Photo by Swapnil Bapat on Unsplash

The Creative Catalyst Conference in Singapore

An event powered by Media.Monks and jointly hosted by WARC and The Marketing Society

David Mayo reviews The Creative Catalyst Conference held in Singapore, highlighting the event's early energy, the presence of industry leaders like Sophie Devonshire, CEO of The Marketing Society and Paul Coxhill, CEO of WARC, and its role in shaping the future of marketing through insightful discussions and engaging presentations.

The attendees and guests of The Creative Catalyst started arriving much earlier than usual. Some as early as an hour before. The colosseum for this hotly anticipated business event was the new offices of Media Monks, a cavernous space in Singapore’s CBD. 

The combination of the pre-event coverage, the host space and of course, the stage line up and attendees made for a great deal of pre-event energy.

This was partly due to the fact that people hadn’t seen one another for some time but also because both The Marketing Society and WARC had their weaponry on display with both Global CEO’s, Sophie Devonshire for TMS and Paul Coxhill for WARC in town for the week, which elevated the profile of the event and gave proceedings an almost ceremonial air. 

By the time the curtain came down and the last business card had been shared, The Creative Catalyst felt like an important event that will be remembered for some time to come. The content was deep and considered, current and weighty and yet it was delivered in an informal, almost casual atmosphere of participation and engagement with a bar and open seating.

Like the players on stage, the audience was a clever mix of establishment players and next-gen protagonists. Journalists, headhunters, brand people, skills people…..from the very start, with content from WARC heralding the ‘third age of effectiveness’ it almost felt as though they had gathered for a briefing on the future of Marketing and WARC and TMS provided a crossroads for both the communications communities and the marketing community in order to somehow re-cement the idea that whilst you can go far alone, you can go further together.

Singapore event WARC image


After the introductions, Ed Pank MD APAC & SVP Advisory, WARC, opened with a sharp and fast paced presentation with WARC’s Asia Editor, Rica Facundo, around 5 creative impact themes and continued with provocations around Purpose, bringing effectiveness out into the light, distinctive assets and how small is now big. This became the agenda of the conference.

These themes were seamlessly and hotly pursued by high energy Duo, Kryse Ynieto, Senior Strategy Director & Herbert Pradjaja, Associate Creative Director, both from Media Monks,  who took the WARC theory and shared a performance in engagement by showing what it looks like in practice. From bubbles to sanctuaries, the content to the stagecraft, Media Monks excelled with this riveting creative display of how to simplify complexity of content in culture – without being simplistic. It was clever, sharp, witty and participative – just like good content should be. The message at the end….engage with care!

After the break with the room still high on the content, another WARC theme was put to the test in a debate-style ‘battle of ideas’. Senior teams from Publicis and Media Monks wowed the audience by standing up and out to defend and attack the motion, offered by Publicis that the era of brand purpose is more hype than substance. It was as much a fight of style and substance as ideology and as the debaters closed their arguments, the audience voted in real time whilst the jury went to work on their deliberations. 

The jury consisted of WARC Global CEO, Paul Coxhill, TMS Singapore Chair and VP of Marketing Salesforce, Wendy Walker and TMS Founding member and CEO ADNA, David Mayo

Whilst the votes were being counted, the magnetic Ashik Ashokan, APAC Advisory Lead, WARC hosted the next theme panel around Creative Impact and what that looks like in the work. We heard from three luminaries including Sisca Margaretta, ex Experian and Standard Chartered, Justin Halim, Partner and APAC Marketing & E-Commerce Practice Head of Bain and Farrokh Madon, CCO of Merkle.
Little disagreement about the fundamental core of creativity and how to engage an audience, it was fascinating to hear the commercial, strategic, and creative arguments around the delivery of impact – the sole responsibility of commercial creativity. Ashik kept the tempo and the energy moving throughout.

Debate Jury Chair, David Mayo then took tto he mic to summarise the brand purpose debate with a consolidated analysis of the content. The jury found that whilst purpose is something that everyone can agree on in 2023, it needs to be for ordinary people by being opportunistic, from the heart, driven by passion, there for the long term and should always possess an element of irrationality and that with several notable exceptions called out in the debate, such as Patagonia and Toms, whilst this could and probably will change in the future, these essential ingredients are the exception in the boardroom of 2023. The jury expected a close run vote and the eventual score was 51-49 in favour of the motion.

By the end of the afternoon, with the audience still fully engaged, as the networking began in earnest, WARC Global CEO, Paul Coxhill wrapped up with a sharp and incisive summary of the intent and content of The Creative Catalyst. The message at the centre being that whilst little has changed, everything is changing and from what we saw here, by bringing people together with events like these, WARC and TMS in combination are at the forefront of helping marketers and their partners and peers navigate and win in a marketing world where everything is in flux and little is for certain.

Singapore event WARC image


The Creative Catalyst was a well-staged event from a well-oiled machine.


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