Big groups could do well by following CPB’s lead

I had the great privilege last week to judge Coley Porter Bell’s Blue Sky Awards, its in-house ideas competition to stimulate creativity across the consultancy’s entire team. Everyone at CPB, directors apart, can enter the annual award, now in its sixth year, by proposing a quest they’d like to undertake that fulfils a personal passion, while having a benefit for the consultancy.

Congratulations are due on this occasion to CPB designer John Paul Hunter, whose desire to be an ‘overnight sensation’ won top prize of £2000 plus two extra weeks’ holiday to carry out his quest. Now Hunter has the opportunity to realise his dream of living the celebrity life in London for a day, with his own film crew and paparazzi in tow, as he makes his way from venue to venue acting every inch a star.

Self-styled vinyl junkie Joel Pearce won the £250 second prize for an idea to investigate the dying art of vinyl disc production and Jade Aloof was awarded £150 third prize, having proposed being blindfolded for two weeks to understand what it is like to be blind in a world of highly visual brands.

Apart from making the team very happy, the CPB team gets to witness Hunter reinventing himself as a brand. It will get an insight into the lifestyle that people aspire to when they buy certain brands, and both he and his employer have the chance of a bit of national media coverage if they pitch it right. It’s all good stuff.

CPB isn’t alone in having in-house awards. Other consultancies – such as Enterprise IG – have prize-schemes, though Enterprise IG’s awards are based on real projects going through the studio. But it isn’t that common, yet is such a good way of getting the creative juices flowing and identifying personal passions.

In both these instances, the consultancy bosses remain aloof, acting as judges. But how can they include themselves in similarly inspiring exercises?

An established way for senior creatives to do that is to get involved in judging creative awards. However small the awards scheme, the experience of working alongside your peers is always stimulating.

But perhaps conglomerates like WPP Group – which owns CPB and Enterprise IG – Omnicom Group and Interpublic Group could take a leaf out of CPB’s book and run an ideas scheme for their top people. Most of these groups have regular get-togethers across the globe and run top-level brainstorms, but rarely make the process personal in the way that Blue Sky does.

Imagine what really fires up WPP stalwarts Dave Allen and Sam Sampson, or Paul Stead, chairman of Fitch Worldwide? What would they do with £2000 and two weeks’ free time to spend it? We’d love to know.

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