Archive for November, 2010
29th November 10
Last Thursday (on Thanksgiving, if you are so inclined) the great and good and up-and-coming of London’s planning community gathered at the British Library for the APG/Campaign Battle of Big Thinking, an annual event that pits mind against mind for the chance to be crowned the Biggest Brain of All.
BBH London was well represented, with Peter Sells sharing thoughts on ‘The Fall of Capitalism, Bloody Revolution and the Destruction of Civil Society ….. And it’s Effect on KFC AM sales in the Tyne Tees Region” and winning his category in style. I apparently offered what was described as ‘an entertaining after-dinner speech’ on “What I have learned in 39 days in the advertising Business” and didn’t win my category which was won by an excellent pitch for a planner-owned product by PassionBrand. We’ll put these presentations up when the videos of the day become available.
But the star of the show and a very, very close runner up to the eventual overall winner was James Mitchell, who provoked and entertained the audience with his smart thinking and charming discourse on advertising, caring and storytelling.
So here is the extended remix of James’ talk – put on some headphones, hit play, enjoy and be provoked.
23rd November 10
Posted in Uncategorized
We recently got excited about a 15 year old chart (pictured) we were presented that effectively encapsulated participation inequality. We love the level of detail beyond the typical 1:9:90 ratio (creators:editors:audience). We can only assume “1:10:100:1000:10000 rule” is too much of a mouthful to say, thus the shorthand.
It makes us stop and think about how unbelievably valuable the “catalytic creative contributor” is to any community. A digital community designer should want nothing more than to please this particularly small set of people. Even if most brands primarily monetize the “ninety percent”, there would be nothing for this group to engage without the catalytic creative contributor. They are the heart and soul of any community.
A quick glance through digital communities revealed that the highly successful ones clearly cater to this elite base. As we examined what these digital communities did for these special users, we noticed parallels to one of our favorite pieces of business literature ever written: “Leading Clever People” published a few years back in the Harvard Business Review (Goffee & Jones, March 2007) about how to lead those whose skills or knowledge in your organization make them disproportionately valuable. If you haven’t read it and manage people, may we politely suggest you leave our blog and Google it immediately.
Some of the article’s “things to know about clever people” are particularly relevant to catalytic creative contributors, who also offer disproportionate value at quite a high “management” cost. Here are three we found striking:
1. They know their worth
As game mechanics have taken over the world, this principle is regularly forgotten. If a certain group knows their worth, shouldn’t they get some form of VIP status others simply can’t earn? Although Stickybits is a favorite app here at BBH Labs, they recently shifted their focus from content creation to promotions. It’s impossible to say the cause, but from an outsider’s perspective, it may be the consequence of failing to acknowledge the VIP base. There was no established benefit for tagging content. Assuming a small percentage of users must be responsible for creating large quantities of content, Stickybits failed to illustrate the reward of such behavior.
Conversely, Yelp continues to astound with their incredible understanding of the catalytic creative contributor. The Yelp Elite Squad is an example of understanding some creators are more valuable based on quality, and acknowledging they know their worth. Getting this recognition can’t happen via persistence. Yelp subjectively evaluates your contribution and lets you know if you fit the bill. It’s counter intuitive to growing a base via “game mechanics,” but the reality is these people require special attention, and Yelp is willing to yield to their high maintenance requests.
2. They have a low boredom threshold
This one is interesting because “boredom” is so difficult to address. That said, there are clear patterns for those that do it successfully. Wikipedia is legendary because of the exceptionally small number of people that edit the community. A famous article once stated that greater than 50% of the edits come from 0.7% of the community. Editing alone is different from catalytic creative contribution, but it does illustrate the point that a very, very small group will take upon a vastly disproportionate task (we saw this during The Betacup). It might sound boring, but it’s clearly fulfilling to those key people. This is because the system itself alleviates boredom. The reward is in the act of doing, as each entry is unique and has its own audience. It takes quantifiable skill to be one of these 500 people and they no doubt pride themselves on the fact that the vast majority of us couldn’t successfully do that job even if we were so motivated.
Compare that fulfillment with Foursquare. Foursquare is still in early development, but it currently depends on the system to alleviate boredom. The monotony is broken via badges created by Foursquare or its partners, and awarded for activities any user can do (i.e., “check-in”). In other words, it’s not self-fulfilling. It places an exceptional burden on Foursquare itself, rather than on the community, to validate the catalytic creative contributor. Put another way, Foursquare may have created a barrier to its own success. This is especially interesting in the context of their recent shift toward couponing and rewards.
3. They are well connected
Having a core base of hardcore creators is likely necessary for any digital experience. However, it’s easy to lose sight of the other value those content creators bring: a passionate base of advocates and recruiters. It’s similar to the idea of Propagation Planning (“planning not only for the people you reach, but the people they reach”) and poses an interesting challenge to user experience designers. Digg and other supposedly “democratic” news systems know this well. A review of the Top 100 Digg users shows what few people likely realize. A miniscule group actually controls what makes it onto the homepage. That sounds like the opposite of Digg’s offering, but in fact, those users are sought out by the audience because of their influence and reputation. Regular contributors (“editors” in 1:9:90 framework) go out of their way to Digg and link to what these people post. Digg gets traffic and self-propagates. They give these users preferential treatment (the front page favors their submissions), and as a result have a high quality product and a built-in extended audience.
A number of the other observations about leading clever people apply to digital content communities, but these three struck us because they can be applied to help community managers and designers build for the catalytic creative contributor.
This group may be an exceptionally small percentage of the internet, but it wouldn’t surprise us to see an increasing amount of digital experience design just for them. Gamification is a popular trend, but those subtly swimming against the current are seeing success. In fact, the best way to win the game with the masses may actually be by catering to the clever few.
19th November 10
Posted in awesomeness
Author: Heidi Hackemer (@uberblond), Strategy Director, BBH NYC
Well, here we go again.
This past summer we tried a little intern experiment at BBH New York called the Barn (and actually wrote our very first post about the idea here).
The Barn is all about trying new ways of working and finding new solutions to old problems. We bring in six interns, put them in teams and give them a problem to solve. A tough problem. A problem that requires moxy and guts. Last summer it was “Here’s $1000, make something famous” and the funny thing is, through a great idea, lots of work and some wicked use of the web, one team actually did.
The upshot is that we had a great summer and in the true spirit of beta and chaos, we learned a lot. So we’re going to do it again. Want to apply? You can do it here.
In the meantime, we asked one of our Barn’ers from last summer, Daniel Edmundson, to outline what the Barn was all about and what he learned. His rather astute thoughts are below:
The following Barnisms, we believe, provide a valid offering of the Barn experience. As the industry moves toward a more hybrid model in mentality, specialty and creative sheen (see: Voltron), individuals with little to no experience in the ad world can contribute some pretty weird and crazy ideas while embracing the truths of technology, brands and businesses.
Here’s what we gleaned:
People are smart and all, but it’s nothing if you’re not nice.
Folks at BBH go by this axiom, and it can at first be daunting to accept. There is an innate inferiority to the intern experience, and it’s not easy to shake. But the Barn was built on the idea of integration within the agency–not just integration by discipline and interest, but by collaboration and lending new thoughts.
For us, it was as basic a learning as knowing it’s cool to pitch your early ideas to one of the creative teams, or discuss ongoing strategy with top planners. It was about access to smarts, and being comfortable saying, “I need your brain.”
Be clear. Very, very clear.
At a time when our social lives are as open and transparent as a storefront window, our communications, we learned, must follow suit. When members of the media or the ad community challenged the social relevancy and sincerity of the projects we were executing, we were immediately honest about our motivations and our associations to BBH. Not only did it help us to move forward to better develop the idea, it got the subject out early and placed the focus back on what was important.
Feed feed feed.
When consumers commit to a brand or platform, they formulate expectations.And with the brevity and ubiquity of stuff today, those expectations need to be forthright and on schedule—they must live and operate as their character does.
We learned that, especially when making a chronological or episodic product (say, 30 dates/30 days or a constant cookie delivery), content must deliver on that promise. The market, particularly online, is one big ocean of fishes and underwater activity—there are sharks that are hungry for new feed all the time. It’s important to keep them full.
Build dynamics from those around you.
Little was more important than realizing the crazy importance of working in a team. Put together at the start of 10 weeks with complete strangers, we had to recognize strengths early, put egos aside and move very quickly to process ideas.
Most importantly, it was designing a system with the insurmountable intelligence that we had on hand to make things happen.
Become a community manager.
Whether it was living in the online space or in the physical, both teams had to pay careful attention to what was being voiced and how to respond. As we developed each project monitoring feedback and reacting quickly became paramount—even more so, understanding how particular channels consumed and reacted to the bits of information informed our output as we moved along.
Understand and do timely collaboration.
Make it messy. Curate timelines for concepts to enter in and out, and bring everybody in. Collaboration should be like a big party, with everyone invited and all ideas honorable. The Barn is an incubator for collaboration—but it needs to be controlled and relevant to real-world happenings and interactions, or else it could be DOA.
Speak many languages, and carry a big idea.
Everyone in the Barn came from disparate backgrounds and it was very easy to simplify being very good at one thing. Whether it was coding, filming or writing copy, it was imperative that we leaned on other efficiencies to make each project work. The idea ran faster, operated better and was more agile with the distribution of skills and resources.
You must be curious, and you must ask why (or why not). This goes both for the culture within the wooden walls of the Barn, as well as outside in the fields and world-at-large. Be all, WTF about the workings of things, the lives of people and the wherewithal of ideas. Well-traveled—physically and mentally.
It’s like championing @kanyewest, AND questioning if the @John_Hegarty Twitter handle was a genuine or a fraud.
Beta can save your life, and your livelihood.
As many in the ad world can attest, it’s simply our nature to constantly massage, tinker with and hold close the ideas that are meant for the world. Getting them out into the real world early and often (half-dressed and really ugly, even) can pay off and help to shape the route towards the road ahead.
Make friends, be human.
While brands and businesses are trying so hard to be all the more human (and their agencies doing some of the handholding and small talking along the way), we forget too often that we, too, should do the same. Many in the Barn joined the soccer team, celebrated camaraderie with fellow black sheep and spent quality time with our mentors, all in the hope of forming a strong kinship with the offices. It worked. So much of BBH (and I’d hope the world) is about the people you work with; it’s about getting to know them and how they’re a genius at everything.
(Internships start in January. Apply here.)
19th November 10
Author: Matthew Gladstone (@gladstonematt), Partner, BBH London
So it’s official, “Applications are the white goods of the 21st century” and sales of virtual goods have crossed the $2bn threshold in the US and iTunes has over a billion downloads.
But, as we all know, not everyone is enjoying the party – Thom Yorke has told young bands not to tie themselves to the sinking ship of music companies, Murdoch is trying out pay walls for his newspapers, and a US court has caused outcry by ruling that people who have bought discs of software don’t actually “own” them – they cannot sell them second hand on eBay.
I think the difference is a lot to do with packaging and branding. Or, to be precise, virtual packaging and branding. People who are getting it right are getting paid more than those who aren’t.
What packaging and branding do is to create a sense of property and ownership. And property and ownership are norms that tell us to value and pay for things. Which are big problems in the virtual economy.
So my provocation is this: “Virtual packaging” is one way to create that sense of ownership and property. Just as the pioneers of branding created commercial value when they put trade-marks onto commodities in the tangible world – branded them as “theirs” – we have to reinvent packaging and branding for the virtual world.
The most obvious examples of this are Apps (packaged, single-purpose, branded on the button, tangible with a finger, made unique to you through use) and, at the other extreme, music (downloaded via anonymous browser, no presence other than a line of text in a database, totally generic). And who is persuading people to pay more successfully?
I think that one day we will look back at the App v.2010 and laugh at its crudity. One day we will have virtual packaging as iconic as this:
But let’s go back to the beginning.
My first wake up call was overhearing the oft-debated morality of downloading music. Free file sharing? Fine. Normal. That’s how you get music. Why the question? But walking out of a store with a cd without paying for it? Shoplifting. Stealing. Wrong. Equally obvious.
So what’s the difference between download and CD? To the artist, none. But to the user, one was packaged – physical, shiny, found in a shop – the other, just a piece of anonymous data accessed through a browser.
Look at Murdoch vs. the App. No detailed data are available yet, but anecdotal reports say that iPad apps are performing disproportionately well vs. subscriptions accessed via browser. And Ben Hughes, global commercial director and deputy CEO of the Financial Times, says the iPad is a “game-changer” for the newspaper industry. It’s the app vs the generic packaging of the browser.
Which leaves our last example – the action against someone selling software discs on eBay. The Software and Information Industry Association (USA) is breaking our norms of ownership and property when it says “I own that physical thing you bought”. We all feel that physical things belong to the person who buys them.
So the App is really just a virtual box. iTunes or Amazon just a virtual shop (no shit). Things that have cleverly used the norms of ownership and property in the virtual space, to make us more likely to pay for them. Right now the virtual retailers seem to be way more sophisticated than the products they sell – but hopefully that will change.
So here are some starters on creating virtual packaging (some of these may seem uncannily obvious or familiar to the real world, but maybe that’s the point):
- visual identity which differentiates the object
- tangible, touchable
- a differentiated experience (sounds, colours, even haptic “textures”)
- adaptive to the owner – evolving into something distinctively personal to the owner
- hard to copy and transfer; the sense of a physical transfer, not a lossless virtual one
Perhaps it’s time music came in Apps. As we said earlier: branded on the button, tangible, with a memory of what I did last time, with an experience unique to each app or band. Perhaps it would even be like a gatefold of old, but on steroids. Now that’s something I’d pay for.
We’d like to know what you think. Who’s doing this well? Do you know anyone who works in the world of packaging who’d want to comment?
17th November 10
Every year Mary Meeker from Morgan Stanley amazes us with her State of the Web presentation, and this year is no exception. The presentation is immensely valuable to our profession because it highlights shifts in internet culture and identifies opportunities for businesses and marketers alike.
The most provoking part of the presentation is the Disruptive Innovation slide. PSFK had a great blurb on describing the importance of this theory:
Disruptive Innovation is what’s to blame for the success of smaller, nimbler but sometimes cheaper products or services that manage to disrupt the success or complacency of larger, traditional brand players. Think of Amazon’s continued growth and eventual ‘breaking’ of Barnes & Noble, or Netflix’s killing of Blockbuster. Meeker’s presentation lays out two ways in which this disruptive innovation can happen
The two ways that Disruptive Innovation can happen. The first is a Low-End Segment Strategy by offering a product or service at a very low cost and then move up market. The second is called a Non-Consumption Strategy which basically means true innovation where consumption didn’t exist prior to the product being available.
We have the presentation embedded here for your enjoyment. Please tell us what you found interesting? What worries you about this data? What excites you about this data?
12th November 10
Posted in coding
Just as it is very easy to have an opinion about art without knowing how to draw, it’s very, very simple to talk knowledgeably about ‘digital’ without knowing anything about coding – the logic underlying every website and digital product we’ve ever used, tweeted about and, often, criticised.
So as part of Internet Week Europe and with Google Creative Labs we held a Coding for Dummies workshop which was an opportunity for 40 or so people to learn at the feet of some true coding ninjas and take their first, shaky steps along the path of geek enlightenment.
The afternoon didn’t finish with the class able to recreate We Feel Fine or launch an alternative blogging platform. But what it did was give everyone the confidence to go and have a look at a webpage’s source code and the beginnings of understanding why things on the web look and behave the way they do. A bunch of people can now go and play with code, launch a page onto the internet, tweak it, break it and maybe even fix it again.
Below are @tomux’s slides and at the end of them we’ve added a few of the pages that some of the dummies-no-longer created. We enjoyed ourselves so much (and still have so much to learn!) that we hope to do this again some time – keep an eye on our twitter for details.
We know code-fu.
10th November 10
For years we’ve been talking about and developing communications for the shortening attention spans of consumers. We are bombarded with statistics about the average dwell time on a web page (43 seconds according to Comscore) or the lifespan of a tweet which, if it isn’t retweeted within 60minutes, will never be, according to Sysomos.
Today, we’re ascending the slopes of Mount Sinai, the computer ready in our pockets and the promised land of ubiquitous always-on connection is on the horizon. But before we get there maybe there is a place for long-form communications to occupy us at those times where we can devote our attention to a piece of content but cannot easily surf away when our attention wanders.
Certainly the uptake of instapaper and its integration into all sorts of web and mobile apps suggests that people are saving more articles to read later and longreads recent revamp makes it even simpler to get long form textual content onto your mobile device.
So is the decline of attention as inexorable as previously thought? As well as video we are both producing and consuming more text than ever and today’s devices allow comfortable on the go reading of long-form narrative.
Time to consider whether a digital communications strategy needs to allow for both a wide, shallow spread and a long, deep dive.
Long live attention.
3rd November 10
Posted in Events
We all know what a page is, and HTML, and a server – but did you ever want to code? Well, our afternoon of coding for beginners in London next week won’t make you into a ninja web developer, but it is a light-hearted, activity-led series of hour-long sessions for the most (and we mean ‘most’) inexperienced web wannabe.
Think of it as Blue Peter meets O’Reilly – by the end of the day you should have your own toilet-roll and sellotape webpage and a few new skills. You can come for any of the hour-long courses or for the whole afternoon. We’ll bring some experts (a couple of awesome Google engineers, along with BBH London’s Head of Technology, Jim Hunt and Head of Creative Technology, Jon Andrews). You’ll need to bring a laptop and some enthusiasm.
There’s limited availability, so please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
2nd November 10
We’ve written before about our straight-up admiration for Green Thing’s focus on using creativity to switch people away from thinking of green living as something we ought to do, to something we want to do.
This time around, they’ve applied their talents to t-shirts.
As the blurb says: “Saved is a new sustainable product and anti-waste campaign that takes unwanted or unloved T-shirts, washes them, hand-stitches ‘Saved’ lettering onto them, adds a Saved story (saved from bad taste, saved from disrepair, saved from neglect) and in doing so makes each T-shirt a bit more fashionable and a lot more desirable.”
Aside from the obligatory celebrity endorsement (stand up Marina and the Diamonds, Imogen Heap, VV Brown, Professor Green and Zandra Rhodes, who’ve all donated t-shirts) the thing we particularly like is the innovation and design Green Thing used at every stage of the Saved cycle. Including a “pay it forward”-style approach to delivery – already recycled, the packaging containing your t-shirt can be reused with a freepost label to send back one of your own old t-shirts to be Saved for somebody else.
But more importantly, buy one on their Facebook page here.
1st November 10
Posted in BBH Labs
“It is not the same to talk about bulls, as to be in the bull ring”
- Spanish proverb (HT @juzmcmuz)
We’ve mentioned before that we pick just 10 links we like the look of every week (provocative, challenging, useful and/or entertaining tend to be the order of the day) and send them to our friends at BBH around the world.
It’s heavily based on the @BBHLabs twitterstream across 7 days, but filleted, honed and whittled to a Top Ten for anyone who fancies a filter between them and the 24/7, 365 days a year drenching in data that is Twitter.
So here it is again. Feel free to pass on. As usual, ideas on making it more useful always welcome.
“140 chars is not a limit, it’s a shape” – exceptional interview with @discographies on Big Spaceship’s Think blog: http://bit.ly/bXzMkz
‘Ball Droppings’, a Chrome HTML5 experiment: http://bit.ly/9ua0s (via @timogeo @seth_weisfeld)
The history of mankind in a minute – a great stop-motion animation for BBC: http://bit.ly/aFhOUN (via @motionographer)
Super cool – Stamen Design’s 2 week long series of race data visualisations for W+K London’s Nike Grid is live: http://sta.mn/x3g
Not sure why this took so long. Augmented Reality app that lets users graffiti buildings. Interesting “steal” feature too: http://gizmo.do/bHdwRm
*Extraordinary* short ‘Nuit Blanche’ – if you’ve not seen this, think Brief Encounter + CGI – by Arev Manoukian: http://bit.ly/bEnTvw (via @finnbarrw)
NASA turns its attention to sustainability challenges right here on Earth, with its LAUNCH initiative: http://launch.org/ (via @jess3)
How Money Follows Attention, Eventually – Kevin Kelly on the commercial future of mediators who boost the signal: http://bit.ly/dfGfun
“The first step for each of us is to imagine fearlessly; to dream.” – big thinking from Ray Ozzie: http://bit.ly/a3RsM5 (via @Techcrunch)
And a bonus 11th, Power to the Pixel guest post on Labs: Powered by Pixels – on new storytelling: http://bit.ly/pttppost