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November 14 2018

PHD’s BrainScape 2018 Roundup


Creative experts will explore the new relationship between computing power and human imagination to achieve true genius.


The recently concluded ninth edition of BrainScape, PHD UAE’s annual thought-leadership conference, made a strong case for creativity as the real differentiator in this tech age of marketing. Over the years, technology and data have taken such a prominence in brands’ marketing strategies and activities that marketers now rank “making interactions more human” on top of a CMO’s priorities. This highlights the increasing reliance on technology and data that some describe as a form of hypnosis.

Over 350 marketing and media professionals attended the event staged at Fairmont The Palm. In his opening words, Luca Allam, PHD UAE’s MD, explained that technology has dominated the marketing conversation for years and while much good has come from it, it needs rebalancing with human creativity to truly deliver on its promise. Computing intelligence can manage micro-decisioning but human intelligence needs to prevail for strategic, creative and resource decisions.

PHD invited five international speakers to dissect, analyse and share ways to stimulate and capitalize on creativity and divergent thinking: Chase Jarvis, award-winning photographer, entrepreneur and founder of CreativeLive; Dr Michael Bloomfield, anthropologist and creative expert; Freek-Jan Ronner and Joost Minnaar, co-founders of Corporate Rebels; and Cheuk Chiang, former CEO of Omnicom Media Group APAC.

Like literacy in previous centuries, creativity has the power to elevate us all and allow us to operate at a higher level. Jarvis empathized that creativity is in all of us, whatever our profession or role, and, like a muscle, can be trained. He presented 10 ways to do this effectively.

This notion of creativity as a language that can be learned is also the base of Dr Michael Bloomsfield’s research and work. Having explained how the ‘new’ works in both creators and consumers, demonstrating the tangible value of creativity, he explained how it can be measured, developed through cognitive training and decoded. To him, creativity has to be new, valuable and counter-intuitive. “A study of 437 ad campaigns for FMCG brands showed that counter-intuitiveness has the biggest impact on actual buying behavior,” he commented.

Counter-intuitive work structures have also been found to stimulate engagement among employees and, subsequently, creativity and innovative thinking. While the UAE are in line with global averages, only 16% of employees say they are engaged. To improve this, Freek-Jan Ronner explained there are eight approaches, three of which have been found to enhance creativity and innovation: supportive leadership, freedom and trust, and radical transparency.

Empowered to use alternative thinking and freed up by machines that will do the heavy lifting, marketers will deliver higher levels of creativity and bring our humanity back into the equation, notably through storytelling. “The focus on performance reduces the interaction down to a transaction. To make it more human, we must build emotion back in. Machines are not the best at that yet, and human sensitivity, backed by insights drawn from data, is the best source,” Cheuk Chiang explained.

“This year’s focus was a fascinating change from our previous BrainScapes, which were driven by technology. As Chase [Jarvis] said, now is the riskiest time to play safe and be like machines,” Luca Allam added. “Creativity is what makes us humans and to discount it because it appears intangible or subjective would be a mistake. We want to strengthen our audience’s trust in creative thinking and entice them to be brave, curious, inclusive and actively make a plan to push boundaries. Ultimately, that’s where growth will come from.”

This year’s edition of BrainScape was powered by MMP Worldwide, a leader in the programmatic advertising space across the globe, connecting premium publishers and media buyers through automated online auctions and private marketplaces. The company has recently expanded out of MENA into international markets to support global players with sophisticated programmatic services.

Check out the conference highlights here or in the video above.

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