Topping up your creative juices at the annual Emergence Creative Festival in Margaret River

Ronnie_Caroline.jpgHere's an ad festival that everyone should keep an eye on. The  Emergence Creative Festival is held in the Margaret River region of Western Australia, and it's right up there with the best of them. A packed program of entertaining presentations from inspirational speakers followed by masterclasses and workshops which all delivered real value to delegates. To be honest the speaker sessions at Emergence are overall vastly superior to what we see every year at most other ad festivals. Then there's the social side of an ad festival in the wine, music and surfing capital of Western Australia. If you are looking for a very special experience, consider attending the Festival next year, and add on a holiday in the south-west of Western Australia. Cooch Creative's Ron Samuel (pictured left with one of this year's top speakers Carolyn Miller) is a second time attendee at Emergence. Following is his wrap-up of this very successful Festival.

Day 1 - Wednesday 19th February

Emergence was back with a blast this year and it seemed that the every person in Margaret River was determined to make it a success. The workshops were held throughout the day on Wednesday and led straight into the opening night event at the Cultural Centre. The quality and diversity of the local bands and musicians was impressive and they put on a fantastic show to kick things off. The event was also open to the community who supported it whole-heartedly.
It was a great to bump into some familiar faces and make some new friends. The night continued at the Swing Taphouse with singers and musicians giving impromptu performances. There was no shortage of great talent and the night just kept getting better, which is a sure sign to check your watch. Of course no one did this.

Photo Ord 20 02 2014 1.jpgPhoto Ord 20 02 2014 2.jpgDay 2 - Thursday 20th February

Today started with the Big Bang Breakfast at The White Elephant on Gnarabup Beach. It was a stunning southwest morning and the beach looked spectacular, which was in complete contrast to most of us. The sunnies didn't come off for a long time. As always the food, service and welcome made everyone feel very special. The overseas speakers couldn't believe how beautiful the place was.

The feeling was backed up by the main seminar location at Vasse Felix. "A creative seminar in a winery where you can taste wine in-between sessions - are you serious?". Yep.

JP Bloom.jpgPJ Bloom (left), who is the musical brain behind Glee, gave the keynote presentation, moderated by 303Lowe Perth MD Al Taylor. It was a great insight into the business behind a hit musical TV show. He also gave a great example of how audiences are discovering new music via the brands they interact with and how brands can build new audiences if they think about the music as more than just a soundtrack and allow access to the story and people who create the music. Discovering, using and building audiences were a topic that ran through many of the speakers presentations.

Evan_IMG_1357sm.jpgNext up was Evan Bregman (right) from Electus in the United States and he was talking about creating online content and finding your audience. He made the point that when someone shares your content they do so because your content actually represents them. But this only works when you find the right audience. He recommended targeting a very specific audience that is underserved by traditional media.

He gave some great examples from Electus where brands were involved with online shows that were created then used as brand communication platforms with the full knowledge and participation of the audience.

The very entertaining Carolyn Miller (pictured top with Samuel) took us on a great ride through her thoughts on the Digital Democracy and what the implications are for brands and people in general. For brands it's the age of the small brand, which can be introduced to a global audience in a click. Small brands are challenging larger competitors who can easily outspend them simply because they can have presence and communicate just as effectively.

She gave the microbrewery industry as an example. This was very relevant, as most of us had oversampled some of the local brews on the previous evening. She added that any brand could now be tried and executed on the web if enough people want to have a go at them.  Carolyn also highlighted the social implications of device addiction and shared her theory that a counter trend of not sharing on social media is just around the corner

Ben Akkers.jpgThe presentation from Ben Akers, from The Republic of Everyone in Sydney, was titled 'You Can't do That'. His company believe that 'doing good is good for business' and they focus on sustainability. Ben (right) took us through a number of case studies where budgets were small but the objectives were challenging. In each case they took on the job not really knowing how they were going to do it. The asylum seeker debate was great example. The issue is a hot potato and they wanted people to see both sides of the argument so they went on a national tour with their own hot potato van. They gave away millions of hot potatoes and filmed comments from Australians around the country to raise awareness of the plight of the asylum seekers and the reasons why they come here. Ben's belief that you can do anything, if you're brave enough and willing to take a creative risk was the beginning of another thread which ran through the conference.

JonathanKneebone.jpgJonathan Kneebone from the Glue Society, Sydney decided that he wanted active participation from everyone during his presentation and creating a campaign to stop the shark cull was the best way to do this. In the hands of someone else this session could easily have descended into chaos but it didn't. Jonathan (left) set up an agency from the participants in the room, detailed the steps from research to implementation, put a time limit on each one and off we went. Credit to the art director who was pumping out the work almost instantly throughout the session. By the end of it all we did have a campaign, just like Jonathan had promised and it went live on social media, just like he said it would. Brilliant.  I think that the point that he was making here is that if you can do all of that in one hour imagine what you can do in a day, a week or a month, if you know where to start.

That evening I was fortunate enough to be invited to a very different kind of dinner hosted by the Communications Council and Fairfax. It was called a foraging dinner, a concept developed by the young entrepreneurial food folk at Fervor. It's based around sourcing natural ingredients from the bush before dinner and using them to create the dishes. It's a great idea and a great way to learn more about what we have around us. The problem was remembering it all after sampling more fine wine and beer from the region.

Surfing_1.jpgSurfing_2.jpgDay 3 - Friday 21st February

It was a 6.30am start for the Undiscipline Surf Competition. A group of enthusiastic participants showed up but the surf decided not to, probably hangover. It didn't stop us from jumping in and having a go though. Once again the high energy Josh Palmateer made sure that everyone stood up before they left the water. He must eat Energizer batteries because he just kept going and kept everyone going with his infectious energy. Those of us who could surf spent some time dropping in on each other and catching up. It was a beautiful morning and a great start to the day.

We grabbed a quick breakfast at Sea Garden in Prevelly, where I became known as "The Small Mexican", I'll tell you about that story another time.

Mark Herbert.jpgFirst up was Mark Hebert from Warp Productions in the UK. Mark and his mates have been described as the punk rockers of the British film industry and they have made some great films. They are definitely anti-establishment when it comes to filmmaking and Mark took us through the way they do great things on shoestring budgets. It was inspiring and refreshing, especially to those of us who have experienced some of the frustrations. His attitude is to go around the barriers and make the film any way you can. Mark's down to earth personality was well received by everyone and his message included the advice that you should always have fun and always have a laugh if you're going to be working that hard.

Christiaan.jpgChristiaan Van Vuuren took us through his incredible journey that started with a life threatening illness that turned into a major career change. It was amazing, serious and hilarious all at the same time. Once gain the 'just pick up a camera and make it' attitude came through loud and clear.

From the Fully Sick Rapper to Bondi Hipsters Chris shared the experience and advice on creating content that attracts an audience, which then attracts the dollars. Along with Mark this was definitely one of the highlights of festival.

EricPhu.jpgNext up was Eric Phu on User Centered marketing. Eric's wealth of experience from south East Asia gave us some valuable insights into what user centred marketing can do, if it's done properly.

I know that we rarely have the budgets to create the kind of content that Eric demonstrated in his presentation but just viewing your prospects in the way that he suggested will give a you very different perspective on how to engage them.

Glenn.jpgGlenn Bartlett (left) spends his days creating fart jokes and inappropriate humour and he's proud of it. As Creative Director of Turner International Asia Pacific he's responsible for the Cartoon Network and among other things.

Glenn took us through a lot of very funny examples to make his point that snackable content is king, short bursts that can be shared easily.

Again he also pointed out that a great deal of creative bravery is require in order to stay relevant and stay in front of the target and keep building the audience. They have a lot of lawyers.

The final session of the festival was a social media forum on destination marketing hosted by Colin Mackay-Coghill from Marketforce Perth. The panel also consisted of two other locals Ryan Malone from Blond Guerrilla and Adam Barrell from Trilogy. Both of these guys were great, they shared practical tips and advice, which the audience really appreciated.

DigitalPanel.jpgAdam did a fantastic job of explaining how to make the most of Twitter and Ryan did the same for Facebook. People came away with things that they could do immediately to improve the effectiveness of both social mediums.

Lauren Bath made everyone jealous with her job description as Australia's first Instagram professional. She goes to great places, takes great shots and puts them on Instagram and she gets paid to do it. She shared advice on how to take good shots and the most effective way of using Instagram to display them and have them viewed and shared. Like the guys, it was good practical advice. Everyone wanted her job.

Leuuwin pic.jpgThe final dinner was hosted at Leeuwin Estate and was the perfect way to wrap up the event. Fine wine and great food was shared in abundance and we all had a chance to share our experiences and thoughts about the three days.

Once again organisers, Mat Lewis and Georgia Stewart, did an amazing job of pulling it all together and attracting world-class speakers. The Perth speakers and presenters who hosted workshops were very well received by the small businesses and local business community, which gave the event a good balance. There was something for everyone.

Was it worth it?

Tired but inspired is the best way to sum up this year. The tiredness was all self-inflicted of course. For me this year really raised the bar. The presentations, master classes and workshops were very well thought out and run. The selection of speakers really complimented one another and the local business community were well catered for and appreciated the support.

If you're an ad person thinking that there wasn't anything in it for you, or that it wasn't relevant, then you really need to pull your head out and see where the industry is heading. The future is already here.

I'll be back.


Ron Samuel is a founding partner of Perth-based regional creative communication consultancy Cooch Creative, which celebrated its 10th birthday this year. Previously he was Creative Director at Lintas Singapore, Creative Group Head at Euro RSCG in Singapore and Creative Director at John Davis Advertising Perth (JDA).

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