I recently went to the DigitasLBi UK NewFront 2014 event exploring whether brands can create culture. My contribution to culture has always been from an organisational/ internal perspective, so I went along to get an idea of external parallels (and also because Adam Buxton was on the speaking bill and I like him a lot).

It was great to be attending as an industry outsider, with no direct experience, insight or preconceptions. Unexpectedly, I gained a new perspective on my current incarnation as The Work Project, what I have to offer the world and the prospects of some of my more creative and human side projects.

The Messages

Gareth Jones of Digitas spoke on the need for experimental content creation, backed up by Cindy Gallop discussing the ‘new creativity’ – as well as the need for brands to rethink business models and ways to make money. Cindy spoke well, too, on the frustrations when trying to do something truly innovative in a world that can’t see past ‘the way it’s always been’.

In a way, I’m exploring all of these themes in The Work Project.

Chris Clarke spoke about the quality of branded content – it’s not good enough for brands to just churn out corporate videos or irrelevant content with their logo/ ident attached, there’s an emerging opportunity for brands to truly create culture with intelligently delivered, interesting and innovative content. Red Bull was cited as an example of this and what particularly resonated was the idea of brands starting to focus on ‘enlightened self-interest’.

By this stage, I was really starting to feel that my various projects and ideas may have a place in this brave new world of authentically-branded culture…

After a talk from Sir Clive Woodward which mentioned the need to break down what you do in a way others can understand (something I’ve already encountered), Alecky Blythe bent my now-buzzing mind with artistic possibility – very well timed just three days before I was unleashing John.

Christian Payne gave an excellent account of authentic, relevant and instant content creation and conversation, being a case study in himself. He’s since also kindly given me some feedback on The Work Project, which I truly appreciate. Christian’s view that brands should love people more than money really fits with my world view.

I believe that in the workplace, if you take care of the people and the activity, the financials will sort themselves. If this works for the employer-employee relationship, why shouldn’t it work for the very similar connection between brand and consumer?

After a Marketing-focussed panel talk led by Claire Beale which was less directly relevant for me, we got a good half hour of Adam Buxton, the joy of You Tube comments and Brad Pitt talking about his bowel movements! A funny end to a great afternoon.

The Perspective

I now have a unique perspective and an understanding that there’s inherent value in a genuine story. There’s a story in The Work Project, which I’m already documenting, but I’ve been thinking recently about the possibility of making a film, or series of short films about #100Connections and the value of random, human, altruistic connections across the world.

The big question has been how to fund it – we have within the 100 themselves the skills to make and distribute the film, which in itself is a story — I just need to find a way to make it possible.

I’d been playing with the idea that it might make great content for a brand — connecting humans in a digital age. The event galvanised my notion that an airline might benefit from telling this story – I now need to make that connection and take it forward.

I’ve also been playing with ideas for other projects – a study of the impact on productivity of giving workers access to video games, one around music in the workplace, as well as more creative concepts. Ideas like these funded by and delivered for brands as content would allow me to make the interesting, valuable projects I’m working on a reality, while delivering the authenticity and human-interest required to create a worthwhile impact for the brands.

My next question is how to take this idea forward…

  • Should I be approaching brands directly to discuss funding the projects I’m working on?
  • Should I be building a partnership with an agency (or agencies) who will already have connections with clients who would benefit from such projects?
  • Is this slightly more creative side of The Work Project actually a potentially serious contributor to this emerging approach to advertising?

In the context of defining what ‘work’ is, I think this needs to be explored.

By Andy Swann on October 20, 2014.
Exported from Medium on July 15, 2016.