Spark games the system—UPDATED

Marcomms folk are a competitive bunch. Always fighting over clients/awards/staff. And, in many cases, that competition is often a good thing for the quality of ideas, which is why PHD and its local outpost Spark Group are set to launch a new global operating system that taps into elements of gamification and crowd-sourcing to “encourage participation and collaboration” among the 2,500 staff across the Omnicom-owned group. 

The system, called Source, functions as a strategy framework and, at the same time, a live engine that allows everyone within the global PHD business to work together in real-time, effectively functioning as a Massive Multiplayer Online game. And while not all briefs will be open to the network, Louise Bond, chief executive of Spark Group, believes the worldwide leader-board, where points are awarded for idea generation and sharing, will create some healthy competition (update: there is no financial incentive involved). 

“There is an inherent competitiveness among the individuals who work in this industry,” she says. “We do want to win.” 

In the networked world, it often makes sense to tap into resources (for example, DDB NZ often pitches against DDB Sydney for McDonald’s work and the best idea takes the prize). But it doesn’t seem to happen that often, largely because each market has its own significant demands—and, often, idiosyncrasies. As a result, Bond says the game aspect will be something of an extra-curricular activity.  

“In reality, we will always be focused on our own problems and clients first,”she says. “But everyone’s really excited about using it. We’re in the process of training all the team now and come January 1 it will go live.” 

She says the previous media planning systems really didn’t take take account of paid, earned and owned. But she says PHD has worked really hard to build a lot of flexibility into this system to, as Cheuk Chiang, chief executive of PHD Asia Pacific says, “equip us and our clients to develop stronger thinking in a new world that’s digitised, socialised and super-connected.” 

Whether or not talented media types will be inspired to come up with brilliant ideas for other offices in exchange for a virtual badge of honour is yet to be seen, but, as the Share a Coke campaign (or even the popularity of Facebook) show, never under-estimate the level of human self-absorption, particularly in this industry where good reputations and performances are often correlated to good jobs.

From an agency point of view, Spark Group, which includes Spark PHD, PHDiQ, Spark PR & Activate and Spacestation, Bond says it will be hugely beneficial to existing clients. And, by showing it is walking the talk when it comes to innovation, it might help to attract new ones too.

The Source system, developed over the past two years, has been built based on cutting-edge marketing theory drawn from three key areas:

  1. The latest insights that have emerged from the social sciences, particularly the recent studies into behavioural economics and, with this, choice architecture.
  2. The most commercially applicable insights that have emerged from cognitive neuroscience, particularly studies into neuromarketing and insights from PHD’s own fMRI research.
  3. The paradigm-shifting learnings that have emerged from marketing meta-analysis, particularly the insights uncovered by The Ehrenberg Bass Institute

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