Brands must step back from their explicit Big-God behaviour”; “we must embrace Web 3.0 with the imagination of a creator and the heart of an activist” to enable full adoption of System 3 thinking; and “we must embrace the non-binary world or be forever doomed to certainty.”
These are some of the bold, visionary provocations of the three Special Prize winners of the IPA’s most highly regarded industry qualification, the IPA Excellence Diploma in Brands. The results were announced following 10 intensive, mentored months of study, written submissions, TED-style talks and Vivas, and some of the work is now available for the industry to access.
In total, the leading industry judging panel awarded 12 Diplomas, including seven Upper Credits and five Credits to: Isabelle Bale, M&C Saatchi; Grant Beckley, OMD UK; Ruth Corrigan, UM Worldwide; Mark Gibbs, formerly Wunderman Thompson; Lisa Gulley, Red Brick Road; Alex Hurley, JAA; Lysette Jones, Hearts&Science; Ross Newell, mSix&Partners; Sofia Pires, Freelance Strategist; Emily Rich, Wavemaker; Tom Wanek, WAY·NIK Works; and Zdeňka Zlatušková, dentsu (international).
In addition, the three Special Prizes were chosen by IPA President Julian Douglas, BBH Co-Founder John Bartle, Electric Glue Founding Partner Nick Kendall and IPA Excellence Diploma Co-Chairs Sera Holland and Amelia Torode. They are:
Sofia’s body of work includes a 3,500-word essay, entitled 'System 3 will bring us to our senses' with accompanying TED-style talk, in which she argues that 'In the near future, we’ll be able to connect our brains directly to external computers, speeding up our thinking and decision process.' This is something she names System 3: the artificial intelligence we access to help us solve problems and augment our intelligence, which is an evolution to Daniel Kahneman’s System 1 and 2 theory (2012). Drawing on the work and thoughts of Kurzweil, McLuhan, Plato, Musk and more to inform her thesis, alongside citing examples of IKEA, Apple and others, Pires argues: 'I believe System 3 can bring us to our senses because it frees up System 1 from the weight of a fast response. It allows our System 1 to sense the world as we could not do before. To feel brands and products in a more human and primal and visceral way. With all ourselves. With all our senses.'
Her portfolio also includes her opinion piece 'Real life is killing us, but Web 3.0 might save us all' which makes a rallying cry to invest in the power of Web 3.0. to save our planet, arguing that 'Only in the metaverse it is possible for brands to reduce production and still increase consumption.'
Commenting on the President’s Prize for Outstanding Body of Work, Julian Douglas said: "I enjoyed all the assignments that I read. They were thought-provoking, took on big complex challenges and reminded me how lucky we are to work in an industry with such clever and ambitious people. The body of work that stood out to me as a massive call to action for the industry was Sofia’s."
Sofia's opinion piece on how Web 3.0 could save us all and her essay on System 3 thinking are both rallying cries for acceleration in the ad industry and how we must harness the opportunities provided by new technologies to tackle not just the issues facing businesses, but more broadly, society at large – very much in the spirit of my 10X agenda!
Emily was awarded The John Bartle Prize for Best 'I Believe' essay for her thesis 'From Big-Gods to Demigods: Why brands need to stop acting as a moral North star and instead exhibit a divine spark'.
Throughout the comprehensive paper, she argues that brands need to step back from acting like Big-Gods. According to Rich, 'by adopting the attitude of moral North Star, brands have leant into displaying lofty purpose-leading, agenda setting, behaviour dictating and holier-than-thou behaviours that simply aren’t welcome.' She goes on to propose that brands should instead become demigods - those who walk among humans but exhibit the divine spark – and outlines three accompanying behaviours for brands to achieve this: instilling awe; elevating the every-day: and lightening the mood.
Says John Bartle, Co-Founder, BBH: "We chose this for the essay prize as it is full of both cautionary words and of good advice for brands: things always to be heeded but never more so than in tough, pressured times. And things easily forgotten.
"It’s an essay about getting the brand/consumer interface right and the dangers of brands elevating their own importance, taking themselves too seriously, at the expense of real consumer understanding and experience. It’s a well-argued case, with excellent examples, for subtlety, lightness of touch and getting the balance right.
When we award this prize we look for the boldness and originality of the challenge, for the crucial balance between analysis and action. And for presentation quality. Emily’s essay scored highly on all of this. A very worthy winner.
Within Isabelle’s essay, as part of her portfolio, she argues that “we must all embrace the non-binary world or be forever doomed to certainty. This is crucial for our planning, audiences, relationships, creative work and results. But more importantly, she argues, it will benefit ourselves and our worlds. Throughout her essays she asks three crucial questions: “Firstly - what type of work do you want to make? Do you want to produce simplistic, binary work with results that provide false certainty? Or do you want to bring the full spectrum into culture? Secondly, what type of world do you want to live in? A world that enforces painful cognitive dissonance and openly attacks minorities? Or one that celebrates the freedom and clarity of a non-binary reality? Finally, the most important question. What type of human being are you? For which she draws on the experiences of Alan Turing to answer.
Commenting on the award, Sera Holland and Amelia Torode said: "We are delighted to award the Chairs Prize for Attitude and Inspiration to Isabelle Bale. Izzy's work on the Diploma has been exemplary - clear-sighted and forward thinking."
This prize is given to award a person who we feel has best used the support of the Diploma to move thinking and ideas on. We can't wait to see what she does next and how her thinking can move into the mainstream of our industry.
Additional to the Special Prizes, Lysette Jones of Hearts&Science received a distinction for her comprehensive 3,500-word essay, in which she argues her belief that there is a widening gap between accepted principles of brand building, specifically creating fame and salience, and the practicalities of how we do that in the modern landscape. This increasing division, she asserts, is most felt by smaller brands, who find conventional wisdom challenging to implement and are at risk of stagnation and failure. Furthermore, she cautions that if we do not take steps to understand how small brands can break through the hold that big brands have over them, then as citizens we will continue to be vulnerable to monopolistic behaviour and big business agendas. In her thorough discussion, she analyses what fame means in a modern context; explores the implications for small brands; and examines how small brands can aim for fame and what it takes.