Creative Shootout Battle tests creativity in PR

by | Jan 22, 2016

Would you be brave enough to pitch your ideas in front of 250 of your peers?

At the China Exchange in Soho yesterday a new creativity competition, The Creative Shootout, saw a live battle between 6 UK PR agencies, designed to speed-test the levels of creativity in PR. The 4-person strong teams had just four hours to prepare a pitch for Unicef and then present it to an audience of their peers in just 15 minutes. No mean feat and one that requires bags of creative confidence and chutzpah!

I was lucky enough to take part as a partner and judge and we saw some great creative ideas from the different agencies on behalf of this brilliant cause.

The Unicef brief asked the teams to focus on their 70th anniversary this year and asked for ‘big creative thinking that will enable us to build momentum across the year’. The 4 key things the teams had to consider in their responses were:

  • Reach and engagement with the target audiences
  • To stand out, disrupt and distinguish Unicef in a noisy communications landscape
  • Help people understand what Unicef does and make people want to join
  • Build more warmth into their communications

These factors and other criteria, including originality and relevance, were used to help judge the work the teams produced.

Bringing to life the adage “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”, Bottle PR created the #LifeSavingHacks campaign, using human centered design-principles to learn lessons from those the campaign was trying to help. Activation included a Youtube channel and the publication of a boys-own style Unicef book to share ‘hacks’ from children. I liked the idea of involving and empowering the children themselves avoiding clichés portraying the children as victims.

Dynamo’s #HappybirthdayUnicef planned to make Unicef’s official 70th birthday on 11 December 2016 the de facto birthday for the millions of children who don’t know their birth date. Their birthday party video storyboard showed children missing from birthday party celebrations to highlight how many children don’t have the opportunity to celebrate, a simple yet visually effective way of communicating the message. They also dipped into their agency contacts book getting Facebook on-board for the pitch, a nice touch.

Frank PR were runners-up in a very closely fought battle, with their strategy to ‘make it personal’ and the #indangerspecies tagline (which I thought was really a clever play). Their multi-channel ‘disrupt the disruptors’ strategy and activation was built on the insight that people are easily distracted (citing Kim Kardashian’s derriere amongst other things), so to create awareness for Unicef by hijacking those disruptions. The plan – 7 major events tapping into cultural ‘distractions’ over 7 months was wide-ranging with great potential reach. I particularly liked the children’s choir idea for Eurovision. Their pitch also involved the audience popping balloons and reading out ideas, which was refreshing and creative in itself.

The winners – Mischief PR – developed the creative platform ‘Many Crappy Returns’ – a stark play on words – to highlight how many children don’t have happy birthdays around the world, including plans to work with Unicef’s ambassadors. Their strategy was to take ‘ownership’ of birthdays, something the target audience has in common (as we all have a named birthday in the UK). There was also a neat strand to create ‘crappy’ birthday merchandise with profits to Unicef (which reminded me of the Harvey Nichols Sorry I Spent It On Myself ad and merchandise campaign, award-winning itself and no bad thing). The campaign would culminate in a very ‘uncrappy’ birthday on Unicef’s official birthday on 11th December. Eschewing a PowerPoint pitch the team had huge hand-drawn post-it style notes which made for a fun and engaging (if sometimes tricky to handle) pitch. The programme had longevity and a strong central message which lent itself well in my opinion to courting controversy as well as delivering Unicef’s message around their birthday and a good fundraising element.

PLMR’s #70for70 campaign was built on the insight that £4.6 billion is spent on pets in the UK, whilst Unicef spends £92m saving lives, highlighting a massive moral and financial gap. Their strategy was to make people feel good, rather than guilty, as a trigger to donate. Their drive to raise £70m for Unicef in its 70th birthday year was based on a pledge from people who were spending on their pets to donate to Unicef at the same time. The direct fundraising target tied to the campaign was laudable and they too used pitch theatre to great effect, asking the audience to close their eyes or don eye masks (which I had, see below), which was a brilliant pattern interrupt and really focused the senses.

Creative Shoot out

The TVC Group say they have content in their DNA and their campaign – 70 different ideas – one for every year to celebrate Unicef’s anniversary – certainly delivered on providing that content! Ideas included work a day for 70p which I thought had good potential and some controversy-sparking experiential activity including Unichef – a pop up child-staffed restaurant and a retail-environment staffed by children to highlight exploitation. Their campaign strap-line played with the Unicef name itself – UnIcef – emphasising you and I – removing the emotional and physical distance between the brand and its audiences. I loved this play on the brand using a central asset and felt this would have worked well for brand reappraisal.

Overall the time constraint proved what amazing things can be produced in a concentrated period of time and it was an exciting, fly by the seat of your pants experience. It highlighted to me that creativity in PR is alive and well. Major respect to all those who entered and who were prepared to put their creative mettle to the test and I’ll be watching with interested to see how the Creative Shootout develops as a concept following this new and industry-defining first event.

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