Jo Chappel, Head of Creativity at Fever, cut her teeth at the Red Consultancy working on the launches of Xbox and Xbox 360 before moving to Frank PR to add some creative spark to BlackBerry and npower. She then moved to Fever and took on the agency’s first non-client facing role dedicated to driving a creative culture and delivering creative support to new business and existing clients such as Sky, PlayStation and HTC. As part of her remit Jo runs regular consumer trends workshops and has developed and rolled out Fever’s own bespoke creative toolkit containing techniques and tools to unlock insights and shake up the traditional brainstorm model.
Can you talk us through the last ‘big idea’ that you developed, Jo?
The one that springs to mind was the Oxo Tower Takeover for the launch of PlayStation 4 last November. The brief was to deliver a launch campaign that would help PlayStation win the next generation console war. Our strategy was to tap into PlayStation’s huge cultural cache and remind fans why they loved PlayStation. We started the creative process by inviting PlayStation superfans into the office and ran a number of insight groups with them: at Fever we believe that great ideas come from really good insight.
When asking the fans about the really emotive things about the brand that they loved, one thing that kept coming up was the power of the PlayStation symbols, which led us to wonder what we could do with the symbols that would be disruptive, that felt inherently PlayStation and create a big cultural moment. We came up with the idea of replacing the historic lettering on the Oxo Tower with the iconic PlayStation circle, cross, square and triangle symbols. We then worked closely with Curb Media and Manning Gottlieb, who had had similar thoughts, to make it happen. The idea has just picked up a PR Week and PRCA Award and, crucially, achieved what it set out to which was to beat XBox in Christmas sales.
But it’s not all about big-scale ideas. Another one I’m proud of was a simple idea we came up with to launch a Sky Sports day pass for NOW TV over the Easter weekend. We had to come up with an idea in a short space of time strong enough to stand out during the busy Easter period so we stripped the brief down to its most simple components – what is synonymous with Easter and Sky Sports? By distilling the brief to this single-minded challenge we came up with the idea of matching lambs with football and put on the first ever game of lamb football. We knew it would work as we could pitch it in a single sentence – a good litmus test for an idea – and it created great visual content.
What is your vision of PR utopia, in terms of creativity?
As an industry built on ideas we need to invest in developing creativity as a skill. I believe that creativity is not innate, it’s not something you’re born with; it needs to be nurtured and practised. I’m very keen that my role, which is the first ever dedicated creative role at Fever, helps to build the team’s confidence in their creativity. We want to get everyone to believe that they can be creative, but I also think it’s our job to give our team the time and resources to do that, to encourage them to be culturally curious.
I’d like to see PR agencies take the creative lead with their counterparts, to be briefed alongside the ad agencies, so that our role is less about PR-ing existing ideas. It’s really encouraging to see this starting to happen as the lines between disciplines are becoming more blurred as clients are increasingly looking for big channel-neutral ideas.
In what ways are you developing creativity within the team already?
One new initiative we’ve launched this year is a ‘Culture Vulture’ programme, which is a bit like a bursary fund where we allocate funds for staff to explore interesting cultural events, whether that’s a big show at the Royal Academy, an edgy exhibition or even an underground comedy show. The exchange is that they then share their experiences with the rest of the agency as creative stimulus and through our regular trends workshops and weekly trends alerts.
Content creation is seen as the biggest area in which creative thinking is needed. What is the ‘secret sauce’ for creating compelling content?
That’s the thing we’re all trying to answer, I think. There’s lots of research out there that attempts to analyse what makes content great: is it entertaining, is it educational, is it personal, does it give you something exclusive to share?
I think PR practitioners are in a really good place for creating compelling content because we’re used to creating stories from nothing. We have a very simple test which we call the ‘Who gives a fuck?’ factor. Put simply, does this piece of content deserve anyone’s time? Is anyone going to care and, crucially, share it?
The content we’re making for the brands we work with needs to be good enough to compete against film trailers, music videos, ads and user-generated content. Our job is to manage the tension between getting across the brand message and creating content that the audience really does give a fuck about. We’re looking to brands like Coca-Cola and IKEA as leaders in creating consistently brilliant content.
If you could only change one thing to improve creativity either at Fever or the wider industry, what would it be?
I’d like to see more people from different backgrounds. There are still a lot of people in PR agencies who have been on a similar journey to get here; they’ve been to university, they’ve got an English or media or PR degree. Within that group there are obviously a lot of different personalities, but it’s really exciting to think that you can bring in people from different disciplines like design, art, film, to bring fresh thinking in. I think diversification is important if we want new ideas.
Your brain can get locked into particular ways of thinking, which is why we use a lot of divergent thinking exercises, and we’re big on getting out of the office and running creative sessions in different places. We also bring in external experts in different fields to take part in creative sessions with us, whether that’s a journalist or a script writer or someone from one of our sister agencies in the Creston group.
What do you think the PR agency of five years’ time will look like in terms of creativity?
I think the PR agency in 2019 will look virtually unrecognisable from today. Agencies that have traditionally been focused on PR will continue to bring in different specialisms across planning, strategy, innovation, technology and digital and merge with other agencies to form integrated agencies. This means that PR creatives will have more exposure to other disciplines and new ways of creative thinking which is really exciting. The industry might be radically changing, but the agencies that thrive will be the ones that put brilliant creativity at their heart.