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Michael Nutley
Michael Nutley 23 September 2013
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Justin Cook, CEO, WPP's POSSIBLE, Discusses Inspiration [INTERVIEW]

Justin Cooke is the current chair of BIMA (the British Interactive Media Association) and CEO of Possible, WPP Digital's largest global agency. He's speaking at Inspiration - The Life-Cycle Of Ideas on 31 October.

Justin Cooke is the current chair of BIMA (the British Interactive Media Association) and CEO of Possible, WPP Digital’s largest global agency. He’s speaking at Inspiration - The Life-Cycle Of Ideas on 31 October.
 

How long have you been in the digital world?

Since 1995. I worked for other businesses until I realised I needed to work for myself. I founded my first agency in 1997 and eventually sold it in August 2012 to become part of WPP. 
 

What are your sources of inspiration?

I get really inspired by the size of the opportunity. When we work with clients, that’s what I’m always looking for. If we succeed, what will that mean, what will that result in? What is the outcome we can create? And the bigger and more challenging that outcome is, the more I get inspired.
 

What are you going to talk about at Inspiration?

I’m going to talk about ideas, how you generate them and how you get the good ideas to rise to the top. And then, how you make those ideas a reality. Because the world we’re in now has changed the way agencies come up with ideas, and it’s absolutely different now how you execute them compared to how it was when I first started working in this world.
 

When you have an idea, do you have a process by which you refine it and realise it?

There’s less of a process and more of a framework or a toolkit that you can use according to the type of market or sector you’re working in, the kind of challenge, and the kind of idea you’re trying to create. You draw from it to come up with what’s optimal for the solution you’re looking for.
 

Can you give an example of an idea you’ve had that you’ve followed all the way through from inspiration to realisation?
 

The things that really spring to mind for me are the small things that make a difference; things we did for National Rail Enquiries where we were trying to make people’s lives just a little bit better. These were ideas that came up through really immersing ourselves in the entire experience of traveling from A to B, such as the “Get me home” button on the National Rail Enquiries iPhone app. It works out where you are, it knows where your home station is and it gets you home. There’s another button on that app, which is “Wake me up when I get there”, which I use quite a lot.

 

How does the agency approach ideas?
 

Agencies have always prided themselves on the “Big Idea”; now some agencies talk about the concept of the long idea, the idea that never goes away and is constantly being improved and optimised, and which goes beyond the length of a campaign, in traditional terms. We’ve generated our own methodology around that general principle, and while there aren’t any hard and fast rules for coming up with an idea and executing it, we have a number of ways of approaching that.

For me the most exciting and fun way of approaching those things is when you’re doing it in a very rapid way. You’re very interdisciplinary, you’re very collaborative with the client, and you’re able to fail fast and learn from the rapid amount of insight you’re generating as you’re working on those ideas.

I like running several ideas in parallel; seeing what fails and what sticks, and then trying to mash up any ideas that have some commonality or synergy and then boiling them them down into the one “long” idea.

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