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Why we set up Millennial Mentoring and what we did at SXSW

Nadya Powell is managing director at MRY

A group of Millennials and a hell of a lot of smart people from two different continents pitched live on stage at Hackney House at SXSW last week. The Millennial Mentoring programme finale, the culmination of six months’ work, was a truly transatlantic affair – a collaboration of the best of London’s and Austin’s talent.

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Tony Benn is dead.

He is mourned not just as a man, or as a father, but also as a politician.  This is remarkable in an age where the latter are held in even lower esteem than bankers and estate agents.

But today Britons of all political persuasions – and none – are celebrating Benn’s passion, his conviction; his authenticity.

Benn was an old man who had lived a full, and colourful, life.  His loss in indeed sad, but it is also in the natural order of things.

The real tragedy is the acutely short supply of politicians who follow his dictum:

“Say what you believe, and believe what you say”

This is ironic, because one of the fundamental societal changes wrought by the digital revolution is a significant, and probably irreversible, appetite for greater honesty and transparency – in every aspect of our lives.

But when – Benn aside – did any of us last hear a serious politician talk with either purpose or authenticity, let alone both? Instead, they continue to trot out the same pompous, top-down, duplicitous, jargon-laden, deeply patronising gobbledygook and half-truths that no professional marketers in 2014 would ever dream of trying to get away with.

Brands have, perhaps, responded to the transparency zeitgeist a little better (to the point where both ‘purpose’ and ‘authenticity’ are in danger of becoming cliches) but the execution has often been clumsy, leaving a lot to be desired.

Perhaps Tony Benn’s greatest contribution to the nation, and there were many, is reminding us all – marketers and politicians alike – that nothing wins hearts and minds like conviction.

“Say what you believe, and believe what you say” 

A principled view on creative awards

Creative Circle was last night, marking the start of the awards season.

Now, it’s fair to say that there are two camps, when it comes to industry prizes.

There are those who dismiss them as irrelevant symbols of self-aggrandisement, on the part of a shamefully narcissistic and pitifully needy sector.  This camp points to the money that is lavished on entries and dinners; the invidious growth of consultants; the arbitrary nature of league tables; the out-moded use of silo-specific categories; and the lack of connection, usually, with what actually works.

Then, in the opposite camp, there are those who praise them as valuable measures of success, in a world where creativity is more important than ever.  This side points to the power of awards to raise standards; to attract and retain talented people; to highlight great thinking from around the world; and ultimately to drive change.

So where do I stand in this debate?  Well, I have a very clear and principled take on this subject.  When I lose, I passionately agree with the former view.  And when I win, I wholeheartedly agree with the latter view.

Last night, at Creative Circle, we won our first ever award, for our first ever campaign (a Gold for Paddy Power).  So for now, gongs are great but I’m fully prepared for trophies to be trashy trinkets sometime soon…

Reflections on SXSW

Gareth Jones is chief brand and content officer at DigitasLBi

Agencies aplenty

This year, there were seemingly more agency types than ever before at SXSW. We’re pretty easy to spot; rucksack, vague look of confusion, still hungover from the night before…

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SXSWi 2014: Day 4 (11 March)

No one likes to watch guys get food in their beards but, if you want to get the best out of your creatives, you should eat with them.

That was a tip from John Maeda, a design partner at venture capital company Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, who was discussing how to manage creative teams at a SXSWi talk called “creativity in innovation & entrepreneurship”. The gender-biased joke was mine.

Maeda made other observations about managing creative teams, including one that creatives weren’t “joiners”, but were rather singular, and that they excel at the “personal touches”. He also said that creatives’ were usually hard working, but that this work ethic had been distorted through their representation in the media.

Returning to his comments about eating together, Maeda explained that while, in the West, businessmen will typically hammer out a deal then eat together, in China, businessmen eat together first, and eat the same food, because they believe that eating the same DNA make people more similar.

Most importantly, you have to fight the for your “weird creative outsiders”. The ones who don’t want to be “joiners”.

SXSW…it’s more human than drones and wearable tech

Andy Fowler is executive creative director at Brothers and Sisters

This is the first time I’ve been to the mythical South by Southwest and what struck me is how profoundly human the main themes were.

You might have visions of an army of geeks banging on about drones, wearable tech and the next free texting service to be sold for $19 billion.

And there’s a lot of that here make no mistake.

But something else lurks front and centre. I found a ‘future’ industry known for inexorable progress at the speed of light in a reflective mode.

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Tim Berners Lee bested by robots, creativity is a state of mind

Pete Edwards is chief strategy officer at Engine

There was plenty to keep me occupied on my final day at SXSW. After a pleasant stroll to the centre in sunshine (yes, Texas comes good after 3 days of rain) first up is a session titled ‘Smartphones to Healthphones – a doctor in your pocket’. More grist to the mill that technology is going to change the way we look after our health and wellbeing. We’ve all seen Bones in Star Trek waving a buzzing whirring box over mortally wounded Klingon to check their injuries. Well – it’s coming.

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Robots and wristbands take over SXSW

Paul Vallois is managing partner at Partners Andrews Aldridge

Before jetting off to Austin I was subjected to an intense interrogation of where and why I was going by an inquisitive daughter. I answered as best I could with a growing sense that I wasn’t particularly prepared for what I was about to embark upon.


It turns out, as my colleague Dan Northover (a three veteran of the festival) advised, that the key to preparation is not to prepare too much at all. Otherwise two things happen: you miss talks due to the sometimes massive queues and you get frustrated by FOMO.

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SXSWi 2014: Adland in Austin (Work Club)

After a long day of conference sessions, Liza Bate, senior social strategist at Work Club, spoke to me about what she made of her first SXSWi so far.

Why did you come to SXSWi?

LB: I was sent here by Work Club to basically find out what’s going on; to go to some awesome talks, absorb as much as possible and bring these treasures back to the office. Everyone here is so positive and keen to learn. You can get as much from the person sitting next to you at a session and you can from the speaker.

What has been your SXSWi highlight?

LB: I don’t think I could pick one single talk, although on a personal level I felt really strongly about the Ed Snowden talk. I guest the highlight’s been the people.

What’s been your SXSWi low-light?

LB: The incessant rain. Also, talks that purport to be about one thing but end up being something else entirely, and the fact that no one can talk about social media in a normal way.

Cannes or SXSWi?

LB: I’ve never been to Cannes, but I’ve heard it’s one big piss up. Here, you learn something. I’d come back in a heartbeat. Even if my agency doesn’t send me next year, I might come on holiday.

Facebook or Twitter?

LB: Twitter to stay connected to things I’m passionate about, Facebook for staying connected to peopel that I’m not organised enough to call as often as I’d like.

What one lesson will you take away from SXSWi?

LB: We need an ethical code for handling data. The days of just shoving T’s & C’s in a corner and accepting terms will-nilly are over.




Brands are out in force at SXSW

Jon Buckley is head of social at Cheil


As you can see from the size of their cars and food portions, our American friends like to go large – something that’s also true of SXSW. Everything about the show seems to be bigger this year, including the brands.

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