. Next year will also see sales of tablets outnumber sales of PCs and mobile subscriptions exceed the number of people on the planet.  


Katrina Dodd
, senior consultant at Contagious Insider, took the audience through a range of ways in which brands are setting out to empower their customers. For instance, Getty Images, working with the Lean In foundation, have curated a series of images showing women as leaders and working on an equal footing, based on the idea that images are powerful and you need to see it to be it. Sales of images in the collection are up 66% and licensed in more than 50 countries. She went on describe how Barclays is empowering older Britons to become digitally active and how east Africans are becoming empowered to discuss intimate health issues.

Dodd was followed by two inspirational stories of brands who have empowered people by stepping outside of their expected remit to improve the world. Emad Nadim, Mondelez International's brand manager at Kenco, told the story of Coffee Vs Gangs, explaining how the coffee brand has given young people in Honduras the chance to pursue a career in coffee production. Nadim spoke of the changing role of a marketer: 'It's all your job, as a marketer there are no longer a set of deliverables that make any sense anymore.' Despite feeling the pressure of being told not to mess up the opportunity of working on a prestigious brand such as Kenco, Nadim quickly realised 'The only way I could screw it up is by maintaining status quo in a changing world.' 

Next up, Mark Woerde, co-founder of LEMZ took the audience through the process of creating Sweetie, a virtual child designed to put a stop to webcam child sex tourism. Woerde asked 'Why settle for an awareness campaign when you can implement an actual solution?' He advised the audience to start small and trust in their creativity, to come up with campaigns that can truly change the world.


Contagious invited a number of startups who are punching above their weight to pitch on stage. Matt Isaacs, founder of Essence, introduced the section and told the story of how Essence has evolved from a fledgling company into an international business, and praised the companies presenting for their courage, commitment and creativity. 

Nadia Shouraboura flew in from Seattle to speak about Hointer, a store and software that uses technology to create efficiencies and enhance the retail experience. 

Neil Merry, project director at BleepBleeps, spoke of how a bunch of connected devices to help people become better parents, was told by

Daniel Becerra, co-founder of BuffaloGrid, shared how his company is bringing solar-powered charging to off-grid locations. BuffaloGrid supplies a local entrepreneur with the charging station, users pay a nominal amount to charge their phone, and profits are split between the entrepreneur and the company. As increasingly power-hungry phones become more prevalent in India and across Africa Becerra forecasts this service will become increasingly important. 

'Consideration for people and the environment is a natural part of doing business' said Daria Koreniushkina, public engagement officer at Fairphone. The company aims to empower customers to opt for an ethical smartphone that is produced with minimal harm to the environment and transparent about its supply chain. It has sold 60,000 phones to date. 

Micha Benoliel, CEO and co-founder of Open Garden, explained how its app Firechat enables users to communicate without the internet through a chain of smartphone. He spoke of the huge user numbers that the app had seen thanks to the Hong Kong protests, with 2 million chat sessions, compared to 1.3 million tweets sent, over the first four days. 

At the end of Most Contagious Hointer was announced as the winner of Most Contagious Startup award. You can read the full story on Hointer here. 

Thank you to everyone that joined us at Most Contagious 2014. Next year's event will be held on 9 December 2015 and tickets are available here. We hope that you join us then!