Start Design’s Day Out: Our Thoughts On Contagious’ Summer Bootcamp 2019

Contagious’ Summer Bootcamp was a whirlwind afternoon. From keynotes delivered by industry greats to concise Cannes debriefs and spotlights on up and coming points of view, the (packed) half-day bootcamp was the most stimulating industry event we’ve been to in a while.  Here, we recap and reflect on our afternoon out in the field.

High Intensity Inspirational Thinking From Up-And-Coming Talent 

The HIIT (High Intensity Inspirational Thinking, to you and me) presentations were especially interesting. A series of rapid-fire provocations delivered by up-and-coming talent, with topics ranging from what brands can learn from stand up comedy to the value of ‘joy’ in marketing. Speakers were given no more than three and a half minutes to talk about a subject of their choosing and the only requirement for participation was that they must not be a ‘Director’ or ‘Head of’ anything. This allowed for fresh perspectives from creatives at all levels. 

Standouts were Ronan Patrick, a Data Strategist from BBH, who made an impassioned case for brands to stop ignoring the untapped creative opportunity in the gaming industry; and Hannah Markus, a Senior Writer at We Are Social, who quickly summarised the creative, cultural and commercial impact of Black Twitter on the way we communicate. 


Liberté, Égalité, Diversité: A Cannes Debrief

Contagious’ own sessions were also great, in particular a Cannes debrief titled ‘Liberté, Égalité, Diversité’ which highlighted festival winners who were rewarded for shedding a light on issues relating to bias and inaccessibility. Here, we learnt about the amazing story of The Last Ever Issue in Poland, by VMLY&R Poland for, a liberal newspaper, MasterCard and BNP Paribas. The campaign oversaw the purchase of “Twój Weekend,” an explicit (and ailing) porn magazine, for just $25,000. After the purchase, the buyers shut down the magazine, but not before they published one final issue. Taking inspiration from the content and structure for the original magazine, the Last Ever Issue featured profiles of powerful Polish women, as well as essays, short stories, and photography by female artists. The Last Ever Issue became the best selling issue of the magazine in 10 years, with impressions totalling 25 million. It won the Glass Lion for Change Grand Prix.



Other brands awarded at Cannes for their work in this space included Microsoft for its Xbox Adaptive Controller and IKEA for its open source adaptive accessories, ThisAbles, which were co-designed by disabled users. 

This is certainly well timed. Inclusive design, and the subject of diversity and inclusion in general, has hit the corporate zeitgeist in a big way this year. It’s becoming apparent that the Microsofts and IKEAs of the world have finally realised that marginalised people are not that marginal when it comes to adding value to their businesses. While it’s easy to be skeptical about what’s motivating big brands to spend big money on campaigns and initiatives that champion D&I, ultimately we don’t think it matters: the end justifies the means. Whatever the motivation, a move towards a more inclusive design philosophy is one that’s good for all of us. 


Fangirling Over Keynotes From Industry Greats 

Of the keynotes, the two that made the most impact were Andy Nairn’s Strategy Masterclass and Rory Sutherland’s behavioural economics driven presentation on magic. Andy gave us his top ten tips for good strategy, inspired by some of the greatest strategists that never were – think Dolly Parton, Agatha Christie, and Mike Tyson among others. 


Contagious saved the best for last, though, and Rory didn’t disappoint with a very entertaining and informative talk. He schooled us in the art and science of variance reduction. We were advised to appreciate the unquantifiable. Our key takeaway? Be the teenager who understands that going out on a Saturday night is more likely to result in getting lucky than if they otherwise stay at home, and take a moment to appreciate the magic of the mind and the tricks it can play. 

Less Memorable Moments 

To no one’s surprise, you can’t please all the people all the time. And though the event was overall well put together, there were a few moments that didn’t quite resonate. But that’s what good debate is all about! We disagreed with quite a lot of Nils Leonard’s opening presentation on success in the industry, including an assertion that emergency tracheotomies were probably born from “some nutter with a pen” just having a go. The whole talk felt a bit like it valued style over substance, which was unfortunate given it was championing the central role creativity and creatives play in this industry. Other less resonant presentations for us included Oliver’s Lee and Jade Trott’s HIIT on ‘The Value of a Good Hiccup’, where the red thread wasn’t immediately clear to us as they connected two separate brand anecdotes; and Marlen Lutter’s (Syzygy) ‘F*ck Permission’, as the speaker presented the merits of leapfrogging over established agency hierarchy without really engaging with its consequences. Gratefully, the HIIT format did mean less impactful presentations  were limited to three and a half minutes a pop.   

Match-fit For Marketing? We Think So

We were promised a half day of practical advice, learning, insight and inspiration, all of which would make us match-fit for marketing. Smoothly bringing together industry heavy-hitters with fresh talent and smart points of view, Contagious delivered on that promise.


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Risham Nadeem Strategist