Creativity – the fun is in the surprise

By Ros Kindersley, Executive Chairman of JFL Search & Selection

When Johnny called me out of the blue last year and asked if JFL would be interested in working with him on Creative Shootout, I immediately thought, ‘Yes!’

I have known Johnny for over 20 years, with our paths crossing so many times in the search for talent that his description of Creative Shootout as ‘Dragon’s Den meets British Bake-off’ seemed a compelling new approach to the industry awards. To put it bluntly, I was overwhelmed with curiosity.

I think we all agree that industry awards, both national and regional are a fantastic framework for encouraging creativity, networking and publicity, but having experienced this model for over 20 years, I found this new idea refreshingly exciting. Culturally, it is challenging, with just 60 seconds given to applicants to win a place on the shortlist, four hours to craft a creative campaign pitch and ten minutes to deliver a pitch on the stage at BAFTA to a live audience. There is so much to see in one day!

But what genuinely excites me is the Shootout’s partnership with a campaigning not-for-profit or charity. Last January it was FareShare; this coming January it is A Plastic Planet, an organisation which is instilling a sense of urgency in clearing our oceans and land of the single-use plastic waste that is already infiltrating our wildlife, and indeed, those of us who eat fish.

The photography round this issue is heart-wrenching. Who can forget the shark with a plastic bag covering his mouth, unable to eat, or the idyllic beach turned into an armpit of plastic bottles? But we have to go back a step and tackle the issue earlier by refusing to accept the plastic packaging of food and drink. Recycling doesn’t work, we need to create another answer.

In my mind, creativity is seminal to achievement, and I’m not just talking about winning a prize. It is about creating something out of nothing, making ‘a silk purse out from a sow’s ear,’ taking a risk guided by an unseen hand, changing behaviours. So as a supporter, where does JFL fit in? And how do you measure creativity?

Back in the 1960’s when the King’s Road was the coolest street in London and Mary Quant the coolest brand, there was an ambitious and creative young woman, Judy Farquharson. She considered it very unfair that men had a market full of opportunities when they graduated, whereas women had very few choices; getting married, becoming a blue-stocking (academic) or a secretary. She thought is so unfair that she started up her own company, ‘Graduate Girls,’ and from the first day she had a queue round the block and grew a highly successful business. When the 1972 Sex Discrimination Act came into force the company evolved into Judy Farquharson Ltd.

During the next few years the company developed into a specialist recruiter for the communications sector and rebranded to JFL , as we are today. Our moment of epiphany was Judy setting up Graduate Girls. This acted as a catalyst in the rapidly developing creative communications sector and in the midst of the Brexit shambles, Johnny’s call could not have come at a better time.

After a great experience of The Creative Shootout in January this year, our JFL team is awaiting January 2019 with eager anticipation. The exposure to creativity is often referred to as being similar to the experience of a surprise that engages a sense of recognition and this is what we are looking forward to enjoying in the New Year, with you.