Archive for May, 2011
17th May 11
Posted in BBH Labs
Regular readers will know that every now and again we share our top ten links over the past 7 days. This one has a particular space mission flavour to it, we hope you enjoy.
We’ve fallen in love with Photopic Sky Survey, a 5,000 megapixel photograph of the entire night sky (see image below).
Legendary Technologist John Seely Brown talks about “the big shift” and much more in this fantastic speech.
Our friends at Made By Many launched madebyideas, an elegantly simple platform for sharing and rating ideas.
Prinstagram is the latest star in the exploding Instagram solar-system, letting you print photos or Instagrid posters.
Think Insights is a new digital marketing trends site from Google because “data beats opinion.”
BBH friend Adam Wohl writes a manifesto on the future of agencies.
An epic post by Dan Light on emerging trends in movie-land, “Distribution, Redistributed.”
BBH London’s Chairman, Jim Carroll, asks “Whose ad is it anyway?” in this post on the Labs blog.
Labs’ Jeremy Ettinghausen interviewed Amber Case (@caseorganic, a cyborg anthropologist) about everything you’d want him to.
*Bonus* Google launched its Chromebook last week (a computer-like object). Here’s the BBH-created video.
Source: Photopic Sky Survey
17th May 11
Posted in People
We recently ran a post asking if the junior talent in advertising are packaging themselves wrong. As we tend to do, we turned to a reader to help us answer that question after a number of very insightful comments on the post. In this case, we asked William Burks Spencer, who recently interviewed over 100 Creative Directors about what they look for in portfolios and compiled them into Breaking In, a book about creating a portfolio that will get you hired. For excerpts from the book, checkout the companion site.
Author: William Burks Spencer (@wspencer), Freelance Copywriter
Are students and juniors in advertising packaging themselves wrong? I think the answer is “most of the time, yes.” When I asked over 100 Creative Directors about what they look for in portfolios, on most topics there was a good diversity of opinion. But everyone agreed on one point: most books are pretty much the same.
Certainly a lot of it has to do with content–books all look the same because the advertising in them is the same. Often ads in student books lack strategic thinking. It is very obvious when someone jumped right into making ads without any thought as to what the business problem was, or how to solve it. Another common problem has to do with technology. Students often show executions across tons of different media including Facebook apps, iPhone apps, and more, without having a powerful idea at the core. They’re good at blowing out an idea, but not actually crafting it. But beyond just the ads, I think there is a problem and an opportunity here. Very few juniors venture outside of the normal format: 5-7 campaigns and a resume.
I think a solution can come from thinking about two things:
1. A portfolio tells a creative director “this is what I want to do”. That’s a very personal question and it gets to the heart of a student’s personality and passion. I think the reason a lot of books feel the same is that students haven’t thought about this question. They don’t have strong feelings about what they want to do so they let other people to figure it out for them. I’m not talking about “being an art director or writer”–that’s too broad. I’m talking about having a unique voice that comes through in your work. Or a strong point-of-view. Or specializing in one aspect of advertising that you love and demonstrating it. A lot of junior talent are trying to fit into what they think a creative should be, whereas Creative Directors are looking for people who know who they are.
2. A portfolio needs to make a point. It needs to make an impression on a Creative Director that stays with them. Matt Vescovo, an art director and artist, said in the book: “What’s really appropriate about the whole thing is that Creative Directors look at student books the way that consumers look at advertising.” Just as a good ad needs to leave you with a certain message or feeling, a good book should as well.
I think students need to combine these two goals and build a portfolio that demonstrates, in a memorable and original way, what kind of work they want to do.
If want to make Facebook apps and that’s what you’re good at, go for it. If you love crafting long-copy, show that. Make that your hook. It comes back to the idea of the T-shaped creative person that BBH and others use. Show what you’re good at and passionate about. And then show that you can do the other things that someone with the title you want would be expected to do. It seems like most students and juniors are afraid of planting the base of the T and the result is they end up just being an underscore.
I often tell students about a friend of mine whose student portfolio consisted of a 6-foot roll of paper. Unrolling it revealed a single campaign that he art directed 7 different ways. Think about the impact that has for a CD to see that layed out on the floor. It stands out because it is different and bold. It made the point that he’s a prolific, exacting art director who will work for as long as it takes to get it right. And he is. He works at Wieden+Kennedy in Portland.
In the book, Pat McKay, who is a freelance Creative Director in Seattle and worked at Wieden+Kennedy London with me, said that he thinks it is smart for a book to have an idea to it. Pat said he “would certainly look twice if a book came in with 100 sketches and they were all good ideas.” That book would say “I’m just going to have loads of ideas and that’s the one thing I want to leave in that person’s mind”.
Another way to package yourself differently is to get away from advertising completely. To show something else that shows your voice and personality. One of the other questions I asked everyone I interviewed was about showing this type of work–writing, art, hobbies, etc. Most Creative Directors I spoke to were interested in seeing it and it was usually those things that they could remember and talk about, years down the line.
Tony Davidson of Wieden+Kennedy London talked about a team who filmed themselves getting over a very low rail in different, often silly, ways to show that they solved problems differently. Dave Bell from KesselsKramer talked about someone who had a book called “Very, Very Short Stories” containing a hundred or more 3-line stories. Ted Royer of Droga5 talked about someone he hired who put a technical blueprint of Noah’s Ark in his book. Vince Engel of Engine Company 1 remembered someone who wrote absurd letters to companies and compiled them into a book. Those things all probably say more about a person than ads.
Your portfolio has to represent you for those precious few minutes with a Creative Director. The onus is on you to show that they can think differently than anyone else in the building. Why not make a statement? Be different. Take a stand. Demonstrate that you have the base of the T, whatever that might be. If you open the conversation, you will always have an opportunity to show that you have the broader skills at the top part of the T as well. It might feel risky, but the bigger risk is not taking one.
16th May 11
Posted in creativity
Author: Jim Carroll, Chairman, BBH London
Last week I attended a talk by the magnificent Royal Ballet dancer, Tamara Rojo.
As a child growing up in Madrid she had not been aware of ballet and had stumbled into her first dance academy somewhat by chance. She immediately fell in love with the art form and became a diligent pupil. Observing her enthusiasm for dance, her parents took her to a performance of Swan Lake by a visiting Russian company.
The young Tamara was, however, disappointed and upset by the experience. She loved ballet, but had never imagined that it was to be crafted into stories and performed in front of other people. She thought ballet was, as she had experienced it in class, an entirely personal thing, a beautiful private escape.
Subsequently Tamara’s teachers would tell her that she was there to entertain the audiences, not herself. But one could not help concluding that Tamara’s exceptional ability to inspire others was derived in part from her determination to do something for herself.
Inevitably when we discuss modern communication,we spend most of our time considering whether we are properly reflecting the truth of the brand or engaging the interest and participation of the audience. And rightly so. But doesn’t it help, a little at least, to be motivated by our own interest, enthusiasm and sense of pride?
Many years ago I worked with the much loved and respected creative, Martin Galton. We would return, heads bowed, from another attritional Client meeting to supply the team with the customary ‘builds’. Martin, however, would only entertain a certain level of distortion of his original concept. Beyond that point he’d say: ‘Forget it.Throw that idea away and I’ll do you another one.’
Frustrating at the time, but his self-belief endured. In an era where the communications process is increasingly driven by the end user and hyper-targeting techniques, how many of us stubbornly hold on to our own vision? Is there still a time and a place to ‘dance for ourselves’?
4th May 11
Posted in Location
“Nothing Propinks Like Propinquity” - Diamonds Are Forever, Ian Fleming
Last Thursday I cycled from work, popped into a speciality liquor store and stopped at a pub for a swift pint near my home. In case anyone was out and about and our paths intersected, I published my movements via twitter for the world to see. While I went on my way, my phone checked me automatically into places I spent more than 10 minutes in, boosting my Foursquare ranking. I also dropped my future self a couple of geocoded notes (a reminder about some shopping that I needed to do and directions to a friend’s house) which pinged up on my phone as I got into the approximate locations over the weekend.
I did these things using Geoloqi which was one of the most interesting things Labs saw at this year’s SXSW. And others seem to agree – last week Geoloqi won the Best Mobile App award at Appnation. So, with the current fuss about Apple’s collection of iphone generated geodata and the seemingly explosive growth of location based services, it seemed to be a good time to talk to Geoloqi’s co-founder, Amber Case about Geoloqi, location and cyborg anthropology.
Labs: Where did the idea for Geoloqi come from?
AC: I met my co-founder Aaron Parecki in 2009 a few days after he moved to Portland from Eugene. Someone at a networking event told me that I should meet “this guy who had been tracking his location every 5 seconds for the last year”. When I met him, I immediately became very excited. I’d been talking for years about so many of the systems that Aaron was actually building. Soon after that, Aaron and I began working on micro projects together. Later Aaron set me up with an automated check in system based on GPS coordinates. The system allowed me to check into locations without having to load an interface. This was about 2 years before any of the geosocial systems were readily available.
I was elated by the discovery that Aaron and I had been working on the same idea independently of each other for the past two years. After a while, we began to present on cool things people could do with persistent location data. The presentations had large audiences and people wanted to do cool things with location data as well. The only problem was that Aaron was using an old Windows mobile phone at the time to track GPS data, and I was using an old Boost Mobile feature phone. The iPhone was just barely capable of tracking GPS data and neither of us knew how to develop apps for the iPhone, but that would soon change as we dove head-first into figuring out how make what we called “non-visual augmented reality” accessible to those with regular mobile devices.
Labs: What is the short term development road map for Geoloqi?
AC: We plan to finish the iPhone app and build up the Android app to the same level. We’ll be making the apps and the website much easier to use and polishing them up. You can expect to see some significant improvements in the features we currently have available, and there will be some new features soon such as calendar integration and improvements to our Foursquare and Facebook integration. Our next feature will allow you to add firstname.lastname@example.org to meetings on your calendar. Fifteen minutes before a meeting you’ll get a message from Geoloqi asking if you’d like to share your location with the meeting attendees. If you say yes, your route will be shared with them, and if you arrive at the meeting before the scheduled meeting time, you’ll get points. It’s all about trying to reward timely behavior.
Labs: Where do you see Geoloqi as a product further down the line?
AC: I can’t tell you where we will be, but I can tell you where we’d like to be. We see Geoloqi as an essential, perhaps even invisible, part of everyday life. As a tool for ambient discovery that provides information that is relevant and useful, instead of jarring and irrelevant. Basically a customized experience that frees up one’s time to be more human.
Labs: In the week that Apple and Sony have had to answer questions about collection and storage of personal data, do you worry that services like Geoloqi encourage people to give too much of themselves away?
AC: I think that Geoloqi encourages people to be mindful of what they give away. It’s a default-private service with information that can be shared for limited periods of time with certain people. I think that Twitter and Facebook encourage and reward the sharing of information with others. I don’t think that sharing is a bad thing. I think it opens up opportunities to meet others with similar ideas and experiences. However, location is something that is more than just talking on the Internet. It is a very private thing and should be dealt with accordingly. The idea behind Geoloqi is that it is a private location-sharing service that allows one full control over their privacy. We built it out our own desire to share information in a controlled manner with others for limited periods of time.
Labs: You’ve just given up your day job to work full time on Geoloqi – was this a hard decision and what are the differences between working for a company and being a start-up?
AC: This was a decision I thought about a great deal. Leaving a stable job is a difficult thing, but I felt more constrained every day.To me being a startup is going after something that hasn’t been done right, or building something that brings joy or excitement into the lives of others. A lot of technology out there is broken. Technology in general is very difficult, and there are problems out there that are very difficult to solve. I think it is a very valiant thing to try to solve those problems.
Labs: I remember a quote which said that a technology won’t propagate unless it satisfies a human/social need – what human/social need do you think Geoloqi satisfies?
AC: The need to be human. The need for technology to get out of the way and let humans live their lives. Innovation in technology comes from reducing the time and space it takes to perform an action, or compress redundant actions in order to free up time. Computers used to be the size of gymnasiums. Now we have computers in our pockets, begging for attention. We’re constantly planning for our future selves. We look at Yelp! reviews to prepare our next culinary adventure. We want to guarantee that our future selves will have a good experience. We’re connecting to tons of people to do this, connecting to the collective wisdom of a data set that consists of many samples. The more samples, the more accurate the data set. Why ask one person when you can ask many?
We want to guarantee that our future selves will have a good experience.
A vehicle is a physical transportation device. There are limits to how small it can be made. But a computer is a mental transportation device. It need not be limited by tangibility. Because of this, it has the potential to fill up with data without the limits of a tangible object.
One’s location is valuable to another if and only if that location or person is socially relevant during that time period. The basic case here is the meeting. Person A and Person B need to meet each other, but GPS data is only shared between them when they have a scheduled meeting. When the meeting ends, the data wall closes off, giving them back their privacy, kind of like a wormhole of temporary transparency between two people. This solves the problem of extreme bouts of “checkin-ism”, as well as the issue of remaining privy to one’s whereabouts all the time. If more people were on the network, this sort of action would have to be taken. Negotiations of privacy and messages would have to be structured so as to prevent push and SMS notification exhaustion. When done correctly, the system is a valuable time saver that decreases anxiety, showing that technology is not inherently good or bad. It is design that is important. The key is to dissolve the interface – to get it out of the way and let humans live their lives. I talk about this in my TED talk.
Labs: Do you see a role for brands to use Geoloqi and what might this look like?
AC: There are four ways companies and brands can use Geoloqi. First, Geoloqi can be white-labeled so that its location capabilities can be used in applications. Second, the Geoloqi API can be used to bring location functionality into any existent application. For instance you could use Geoloqi to reward a user if they entered a store within a certain time period. Third, brands can make their own layers in the app that users can subscribe to. These three models allow Geoloqi to branch into many markets.
Finally, with the advent of the MapAttack! game, Geoloqi now has a gamification layer accessible to partners. Brands who are interested in leveraging Geoloqi for location-based interactive games are now capable of doing so. The key behind the brand use of Geoloqi is that it provides users a way to opt into rewards and services vs. just having advertising messages blasted at them. Location based recommendations and services, when done well, are something that helps one spend less time with technology and more time with reality. This is where advertising and marketing has to go in order to survive.
Labs: You describe yourself as a cyborg anthropologist – what does that really mean?
AC: A cyborg anthropologist studies the interaction between humans and technology and how technology affects culture. My thesis research was on cell phones and their technosocial sites of engagement. My research consisted of observing how thousands of people interacted with and through non-human objects. Mobile technology allows one to stand almost anywhere in the world, whisper something, and be heard elsewhere. These devices that live in our pockets need to be fed every night, and they make noises and require our attention. In only a few years these devices have become inexorably intertwined into the reality of our everyday lives. They offer us respite from the boredom of waiting in line and a way to keep in touch when no one is nearby, but they also paralyze many of us when they run out of batteries.
Mobile technology allows one to stand almost anywhere in the world, whisper something, and be heard elsewhere.
I’m fascinated with mobile devices for another reason – they are a bundle of sensors that we walk around with every day. That sensor data can be used to do very cool things, such as automatically turn on the lights in your house when you get home, or turn the lights off when you leave. This is because a phone can know when you’re within the region of space defined as “home” or not, and send a signal to your house to turn on or off the lights based on whether you are home or not.
Labs: What do you and Geoloqi need to succeed?
AC: We need to increase our ability to offer a good experience to our users and make things easier and easier to do. Right now we’ve barely been able to scratch the surface. My methodology for user experience design is something I call “superhuman design”. The idea is to make make the user feel like a superhuman. Flipboard does this incredibly well. The application offers rewards in greater proportion to the slightest interaction with the application. Geoloqi needs to be able to provide great value with minimal interaction. Information should be presented in a useful, non-invasive way to people without them having to seek it out. Technology should be an empowering experience, not an intimidating one.
Geoloqi are playing in an exciting area and one which is full of interesting problems in terms of technology, privacy and behavioural psychology. Our relationship to geography and location is undergoing fundamental change – it seems likely that a few years from now it will become impossible to get lost, except deliberately. As GPS enabled mobile computers become ubiquitous and an increasing number of services ask us for permission to store and broadcast our location we are going to need to think carefully about how easily we want to be found and who we are going to allow to do the finding.
(note: my iPhone has 25 apps that have requested its location in the last 24 hours)
This is all new, exciting and sometimes scary – sharing with friends, strangers, brands and the whole of the World Wide Web is something that needs to be carefully considered, both by users and by those who facilitate the sharing. The Geoloqi team are clearly aware of these issues and their default-private, timed-public model seems to us to be a considered balance between privacy and useful openness. We’ll be looking forward to seeing how the service develops and what comes from their Layer API.
Let us know what you think and tell us how much you’re happy to share and with who. And a big thank you to Amber and Aaron for their time – guaranteeing our future selves a good experience is a notion we’re happy to sign up to.