A trip to Sydney’s Circus Festival of Creativity: three speakers who said things worth sharing

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Heather.jpgHeather Jacobs, director of pr for Clemenger BBDO Sydney, attended The Circus Festival of Creativity this week and reports exclusively for Campaign Brief.

Be engaged; be inspired; befriend the lonely men of Silicon Valley with food in their beards; liquidate your assets and get a gold coat; debt is for mugs; the fundamental human number is two not one. We’re competing with 29-year-olds like the Fully Sick Rapper who chooses to live at home so they can create viral content from their bedrooms and if you don’t have stuff that people want to share, no-one will ever see it.

These were some of the messages that came out of my trip to the Circus, the annual festival of creativity put on by the Communications Council this week.

Here’s three speakers who said things worth sharing:

JH5.jpg1. James Hurman, planning director, Ogilvy Shanghai

Before moving to Shanghai, Hurman was planning director at sister agency Colenso BBDO, Auckland, at a time when they were laying the golden eggs.

Between 2009 and 2011 the agency won 21 Lions and 39 Effies.

Now he’s gone East, James has been spending more time thinking about how agencies can end up more consistently producing the kind of creative work that makes us proud, makes a difference and moves things forward.

“We all get that we need to hire great creative people and we need open plan and soft furnishings, and indoor table based sports, we all know that,” he said. “And as a result we have no shortage of great ideas, the difficulty is how we get those ideas out into the world without them dying or being compromised.”

He thinks it could be a unique habit that Brent Smart (the MD at the time) had of talking everybody up behind their backs. “He would constantly remind me of how brilliant people were that we worked with. Smarty would talk the clients up behind their backs as well.

These weren’t empty generic comments, he shone a light on specifically what was brilliant about each of us. We were all flawed and you could pick us all to pieces if you wanted to, but Smarty chose the opposite.”

The result: everyone’s confidence and collective belief in the people they worked became enormous. This constructive confidence allowed them to take creative risks together and believe they could pull off amazing feats if they really tried.

nl5.jpg2. Nick Law, chief creative officer, R/GA North America

This Australian protégé of Bob Greenberg called on us to break down the cultural dissonance between Madison Avenue and Silicon Valley.

It’s going to be pretty tough, he said, considering advertising is full of people with baseball caps on backwards high-fiving each other and Silicon Valley is full of very lonely men hunched over computers eating pop tarts all night.

On the heels of Nike+ they released a lot of hardware including a GPS app, a sports watch, and in that journey from making Nike+ into this integrated program they rapidly created six million registered users very quickly.

“And we took Nike from a company that was third in the running category behind ASICS and New Balance to number one again,” he said. “Not because their shoes were different but because the experience was different. And now Nike competes less with those people and more with RunKeeper and Keepfit and other Silicon Valley software companies.”

Earlier this month they added another node to the Nike+ experience and that was Fuel Band, the first all day tracker which is connected to Nike+.

“It is a very sexy little object and our team has 150 people working just on digital sport for Nike and our team is embedded in algorithm and we work with the industrial designers and design the experience as the agency,” he said. “We are an agency. Agencies work in media, media is the experience, you should do it too. We happened to be very lucky, when they announced the Fuel Band, the Nike stock price went up; it broke $100 per share for the first time.”


tom.jpg3. Tom Uglow, creative director for Google’s Creative Lab in Sydney (Download his presentation here)

Who doesn’t remember Charlie Sheen’s public meltdown last year? It’s something Tom refers to as very loud chaos, something that’s going to happen more and more.


“These stories are not linear, people are joining the stories at different points in the story, they are coming from TV or social media, they are interacting with these people and information and as they interact and they retweet or comment or make a parody video that feeds back into the original stories and people are joining the story and don’t even know where they are in it,” he said.


Tom compared it to a giant dinner party where everyone is trying to tell you exactly what’s happening at that dinner party at the same time. Or it’s like life: a bit chaotic, a bit confusing and very hard to control.


He predicts that any big story we are going to tell over the next few years is going to be like this, self-amplifying.


“If it’s going to get big it’s going to get bigger because it will feed back on itself,” he says. “You will get these loops. Can it be controlled? No. Can it be played with? Yes. Can it be played with by brands? You could ask Coles, Qantas or Woolworths. It’s really hard to play with that stuff.”


Tom is confident users of Facebook, smartphones and other social media get it.


“It’s natural , it’s how we work, it’s only complicated when we try to work out what’s happening because we live in a post digital world, we stop being awed by the power of computing: we all are geeks now. Clean well structured data may not sound like sexy ideas but they are the sexiest words ever. If you are not thinking in that mindset, you are going to struggle to tell interesting, relevant stories, because this is becoming normal.”


Well, that’s it from me. But before you even think of printing this out, check this out this cool app  by WWF, shared by MDC’s Faris Yakob. It encourages people to lock documents so you can’t print them out, therefore saving trees.