Archive for April, 2011
28th April 11
Posted in business models
Last weekend @malbonnington posed a deceptively simple question: Do We Really Need Chief Innovation Officers in Ad Agencies? He cited four people with related titles, including our own @saneel who holds the title Director of Innovation at BBH NY. I was reminded of Ed Cotton’s posts which asked a similar question about the role of agency labs. In both cases, the comment threads are as enlightening as the posts – don’t take our word for it, go check them out, including Ben’s own excellent response here. Below I’ve pulled out and built upon our contribution to the debate in both cases. Consistently aided and abetted, prodded and provoked by others far smarter than us since we set up Labs in 2008 (you know who you are, the likes of @edwardboches, @benkunz, @timogeo, @malbonster, @patsmc, @willsh, @caseorganic, @irowan, @danlight, @shaunabe, and @tomux are just a flavour), this post has ended up being a distillation of what we’ve learned so far about this topic.
I suspect innovation, or more specifically, how we deliver it, is a topic that’ll continue to cause debate in any creative industry worth its salt, for the simple reason that innovation isn’t an ‘add-on to what we all do, it is the decades-old bedrock of our existence: asking audiences to see their world in new ways, seeking new routes to communicate, shining a light on invention. We may embrace co-creation and recombinant culture, but our industry still worships at the altar of originality. Who of us doesn’t want to do ground-breaking stuff? Inevitably, it follows that the very idea of “innovation transcending functional expertise“ can feel like a total anathema.
Certainly, my immediate response to the questions about Chief Innovation Officers and agency labs is pretty simple: in most cases, I wouldn’t appoint someone to the job.
I say this for three reasons:
a. Few agencies aspire to operate close enough to the “bleeding edge” to justify the cost.
b. As others have commented in the past, the hiring of a CIO all too often represents an abdication of a management team’s responsibility to lead change.
c. It’s a tight rope walk of a job. Incredibly easy to slip off.
And yet…for the people with the appetite to try it, here are a couple of thoughts on why, when and how we *might* make it work:
1. Start by picking your company carefully.
Oddly, it’s at the extreme ends of the spectrum of corporate health that this role may be most useful: at the hellish end where a company is wallowing in a stagnant backwater, the short term appointment a CIO could help signal a fresh agenda. At the opposite end, when an agency has grown too big to sit around one table yet retains a forward-looking culture, a CIO can play a powerful, much more strategic role. More on this below.
2. Demonstrate the value of exploring the ‘edges’.
Make sure everyone around you (that’s the whole agency, not just management) are on board with the commercial and creative advantage your role can bring. Summarised, the task is to explore and exploit the opportunities at the “edges” of your business, as described in a related FT.com article from earlier this year:
“Edges could involve new product introductions, expansion into new markets, or the launch of entirely new business propositions…the edges of companies are generally more open to change and the adoption of new technologies, because they face more unmet needs and fewer established routines. The people who are attracted to edges tend to be less risk-averse, as well….Longer term, edge initiatives have the potential to become the new core of the enterprise.”
22nd April 11
Posted in People
We interview people all the time, even when we’re not hiring.
There’s no arguing that the quality of junior talent in our industry is exceptional. This is a group that’s taking a systematic approach to studying our craft, while balancing it with a pleasantly messy (as Global Planning Director, Heidi Hackemer, labeled it when screening candidates for the Barn program) mix of other interests that feed their insatiable curiosity.
Yet, there is an alarming trend about this talent. It has to do with packaging.
We look for T-shaped people when hiring. In other words, talent that’s got a specific area of awesomeness, but stretches into other areas in a highly collaborative way. This is distinct from being a hybrid talent, a label that most junior talent in our industry self-apply early into most of these conversations: “I’m a mix of strategy, creative, media and production.” True hybrid talent has more than one depth of expertise. That’s exceptionally hard (I know, I was a sub-par Media Director before being a sub-par Creative Director).
No doubt this crop of people is indeed a mix of expertise. In fact, it’s likely more true than of prior generations of ad talent. The question remains though, what arenas do they have or seek a depth of expertise in? In other words, what’s the base of the T?
No one wants to be put in a box, ourselves included. But, ultimately clients want to know what they’re buying, especially in a world of ever less familiar job titles. At BBH for example, it isn’t until clients see engagement planning as a discipline that they fully appreciate the value it brings to the table in today’s marketing landscape.
Which brings us to the punch line. The junior talent in this industry needs to remain buyable, even as they become messier and potentially more hybrid. So many talented young folks do a little bit of everything, but few are willing to commit to doing one particular thing quite well. In other words, those with the potential to truly be hybrid talent—deep skills in more than one vertical expertise—never manage to gain the depth to deliver on the promise such talent has.
Yet, it’s exactly that talent that I know every agency in the country would hand a job to right now if they were just more buyable. The question is simply, which one needs to change? The talent and how they package themselves? Or the agencies that struggle to explain their value to clients?
15th April 11
Posted in Uncategorized
Author: Rosie Arnold, Deputy Exec Creative Director, BBH and Deputy D&AD President
On Tuesday night, D&AD launched a new initiative: The White Pencil Award. It is an ongoing award, but the first White Pencil will be awarded next year to a piece of creative thinking that best answers a brief that we’re giving to the whole creative community.
The White Pencil is for a piece of creative work that changes the world for the better; the first organisation D&AD has chosen to support is Peace One Day.
The brief is available here and, to the best of my knowledge, it is the first time the entire global creative community of designers, advertisers, digital, photographers etc has been give the same brief.
Come on all you creatives out there: use your talent to change the world.
14th April 11
Posted in Uncategorized
When Jonathan Harris’ project ‘Today‘ began, we instantly liked its intentions. Lifestreaming projects like this are hardly new but, in the hands of someone like Harris, you know ‘a photo and a story a day’ (in his case, a resolution made to mark his 30th birthday) is going to be downright special.
In this film, made by Jonathan’s friend Scott Thrift, over a year’s worth of photos each appear for a second.
The soundtrack is Harris talking about the experience which will feel familiar to any lifestreamers – the early anxiety, the excitement of figuring it out, a growing audience, then a sense of the project ‘running you’ … followed by the missing it once it’s gone.
“I use stories as a technique to organise the past and I think there’s a real lack of storytelling now among all of us. We’re all living lives that are so fragmented…there’s not that time to create stories, to make sense of that experience.”
For more of Jonathan’s work, check out number27.org.
14th April 11
From 12pm GMT today, BBH’s global run/row/cycle-a-thon goes LIVE, streaming from all six BBH offices simultaneously for 24 hours straight. You can watch it happen via the webcams on the site. Please show your support by donating here, tweet #bbh4japan or leave a message for everyone breaking a sweat here. All donations, no matter how small, will help the charity we’ve chosen to support, ShelterBox.org, deliver emergency temporary housing, warmth and dignity to Japanese families who have lost everything after the devastating earthquake and tsunami.
A whole host of people around the world in BBH offices got this up and running.. you know who you are. We also caught up with Dom Grant and Zak Razvi at BBH London who designed the art work to promote the event:
“We wanted to create a powerful image that worked on more than just one level. Using the iconic design of the Japanese flag, we replaced the red circle with a textured heart graphic. We then used the shape of Japan as a crack to depict a broken heart. We hope the image encapsulates our love and respect for the people of Japan.”
Please give generously. A big thank you for your support, from everyone here and at Shelterbox.org.
******AN UPDATE, 21.04.11******
As of this morning, we’re happy to report a whopping £27, 110 has been raised! Thank you to EVERYONE who donated and supported the effort.
Here are some shots from Japan sent to us by Shelterbox today:
12th April 11
“Here’s to living forever. That’s not just a salutation in our family”
~ Sonya Kurzweil
“This is of mythical proportions. We have to deal with it, even if it turns out not to be true.”
~ Kevin Kelly
Regular readers of this blog will know we have an abiding fascination with what technology may bring in the far flung future (see our The Coming Age of Augmentation post and, most recently, Greg Anderson on Asimov’s First Law).
So it’ll be no surprise to hear we got *extremely* excited when an invite arrived, courtesy of Google, to attend a screening of Barry Ptolemy’s Transcendent Man at the Science Museum in London, followed by a Q&A with the director and the film’s subject, the futurist, author and engineer Ray Kurzweil. Read full post
7th April 11
Whenever Boulder Digital Works puts on an event they attract some of the best talent in the industry. The event is in Boulder, Colorado April 28-29 and you can click here to register.
Below are some notes from the last BDW Event in New York which should give you a taste of what you might see in Colorado.
The Education of Staff and Clients
Edward Boches, Chief Innovation Officer at Mullen described how he got his agency and clients migrating over to social media platforms like Twitter. Before the “Trash Talk from Section Twitter” Mullen had around ten people on Twitter and a handful of clients using the platform. After inviting all their staff and clients to participate, Mullen surged to 350+ people on Twitter and half their clients using the platform. These clients now see Mullen as an expert in the space because they showed them how to use the platform.
The Importance of Partnerships
The trend in agency innovation is to increase dependence on partnerships. Agencies like Victors and Spoils and Co: depend on this model to survive but they also describe how one agency cannot be geographically everywhere to take advantage of all the available talent. This philosophy describes a completely different agency landscape where cooperation creates greatness.
Creative Technologists are the new Rock Stars
A number of speakers talked about Creative Technologists but Scott Pringle and Chloe Glottlieb really nailed the role in their presentations. Chloe talked about a book called ‘Program or be Programmed’ which seems to be the story of the day. Scott shared the importance of playing with technology, sharing that with creative teams and then combining that thinking to meet a client objective.
Speed of Thought
Tim Malbon of Made by Many shared the importance of agility and speed to get things to market and work with your users to refine. We love Tim’s approach to ideation through “sketch sessions” where people sit for an hour and sketch out ideas and then talk about the ideas with the team.
What do you think?
What’s the best way to educate clients on Social Media?
How important are partnerships in your agency?
Should Creative Technologists be the only people that know how to code?
4th April 11
Posted in Uncategorized
Author: Greg Andersen (@gandersen), CEO, BBH New York
In the last couple of weeks I’ve read two specific articles that made me really stop and think about our future as a creative industry. The first was the March 26th New York Times article “In a New Web World, No Application is an Island”. It paints a picture of a silky smooth, boundary-less web full of open and interconnected apps thanks largely to HTML5. The creative palate and resulting experiences made possible by the likes of HTML5 are truly thrilling. The second article was “Nine jobs that humans may lose to robots”. On the list are occupations you’d expect to see left to machines, like soldiers and astronauts. But taking a step back and considering the all the advances in marketing technology I can’t help but wonder if advertising people, including creatives, will be appearing on that list when the article is inevitably written again in a few years time.
To be clear, this isn’t an anti-technology rant. That would be odd on the BBH Labs blog and flies straight into the face of tons of BBH work and investments within the agency. Rather, it is one guy’s view of a potential future brought on by a lot of very well intentioned innovations and advances, marked in my mind by said excitement around HTML5.
On the surface, what HTML5 offers to creativity and brand experiences is nothing short of amazing. Things like immediate video playback and better video tagging and search-ability will help to further accelerate content adoption and open exciting new creative uses of video. It also means that it will be easier to connect specific video content to other related content like articles, photos, data, etc. In short, HTML5 will make for brand experiences that can go both broader and deeper while maintaining a high quality user experience. Done well, these experiences will be good enough to be searched for and sought out…even if they are really just marketing.
Another positive side of HTML5 is its openness; providing the ability to create vastly better experiences on the free range of the web not penned in by walled garden technology companies. But this also means an incredible open flow of MUCH richer user data around preferences and behaviors. In itself, that’s not a big deal. Agencies and marketers and media owners constantly seek out better information to make better things and better decisions. But marketing is now also swamped with new marketing technologies to take advantage of this data. Coupled with tools for behavioral targeting, tools for social media monitoring, tools for conversion optimization, tools for automated bid optimization, tools for CRM marketing automation and tools that make it much easier for rich creative automation… I wonder what the role for us humans really is.
The best brands and their creativity make people both do and feel. To accomplish that we must not lose humanity in marketing creativity regardless of what is possible technologically. Human creativity is a special thing and when applied to brands there is still something oddly reassuring knowing that behind most any piece of brand communication there is a human engaging another human through a discourse of persuasion.
Asimov’s First Law states “a robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.” Man, I hope he was talking about advertising people.
1st April 11
Posted in creativity
Author: Pelle Sjoenell (@pellesjoenell), Executive Creative Director, BBH LA
I believe Creative Direction isn’t just Creative Selection. I’ve noticed the two are often confused and I think it’s the result of agency process. Creative Direction is about having a vision and making sure the vision is clear to everyone involved. Having a vision doesn’t mean coming up with or choosing the ideas. Having a vision is about leadership, constantly inspiring and instigating. That’s why Creative Direction has to start early in collaboration with planners, even before a brief is written, and follow through to the end of the rainbow. In other words, if Creative Direction is done right, you should never have to select. You never need to resort to the role of a bouncer. Or simply giving things thumbs up or thumbs down.
The process can only be fixed if the Creative Director doesn’t sit above others. Creative Director is just another kind of job. No one works for a Creative Director. Everyone works for the idea. The idea hires us and we go to work. The Creative Director’s relationship with the idea is unique. It’s a combination of three professions – a politician, a farmer and an assassin. The politician handles the multiple stakeholders of the idea, traditionally pursuing different agendas. The farmer’s part is to nurture the idea so it can grow from interesting to awesome. This means identifying which add-ons, or fertilizers, will make the work better and which will hurt the crops. Lastly, the Creative Director needs to be able to shape shift into an assassin. This means isolating any threat against the beautiful, fragile idea, and putting it to sleep forever.
Playing these three roles requires the Creative Director to be involved early and broadly. It’s when Creative Directors are involved late, or are too far removed, that their job becomes that of Creative Selection. Ultimately, that’s but a minor part of the job.