This week Warc is covering the Spikes Asia event in Singapore, a festival for the best of the region’s creativity.

The event, which culminates in the Spikes awards ceremony, includes several days of conference, bringing together Asia’s creative industries to discuss new ideas and the best of Asian marketing.

The conference has featured topics as diverse as whether Charles Dickens would have tweeted (answer: almost certainly) and whether advertisers should think more like software developers. There’s been a lot about content, and also about participation. Dominic Proctor, GroupM President and one of the jury chairmen, guaranteed himself a few headlines by criticising Asia’s marketing industry as followers rather than leaders. “The world expects Asia to do better; to lead from here, rather than to follow,” he told an audience still bleary-eyed from the previous night’s parties, and blamed a culture of conservatism, staff turnover and the “crush” of procurement deals.

New to this year’s awards line-up is the Creative Effectiveness category (bringing the event in line with its sister event, Cannes Lions). The category’s inaugural year brought in 34 entries – not a huge total in an event with 4860 entries, but the judges I spoke to seemed happy with the quality.

Chris Thomas, Chairman of BBDO Asia and the chairman of the Creative Effectiveness jury, took to the stage on Tuesday to make the case for effective creativity.

He cited plenty of work that will be familiar to Warc users – particularly the research by Peter Field in the UK that looked at IPA Effectiveness Awards winner and how they performed in creative competitions. That research found that highly creative campaigns were 11 times more efficient at building market share than non-creative campaigns.

Thomas also pointed to Field’s findings regarding the potency of television, and the power of emotional rather than rational appeals.

And he pointed to the importance of developing powerful local insights, pointing to our very own Warc Prize for Asian Strategy (thanks Chris!). In the 2011 Prize, he noted, 23 of the 25 shortlisted entries were single-market.

Thomas praised the quality of entries to the Creative Effectiveness category. But in concluding, he made the point that the work on show was a tiny fraction of the work being produced. Too much marketing, he said, ends up looking the same.

The “inputs” into the industry, he argued, may be affecting its “outputs”. He ended with a series of questions for the industry that are worth reiterating.

  • Are agencies hiring people who can bring interesting new ideas with them? Or are they hiring “faces to fees” – people who look the part?
  • Is the industry investing enough in R&D and education?
  • Are agencies taking the lead in research techniques, or are they simply outsourcing decision-making?
  • Are agencies remunerated by results, or for the time taken to create work? The discussion about creativity and effectiveness is particularly relevant here.
  • Are agencies looking at “new practice” or “best practice”? They may need to think beyond the existing body of work to move forward.

The winners of the category will be announced at the awards ceremony tonight.

Stay tuned to Warc’s Event Reports page for further coverage from the conference.