Thought Leadership

The Company of Ideas – BITE LIVE 2017: From Insight to Action



Once the last of the goody bags has been handed out, and the remaining scoop of insect ice cream has been eaten, you’re left asking yourself what did I come away with? Events in our industry are plentiful – but the ones that matter are not.

So what was it that BITE LIVE 2017 aimed to do? With BITE out to inspire brands and agencies to create world-beating work, BITE LIVE took to the stage to celebrate those turning insight into action. But as MD Charlie Carpenter said in his opening speech, ‘creating brilliant work in this day and age is easier said than done.’ The solution? ‘For marketers to look outward and learn from the successes of other brands and the world beyond our industry.

BITE LIVE is about making this simpler. Bestselling philosopher Alain de Botton explained how ‘a new entrepreneurial world is dawning, which is fed up with having to choose between meaning and money.’ This event was called ‘From Insight to Action’ for a reason – we understand this world and agree that meaning and money need not be incompatible. By bringing together the most exciting and original speakers of our industry, we sought to outline how.

Lose the Negative

‘Consumers will notice your mistakes. It’s human nature writ large across the Twittersphere.’ It’s hard to disagree with BITE writer Izzy Ashton. Social media thrives off negativity. But that doesn’t mean we need to buy into it.

BITE LIVE was opened by The Tempest Two – two friends who, following some drunken texts, decided to row 3000 miles across the Atlantic. James and Tom’s extraordinary story set a benchmark for the level of inspiration for the day. Whilst they outlined the lack of experience either had – being overtaken by a pedalo at one point – they identified their biggest threat as negativity. ‘Negativity can eat away at you,’ was their message to the room.

We can’t all close off our ears to it, but there are ways to combat it. Laura Jordan Bambach from Mr President said it’s about finding an alternative. Mr President’s campaign with LGBT charity Stonewall is a prime example of how doing something brave will always attract negativity. When it comes to those who are negative, Laura asks ‘what kind of language is understandable for them; that helps them understand the problem?’ It was important for Stonewall and Mr President to motivate the hitherto passive into action and being vocal in support of LGBT rights. Not by focussing on the negative, but by exclaiming the positive.

Positivity has its place in this industry. Artistic Director of the Southbank Centre Jude Kelly CBE said a question people often ask themselves is ‘how do you stop feeling like your CV is separate from the life you want to lead?’ Founding WOW: Women of the World Festival, Jude said even the word ‘wow’ was an important step in the right direction. ‘The reason I started WOW rather than say Feminists Unite is to say there’s every reason to be happy. Optimism creates stamina – it creates possibility.’

You Needn’t Fit the Mould

Not fitting the mould can do great damage to our confidence and as a result, our impact. Jude Kelly said how her work for WOW took her to Somaliland and The Laas Geel caves. Remarking on a cave drawing, she asked the guide about the men and women who drew the pictures. ‘Women didn’t paint these pictures,’ he replied. Jude explained how men are too often seen as the storytellers of humanity, but that women are confined to telling the stories of women. That’s a mould Jude was never going to fit, directing over 100 theatre productions and, through WOW, telling the stories of women and girls over the world who want to participate and make change.

Forming part of a panel on diversity, Above + Beyond CEO Zaid Al-Zaidy said how this attitude applies to the people we work with also. After highlighting the problems our industry has with diversity, he explained how ‘my point isn’t oh my god our industry is racist, it’s how we let people in.’ For Zaid, it’s about moving away from that mould – one he said he never fit – and opening up to a much more diverse, creative world.

Make the Truth Interesting

On the morning of BITE LIVE 2016, we woke up to the news that Donald J. Trump would be President. A year later and ‘fake news’ is talked about everywhere.

There’s a great sense of mistrust in today’s world – of politicians, of news, of the conversations we’re having. Rumour is a powerful thing and this is what Emily Somers from McDonald’s and Josh Bullmore of Leo Burnett London discovered when they took on the myths and misinformation the fast food chain faces. Emily said that to tackle them ‘we must understand them.’ Josh explained how risky this was but ultimately, trust for McDonald’s is a real barometer of business performance and ‘the rewards far outweigh the risks.’

According to Josh and Emily, rumours are always more exciting than truth. Katie Mackay found that truth would not be enough for Mother’s campaign with IKEA. ‘It’s easy-ish to be right,’ she said, ‘but not easy to be right and interesting.’ Her work with Kemi Anthony sought to build on everyday truths and how to make them that bit more wonderful.

Host and founder of The Fawnbrake Collective Amelia Torode summed up the day with the observation that ‘in a world of misinformation, it’s imperative to make the truth interesting.’

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

‘I’m never comfortable when I feel comfortable,’ said IKEA’s Kemi Anthony. ‘I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve presented work and thought shit I might get the sack for this … but fuck it, let’s do it.’ Kemi’s attitude was one shared and returned to throughout the day.

Straying outside of her comfort zone led to Mitch Oliver producing the most successful Maltesers advert in 10 years. One of the most talked-about campaigns of last summer, the Maltesers ads featured disabled actors sharing a series of funny anecdotes. The campaign defines success, doubling Mitch’s sales and brand affinity targets. Made specifically to air during the Paralympics in September 2016, the ads are still on television now.

The irony of some comfort zones is that they are of great discomfort to others – becoming resistant to change or new, more relevant interpretations. Speaking alongside Mitch on our diversity panel was Nadiya Powell, founder of Utopia and The Great British Diversity Experiment. Nadiya talked about her campaign #ChristmasSoWhite. ‘For 25 years, we’ve been taking pictures of white families celebrating Christmas.’ The comfort zone here was about what we saw as a ‘normal’ Christmas owing to the way it dominated image searches and how that was systemically racist. #ChristmasSoWhite was about tearing the misrepresentation of this comfort zone down, and to start building a more accurate culture through imagery.

Talking about his work with Marina Haydn from The Economist, Sense’s Nick Adams implored people to ‘find something discomforting’. A key part of Sense’s campaign to pair The Economist’s thought-provoking content with real world experiences was insect ice cream, showing how bugs provide a protein-rich alternative to meat. The queue for scoops of chocolate with grasshopper at BITE LIVE was testament to how discomfort can be an immersive way to get people thinking about things differently.

Good Company

Host Amelia Torode said one of the messages she took away from the day was ‘don’t think about role models. Think of yourselves as pace makers.’ Referring to Nike’s #BREAKING2 campaign, we should set the pace for those who are coming up behind us.

James and Tom made no secret of how crucial their friendship was to getting them through every one of those 3000 miles at sea. They explained how the person you go on these adventures with will be the greatest decision you’ll make.

‘I feel like we’re more friends than client and agency,’ was the sentiment shared between Mr President’s Laura Jordan Bambach and Stonewall’s Lucy Abell. Working in such close proximity on a campaign that looks to strike at people’s minds and hearts, rather than their wallet, means such good company was essential to Come Out for LGBT.

Katie Mackay and Kemi Anthony equally heralded the importance of a good relationship when it came to IKEA and Mother producing great work. ‘It means there’s a shared knowledge,’ Katie said. ‘It feels like we’re one team and a risk is one we take together.’ Whilst Josh Bullmore added how ‘that sort of trust is essential. It’s something I believe people should strive for.’

As well as brands and agencies, it’s as much about the company of ideas. Good ones will work well together, as MARS UK’s Mitch Oliver explained: ‘I’ve found a sweet spot where rather than keep my job and beliefs separate, I can bring the two together.’

As someone from outside of the industry, Jude Kelly offered a unique perspective on what it is we do. ‘You are totally involved in contemporary culture making. The images that come into our houses every day tell us we have permission to think of a different world. You have more power in your hands than you realise.’

Jude said how in years to come we all of us want to look back on our lives and reflect on making a difference, and not simply say we took some good photos of food for Instagram. It’s transforming our insights into action that proves the difficulty. The stories we hear – whether of rowers, or directors, of entrepreneurs, or charities – help us to do this. Through inspiration and encouragement.

The last of host Amelia Torode’s observations was how ‘we can change culture through stories.’ Whether stories told through products or through people, BITE LIVE brought us together to hear them, and to give us all the inspiration to tell our own.

View the hightlights

To see the highlights please click here

Related Tags