Archive for January, 2012
31st January 12
After Part I last Friday, which foraged largely outside the parameters of brands and marketing, this post – the final and second part of our interview with John Willshire (@willsh), founder of Smithery – comes back closer to home to discuss the future of advertising, what’s stopping brands universally adopting better marketing practices and ‘Real Marketing’ … along the way taking in cargo cults, starting fires and Doctor Who.
BBH Labs: In the past you’ve used a bonfires and fireworks analogy to describe the difference between advertising and social, and more recently we’ve debated what we at BBH call “Super Bowl, Super Social” on your blog. We can’t help but think (great) advertising will have a role in people’s lives for a good while yet, for the simple reason that good marketing acts as a persuasive shorthand for choice and news in a world increasingly flooded with terabytes of irrelevant information. And we’ve had the likes of Eric Schmidt speaking recently about advertising becoming super-relevant and connected in future. What’s your view on the future of advertising? Is there one?
JW: I think your point about the persuasive shorthand matters, and redefining the story that advertising is going to tell. When I was thinking more about the media planning side of advertising, it was useful to simplify it to two things, activity & phasing; what we should do, when we should do it.
So Bonfires & Fireworks is the what – never really an either/or choice, as companies still need to do social bonfires and advertising fireworks together to make each work.
The when of doing both together, the phasing, is crucial.
What the social bonfire piece allows you to do is, as a company, do noteworthy things that are amazing for your customers, for your employees, with your products, whatever… let the real human stories and triumphs emerge.
Then, after that, you can then tell the story of that. And if you want to tell that story with scale and immediacy, there is no better way to tell that story than in advertising.
The crucial difference is that advertising is no longer the thing you do, it’s the story of the things you’ve done. Read full post
27th January 12
Every now and again, we like to interview someone doing something interesting. It’s a pleasure to say that this time we’re featuring a good friend of Labs, John V Willshire, (or @willsh, as he’s known to the Twitterverse). John broke free from agency life last year to set up his own business. In this, the first of a two-part interview, we asked John to tell us a bit about it – along the way sharing his thoughts on a bunch of things from The Smiths, social connectivity, the economic viability of social production today and, er, rocks vs water..
BBH Labs: Tell us a bit about why you founded Smithery.
JW: The idea powering Smithery is Make Things People Want beats Make People Want Things. The former doesn’t replace the latter, as companies still do both, but what’s interesting is the switch in emphasis.
Over time, the advertising industry became very, very good at making people want things. It didn’t matter if those things weren’t all that good, because nobody could tell each other with any meaningful scale at a meaningful volume. Advertising was louder than bombs, to inappropriately hijack The Smiths (hey, if it’s good enough for John Lewis…).
Obviously we don’t need to go into the details here of how the internet has changed how companies can connect with people, but the advertising instinct is to use social connectivity to make people want things. That’s why I think the majority of social activity we see is poor.
As time passes, companies and agencies will work harder and think better about how to use social connectivity to make things people want, whether that’s changing established goods and services, or creating new ones.
So I founded Smithery to help do that; whether it’s working together in better ways, making better things, or helping telling better stories about those things. Read full post
24th January 12
Posted in transformational change
This post originally appeared as an article in Viewpoint at the end of 2011. Briefed to one of BBH London’s smartest strategists, Ed Booty, as a deliberate polemic, it’s a provocative argument designed to question our assumptions about the constant pace of change. We like being challenged (we enjoyed Matt Edgar’s post last year along similar lines) – please let us know what you think in the comments.
Author: Ed Booty, Strategy Director, BBH London
It is commonly accepted that a digital revolution is afoot. We have entered a brave new networked world. Individuals are empowered, social movements cannot remain contained and knowledge is free to all. Data is making our world more intuitive, bespoke and rewarding. We are mobile, always on, always entertained and hyper-social.
Things appear to be going swimmingly and never has the future been so clearly mapped out for us. It’s sexy, creative, inclusive and exciting. It’s one big SXSW festival.
Nothing new so far, and it does all sound rather good.
Maybe it’s too good to be true?
Unfortunately it is.
Advance apologies to neophytes, digital evangelists and west coast entrepreneurs. It’s time for a reality check. The speed, scale and depth of the so-called digital revolution has been wildly exaggerated.
What has caused this mirage of revolution?
Behind the hype, what might a more realistic vision of a digital world be? Read full post
20th January 12
Posted in technologyAuthors: Saneel Radia, Head of BBH Labs NYC & Tim Harris, EVP/Managing Director of Innovation at McCann Erickson*
Last week was the Consumer Electronics Show, an event more widely attended by brand marketers than ever before. Although the show resembled last year’s a bit too closely for our liking, we’ve resisted simply republishing our 2011 recap. What was unique however, is the sense of relief we feel upon our return. Instead of feeling intimidated by the speed of innovation, or anxious from the ever-fragmenting tech landscape, we’ve come home with our industry angst alleviated. Let us elaborate on the trends keeping us relaxed.
No one actually knows how to design for “laplets”
As the world of consumer electronics bounces between convergence and divergence, we were a bit surprised to walk through booths full of laptop + tablet hybrids that seem to be a unique device offering in and of themselves. Then there were phone + tablet hybrids like the Samsung Note. There was even a tablet + gaming rig hybrid. On top of those converging devices, we were struck by the number of input peripherals accompanying them. Peripherals are nothing new, but this onslaught of converged devices with inputs beyond touchscreens is really interesting. It seems touch interface isn’t the panacea we all wanted it to be. When the iPhone and iPad changed the way we did stuff, we figured that was it.
However, one look at how game developers and electronics manufacturers are interacting demonstrates just how difficult it is for content creators to stick immersive content into a touch environment. Ever played a mobile game with dual-virtual-stick control? It sucks. But game developers are still designing games that require it. As anyone that works at an agency has seen, designing irrespective of context happens daily. Sure, we all have our different remedies for this (see BBH’s media design practice), but almost no marketers truly craft ideas from environments. The best simply craft to them, closing the gap as best they can, but not truly letting the context or medium play as fundamental a role as it deserves.
Seeing some of the world’s best content creators struggle with familiar issues, we couldn’t help but let guilty smiles cross our faces. We can take solace it isn’t just us marketers.
TVs being “smart” means we may not have to be
Last year, virtually every booth had the word “smart” displayed on it, obliquely referencing the fact that their TVs were internet-enabled. Although the idea of apps on TVs isn’t going away (especially with gesture-based engagement on the horizon), we saw a more conservative- dare we say even practical- approach to TV apps this year. Instead of highlighting obscure developers they had worked with to make apps, this year the manufacturers were presenting the familiar logos of Netflix, Hulu and Fios. We’d argue such familiarity is welcome to both consumers and marketers. It means less subscriptions for people, and a less fragmented media landscape for marketers.
As TV manufacturers came to the welcome realization that the revenue from app sales simply wasn’t going to change the face of their business, content providers with app-driven models like Netflix have been emboldened (it’s no coincidence Hulu announced its first unique scripted series on the heels of CES). This media-agency-friendly revenue model will make it easier for brands to get onto TV screens without having to partner with developers. Instead, they’ll work through content and distribution companies they already know how to engage. If we had to guess, that means subscription-services like HBO and FiOS will experiment with ad presence of varying levels, depending on the platform (e.g., Xbox 360 vs Panasonic Viera Connect). It’s certainly a lot easier as a brand to think about how to work with Hulu than it is to sort out unique offerings across Sony and LG devices. No one should be more relieved about this consolidation than marketers, a group notoriously bad at partnering with developers and quantifying value in new ways.
Perhaps most importantly, media deal-making lunches have been preserved. Phew.
We put a big bet on Apple and we seem to be winning
Apple is famously absent from every CES, yet it’s clear to any attendee that they are present, if not formally as an exhibitor. Last year was a show of iPad alternatives. The year before was an exhibition of iPhone derivatives. This year was the “hey we have a MacBook Air too” show. Apple certainly didn’t invent the ultra-thin laptop, but any analysis of the design and feature-set selected across various manufacturer’s devices (see Samsung’s new Series 9, Dell’s XPS 13 or any device featured by Intel as an Ultrabook) reveals a very Apple-like device.
Once again, a comforting thought donned on us as we walked the Convention Center floor. Few industries have adopted Apple products as early and as deeply than the ad industry. As creative teams relentlessly pitch tech ideas born from an Apple-centric view of the universe, they may just start to see more nodding heads and fewer rolling eyes. Agencies are notorious for their dogmatic approach to ideas. In this case, Apple’s vast grip on consumer electronics may justify our utterly biased view of tech experiences.
It seems creatives have yet another thing to thank Steve for.
The home is connecting to retail (and we had nothing to do with it)
We’ve all been hearing about the refrigerator that tells you when you’re low on milk since before there were computers (fine, not quite that long, but still). This year’s CES brought all of the “smart” into context for the truly connected home. An LG refrigerator not only speaks to your phone or tablet to tell you all about its contents or encourage you to fill it up again– it also helps you manage a diet via personal profiles and nutritional information. Smart vacuums and ovens do their duties when you’re not even home, and some appliances talk to each other to save on power usage. We’re used to hearing about appliances that talk to retail (or an online grocer), but this year, the retail environment talks back. Walking through the stores of the near future, we’ll get notifications about relevant offers, loyalty plus-ups and even recipe analysis based on what’s at home in your fridge. We’ll no longer have 58 heads of garlic at home or 9 jars of cayenne pepper. What a pleasant surprise– we’ve been trying to solve for the gap between home/planning and shopping/buying forever in marketing. Promotions, brand extensions and partnerships will have much more clarity, because they’ll be based on consumer need rather than marketing guesswork. LG, Alcatel-Lucent and others have given us a palette from which to create truly integrated designs for the makers, sellers and buyers of everyday products. In other words, marketers’ inability to close the gap between retail and brand experiences may soon be a non-issue. The tech industry is sorting it out for us.
Now maybe we can help them figure out how to make their biggest event fresh again.
*Saneel & Tim were two of the co-founders of Denuo, and this was the 10th CES they’ve attended together. They’ve come home broke, and in a fight, after each.
15th January 12
Posted in awesomenessAuthor: Eric Fernandez, Strategist, BBH New York
The Barn is back in New York, and we’re looking for a special new team of genius interns to fill our ranks. This isn’t your run of the mill ad internship, so we’re not looking for typical marketing resumes. We’re looking for resourceful MacGyver types who are curious about everything, comfortable doing stuff every day that they haven’t done before, and are natural wizards at technology. We want the kind of folks that can grasp a program like Final Cut Pro after watching a few how-to videos and a couple of hours of trial and error. Or, faced with the task of creating a web site, will google PHP programming, find some open source scripts and at least try to hack something together. When we say resourceful, we mean it. We’re looking for people that really geek out over their projects.
The Barn is designed to empower people like this. We aren’t going to stick you under a rug doing nothing but grunt work. We are going to put you on teams and give you the chance to do your own projects. Last year, Barn Interns won two Cannes Lions with a project that was featured on major news outlets across the country– and even made Twitter’s ten most remarkable tweets of the year. That type of success continues to be our ambition in this now global internship program.
Our brief is three words: “Do Good, Famously” and we’ll give you the funding and support you need to create a kick ass project that will change lives. We’ll also make sure you get the credit for it. We want our program to be a spring board for your career.
If selected, you will be one of six interns, split into two teams of three people. These teams will be set off against their 3-word brief with full access to BBH talent along the way. They’ll also be working on client business throughout, so it will be a very busy 10 weeks. Our goal is to make this an internship like no other in marketing. It’s more about you than about us. We just like having your energy and passion around the agency. And if it’s anything like previous sessions, we’ll probably learn a thing or two ourselves.
13th January 12
Author: Jim Carroll, Chairman, BBH London
I was watching the splendid Truffault film, Jules et Jim. There’s a scene in which Jules, courting the mercurial Catherine, endeavours to impress her.
‘Catherine, I understand you’, he says.
Catherine replies,’ But I don’t want to be understood.’
I paused for thought. Don’t we spend our lives trying to understand consumers? What if, like Catherine, they don’t want to be understood? Understanding implies explanation, logic, rationality. And, critically, it suggests control. Which is precisely, I suspect, why Catherine didn’t want to be understood.
As a young Planner I’m not sure I completely understood the behaviour, ethics and attitudes of British consumers. But I did feel a strong sense of empathy with them. I felt for them in a way. I wonder now whether I’ve lost some of that natural, instinctive judgement. I wonder whether, in a data fuelled world, we have a diminished regard for feelings in our engagement with consumers.
A friend of mine occasionally dismisses films she did not enjoy with the simple assertion that she ‘did not feel it’. As an Anglo Saxon I was originally somewhat nonplussed. Surely a fuller explanation would help? Similarly we were always taught to grill Clients on their responses to work, to demand that they account for their instinctive immediate reactions. Now I wonder whether I have been wrong on both counts: in the way I expect my friends to assess movies and my Clients to judge work.
Shouldn’t feelings always trump understanding? Shouldn’t feelings suffice?
Do you ever find it a little sinister when modern marketers promise to translate data into knowledge, and knowledge into sales? I do. I confess ‘hidden persuasion’ has never been my bag. I don’t aspire to that level of control.Of course we all want the web to be all-knowing, but should I want it to know all about me? Personally I don’t want the web to know me; I want it to feel me. And I find the prospect of an empathetic, all-feeling web increasingly attractive.
Who am I to talk? I’m generally uncomfortable with unfiltered emotional expression. I shudder at the prospect of corporate hugs. Nonetheless, I return to work with a modest resolution: in 2012 I want to base more of my judgements on empathy and feeling, rather than on logic and understanding. And I’d like the web to do the same please.
Chaka was, as ever, right all along. ‘I feel for you’…