Blog: Smart Cities – Creating Cities that Give Back

Smart cities and urban partnerships are big business. In the UK alone, the smart cities industry is predicted to be worth £40 billion, says Michael Brown, managing director of PsLive.
Artichoke founder Helen Marriage, London and Partners’ Zanine Adams and CEO of Global Cites, David Adam help me dissect smart cities and what it means for us…
Picture this: You’ve had a bad morning at the office, you nip out for a reflective moment and a park bench senses the dark cloud over your head, returning the skip to your step by playing you your favourite song. On the journey home, a bus shelter dissuades you from getting on the number 38 to Clapton Pond, in favour of diving into a nearby bar because it knows a table for two has recently become available.
Sounds far fetched? Not really, the future is here and these types of initiatives are happening right now, with smart cities already a fully emerged movement.
The government has supported smart city growth in the UK including awarding more than £178 million, from 2013 until 2018, into research and demonstrator projects. This is just a modest indicator of the appetite for investment. Innovate UK’s Future Cities report, launched in November 2015, documented how a grant of £1.5 million, that was divided equally between 30 local authorities in the UK, went on to trigger a further £107 million in investment from other sources, including the private sector.
The bucks then are potentially big, and they are not all spent on what some may consider to be the frippery of lightening a mood, or encouraging people to stay out for a drink. There are worthy causes too, and it’s in those spaces that brands are beginning to see the opportunity for both giving something back to a community and diversifying their product offering for commercial benefit.
Take Xerox, in any office game of word association (you do play this right?) if someone shouts out that particular brand name, almost everyone in the world will respond with the word photocopier. Yet in San Francisco Xerox are reducing pollution caused by congestion and vehicle emissions through their smart transportation business, an idea that is both socially responsible and useful.
Sensors inform motorists which street parking bays have just become available to reduce the time spent driving around the block looking for on street parking. A similar sensor parking project is on the brink here in London, with Camden Council looking to spearhead this concept on our doorstep, and on a similar tip (pun intended), the city of Leeds are piloting smart bins. They let the council know when they are full, reducing overflowing bins to zero, and concomitant public health concerns while impacting positively on council coffers – bin collections are cut by a ratio of 4 to 1. Rubbish it ain’t!
If this sounds far too utilitarian for you glamorous types, let’s toss some spice in the dish by showing how the same approach can actually improve a large scale event experience. Most of you will recall Lumiere London; the capital’s largest-ever light festival that took place in January. An estimated one million people visited the thirty installations which transformed the capital into a magical and immersive playground in such places as King’s Cross, Leicester Square and Carnaby Street.

Helen Marriage is the founder of Artichoke, the producers behind Lumiere and many other art-based happenings that use global cities as the canvas. Helen explains how a smart city initiative worked unobtrusively behind the scenes to improve the visitor experience.
“Real time footfall data from and around TFL public transport hubs controlled which station entrances were to open or close, and which bus lanes to close or divert as huge influxes of crowds descended on the events. Ultimately this shaped the direction of travel for visitors, improved footflow and created a safer, better experience.”
It is in the above that the future lies – the triple whammy of big data, city infrastructure and technology coming together to benefit citizens at a time and place when they most need it, is the very essence of what a smart city stands for. Now what a smart city looks like in a practical sense can be many things, as long as the outcome is to enrich the lives of those living within it. And… it can be commercial too.
We here at PsLive have been working in tandem with our Liveposter technology for Santander, the sponsors of the bikes formerly known as Boris. Data on how many bikes were currently available in the vicinity, and how far to walk to pick up the nearest one was fed in real time from bike docking stations to digital panels at bus shelters and to those with the app. We were able to record significant uplift of usage using the same data centric approach that drives the smart city concept.
Referring back to the approach Helen mentions earlier, there are examples of similar utilitarian principles to enhance experiences. Pavegen surfaces, which harvest kinetic energy from people walking over it to power nearby infrastructure, were recently used in an experience pioneered by Adidas at Victoria Park in east London. A secure running track was created for female runners to enjoy at all hours of the day removing concerns for personal safety when running in the dark. Pavegen surfaces tracked visitor movement and used it to illuminate the running track. The implications for the urban space are numerous…the least of which is in converting walking energy to power street lighting.

And there is no reason it can’t be used for out and out fun either. Playable cities is in many ways a part of the smart city dream and the city of Bristol has long been a pioneer in this space. The city has been clever about using public-owned space allied to technology to make their citizens engage with their environment in a fun and therefore enriching way e.g. their much championed Hello Lampost campaign from a couple of years back.
The inspiration here being that the notion of ‘places we’ve visited before’ can trigger memories of what we were doing there last time, who we were with and how we felt. By referencing the thousands of pre-existing identifier codes that label items of street furniture across the whole city, players were able to send text messages to e.g. lamp posts, post boxes, bollards, manholes, bins, or telegraph poles and so begin to refer to their city in a way that is more personal, fun and playful.
Projects like the High Line in New York have proved that by providing communal spaces of value for surrounding communities, strengthens the overall fabric of that community, and this works to potentially counter that isolation that some advocates of playable cities use to criticise the smart city concept. At PsLive we realise the power of smart cities and the potential to enrich the lives of citizen’s, whist giving brands the chance to be a part of the action. In response we’ve launched Urban Partnerships, a division to facilitate brand partnership campaigns that give back to society.
I have a tendency to see this as a new frontier for experiential to bring together commercial brands, local authorities and local communities to create something meaningful in publicly-owned spaces to mutually benefit all the stakeholders involved. As we see a rise in government cuts for infrastructure and essential quality of living services such as the arts or health and wellbeing, it could be that brands step in to give something back to their communities around them… and about time too.
My colleague, and head of Urban Partnerships Christopher Nicola summed this up perfectly when he said, “In the last couple of years, the smart city movement has really started pick up momentum, with demonstration (pilot) cities already reaping the rewards of more efficient, connected and data rich public infrastructure.
“The possibilities for smart cities is endless, with each piece of connected street furniture being a node that collects data and reveals insights into how people use the city. Through this, a smart city spurs on innovation and supports digital start-ups that further help people to get the most out of their environment; creating utilities and services that we haven’t even thought of yet. As for what this means for advertising – it is easy to join the dots to understand how important the role of smart cities will be in driving forward customer insights and dynamically different campaigns.”
David Adam, who is chair of the smart cities panel at Adweek Europe 2016  and founder of Global Cities, a consultancy on the interaction between cities, technology and culture, build’s on Nicola’s comments, and in many ways has the last word on this: “Demand for urban services is going to increase at such a pace that the size of the prize is potentially limitless, and it this that is exercising the minds of the imaginative and entrepreneurial – which is where people like Helen Marriage come in. It may be that smart cities only come of age when their technology is seen as useful by the citizen, just as the iPhone generated immediate benefits for the user, our attitude to technology and its uses stimulate active demand when they become tangible and easy to use.”

Is London a smart city?

I asked Zanine Adams head of events and business development at London & Partners:
“As home to some of the world’s best tech talent, allied to the fact that London is putting technology and data at the heart of the city’s infrastructure, then I would say categorically that we are a smart city already, and to communicate this is certainly one of the ambitions of our upcoming London Tech Week.
“The smart city movement is just as important for city planning as it is for commercial enterprise. London has become a leading destination for brands looking to pioneer new digital marketing campaigns and a smart infrastructure offers further opportunities for advertisers to create innovative ways to engage with customers, while improving the experience of living in the city.”
Via: Event Magazine 

Urban Partnerships: A Brand New Venture From Posterscope and psLIVE

London Out-of-home (OOH) communications agency Posterscope and sister agency, experiential specialists psLIVE, today launch a new division dedicated to helping brands create projects in the heart of urban communities with both societal and commercial benefits.
Named Urban Partnerships, the new division will identify unique opportunities for brands to create immersive and engaging experiences that are grounded in social good and provide real benefits to communities. In return, brands will gain access to hard-to-reach audiences, and enable them to communicate in a much more powerful way that aligns with their commercial objectives while also providing significant benefits to local communities, relevant to their needs and aspirations.
The further benefit of positive association with local government, charities and not-for-profit organisations combines to make Urban Partnerships a powerful and flexible proposition that can play out in many ways. Examples of projects the Urban Partnerships team has completed in trial phase include:

  • Community events and partnerships: adidas worked with Tower Hamlets to create a light up running track, facilitating safe running for women at night, whilst promoting the launch of the boost X women’s running shoe. Energy for the night-time lighting was generated by kinetic energy from people’s footsteps


  • Investment in public infrastructure and street furniture: Online cycle retailer Wiggle helped provide branded cycle pumps and bicycle repair facilities in train stations, driving brand loyalty by giving their target audience a free utility whilst promoting their online retail site


  • Innovation and new technologies creating vibrant and immersive environments: Working with the British Heart Foundation and London & Partners, the Urban Partnerships team helped launch the London Heart Trail, an interactive dual-direction walk along the South Bank, from the London Eye to Tower Bridge that provided information on how to keep you heart healthy.

Michael Brown, MD of psLIVE, said: “We believe brands have the power, connections, resources, and in many ways, an obligation to change the world for the good. The new Urban Partnerships division has been created specifically to help brands realise this potential, by acting as strategist and facilitator between local authorities, charities and not-for-profit organisations where they can make a real difference.
“Recent research carried out by CONE communications found that 90 per cent of consumers are likely to switch brands to one associated with a good cause. To that end, we are not populating this new venture with overtly commercial or marketing people from the world of media, and instead furnishing it with people with experience doing positive work in the heart of local communities. For instance, to help me drive this forward we have engaged Christopher Nicola, who has spent 10 years with Camden Borough Council rolling out local community initiatives.”
Christopher Nicola, Head of Urban Partnerships, said: “The way in which consumers perceive brands has a huge influence on the effectiveness of that brand’s advertising. Through Urban Partnerships, we’re creating positive, impactful experiences for consumers that means brands are giving something back to the community at the same time. This isn’t just advertising, it’s advertising for good.”

Cadbury Easter Giant Egg Hunt Sparks New Loch Ness Monster Sighting.

3 March 2016: For the past 24-hours visitors to the famous Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands have been astounded by the appearance of another large shape in the water. The silhouette, with three distinct humps, is reminiscent of photographs purported to show The Loch Ness Monster and has been seen slowly rising out of the water.
loch ness 2 comp
Local Loch Ness expert, Nessie hunter and naturalist Adrian Shine commented at the Loch today. Adrian is also the proud leader of the Loch Ness & Morar Project and Loch Ness Exhibition Centre. He has been engaged in fieldwork in the Highlands since 1973 and has seen just about everything on these waters. Apart from this!
adrian shine comp
Adrian said, “It was an amazing sight today and it’s been a special experience to see something so magical come out of the Loch. Hopefully this will stimulate more interest in this majestic area and conservation of it for wildlife and any beasties that might be down there.” However, it was confirmed today that the shapes aren’t Nessie, but rather three enormous Cadbury Easter Eggs,
“We can only speculate that the Easter Bunny has left these three massive Easter eggs for her friend, Nessie, AKA The Loch Ness Monster,” said Claudia Miceli, Senior Brand Manager for Cadbury Easter. “We were very happy to be called out to investigate and have been inspired whilst here to donate both to the Loch Ness Project and to the local RNLI lifeguard service. Our Joy Team have left baskets of Cadbury goodies at hotels and B&Bs in the area for all the Nessie fans to enjoy.”
The stunt forms part of a wider Cadbury Easter campaign that aims to make Cadbury synonymous with this seasonal time of year, whilst also building on its heritage in Easter egg hunts and its partnership of 15 years with The National Trust. As part of the campaign the brand has also launched a range of egg-cellent new products helping further cement Cadbury’s role in Easter. Claudia Miceli: “For many years Cadbury has always been part of Easter in family homes and this year is no different. In our new advert the Easter bunny is a fluffy deliverer of joy who excites families around the country in the lead up to the Easter egg hunt weekend by playfully hiding eggs everywhere. By teasing the mystery of Loch Ness we’re celebrating the playful magic of Easter time and Nessie herself”
“Be on your look out though” Claudia adds, “We have hidden more eggs in other parts of the country!” Sightings have been reported further afield than Loch Ness; The Easter Bunny has been very busy!
Residents of Dover have also seen strange sights!
White Cliffs Dover
These activitations was conceived and executed by psLIVE and Carat UK

Aviva Asked Waterloo Who They Thought Were Better Drivers in Experiential Campaign

The campaign which ran from the 6-11th January in London’s busy Waterloo station asked members of the public to vote who they think are the better drivers, Women v. Men, under 60’s v. over 60’s, Mums v. Dads etc. The public could cast a vote via Twitter using voting buttons placed on the experiential stand. As a voting button is pressed an automatic tweet is released and the results of the poll are displayed on the digital out of home creative across the UK, including the Waterloo motion screen in front of the stand.
People could visit the site to cast their vote, or join along on Twitter by using the hashtags #over60sdrivesafer or #under60sdrivesafer dependant on their opinion.
The activity generated nearly 2,000 (1,963) votes, which were fed into the Liveposter system and displayed onto the Motion screen. The activity is in partnership with Zenith Optimedia and Liveposter.

psLIVE, Posterscope and PSI get into the Christmas spirit to raise money for the local soup kitchen

In 2015 around 30 of us from psLIVE, Posterscope and PSI have been working in a Soup Kitchen for homeless people based round the corner at the American Church on Tottenham Court Road.
They needed to raise £300 to buy consumables such as paper plates, cups, basic ingredients such as sugar, tea coffee etc, and we thought we could raise that as a Xmas gesture – a neighbourly act so to speak.
So on Tuesday 8th December, between 12 noon and 4pm, a social media booth appeared in our breakout area –generously donated by The Flashpack – one of psLIVE’s delivery partners, and everyone was asked to join in the fun to raise money for this worthy cause. Props and a snowy backdrop was provided and then the fun began.
On Friday 11 December the organisers of the Soup Kitchen paid a vist to the Qube where we presented a cheque to the value of £462, which was gratefully received.

Michael Brown, MD psLIVE, was voted 4th most influential person in the events industry

The top 100 professionals in the Event Industry were announced last night (7 December) at Event’s Christmas party, which took place at the American Express Invites lounge at The O2.
Michael Brown, Managing Director psLIVE, on being awarded fourth place said “I think it would be no exaggeration to say that 2015 has been a very good year for psLIVE. There has been some genuinely spectacular work, in particular for adidas, BT and Heineken. We have seen 80% growth on last year and the people in psLIVE have risen to meet the challenge of a fast paced business in a very competitive market.  I am very pleased and proud to say I am surrounded by some very smart people who have collaborated to really land our USPs in the sector this past year. This is the reason that a jury of our industry peers awarded us the Agency of the Year title, along with lots of other awards in sector. It’s the reason clients keep briefing us, and why we have grown ahead of the market. My ranking at number 4 in the Event 100 is obviously a proud moment on a personal level, but it is actually a reflection of our team ethos – it speaks to the quality of the wider team around me, and the reputation of this agency.
There are some exciting changes ahead for psLIVE in 2016, and I am confident that the team will grow even further to meet the new challenges ahead, and we all look forward to delivering ever more ambitious results orientated work, and maintaining our impressive growth trajectory”.

psLIVE host Urban Partnership Event

psLIVE hosted an Urban Partnerships event on the 11th of November for new clients. The event featured a variety of speakers from different backgrounds including urban street furniture design, brand strategy, local government and charities. The event gave attendees an in depth understanding of the Urban Partnerships approach, new insights into customer behaviour and examples of how brands can benefit by giving back.
Christopher Nicola, Head of Urban Partnerships at psLIVE/Posterscope/PSI introduced the event by explaining how the Urban Partnerships (UP) team, curates and delivers meaningful partnership activations, bringing brands together with not for profit partners or charities to deliver projects that give back to society in some way. These projects are designed to provide benefits for all parties involved
The brand benefits by increased publicity, familiarity with a particular product or brand value, and positive sentiment generated by the public.
Customers benefit through the utility, service or leisure outputs of the project.
The not for profit partner benefits through the brand helping to deliver common objectives for public good, for which funding is now in short supply.
UP project themes could cover all areas that have an impact on people (health, environment, technology, education, safety, transport etc) and all of these are executed in the OOH environment.
Christopher talked through a few examples such as Liveposter’s work with Santander to display bike docking information on bus stops, providing people with free information so they can make better transport choices. The introduction of new smart benches in Canary Wharf, that monitor air quality and charge devices using solar energy, crowdfunding of a new outdoor public library in Whitechapel, and installations promoting adult play such as minigolf parklets in San Fransisco.
Christopher presented new insights into customer behaviour from research gathered in partnership with Exterion and The data showed overwhelming support for UP projects (79% overall) with women slightly higher than men. As expected there is a correlation with age, where 90% of younger people felt strongly that advertising should incorporate ‘giving back’ in some way.
When exploring what types of advertising activities consumers find most engaging, campaigns with the UP philosophy of giving back to communities ranked highest – almost three times more favourably than traditional advertising campaigns, or product demonstrations/sampling. In addition, 58% of people are more likely to buy from brands that give back, a figure that rises to 64% for women and 75% for 16-24 year olds.
Nicky Ezer, Head of Events at Camden Council explained how the mind-set of politicians and leadership in local government is changing across the country due to increased budget cuts to local authorities and public sector. This means local authorities are forced to act more like businesses and to be more commercial, generating revenue and exploring ways to work with partner brands.
Despite this shift there is always still red tape to get through, however when brands are providing something of benefit to communities, this helps to gain political support and often results in more positive responses from residents and visitors.
Local Councils have experience in activating large art installations, community projects and festivals. There are many opportunities for brands to jump on board as delivery partners and benefit from these activities. These opportunities are not known to brands and Nicky explained how Councils are working with the UP division to rectify this. Events such as the Lambeth Country Show (the largest free family festival in the South East of England), art installations around the Olympics etc are projects that Council’s still want to deliver but now need support and funding from brands to do so.
Sam Parry from Hackney parks and green spaces took us through some examples of where brands have benefitted from working on community projects in parks. Including a recent urban partnership with adidas who wrapped a sports centre on Hackney Marshes to launch their predator boot, with site fees going on to support football activities for young people in Hackney. He also went through a case study where Nike renovated a local park (Aske Gardens) and created a connection with the local community with a series of community events – from basketball matches to reading stories to young children.
Ben Coles, Director at charity Groundwork, spoke on charity partnerships with a focus on brands they have worked with. He talked about the huge returns on the Britvic Campaign, where for every 1 bottle of Britvic sold, 1cm of outdoor space was transformed. Post campaign sales of Britvic increased along with their share prices.  Ben also spoke about the wider benefits and CSR rewards when working in partnership with charities.
Noel Hatch from Lambeth Council and Andrew Laity from psLIVE explained how UP projects can create social value. Noel went through some insights that Lambeth had commissioned with their local universities to understand what matters to people most in terms of public provision. Profiling their behaviours and highlighting key engagement points. Andrew went on to talk through a recent UP project that adidas carried out in partnership with Lambeth and social enterprise PopBrixton. The project was hugely successful both as a product launch and in creating a lasting legacy for football in the Brixton community.
Anthony Lau from Cyclehoop talked about his design studio and his success in designing innovative urban street furniture that has been rolled out into urban environments around the world. Anthony spoke about how he has been working with UP to deliver new media firsts in branded street furniture, highlighting a case study with Wiggle in Bristol Station where branded bicycle maintenance points were installed permanently, alongside more traditional OOH media such as floor vinyls and 6 sheets to engage customers in the station.
The session ended with a hands-on activity where clients were asked to design a mini ‘parklet’ for their brand, demonstrating their brand values in the functionality and design.

Blog: The three ingredients of a winning agency

Michael Brown, managing director of psLIVE takes a look at what makes an award-winning agency: vision, values and diversity.
“And the winner of Brand Experience Agency of the Year is… psLIVE!”
My delight in hearing those words, coming to me as unexpectedly as they did, during Event’s newly-transformed Event Awards at the Hammersmith Apollo last month, also arrived as a moment of self-realisation: in that joyous and very public instant, I recognised in myself how so very badly I had wanted to hear them.
The psLIVE table erupted – a Vesuvius of skyward drinks, whoops, hugs, air punching and mile-wide grins suggesting that, like me, the rest of the team also desired to be similarly blessed as winners. We were a microcosm of the room – everyone wanted to win so very badly and as you would expect, quite a few others in the room did just that. Claire Stokes, founder of The Circle Agency, Chris Dawson founder of The Field, Phil Edelson, chief exectuive of Mash and Kate Woodcock, senior experiential consultant at Major Players, join me to take a look at the vital signs of a winning agency:
The C Bomb
The obvious tick boxes include factors such as having a strong leadership team and a clearly articulated vision. A marked year-on-year growth would also help to impress any judges, while a commitment to innovation and possessing a differentiated offer to your peers should combine to see the agency consistently doing great work for great clients. Who would think twice if you stopped right there and said those things were enough to win? For sure, I would claim all of these benchmarks for psLIVE, but to describe the single most important factor that underpins agency success I am going to have to drop the C bomb on you: culture.
Culture is a bullet. It ricochets around the corridors and meeting rooms of any organisation. Senior managers are so hot for culture it’s almost unseemly, but is it an apparition? Has the heat caused them to see a mirage in a desert where the only culture is in working long hours? Is it possible to make culture tangible? What are the base ingredients and how long do you put it in the oven for?
I am probably not alone in my belief that great culture starts with a vision. I tend to think of it as both a destination (not necessarily one I will arrive at) and a means of transport: it’s where an agency wants to be and how it will get there.
If the culture is the way in which the people within an organisation collectively act to achieve a vision, then the way they act also has to be defined within a set of values. It is no good being a winner if there is a trail of dead bodies all the way to the podium. At least not in a people-focussed industry like ours. Let’s face it, vision stands for zilch without a team to engage with it.
The people an agency selects to join its ranks should be recruited with vision and values to the fore, which is different to singularly focussing on ability and experience in a role. If, in the interview process, you are looking to see if a candidate stacks up favourably against your vision, then I would contend that you are ensuring the evolution of your culture is no happy accident. Your values are like clay on a potter’s wheel. Turn it on, roll up your sleeves and shape it into a culture shaped vase!
Phil Edelston, founder and chief executive of Mash, winners of Staffing Agency of the Year at the Event Awards has a similar outlook: “We look for identifiable qualities in all of the candidates who want to work with us. By being clear about what our values are, we feel we hire the right people who all buy into that ethos and help feed into a winning culture.”
However he goes on to confess to things not always being this way. “When we were smaller it felt like culture was something that the guys just got on the office floor, as they were working closely with me. In getting bigger we have realised how powerful an exercise it can be to identify and communicate company values and this is something we have now invested in.”
Guiding principles
Claire Stokes, founder and managing director of The Circle Agency, knows what it is to be an agency of the year. She has identified the guiding principles around which her agency is built and enshrines these in every company communication. This includes an internal annual awards system in which The Circle Agency team are celebrated for bringing the values to life within their work.”
“If you focus your teams efforts on their ability to deliver what really matters to the client, the awards naturally follow,” she said. “Over the years we have successfully developed a culture that thrives on innovation and creativity, but never, ever, at the expense of delivering the client objectives and this is inherent in our company values. We have six values but my personal favourites are: be bold and innovate, put clients objectives first and be accountable.”
Despite such ringing endorsement of the importance of values, Kate Woodcock, senior experiential consultant for top recruitment agency Major Players, confirmed that many agencies in our sector seldom brief her to recruit against agency values. “Not all agencies have their vision and values formally articulated. Many clients will brief us on the key functions of the job only,” she said.
Kate has a clever way of getting around this: “I will ask my client to describe the culture in their own words to tease out what their business is really like. This helps factor in cultural fit when looking for a person for the role. My end goal is not to just find someone who can do the job – that’s usually easy. For me it’s about finding people who will also love the company and demonstrably show a passion for the client I’m presenting to them.”
The importance of trust
Chris Dawson, founder of The Field, finalists in the Best Brand Experience – B2C category, is unequivocal on this point: “People are the raw materials of any agency. Therefore your recruitment techniques and processes could be viewed as the single most important strategic input into a business. One can never spend too much time honing the process by which you recruit and interview.”
He also speaks passionately about the unpredictable nature of any given individual within a team ethos, and how this impacts on his culture. “Even with the best experience and attitude, we are sometimes unreliable as individuals. An agency needs to leverage the values of the team ethos. A well-focussed and galvanised team is strong and adaptable, able to innovate and overcome obstacles, and can rescue individual team members when they may need it. Therefore the potential of the whole team, its combined ethos, is really top of the list in factors of success.”
Chris is of course talking about trust – perhaps the most important currency in terms of values. It is this singular value that drives his agency’s success. “Recommendation is widely accepted as the Holy Grail in any business,” he said. “We understand that ‘trust’ is the bridge to that recommendation, therefore our job as marketers is to help consumers build trust with brand,” he adds.
The benefits of diversity
Coming hand in hand with values is the similarly hot topic of diversity. My take on the February 2015 McKinsey and Company report Diversity Matters is that the D word (let’s call it that) is both a vision and a value. Winning is underpinned by financial performance. The authors of that report are very clear:
“More diverse companies, we believe, are better able to win top talent and improve their customer orientation, employee satisfaction, and decision making, and all that leads to a virtuous cycle of increasing returns. This in turn suggests that other kinds of diversity – for example, in age, sexual orientation, and experience (such as a global mind-set and cultural fluency) – are also likely to bring some level of competitive advantage for companies that can attract and retain diverse talent.”
The Diversity Matters report examined data from 366 public companies in Canada, Latin America, the UK and the US. It contains a very illuminating conclusion:
“The findings are clear, companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.”
Putting this in context of that common output of agency life – the response to a brief. In any given year, those briefs collectively speak to every demographic profile under the sun, yet how often do we see a collection of people from one very common demographic in media life, (white, youthful, middle class) come together to respond to a brief against an audience they cannot possibly have much empathy with. Diversity of opinion, beliefs and life experience are required to bring the success you need to win more clients, win your team’s hearts and minds and yes, do well at the awards.
Referring back to the night at the Hammersmith Apollo, it is in such rare moments that your culture is celebrated; the way you specifically do business is held up as the right way of doing things. It does not matter what line of work you are in: whether a jury of your peers has voted you Britain’s Best Brand Experience Agency or the finest French polisher in Peterborough, the bonds between a group of people are gilded with the varnish of success to further strengthen your culture and justify your vision.
In turn this increases the likelihood of winning more stuff in the future. Drop the C Bomb and the gongs will gather in multitudes on your mantelpiece. To this, Claire Stokes added an advisory note as the last words: “What I would reiterate, is the importance of ensuring that your team values success, not by how many awards they win, but how many happy clients we have.”
Hear, hear!

The time and place for a brainstorm by Michael Brown, MD psLIVE

Michael Brown, managing director at psLIVE, discusses how experiential agencies are a viable alternative to ad shops as a first port of call for campaign creatives or strategy.
Brown discusses the idea of the brainstorm and its place in creative problem solving
“No good idea ever came out of a brainstorm.” So stated Sir John Hegarty, otherwise fondly known as the H in Bartle Bogle Hegarty – the creative agency of global renown – as part of a talk he was giving at the Soho Hotel earlier this year to launch his then new book: Turning Intelligence Into Magic.
Undoubtedly this was a brilliantly controversial shard of rhetoric tailored to shock a room in which ideas are the stock in trade of both speaker and audience. When you further consider that the brainstorm was actually invented by the ad industry, you might conclude that Sir John was, in metaphorical terms, shooting the child of his creative and spiritual forebears: [brainstorm inventor] Alex Faickney Osborn would be spitting feathery expletives if he were still around today.
I am not sure how many of you know this, but Osborn was co-founder of New York based ad shop BBDO (now Omnicom owned). It was he who authored the first group technique for creative problem solving, set rules for the technique as far back as 1942 and described it as the brainstorm in his 1953 book Applied Imagination. The brainstorm then is well past retirement age and has had a free ticket to ride on public transport for at least a decade. Please give up your seat.
Delving deeper
But is Sir John right? Should we ignore or even, depending on our seniority, sack the next creative director who invites us to the latest gathering of sharp and shiny minds that has become the everyday staple of agency life these past 70 years?
Can we go further? If the brainstorm, and by extension the creative director, are outmoded vestiges of the past, when every campaign cascaded spring-like from a moment of inspiration clandestinely conjured in their closed shop environs, should we not be questioning the role of the creative agency as first port of call for a good campaign idea? Will we even need them, as they exist now, in the not too distant future?
Consider this: Apple’s recent campaign, Shot on the iPhone 6, is a great idea (on going to press I am unable to confirm if it was created in a brainstorm): it showcases stunning snaps that iPhone users from around the world have fired off with their devices.
In every instance, the shots were so artistically striking that they looked like the work of a pro. There was no ad agency required to dream the idea up in the first instance and certainly no need to send a crew to create the work in a series of exotic, wallet-bursting locations. Apple’s customers are doing it all. The only qualified person needed for this kind of work is a humble designer on a few hundred quid daily to create a nice, on-brand boilerplate, flexible enough to adapt to various mediums, onto which you can drop the work of your customer.
This is UGC deployed at scale, an approach that turns the brand away from advertiser, and repositions it as publisher – a strategic approach that is increasingly prevalent. Therefore, if your strategy is always the same, your client is now a publisher and their customers provide the content, then the ad agency may not always be the first port of call to get a campaign out of the traps.
User generated content
In one of my previous blogs Real Time Experiential we saw how lots of people, from Canon to Captain Morgan to Camelot, are experimenting with experiential as the vehicle to create user generated content, or content featuring consumers (CFC) and broadcasting it in real time to DOOH. The same content is then deployed across the mix to creatively inform the entire campaign from TV to social and all points in between.
To nick my own words in that previous piece, this puts live activation at the heart of a media plan, placing experiential and digital practitioners at the centre of the mix. The main thrust of my argument being that, in the future, we could see all content for any creative campaign flowing from the live activation with experiential agencies driving the campaign idea. In such a paradigm, how would an ad agency have to evolve to have a stake in that particular world order?
Nick Bailey, chief executive of digital creative agency Isobar, has a view: “In this context the role of the creative practitioner is not eliminated; it is simply changed – and changed into something very different from the world where ‘creative’ was the special responsibility of a privileged elite in an advertising agency.”
Bailey is a lot more than the chief executive of Isobar, a company operating in 70 countries under the strapline of ‘ideas without limits’; a philosophy that is perfect for the other hat he wears to work – he is also their executive creative director. I could not have asked a better person to comment.
He continues: “The explosion of forms and means of creative expression driven by digital in the last 20 years demands a different approach to creativity; one that has more in common with the process of invention, where many disciplines are involved, collaborating with each other, trying things out, iterating, being prepared to fail and try again.”
Bailey’s comments reverberate in our recent collaboration for adidas, in which psLIVE was actually the home of the campaign idea: a high-tech, immersive experience that allowed footballers to trial product around the recent football boot launch Ace and X
Players were invited to participate in two challenges that helped them to identify their playing style. Adidas believes there are two types of footballer, those who control everything and those who create chaos. We recorded their performance scores before making personalised product recommendations based on the type of player they were.  Players where then invited to show off their skills in a specially designed 2 v 2 football arena against the pros.
In this case, the ad agency creatively shaped (see above) the look and feel of our live activation – taking the lead from us. Isobar designed the corresponding digital experience and the media agency Carat drove huge awareness around the campaign to make manifest Nick Bailey’s earlier quote around cross discipline collaboration.
Interestingly, five of the ad agencies in the UK Top 10 – Publicis, Leo Burnett, VCCP, WCRS and McCann – include experiential in their service offering. Plainly these guys are intent on fully owning all the means by which a brand story can be told, but what is certain is that however the landscape continues to evolve, the future remains a very rosy place for experiential specialists.
Now, who is in favour of renaming the brainstorm as an ‘Osborn’ in honour of the great man who gave us the institution?
Published in Event Magazine

Nākd boosts awareness with a tasty experiential OOH event

Natural Balance Foods, makers of the hugely popular wholefood brand Nākd, had fans’ mouths watering this morning (7 September) when it launched a brand-first giant edible advert in the heart of London’s Shepherd’s Bush Westfield shopping centre.
The campaign, created by Nākd’s retained media agency independent shop Total Media, experiential agency psLIVE, social media agency MEC, and creative agency Yolk, will showcase Nākd’s delicious range of wholefood alternative snacks and invite consumers to ‘Find Your Fave’ and discover the delightful world of Nākd for themselves.
As a progression of the 2014 Nākd Love and 2013 Revo-smoosh-on campaigns, which focused on the way Nākd bars are made – just fruit and nuts smooshed together and how this simple truth drives love for the brand – Nākd has evolved the company’s campaign message in 2015 to the next level, encouraging consumers to discover all the flavours available in the range by sampling them, for free, at the edible billboard.
Fiona Martins, Account Director at Total Media, said: “We wanted to create a memorable and impactful campaign which captures the attention of our time-poor audience who are looking for a healthy, convenient snacking solution.
“These hardworking consumers don’t want to be preached to and through the edible billboard execution, we’re able to provide them with the chance to explore the breadth of the fantastic product range, be part of the wholefood revolution and ‘Find Your Fave’. We’re incredibly excited to be a part of this journey with Nākd and help give their consumers something of value and welcome new fans into the world of Nākd!”
The 5mx2m edible billboard was erected at the Westfield Shepherd’s Bush Eat Street site and will be re-stocked at the end of each day until the completion of the campaign.
Supporting the special-build edible billboard will be more traditional advertising with London Underground 48 sheet posters appearing in high-footfall London tube stations for two weeks as of September 7th carrying messages and images inspired by the ‘Find Your Fave’ billboard including: Find Your FaveDelightfully Different and Nature’s Nibbles. Planned and bought by Posterscope,
Advertising will also run in high-reaching consumer publications including Stylist, Evening Standard Magazine, Guardian Weekend Magazine and across the Time Inc. titles LOOK, Now and Marie Claire.
Social media will support the launch in a number of ways, primarily by taking the offline experience online, enabling Nākd fans across the UK to take advantage of ‘finding their favourite’. Timelapse video footage of the billboard being created will roll out across twitter, Facebook and Instagram, alongside the hashtag #FindYourFave, which will be promoted across Facebook, twitter and Instagram during the week.
Marina Love, Marketing Director at Natural Balance Foods, said of the campaign: “We’re focused on the wholefood revolution, improving lives by encouraging more people to eat wholefoods more often. We have run successful awareness and trial campaigns previously, however this year we wanted to get more people – existing and new fans – involved in our campaign; surprising and delighting them as they discover our extensive range of yummy flavours.”
This integrated marketing campaign including press advertising, experiential, underground 48 sheets, digital display, PR and social media, totals an investment of £300,000.