Creative Disruptors: What went down at our summer conference


On a sunny autumnal day in September, our London team headed to Syon Park for our annual summer conference, which this year was focused on the theme of ‘Creative Disruptors.’ We heard from meme experts, social media icons, daring directors and sporting stars, all of whom are ripping up the rulebook, subsequently becoming creative disruptors. Have a read about what we learned on the day.

Bruce Daisley on Deconstructing Disruption
Recapped by Managing Partner, Lucy Doubleday

Bringing over 10 years experience of running Twitter & YouTube in EMEA, and now one of the UK’s most influential voices on workplace culture, Bruce Daisley kicked the day off with his talk on ‘Deconstructing Disruption’ – these were my take-outs:

What can I learn today? Bruce kickstarted the session by telling the incredible story of Captain Chelsey Sully Sullenberger. He had had 208 seconds between the discovery of a fault in his plane and the aircraft hitting the water. Bruce shared this example as an extreme case of people doing better when they have ‘learning goals’ vs ‘performance goals’, and how different your day feels when you ask yourself ‘what can I learn today’?

Curiosity was a key subject matter that Bruce touched on. In research conducted by Francesca Gina for Harvard, out of a survey of 3000 employees, only 24% said they felt curious about their job on a regular basis. 92% credited curious people with bringing new ideas into teams and organisations and viewed curiosity as a catalyst for job satisfaction, motivation, innovation, and high performance.

So how can we maintain a successful workplace culture? This is where Bruce referenced the VASA model, comprised of voice, affiliation, space and articulation.

Voice: The sense that people feel able to express their thoughts & feel heard. Make sure people feel comfortable in their surroundings so they can ask questions/present alternatives – give them psychological safety.

Affiliation: It might feel ‘awkward’, but often high-performing teams use words like ‘family’ or ‘love’ when we feel connected to the people around us. When we feel part of a group it is hugely elevating. Affiliation is really us all being in it together.

Space: Our daily lives are bombarded with messages & deadlines, to allow ourselves time to be curious & learn, we need space. Moments in the day that aren’t filled with expectations from ourselves or others. 

Articulation: Successful teams have a set of rules/behaviours that define how they act. A couple of examples Bruce shared: Mark Zuckerberg’s ‘Move fast & break things’ in the early days of Facebook to encourage new product design, and the All Blacks have ‘No Dickheads’. Their belief is that no one is bigger than the team and individual brilliance does not automatically lead to outstanding results. One selfish mindset will infect a collective culture.

Concluding the session, Bruce highlighted how the most successful organisations are at least 50% female (not sure of Bruce’s source here). 54% of the We Are Social team in London identify as female. Thanks to Bruce for such a fantastic, and insightful session. 

Memes: the most important silly thing on the internet
As recapped by Executive Editorial Director, Charlie Cottrell

They are the most shared content on the internet, but it’s easy to disregard memes as digital fluff that brighten up the bleaker bits of life. Whether it’s the daily grind, your football team’s shocking result, or the ongoing political clown-show, there’s always a meme to raise a smile. Step back a bit though and with a macro look, memes take on a more significant role. 

As part of our summer conference, I chaired a panel of undisputed meme experts who shared their perspective on how and why memes are shaping culture, from niche lols to the global political stage. Doctoral researcher at Birbeck University Of London, Hannah Barton gave us the academic perspective about memes – how they exploded in the internet age, how to understand the half-life of the joke and why communities use memes to self-identify and gatekeep their own culture. She shared the stage with Reni Adebayo, social media manager for BBC Three who talked about how brands can (and should) use memes as a way to build relevance with their audiences.

 Completing the meme-lord lineup was the creator behind No Context Brits, who gave us an insight into his incredibly creative meme-generating mind, so perfectly tuned into the cultural zeitgeist that he regularly goes ‘viral’ with newspapers and celebrities alike hanging on his every post. It was an eye-opening and entertaining reframe of the most stupid serious thing on the internet.

All-round maker of things: Anthony Rubenstein
Recapped by Executive Creative Director, Simon Richings

I spoke to a Creative Disruptor who’s all about craft – Anthony Rubinstein, the Director that we worked with on the spectacular Camila Cabello film for Pepsi. Anthony isn’t a typical filmmaker. He’s an engineering graduate turned, in his own words, general content ninja, VFX artist, and all-round maker of things. 

Anthony took us through how he prepared for the Pepsi shoot, from his influences and creation of the initial treatment, to getting to work with ‘best in the business’ specialists, including drone experts and animators.

We talked about what it means for him to be a creator and part of a community of filmmakers that are teaching themselves new techniques and generously sharing their experiments and successes in social – leading to film craft advancing quicker, and quicker. The Oppo Phone spirograph film showed Anthony’s flair for invention and behind-the-scenes stories – physics, light and an old bike frame combined to create beautiful visuals. His engineering degree project – the Brektech Wafflestation – revealed the first time his twin passions of art and science came together (Can we build a better waffle maker? Maybe. Can we make a cool film about the attempt? 100%).

We also talked about messing around with 360° cameras, making drones float, the horizontal versus vertical debate, and artificial intelligence. And if that wasn’t enough, we finished with his moving and award-winning lockdown film, There’s Something Going Around. A huge thank you to Anthony for packing so much inspiring craft into 45 minutes.

Shout out to all the sports fans | a panel
Recapped by Joe Weston, Head of Sport

At our annual summer conference I was fortunate enough to host an amazing panel titled ‘Shout out to all the sports fans’. Joining me on the panel were Mo Mooncey aka Hoop Genius, Lipa Nessa – a sports activist, and Mayowa Quadri – Editorial Lead for Versus. 

The premise of the panel was to dig into the growing disconnect between the people running sport, and the next generations coming through. Over time we’ve seen report after report showing a decline in both interest and participation in sport. Obviously this is a major issue facing the people running sport and it often leads to poor decision making, with discussions about changing the nature of sports itself coming to the fore a la the European Super League. 

However, more often than not, the issues are down to poor communication and a lack of understanding of audiences. Something our panel certainly do not struggle with.

Moving onto the chat itself, we discussed the panel’s perspectives on those declining figures, what the panel’s biggest achievements to date have been, what the biggest opportunities in sport are right now, how and when brands get it wrong, and if they themselves could change one thing, what would they change? 

The energy and enthusiasm on the panel was infectious. We heard brilliant stories of what made the panelists get into sport (often overcoming some pretty significant personal barriers), as well 

In terms of key takeaways, for me it was clear that there is a huge optimism and energy that exists at the grassroots level to affect change. One thing that linked all panelists was an understanding that new audiences have new interests and new media habits, dominated by digital technology. As Mayowa eloquently stated ‘interests are diversifying. People still love and adore football, but their interests go beyond the results’. 

It became clear that sport can do so much more to understand the changing digital behaviour and shifting consumer expectations of the next generations and that it’s only by paying close attention that you can stay at the cutting edge of sport.