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Archive for April, 2009

  • The Battle Between Art & The Algorithm

    28th April 09

    Posted by Ben Malbon

    Posted in Uncategorized

    Technology … is a queer thing.

    It brings you great gifts with one hand,

    and it stabs you in the back with the other.

    –C.P. Snow, New York Times, March 15, 1971–

    There’s a battle raging, yet it’s almost Truman Show-like in its subtlety. It’s the battle between art and the algorithm. Between emotion and rationality. Between indescribable magic and perfect information.

    Jim Carrey, in 'The Truman Show'

    Jim Carrey, in 'The Truman Show'

    As the granular world of relevance, measurability and accountability tightens its grip on the increasingly emaciated flesh of businesses struggling to re-tool quickly enough to survive, many are rushing too quickly away from striving for the magic that has characterized the work we all admire, no matter what the decade or canvas.

    As far as I know, no one is trying to kill me. Yet, I sometimes feel a little like the unfortunate hero at the center of the dystopian sci-fi thriller “Minority Report,” John Anderton. The famous mall scene in which Anderton (Tom Cruise), is assaulted by dozens of individually targeted ads — some of which, much to his horror, even loudly broadcast his name as he passes — represents a world a lot closer to ours than the fictional date of 2054.

    It’s a world of perfect targeting. Optimization. Zero wastage. Absolute utility. Total accountability.

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  • Crowdsourcing Our Logo: The Crowd has Spoken

    24th April 09

    And boy, did we get an earful.

    picture-1To quickly recap: As a innovations unit tasked with exploring new models in communications, we needed a logo that can convey our mission and philosophy. So it made sense to try crowdsourcing to experiment first-hand with how all this might fit into our industry down the line. In the process, we hoped to find fresh talent who are marketing their skills in new ways.

    A lot of people asked why would we do something like this? Don’t we have great designers in-house? Doesn’t that stuff commoditize design? Isn’t that exploitive?

    That’s beside the point: the pros and cons of crowdsourcing design can be debated ’till we are blue in the face but the fact is, the model seems to work and therefore deserves our attention.

    Currently, we believe it works best for small or start-up clients. But as the model evolves it has a lot potential to work for larger clients with more demanding needs.

    These new technologies aren’t going away, so it’s now our duty to understand how to work with them. We can continue to insist that us trained professionals are irreplaceable by the untrained crowd (and end up like our poor friends in journalism), or we can start figuring out how to turn eggs into omelets. From our viewpoint, this isn’t about preparing for the day that creative agencies can outsource design, it’s about preparing for the day that clients can outsource creative agencies.

    BBH Labs believes that in the not-too-distant future, creative agencies are going to resemble expanded networks, with core teams overseeing expansive partnerships rather than the more vertically-integrated models existing today (more to come on this topic later). We see these kinds of partnerships and platforms happening across media increasingly already.

    The task now is to find out how to build these new models in a way that is fair to all involved. Crowdsourcing our logo was the first tiny step in a larger Labs process to come – the medium was the message.

    (For full post click below)
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  • The Storyteller’s Story

    21st April 09

    Posted by Mel Exon

    Posted in creativity, interactive

    If the past couple of weeks have seen some of the industry’s finest minds crystallise why there isn’t more great work in the interactive space, then from here on in – inevitably, I guess – this debate is going to need to shift on its axis slightly and focus on the trickier task of finding tangible solutions.

    The good news is that there already appear to be some answers emerging, all with the potential to lead somewhere interesting and worth recording. I’m going to approach this pretty organically and see where it goes. Please feel free to jump in, disagree, debate, add your own suggestions etc.

    First up, a theme that may seem controversial to some: the wholesale reinvention of a (sometimes much maligned) skill, the art of storytelling.

    Ben’s second post caught my attention with the observation that “there’s currently much less of a culture of developing narrative or storytelling on the web” and this got me thinking.

    Part of the issue behind this, I would hazard a guess, is the fact story telling as a skill has come to be associated with the old school mores of broadcast advertising. By way of illustration, in his NMA column last week Mark Cridge talked about the need for a creative director to be comfortable with the idea of curation, rather than control. A thought that made complete sense – no question. His piece then went on to conclude “If these are the skills that are going to be important from now on, which type of creative director would you rather work with: a big budget brand storyteller obsessed with control, or one more comfortable with the ebb and flow of the interactive world?”

    Reading this, you’d be forgiven for thinking storytelling no longer has a place or is badly in need of rehab. In truth, and I am going to nail my colours to the mast here, it’s never had the potential to be more relevant or exciting.

    (For full post click below)

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  • We are the Robots!

    20th April 09

    In eager anticipation of the new Terminator film, I’ve done a little poking around into what’s happening in the world of robots.

    The main action in this area is clearly in Asia. And while Korea pushes ahead with plans to build robot parks, even going so far as to introduce legislation for a robot code of ethics to “Prevent Android Abuse and Protect Humans,” it’s the Japanese who appear to be in the quickest sprint to building a creepy robo-future.

    Due to strict immigration laws and a quickly aging population (its expected that 1/3 of its citizenry will be over 60 by 2050) the country is racing to realize a day when robots can provide care for their elderly, clean homes and provide administrative office tasks. Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is actively involved in supporting the development of intelligent robots and hopes to introduce many of the models in development into the marketplace by 2015.

    Here’s a cross-sample of what’s in store…

    PARO
    According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Paro is the “World’s most therapeutic robot.” It uses an array of sensors to respond to audible, visual, and tactile stimulation. Each Paro attains a unique personality of sorts due to its ability to be trained to execute (or refrain from) specific actions. Pet Paro and he knows he is being rewarded for good behaviour, smack him and he will do his best not to repeat that behaviour.
    (For full post click below)

    YouTube Preview Image

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  • How Do Creatives Think?

    17th April 09

    Posted by Ben Malbon

    Posted in creativity, process

    One of the most enduringly brilliant things about working in a creative business is that, for the most part, it remains a complete mystery as to how the creative mind actually develops thinking and ideas. Much as many have tried to bring science, objectivity and rationality to advertising and marketing over the years, most would agree that the majority of breakthrough creativity somehow seems to defy rules, not follow them. It all still seems – on balance – to be more art than science. And long may that continue (in fact, I’m trying to write something up right now on the emerging battle between art and the algorithm).

    I’ve been talking to Glenn Griffin (SMU-Dallas) and Deborah Morrison (U. Oregon) about this theme. These guys are professors who teach aspiring creatives and study creativity. Their latest project is a book that will showcase drawings of the creative process by some of the ad industry’s best, including BBH New York’s very own ECD Kevin Roddy (see his drawing, below), Alex Bogusky, David Baldwin, David Kennedy, Nancy Rice, Luke Sullivan and many others.

    picture-2

    The drawings reveal so much about each individual’s pathway to ideas and constitute a unique archive of the brain power that fuels the business. Just skimming through the early submissions from some fairly legendary creatives I was struck by both just how different they were from each other (some drawn, some cartoon, many mixing images and copy), but also how simple they were.

    The book, tentatively titled Pure Process, is set for publication in Summer 2010 by How Books. Glenn and Deborah are still looking for last-minute submissions from anyone who wants to play.

    Interested? You can contact them direct at pureprocess.thebook@pureprocess.org

  • Twitter – the Beginning of the End, or the End of the Beginning?

    14th April 09

    Posted by Ben Malbon

    Posted in social media

    The crescendo of noise around Twitter grows by the second. Yet while for many this delivers a symphony of Web 2.0 magnificence, crafted by millions of tweeting voices (Aaron Koblin managed only 2000, though it was far from symphonic), others hear nothing more than deafening silence. I’ve been trying to think through this paradox. Two events of the last week illustrate this tension well.

    I had a message from my brother Tim (@malbonster), co-Founder of social media agency Made By Many in London, when I woke up here in NY. Tim is ‘into Twitter’. His message was subject titled: ‘I hope it’s not, but the fun bit feels like it’s almost over’. He was lamenting a tweet he’d read this morning from a friend (@netgrrl) which read: ‘Ah… I’ve mentioned coffee too many times now, I’m being inundated with follows from coffee marketers.’ Yes, I found myself nodding subconsciously, it’s being ruined. The crazy experimental bit with no rules, where no one has any idea how to monetize, or even whether it will be successful, and where marketing has been wrong-footed; that’s all gone . . .

    (for full post click below)

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  • Crowdsourcing continued…

    10th April 09

    Posted by Adam Glickman

    Posted in creativity, crowdsourcing

    One week into our Crowdspring experiment and I’ve been pointed to some thoughtful debates on the subject as well as those whose tone resembles an angry mob.

    From the latter crowd I keep hearing this analogy that using Crowdspring is akin to outsourcing (complete with images of dank foreign sweatshops). If were going to trade in metaphors, I would counter by labeling this crowd protectionist. (Picture angry immigration opponents rallying to protect US jobs they probably don’t want in the first place.)

    This isn’t outsourcing and this isn’t bootlegging. This is simply about an expanded marketplace. And as long as your product is best-in-market, you’ll always have best-in-market work at your door.

    One last thing I need to note as some are accusing us of being exploitive and that bothers me greatly. (MORE BELOW)

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  • 10 Reasons Why There’s Not More Great Work in the Interactive Space

    8th April 09

    Posted by Ben Malbon

    Posted in creativity, interactive

    (NOTE: This post is an attempt to capture some of the emerging themes resulting from an earlier and original post on the subject – see http://bit.ly/iZf7 for original post . . . probably worth going there first if you’ve landed here and want to contribute)

    Some great, insightful and provocative replies to the earlier question around the perceived paucity of great work in interactive.

    First off, I found it fascinating that – to date at least – no one’s responded with a great list of knockout creative, or, in fact, with any knockout creative. This would suggest that there is indeed a problem and that it’s not just perception. Please correct me if I’m wrong here. I’m reassured that various folks who ‘know their shit’ have commented here, and I’m certain they would have picked out the gems had I missed them in my haste to make the point.

    Second, what we have emerging is a really very useful list of factors that, together, explain why we’re not yet seeing consistently great work, and in particular strong enduring campaigns, in the interactive space. Factors cited by contributors will be familiar to many, and include the following, which are reported not as fact but as supposition, at least at this stage:

    1. SPEED – Our lack of speed in responding to the changing landscape, a blight suffered by agencies of both old & new skools, digital & analogue, hampers creative innovation.

    2. ENDURANCE – We suffer a particular weakness at creating . . . (more)

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  • Effective CRM you won’t read about in Adweek

    7th April 09

    Posted by Adam Glickman

    Posted in BBH Labs

    I saw my friend Joshua Ramos for a drink the other evening. He was telling me about his new book The Age of the Unthinkable in which he details all he learned from Hezbollah’s new media guy on how to run an effective communications strategy against a better-funded adversary. Remember, this is the same team that turned an impossible-to-win military campaign against Israel in ’06 into a perceived victory. And if you agree that in today’s media frenzied environment that perception is reality… then the round went to Hezbollah.

    Though we were discussing Mid-East policy, my mind went immediately to brand marketers who essentially faces the same issues: how easily a single crafty teenager can ju-jitsu multi-million dollar budgets and turn big business assets into liabilities.

    So I took a stroll through the darker alleys of the internet to peek at marketing and outreach techniques by some of society’s better-known ideological enemies. I collected a few links below (before stopping in fear of having an FBI file opened on me).

    To be honest, gang members, terrorists and racial hate groups don’t seem to as technology and media-savvy as I expected. All the sites I found could have been created by the same web designer (in 1998): free hosting, terrible anthem-like music files, and lots of broken links. I get the sense many of these sites are constantly on the move, remaining one step ahead of hosting companies and law enforcement agencies whose job it is to stomp them out in a never-ending game of whack-a-mole.

    Please proceed through the links below with caution… (MORE BELOW)

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  • Why isn’t there more great work in the interactive space?

    6th April 09

    Posted by Ben Malbon

    Posted in creativity, interactive

    There’s a debate that, if not quite raging, is certainly simmering about the perceived lack of breakthrough creativity in digital brand advertising (for example: http://bit.ly/14HeCe). I think everyone would agree that great work does exist. But maybe just not enough of it. So why the paucity?

    Well let’s get one thing out of the way right away. It’s almost certainly the case (please argue with me if you think this is not true) that the percentage of “great work” in interactive is no less than that on any other canvas. Great work is rarer than a Texan in a Smart Car. Full-stop. But there seem some quite specific reasons why there’s not a whole load of stunningly great creative in interactive.

    So, a few linked observations about why this might be the case.

    One, as an industry, it seems as if marketing is mesmerized by the (very welcome) potential efficiencies & measurability of digital and that this can lead to blindness when it comes to the creative opportunities. The talk is frequently of driving costs down through zero wastage, or improving efficiency (all good of course), and less often about increasing engagement, forging deeper links with consumers over time, storytelling across screens, and so on. How far away are we from work of the quality and ambition of Aaron Koblin or Jonathan Harris in what we produce for clients? To some extent, even average digital work can be more accountable than much of the work produced for the offline world, and sometimes that accountability can veil what is actually remarkably humdrum work. Here one’s reminded of the John Banham quote: In business we tend to value most highly that which we can measure most precisely. Traditional agencies are, in particular, often in the position of knowing they need to produce both more effective and more emotive interactive work, but not knowing remotely how to develop it.

    Two, we probably need to stop looking at digital creativity as somehow different . . . (more) Read full post

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