The Science of Creativity - How to Create Innovative, Branded Content, Programming Properties


TWEED GUEST EXPERT is a series of posts authored by industry experts to introduce various perspectives on the branded entertainment industry.

As our Chairwoman’s report for the WPP Annual Report and Accounts for 2008 stated that ‘creativity is the very soul of our business’, I thought that the subject of creativity and the persistent pursuit of it would be a good topic for my first Tweed blog.

In the UK recently, Rory Sutherland took me along to talk to a group of companies (majority of the audience was made up of programme makers and creators) that comprise the innovative All Three Media Group. We were there to discuss brands and the opportunity for funding for branded programme making.

It was my brief to explain how agencies can work in tandem with them to create innovative, branded content programming properties. One of the many key points that came out of the day was that in terms of the creative process, it is highly advantageous for both sides to begin talking as soon as possible. We need to establish an ongoing dialogue so that we can develop innovative programming content in tune with a brand’s strategy and then in turn work together on the distribution strategy. Whilst it may seem obvious to us agency types, apparently this situation was an eye opener for All Three Media.

One of the most salient points to emerge was that you have to embrace risk to truly succeed in creating the winning formula. Ideally you have to be not only brave but also doggedly persistent as a lot of new ideas are developed on a speculative basis. Some might say that it is sometimes hard to keep being creatively upbeat, and work speculatively when you also have to ensure that you responsibly follow the money.

On the other hand some might quote the old adage ‘that necessity is the mother of invention’.  With invention in mind I was interested to see that this week’s New Scientist, recently ran an impressive article on how to capitalize on your creativity whilst still ‘feeling the pinch.’


 Here is a quick overview of the piece, embellished with some comments from yours truly.
1) Embrace Your Inner Growth
Apparently, friction within a company can provide creativity if properly handled. A study found that the whiners in a company actually spend a significant part of their day, not only whining of course, but also ruminating on how things could be improved. 

According to New Scientist this force should not be ignored. The article suggests harnessing the creativity of erstwhile whiners and then complementing it with supportive, presumably very patient, colleagues. This can help to not only channel their discontent but also create imaginative solutions to creative problems.

Consequently it is not all about keeping the status quo but bringing a completely new meaning to Whining and Dining!

However if you do go down the route of dining the whiners, make sure that you arrange for their food to arrive at least ten minutes after yours complete with a long, stray, black hair. After all we have to ensure that we fuel their whining to keep up the creative flow.

2) Let Your Mind Wander
A study at Goldsmiths University of London has found that an unfocused brain is most likely to generate creative solutions.

A recession busting way of achieving this goal is to take a walk in the woods or if no woods are in the immediate vicinity then New Scientist suggests we take a shower.  It does not however mention if this should be alone. So in the interests of promoting a potential bonding situation –feel free to invite a guest(s).

3) Play The Piano
Music may provide more than just a brief, peaceful interlude during the downturn. Twenty students of classical music and twenty non-musicians were given one or more objects (toothbrush, dental floss etc.,) and asked to come up with alternative uses for them.
It turned out that the musicians were more creative and intriguingly scans taken during the task revealed that they not only had gleaming white teeth and fresh breath but that they used both sides of their brains. Alternatively the non-musicians had bad breath and only used the left frontal cortex.

The lesson here is to play the guitar or the piano to stimulate your inner creative genius and then use your killer smile to sail through auditions.

4) Color Your World Blue

Whilst red tends to sharpen your memory (and you thought that David Ogilvy chose red simply because it looked nice), apparently the color blue helps to unlock the imagination. (Is that why they are called blue movies?!?)

5) Two’s Creative Company
Social interaction is crucial to the development of creative ideas. Doha! That’s why we have creative teams – but how well we interact socially is another matter.

6) Live Abroad
Apparently the longer you live abroad the more likely you are to be able to solve problems. It is claimed that just thinking about time spent as an expat before engaging in a task can boost your creativity. Okay, I now know why we have so many successful, bullish South Africans currently in our agency.

7) Be More Playful
Psychiatrist Stuart Brown tells us that play not only frees up the mind but it also makes us more receptive when the unexpected happens eg: when someone dressed completely in blue approaches you waving dental floss and toothbrushes and demands that you be creative!  

Apparently play encourages a person to take reasonable risks – which leads me back to my original point that to create great branded programming ideas we have to start from a position of not being too risk adverse.  


All of this reading has now inspired me to pen a brave letter to my CEO, requesting that even though we are in midst of one of the worst recessions ever known, I now need the following to inspire me creatively; a villa abroad, a Fender Telecaster, a blue colored music room complete with games room and a double deluxe shower to aide my creative flow. 

Watch this space…


About the Author: Alex Gulland

Alex Gulland began working in the entertainment industry in 1981 with Rogers and Cowan International, working as a publicist for top artists including Elton John and Peter Ustinov and liaising with production and distribution companies like Universal and Merchant Ivory.

In the late 80’s she was a founding partner of Rogers and Cowan Entertainment, which represented brands such as Coca-Cola, Ford and Nestle Rowntree w
ithin the film and
TV industry.  

Alex next moved to an agency that was building a reputation for breaking the mould of traditional advertising – Howell Henry Chaldecott Lury & Partners.  She was made a partner and creative director of their alternative marketing department, Environment Marketing.

In the late 1990’s Alex left HHCL to set up Showcase International across six European markets, establishing relationships for brands with top production companies on high profile feature film productions such Wag The Dog, Mr Bean, Shooting Fish, Entrapment, and Bridget Jones’ Dairies.

In early 2000 Alex set up Wunjo Entertainment with Russell Jarman Price, working closely with clients such as Manchester United, TSB, Pfizer and Rolls-Royce to bring their brands to life via the medium of film – a medium now firmly established as “branded content”.  

The pair were early exploiters of the internet as a powerful distribution channel for long-form content, establishing a relationship with Intel and Microsoft that provided their clients with “first mover advantage” on the ownership of channels on the worldwide Vista network. 

Looking to expand their branded content offer, in March 2006 Alex and Russell became creative partners of what is now OgilvyEntertainment and have worked with clients including Nestle, Unilever and Ford on a wide variety of branded content projects both on and off-line.


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2 thoughts on “The Science of Creativity - How to Create Innovative, Branded Content, Programming Properties

  1. Very helpful tips. I'm an actor and writer full of ideas and these tips (like painting my screening room blue) will hopefully give me a little extra push. Gonna fix my teeth too!

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