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Behind the Scenes - Alliances Adaptathon

Behind the Scenes - Alliances Adaptathon
Paul Simonet, Creative Strategy Director at Imagination, talks about the agency's role in the IPA's ADAPTATHON, a hackathon-style innovation lab.

It was earlier this year that Janet Hull from the IPA asked if Imagination could support the President’s agenda at the IPA. We were glad to say yes and I was keen to find out what use we could be.

The launch of Ian’s ADAPT agenda at the Waldorf was really the day things started to come to life for me. Ian’s speech articulating the need to ADAPT was clear simple and persuasive (even if the acronym has changed around a bit since then).

The films featuring members of the client council were a real breath of fresh air and marked the professional seriousness of the agenda. It is easy to be at an ad agency event and be a bit cynical about the cosiness and the self aggrandising, but the ADAPT approach felt bold, even a bit subversive of the status quo. A lot of the people in the room were going to find this challenging.

Challenging was really the theme we picked up on in the project workshops that followed. Jon, Ian’s strategic colleague from Chime, known for his single-minded thinking and no-bullsh*t attitude, joined our session.

It was at that first workshop that the basic ADAPTATHON™ approach came into being. We decided that a punchy ‘information, provocation, inspiration and action’ approach was the way to go. I think we all got very excited by the idea of persuading the industry to ‘hack’ a number of experiments to explore the ADAPT agenda. Not talk but do.

It didn’t take us very long to agree that the ADAPT programme would have to walk and talk differently to the rest of the IPA agenda. So we would need to develop a logo and identity that felt fresh and playful to get across a new way of thinking.

In that first session or two we covered a lot of ground that has been the basic platform for the approach ever since.

The development of the colourful logo, the flexible identity and the animal characters happened very fast and was lots of fun. I am not sure there would have been too many offices in Belgravia where it was so hotly debated whether a squid or a spider was a more correct expression of diversification. I am very fond of the penguin adapted with jet engines, but the cheetah and giraffe in the boat are my favourite. Is it only me that thinks it’s slightly menacing?

Once we had got the logos and the basic principles agreed, it was time for Imagination to take a back seat and let the magic of the IPA as an association do its work. The approach to the programme was shared at Cannes and Paul, Ian, Janet and the team set about canvassing support on all sides.

I think the first subject, Alliances, took a lot of careful management. The programme needs a fresh and honest take but there could be no sense of biting the hand that feeds.

I think the achievement of the first ADAPTATHON™ was not so much to cover new ground but to look at alliances between agencies and clients with a new honesty and a new tone.

In the short time available to pull the event together, I think the whole thing went off exceptionally well on the day. Evan Davis was a stroke of genius. A man who has held together when his presentation tech goes wrong in front of millions wasn’t even vaguely phased by a slowly loading iPad.

The level of interaction in the groups was great. Some of the team had been a bit nervous I think, but I have never underestimated your average agency and client’s ability to talk and debate.

I will be fascinated to see which agencies and clients have got the balls to use some of the bright ideas discussed. I am sure those small things could make a massive difference. I think the first event has proved that the whole agenda and approach have merit and will prove a big draw.

Roll on D for Diversification…now that will take some ADAPTing to!

Last updated 10/10/2013

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