Making your ideas travel

Linda Green, Director of Leading Creative Talent, works with top industry leaders to identify new creative strategy and deliver ground-breaking ideas. She asks five leading experts behind the UK’s most well-travelled ideas how they discover, format and market globe-trotting brands.

Kate Phillips
Head of Formats, BBC Worldwide

IT’s not the right idea, it’s the right idea at the right time

The line that there are ‘no bad ideas’ is nonsense. There are 100’s of bad ideas, I’ve had many of them but you should never be afraid to voice them as they can kick-start different discussions and new ideas evolve as a result. Anyone working in development will have dozens of stories about the idea that got away, how I had that idea years ago that is now a huge success.  And that’s the key.  It’s not about the right idea, it’s about the right idea at the right time.  Also there is a danger in creative industries to over complicate ideas, the best most successful formats are the simple ones. Multiple format points often evolve in production with excellent execution over several series, but in the first instance, the sell, is all about having a core clear concept, and a unique USP. For example, at Mast Media we had great success with the hidden camera show Oblivious with the strap line ‘the game show you don’t know you’re playing’.

Denny Tu
Head of Planning and Strategy, SKY

DON’T BE PRESCRIPTIVE, TRUST GUT-BASED CREATIVE LEAPS OF FAITH

I lead the UK’s biggest broadcaster, in-house creative agency; we have a mammoth task of delivering an incredible amount of advertising and promotion from over 300 people!

Creative & brand leadership is at the heart of what we do at Sky, really putting customers at the heart of everything. As a commercially minded FTSE 100 company, we must always balance our commercial focus (testing the shit out of everything) with creative instincts, those ‘gut based’ leaps of faith. A piece of work you just know makes you feel something. For example, on Game of Thrones this past year we had mountains of data and research but as fans of the show, our instincts were to put the characters in the heart of the campaign with bold messaging to bring to life one of the most epic dramas on the planet. Our instincts were right and we delivered both audience growth and some of the best numbers since launch.

ENCOURAGE CREATIVES TO LOOK IN THE ‘INTERESTING DARK CORNER’

We need to always remind ourselves that creative teams have 95% of their ideas rejected on a daily basis; they therefore respond to positive feedback, not negative directionality. At Sky, when we feedback on ideas it’s not about cutting down great metaphoric branches of their ideas; instead we encourage them to look at the bud that needs more light, or to look in the ‘interesting dark corner’ in the room that nobody else is looking at.

Mike Carr
Sports Editor, BBC Radio 5 Live

FIND YOUR VOICE AND PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTHS

Since we set up BBC Sport’s Social media team in May 2013, we’ve gone from 3.1m fans and followers to 19.3m. And as we keep learning about our platforms, we develop new ways to tell our stories; so that more of our content is seen by more people, more of the time. It has not been easy. As a long-form journalist myself, I understand the reticence to adopt a digital journalistic style over a well sculpted piece, but it’s even harder to ignore the rising importance of modular, digital, story-telling.

Ultimately it’s about getting your great content out there. It’s about identifying what content plays to your strengths and finding ways that work for you. At BBC Sport, we’ve found that it’s important to focus on finding your voice; what makes you unique and distinctive in your market. In September 2014, BBC Sport’s Social Media content changed from being similar to the website to a new, more relevant tone: with a warm, witty, emotive and succinct voice. By May 2015, referrals had increased from 2.9m to 29.1m!

Fin Kennedy
Artistic Director, Tamasha Theatre Company

ENCOURAGE DIVERSITY IN YOUR TALENT

The success of East is East has shown that the UK’s uniquely diverse talent can create work that resonates abroad. I’m passionate about driving the crossover of Asian culture into British and global mainstream and that has led me to put a lot of focus on developing new talent.

At Tamasha, we have various schemes for developing new, diverse talent and ideas such as Tamasha Playwrights, a year-long pilot scheme for new writers, a great ‘nursery’ for new talent. We have also provided a range of new platforms for ideas including: ‘Schoolwrights’, playwrights-in-schools training, ‘Taxi Tales’ where cabbies perform in cars and ‘Tamasha Radio’ which are our online podcast dramas.

The greatest challenge in an age of austerity is still attracting the large co-Production and funding needed to invest in writers and their ideas. However, at Tamasha we are also acutely aware that in order to maintain a vibrant, diverse and culturally rich creative industry, we must be more proactive and deliberate in supporting and allowing access to the profession for the UK’s BAME and working class talent.

Lisa Chapman
MD, Whizz Kid Entertainment

THREE KILLER INGREDIENTS: THE KILLER FORMAT, TITLE & PACKAGING

When Caroline Roseman in our development team came up with the concept for Ex on the Beach, we all knew straight away that there was something special in the format because of the wide demographic of people in the room that it appealed to.  Whatever age group, whether you’re gay, straight, single or not, we’ve all got ex’s. It’s a universal.  And what’s the worst that could happen with your ex?  Well, what’s worse than sitting on a beach on holiday when you see them walk over, trapped with nowhere to escape to! We knew then that we had the makings of a killer format.  A format that was so simple that you could describe it in one sentence and everyone just got it.

We originally pitched it with a different title and it didn’t get away in the UK or the US but then quite a few months later we resurrected it, hit upon the title ‘Ex on the Beach’ and re-pitched it.  The killer title tipped it over the line for us; it was really then that Steve Regan from MTV really got the show and took the commission forward.

We also had to consider MTV’s core audience of 16-34 year olds.  It’s all in the packaging for this audience: the casting, the look, the social media activity and how MTV launched the series with a global play day across its network.  Now in its third series, the latest series of Ex on the Beach was the highest rating so far: growing by 17% in numbers, and 23% growth in share, of 16-34 year olds. It proves that the format is still going strong. Though we do have some surprises lined up for the next series to keep people on their toes!