To make noise about SPK ABOUT IT on the streets of London, Nwaohai and his team came up with #ScanTweetSPK – a street campaign that would see some of London’s homegrown spoken word talents taking over our sites across the city. Over the course of a month, poems representing real people, raw emotions and relatable feelings would be displayed in north, south, east and west London, there to spark conversations among and engagement from passers-by. Platforming the spoken word talent in this way allowed the power of poetry to come to the forefront of storytelling.
Capturing the current cultural climate of the city, SPK ABOUT IT briefed poets from their network to “SPK” their minds and contribute poems that communicate the moods, feelings and thoughts of the people of London, drawing on cultural events, current affairs, and shared community experiences that young people are able to relate to. With social media as the effective out-of-home amplifier it is, each poster, designed by agency Twntyfour, features QR codes that allow people to directly respond to the poems they see. Corresponding to Twitter hashtags, it effectively takes the conversation from the street to online, serving to encourage further interaction and engagement.
To find out more about SPK ABOUT IT, its origins, ideas, and founder Emmanuel’s hopes for its future, we spoke to him ahead of our collaboration going live on the street.
Can you tell us how you discovered your love for poetry and the written word? What inspired you?
As a child and going into my teens I was always more moved by music which was lyrical and full of punchlines. Funnily enough I hated English in school but had a natural way with words and loved to tell and write stories. A lot of my friends grew up rapping but I didn’t want to follow the crowd. Poetry for me was a perfect balance between the lyricism of rap and immersive storytelling.
Where did the idea for SPK ABOUT IT come from?
I’ve graced stages, been on tours and voiced campaigns as Emmanuel Speaks. My friends call me Speaks and that branding has always stuck with me. I noticed in recent years more and more brands tapping into the world of poetry as a way to communicate and I’m aware of the ever-increasing pressure for brands to disrupt their category when advertising. I started getting briefs to write and voice ads for the likes of New Look, SportEd and FIFA. That’s when I started to realise that there was a gap in the market for an agency that specialises in helping brands and production teams execute these kinds of campaigns.
How did you go about moving from the idea stage to where you are now? Can you summarise the journey?
No man is an island and the first thing I knew I needed was a team. Samuel Afolabi and Precious Osoba are my business partners but more importantly they are my friends, whose minds I trust and believe in. They saw, agreed with and quickly adopted my vision and we went to work on trying to find out if it had legs. We reached out to production teams and had in-depth conversations with them on their experience with finding the right voices for their campaigns.
A few things became evident: the lack of diversity (of tone) in the space, a lack of options in where to find diverse voices and the abundance of opportunities. SPK ABOUT IT had to be a platform for brands and productions to find unique, diverse talent but also for that talent to find opportunities and commercialise their voice!
I believe a brand is a format business asset and one of the first things we built was our branding. Colours, tone of voice, how we wanted people to feel. You can see the evidence and consistency across our socials and website.
We hit the ground running with TV, radio and digital campaigns for George at ASDA and have been pushing to cut through the noise in our category and grow our business since.
What kind of projects have you worked on so far?
We’ve sourced, written, recorded and sound designed multiple TV, radio and digital commercials for George at ASDA.
We’ve sourced and provided live performers and speakers for events at HSBC, BBC and VMLY&R.
The International Tennis Federation came to us when they wanted to create a series of films to connect with younger audiences around the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. We produced the voice-over, which was epic!
How did you come to connect with the different writers and voices that make up the network?
Naturally as a performer, over the years I built a network of writers and voices that I shared the circuit with. These were our first points of call. We then put calls out on social media and email networks and were inundated by talent looking for representation and a community like ours to be a part of.
We spoke to everyone individually to understand their goals and show them what we were building.
We now have a really talented network of writers and voices, eager and ready to work!
The #ScanTweetSPK partnership with BUILDHOLLYWOOD is a fantastic way of authentically demonstrating SPK ABOUT IT’s ability to connect with communities on the streets of London. Where did the campaign idea come from?
We connected with Tim, the CEO of BUILDHOLLYWOOD, through a mutual friend. What started as a casual conversation sparked lots of ideas in both camps. I think Tim was impressed with our entrepreneurial spirit and I guess there was a lot of synergy between the SPK ABOUT IT and BUILDHOLLYWOOD mission.
We both want to champion local talent, advertise in new and creative ways and be more consultants in execution than just vendors alone.
Tim wanted to offer us some of their spaces but we didn’t want to just plaster our logo and brand everywhere. This was an opportunity to bring our writers to the forefront, get them to demonstrate how well they tell stories and position SPK ABOUT IT as the agency to go to if you’re looking to tap into this world.
What kind of impact are you hoping for the campaign to have when it’s seen on the streets?
Our research showed that social media is a highly effective amplifier of OOH campaigns. We wanted to be provocative and lead with copy that people will want to share with friends and family.
The use of QR codes allows us to track how often a camera is pointed at our boards and measure how much interest is piqued by our writers. We’ve allowed passers-by to be able to contribute to the given topics via Twitter as a way to spark additional dialogue.
We’re hoping we can prove that poetry sells!
We’d love to hear a bit more about the potential for SPK ABOUT IT – where are you hoping to take things in the near future?
This year is all about consistency and creating powerful content. We realised that the incumbent voice-over agencies have been around for a long time and have built the necessary relationships. As a small but mighty new entry, we plan to stand out by embodying our business model, connecting to the everyday consumer, and stimulating brands to reach out to us because of the impact we’re having on popular youth culture. Advertising, branding, live events and experiences, film… you name it!