Categories Video advertising

The Inspirational Amateur

Patrick Younge, Chief Creative Officer of BBC presents at Inspiration 2013.


Thank you, Ava.  Our final speaker of the day is Patrick Younge from the BBC. Patrick, I’m just going to hand straight over to you.

Buy tickets for this year’s ’Inpiration-Think Again’ on October 23rd, 2014 at the Royal Geographical Society, London.


Okay. Thank you. I’m going to get some water.  Hi, I’m Pat Young from the BBC. I’m the chief creative officer for BBC television production, and in that role I’m responsible for about 3,000 staff, who make some of the biggest shows that you all know:  Top Gear, Strictly, East Ender, Casualty, Holby, Luther and things like that. Prior to that, I’ve worked at Channel 4, NITV, and I’ve run a cable network in the States.

And I’m going to talk about the inspirational amateur.  And I’m really going to tell you two stories which I think speak to the challenge of first of all how do we make or brand more porous; how do we engage the crowd; how do we let people in. And at the same time our brand will stand for something. They stand for quality. They stand for creation. They stand for ease of navigation; and if you let everyone in, you risk creating the Wild West.

So how do you create the space for this inspirational amateur to come through?  And I’ve met, and I’ve worked with inspirational amateurs which have definitely driven my business and my business thinking. And the key to it for me is about having an innovation process. For me innovation is about ideas that create value. That for me is what an innovation is. It’s a value creating idea, and I do believe you need a process. Now where is the clicker?

In 2005, I was in the States, and we were running a show. We’re launching a new show called Five Takes. Five young people traveling around Asia Pacific; and the aim of the show was they would travel, and every day they would go online. And those days ...  this is pre-3G, and they would have to go to an internet cafe. They’d log onto a message board, and people will know where they’re going. And they can make their recommendations for things to do. And part of the things that the young people had to do was to create every week a two-minute video which they shoot and edit themselves which they’d put up online along with their blogs.

And we have in 2005 quite a vast idea of inviting people to send us a show reel about why they should be on the show. And we had about a thousand sent. And we had this inspirational video from Tiffany Burnett. Tiffany is somebody who had passed up going to. .. She sent this film which basically spoke about growing up in Cathedral City in California. Her father managed the local theater. Her mother had these ambitions for her to be on stage; and, yet, she’d broken out of that. And three times she had turned down the chance to go to university to go travelling. And she was back at university, and she’d seen this chance to come on this show, and she’s were prepared for the final time to dip out of university and sort of give up on finishing her degree if she could get on the show. And it’s a brilliant inspirational video.

And I can’t share it with you because she broke every rule going. She used Lynyrd Skynyrd. She used Brittany Spears. She used pictures that she didn’t have cleared and didn’t have copyright;  but it showed us that there was a different sort of film that could be made. This is 2005 don’t forget. My space was big. Nobody heard of You Tube. A different sort of film that could be made about a more personal sort of travel journalism, and we were inspired by that. But we also got a lot of this: (Amateur Video Clip)

We had a lot of that. And so the challenge for us is we’re about to send Tiffany off around Asia Pacific we need to train her up. So we created a four day boot camp to train up Tiffany and the other travelers, we called tell them TJs, Travel Journalist, so they can make descent watchable films that people would actually engage with.

(Tiffany Video Clip)


So that was Tiffany. And we thought, "Wow that’s pretty good." And we trained Tiffany up in four days to make pretty good material that we could broadcast to the others. Maybe there’s something in this because at that time we were thinking how could we get low-cost video for our website. Everybody that was making video at that time wanted to charge television rates. And we thought maybe there’s something in this. But what we knew was we needed to have a process.

And I love this clip by Gary Hamel at Harvard University. "Every CEO will at least give lip service to the idea that the world is moving fast, and we need to do a better job at innovation; but if you go into an organization and ask people to describe their innovation system, you get blank looks.  They have none."

Most organizations have finance systems, have HR systems. Most organizations talk about innovation, but don’t have an innovation system or an innovation process.

So we came up with an innovation process which we called Travel Channel Academy. And basically we took that four-day course, and we worked on it and work on it and turned it into a course that could teach 40 people at a time. We also decided that I would, as president of the network, I would speak at every event. It would have a dedicated executive producer dedicated to the academy; so to that the graduates of the academy could share their films with the network and get feedback from the channel. And we always held the meetings in our buildings, so they got some sort of sense of the network. So these are our fans, our super fans. And they paid us $2,500 for a four day course; and in return we taught them how to make travel video, and we told them what we were looking for.

Speaker 1:   I’m here to learn how to shoot, how to edit.

Speaker 2:   Learn, shoot, earn with Travel Channel Academy. The digital filmmaking course that will train you to produce professional grade travel video.

Speaker 3:   We call this boot camp for a reason.

Speaker 2:   Learn the skills that could make your next trip on TV, and make the connections that might just start a new career.

Speaker 3:   I’ll see you on the air.

Speaker 2:   Enrolling now. Visit to find out more.

Earn is missing but Learn to earn travel academy. Now what would happen at the end of each academy?  We would spot some people who were ready to go. And those people we would employ in the piece rate basis straight away to sort working for the network delivering short films for our website. There were others who had ability, had potential, and what we would say to them is you up load your films to this particular website and the executive producer that you’ve worked with for the last four days will give you feedback and over time if your work improved, you’ll also get work from the network.

The training business itself delivered high six figures in terms of value, buy also we created this standing army of film makers around the country. So that when we did America’s Scariest Halloween Attractions 3 and we needed for an ad sales partner, 30 haunted attractions around the USA, we could go to 30 film makers that have been on the academy. We paid tell me a $1,000 each. They delivered a film three-minute film. We could re-cut those for the advertiser. We put some of them in the TV show. It was a model of work for them. It was a model of work for us. But it was the process that delivered us quality because we were able to explain to them what the brand was and what the brand values are. I’m going to skip the next film.

Tiffany has now gone on to become She is a very accomplished film maker now. She works for the Olsen twins and various others. And one of the things about this space is you to have accept that you’re going to give away some value. I work for the BBC. We’re quite used to capturing people and keeping them if we can inside our castle. In this new world, you have to accept you’re to give away some value, and people like Tiffany are going to go off and follow their own dreams. But if the relationship works they will come back to you. And she’s a much better film maker for it.

So in 2010 I came back to the BBC and took up my current job. And we have a problem because my part of the business, in-house production, we’re guaranteed 50 percent of the BBC’s total business, and we compete for a third of the 25 percent. But we’re only winning about 5 percent of that 25 percent. The independent producers are winning 20 of the 25. Now, because we’re not winning more hours, we’re not generating the international profit that BBC worldwide need to sell around the world to bring the profit back to support our program making effort so we needed more better ideas. Now, I’ve got 3,000 people working for in-house production but only about 150 of them are designated as being in development.

And so what we decided was that would try to find a way to engage the other 2,850 people in the ideas process. And we’ve came up with this idea called:  BBC I-Create. Now, BBC I-Create is an internal crowd sourcing platform which allows anybody in the business to submit an idea, and it allows anybody else in the business to comment on it. And we have two processes. We have one process which is called pitch to win. Anybody can submit any idea in any area in pitch to win, and then we have a second zone called the challenge zone where we we’ll put areas of interest. We’ll make short films about particular areas of interest, and give them a real brief and invite them to respond to the brief.

So at the moment we’re looking at what we call the "HD generation" the "heads down generation" of under 25s. And we’re looking at coding. A big corporate priority around coding for 2015, so we put stimulus in on coding and said come back with your ideas. Now, picking up from what Gary Hamel said again, and working with a company from Palo Alto to called the Enterprise Developers Group, we used this process as the ideas backbone for BBC I-Create. It’s just six questions everybody has to answer to submit their idea.

So question one: Who is the consumer and what is their unmet need?  Who is this aimed at. And what is their unmet need?  Question two: What is the opportunity?  That’s about how big is this group, and where might we find them. It invites people to think not just about TV but also to think about the web and mobile. Three: What’s your story?  What’s the creative idea that you want to put in front of them.

Buy tickets for this year’s ’Inpiration-Think Again’ on October 23rd, 2014 at the Royal Geographical Society, London.

Four: Who needs to be on the team?  And this again is the opportunity if  you’re thinking about projects that goes beyond television but which are across platforms to give you an opportunity to think about I need a web designer or I need a game designer or if you’re 3 in Top Gear I need a celebrity broker and I need first-class health and safety. What is your competitive advantage?  Why would your idea beat anything else that’s out there at the moment or any other means of satisfying that need. And what results might you achieve. And that could be ratings it could be reputation it could be risk avoidance.  But the bottom line is before an idea can become great, it’s brilliance has to be understood.

So we rolled out this concept of co-star by doing sections all around the UK.  Probably got to 600 maybe 700 of our staff where we took them through the challenges we were facing as a business, but also walked them through co-star and how we use co-star and the benefit has been that we have a common language now. Once those ideas go into the system, people can respond to the co-star elements. So it’s become less personal. I can ask you question about the team. Do you think you got the right team?  Or I can ask you a question about do you think that really is the opportunity?  Can’t our audience be served through this way or that way?  It’s made it a bit less personal and a bit ...  it’s given everybody the language to take part.

When I was in Wales we had a woman that said she’s worked at the BBC for 23 years and had never been asked to submit an idea. And all of us who work in big organizations ...  if you work in newspapers you’ve got the journalists and it sort of presupposes that everyone else that works in the newspaper doesn’t have an idea either. What this does is this enables everyone in the business to submit an idea. You can’t really see that, but that was their just to show you the six boxes: Consumer, opportunity, story, team, advantage, and results. On this side of the thing you can comment on an idea. So it’s got a comment thread.

There’s also, at the top, a vote up vote down function. And after a period of time, normally four weeks, the ideas will then go into what we would call expert review and this is where this process duck tails with the traditional process. Because if these ideas are going to go forward, it’s these genre teams in the business that’s going to take them forward. So this is look more bullets for the gun. And it’s so far so good.

Meet Chris McFadden. A BBC health and safety officer. Chris’s main job is watching collapsing buildings and performing heroic feats. On a whim, he decided to do something far more dangerous: Join the BBC crowd sourcing competition to find now program ideas. But what idea? Then what would be the right inspiration style?  How about a sitcom based on family life. Single dad home with two kids and absolutely no domestic skills whatsoever. He called it Mr. Mum. Chris had touched has touched a nerve. Overnight the website lit up with [inaudible 00:15:03] desperate to share domestic tips and horror stories.

Mr. Mum was getting a fan club; but no focus. Then Ann Mc Naught, a learning producer in BBC Scotland, came to the rescue. Chris needed to read How To Get Things Really Flat: A Male Approach To Ironing. Eureka. Chris was inspired. Forget splitting the atom or identifying DNA, what men really wanted was for scientific approach to the domestic life. Mr. Mum started to take shape. And then the BBC comedy department was interested.

Now, new best friends Chris and Ann have taken their scientific formula and single dad’s vital stories and are working with the head of the head of radio comedy to make Mr. Mum a reality.

So just think about it. There’s a guy in health and safe who just happens have studied theater studies at university, that’s one of the benefits of asking for idea from outside the usual categories. He puts in this idea.  Ann Mc Naught whom he’s never met ... He works in London. She works in Scotland. She happens to have read a book, and she puts into the website have you read this book. And it’s from those two things coming together that comedy as a department think this thing may have some traction. It’s now a script in development. It’s called Domestic Science. It’s actually going to Radio 4 for consideration.

But of the 3,000 people that we’ve got in in BBC production, 1800 have logged into I create in the 8-month it’s been going. We’ve had over 350 ideas submitted. We have one definite commission. We have a number of projects, probably ten projects, now in second stage development which have been taken forward by the genre teams and have been looked at by the commission of editors. Just last week we had 500 people take part in the new challenges around the "heads down" generation and coding. So 10 months on almost a 3rd of the people who’ve signed up came back in to engage with the new challenges.

So that’s my presentation. I do believe in the inspirational amateur, but I think if you don’t want to destroy your brand you have to give them some process. Thank you.

Buy tickets for this year’s ’Inpiration-Think Again’ on October 23rd, 2014 at the Royal Geographical Society, London.

Please login or register to add a comment.

Contribute Now!

Loving our articles? Do you have an insightful post that you want to shout about? Well, you've come to the right place! We are always looking for fresh Doughnuts to be a part of our community.

Popular Articles

See all
How to Review a Website — A Guide for Beginners

How to Review a Website — A Guide for Beginners

A company website is crucial for any business's digital marketing strategy. To keep up with the changing trends and customer buying behaviors, it's important to review and make necessary changes regularly...

Digital Doughnut Contributor
Digital Doughnut Contributor 25 March 2024
Read more
10 Factors that Influence Customer Buying Behaviour Online

10 Factors that Influence Customer Buying Behaviour Online

Now is an era where customers take the center stags influencing business strategies across industries. No business can afford to overlook factors that could either break the customer experience or even pose a risk of...

Edward Roesch
Edward Roesch 4 June 2018
Read more
7 Reasons Why Social Media Marketing is Important For Your Business

7 Reasons Why Social Media Marketing is Important For Your Business

In the past two decades social media has become a crucial tool for marketers, enabling businesses to connect with potential customers. If your business has yet to embrace social media and you want to know why it is...

Sharron Nelson
Sharron Nelson 29 February 2024
Read more
The Impact of New Technology on Marketing

The Impact of New Technology on Marketing

Technology has impacted every part of our lives. From household chores to business disciplines and etiquette, there's a gadget or app for it. Marketing has changed dramatically over the years, but what is the...

Alex Lysak
Alex Lysak 3 April 2024
Read more
10 Daily Habits That Set High-Performing Designers & Marketers Apart

10 Daily Habits That Set High-Performing Designers & Marketers Apart

Discover the 10 daily habits that elevate designers & marketers to high-performance levels. Transform your routine for success today.

Nevilson Christian
Nevilson Christian 23 April 2024
Read more