Archive for July, 2012
19th July 12
Authors: Fran Hazeldine, Head of Strategy and Pelle Sjoenell, Executive Creative Director, BBH LA
A few weeks ago we asked Planners and Creatives from a range of agency backgrounds to fill out a short survey about the Planner / Creative relationship.
As promised, we’ve got some results to share. If you like your slides with added innuendo, our Planningness presentation is available here. But it’s quite minimalist and really needs the voice over, so we’ve summarized the main findings below.
A few notes on the sample
The 324 respondents were a mixture of self-selecting BBH Labs readers, people from our extended professional networks and anyone else we could persuade to take part. So there are probably all sorts of research effects that mean you shouldn’t take any of the results as hard fact – more food for thought and discussion.
What do we know about the survey respondents? Not surprisingly, we had more Planners than Creatives. And the Creatives tended to be more experienced and male. There was also a heavy North American and European skew across the board.
But despite collecting a mass of demographic info, the results we’re sharing are not split out by gender, age or region. We tried cutting the data along these lines, but any variation was remarkably unremarkable. So instead we’ve focused on the simple comparison between Planners and Creatives, which turned up some much juicier stats. Read full post
18th July 12
Posted in storytelling
Author: James Mitchell, Strategist, BBH London & BBH Labs
The girl, Nina , is dressed for a meeting. “I’ve only got two business plans left,” she states matter-of-factly. She places two objects on the table in front of me: a condom, and a pouch of pills. “I would be very grateful if you could decide.”
I hesitate, and the girl’s mask of professionalism falters. “These are my only options, so could you choose…please..?”
In that moment, I realise that my choice is her choice, and her choice is the choice of a hundred young people across London.
At an IPA event on Tuesday, Saatchi’s Head of Planning Richard Huntingdon commented that “beyond all else, what we do is empathy.” It’s true – the comms we create should be an act of empathy towards our audience. When the problem is just right, empathy itself can be the answer. Complicated issues of debate – particularly around things like social justice, where the topic is one we don’t like to discuss – can lose people in the discussion. When the most important measure of success is understanding, the quickest route to the head is through the heart, as empathy. Parents know this. When they try to convince children of the wrongness of a situation, the phrase you’ll most often hear is: “well, how would you like it if…?”
When we feel anger or distrust towards someone we’re often told to walk a mile in their shoes. As humans, we’re actually very good at playing roles and seeing things from another person’s point of view – if we get the right prompts. But executionally, it’s a fine balance. You have to manage the audience’s experience positively enough to draw them into a character, and only then can you subject that character to their (often harrowing) fate. Finally, the immersive experience must offer the ‘immersed’ some sense of redemption, the sense that there’s something to be done to give this character a better future than their present. Only then can the audience leave not just with understanding, but with the desire to act.
One of the most profound cases of alienation that divides “us and them” is shocking because it’s so everyday – homelessness. Centrepoint Parliament know this all too well. They campaign to raise awareness of youth welfare, but it’s easy for the messages to get lost in the debate. We all remember the point and counterpoint that swirled around the London riots last August. Whose responsibility was it – the kids’? The media’s? Blackberry’s? British society was about to give up the youth for lost and no amount of rational discourse would overcome those images in the press of a burning M&S, a looted Tesco, a burnt-out car.
Centrepoint Parliament needed a way to viscerally cut through it all – and over six months, we worked with them to find it. The answer came directly from recordings of the youth hostel itself. No rhetoric, hyperbole or ‘advertising’ could match a simple recreation of the truth – this was Nine Rooms, an experiential theatre piece devised by its own members, with help from BBH. You are placed directly into the worst scenes of a young homeless person’s life – the loneliness, the idleness, and the dilemmas.
My choice made, I hand the item to Nina. Her expression flickers with pain but all she says is a polite “thank you for your time.” She collects her notes and walks out, leaving me alone with the untaken choice, and a sense of gratitude that I’ll never have to make this kind of decision for myself.
They are scenes that we all have suspected are happening to ‘someone, somewhere’, and internally written off as the facts of life. To be forced to go through them – to wear the shoes – drags them out of the realm of statistics in the head, and into a the form of a nuanced human experience in the heart. To read the impact Nine Rooms had on people is both affecting and uplifting. It’s clear that the power of the performance has made this a brief well answered:
“Powerful and emotive. So well done to get in touch with the reality of homelessness. Portrayed in a way which allows the audience to feel what the characters feel.”
“Moving and very effective – being so close and personal made it a hard journey.”
“Powerful stuff. Is this really going on in London? We all get so tied up in our lives that we don’t know what’s really going on. Thank you for the experience.”
There were tough strategic choices to be made, too – we reasoned that delivering a powerful experience for the few was better than a message that would get tuned out by the many – as long as those few were so impacted that they would pass it on. The sense of shock and outrage we got from our comments book shows that it’s worked. And as we said above, immersive theatre at its best doesn’t just affect people, it moves them to take action – in this case, signing the petition to restore careers advice services so that no young person has to make Nina’s choice.
From ‘events’ like Secret Cinema to political projects (Coney’s Early Days Of A Better Nation) and even new twists on horror, both secular (Hotel Medea) and sanctimonious (see the rise in the US Evangelical concept of the scare-you-straight “Hell House”), immersive theatre has come into its own as a way of heightening reality for a media-skeptic generation. Even traditional media becomes that much more powerful when technology lets us step into the scene (see the experiential touches of our own work for Missing People). Whilst at its most shallow, ‘experience’ is a play for PR-able creativity, at its best, it’s a dose of empathy that’s truly transformative.
Ask the residents of Nine Rooms.
You don’t have to have been through the rooms to take action – sign Centrepoint Parliament’s petition here.
5th July 12
Last month Google asked me along to their Creative Sandbox in Cannes to give a ‘lightning talk’ about ‘something I was particularly interested in’. Luckily, they gave me just 15 minutes to speak or we would have been there all day in the baking heat.. Thank you to everyone who came along and asked lots of questions afterwards – here, for what it’s worth, is a record of what got discussed.
I’d like to talk about 2-3 things here, loosely connected by a theme around how and why we should keep contributing to, using and building the open web:
1. The Guardian, the UK newspaper (a client of BBH London) and their ‘open journalism’ positioning.
2. A project we’re developing at BBH Labs called Robotify.me.
3. A postscript on how we like to work here and what “open and constant learning” means in practice.
2nd July 12
Posted in online video
Want to find out how to get a great look under even the most trying of conditions? Let YouTube celebrity and makeup artist Lauren Luke show you how in this helpful tutorial:
If that wasn’t quite what you were expecting, you’ll know what Lauren’s many followers and their friends will be experiencing over the coming days, as a result of our partnership with Lauren and domestic abuse charity Refuge. It’s a very different approach for a charity, but it’s one that we think is vital to help them adapt to a very different type of audience, and a different type of public conversation.
The world is noisy. Everyone has something to say. But there are some things people just don’t want to talk about. And in a media landscape catering to our individual needs, people don’t have to talk or hear about things they don’t want to.
People don’t want to talk about domestic abuse.
MORE THAN JUST AN AWARENESS ISSUE
When society doesn’t talk about the big important problems, particularly the ones that may cause fear or discomfort, a vacuum of knowledge inevitably forms, quickly filled with misinformation.
People think that everyone “gets” what domestic abuse is. They’re wrong. Research shows that more than half of teenage girls aged 13-18 have experienced sexual violence at the hands of a partner – and considered it normal. 40% of teenage girls would consider giving a boyfriend a second chance if he hit them. A third believe that cheating justifies the use of violence.
By not loudly and continuously reinforcing that domestic abuse is a problem, society sends a message that it isn’t serious. By ignoring the issue, it is normalised, and creates a generation of potential victims.
In a very real sense, silence kills. Two women in the UK die at the hands of an abusive partner or ex-partner every week. Talking saves lives.
That’s why Refuge’s call to action is “speak up, save a life”. But speaking to teenage girls requires a different type of speaking up: one tailored to a fragmented media landscape, a group focussed on entertainment rather than weightier issues, and a subject that discourages discussion.
A CASE FOR SUBVERSION
A traditional disruptive approach wasn’t going to work. But we knew our audience wouldn’t come to use through choice. Our response has been to create a piece of communication directly tailored to the way that teen girls consume and communicate information. That encourages them to become part of the conversation on their terms. Not disruption of their experience, so much as a subversion of it.
We knew we’d have to sneak our message into an existing channel that our audience were already interested in in a way that created maximum impact. Considering the role of subversion of expectation in viral spread – viral activity often takes the form of practical joking – we realised that the more that we could increase that sense of contrast between expectation and content, the higher the likelihood of spread.
And we wanted to make sharing and commentary the call to action, because sharing is how teens conduct public debate. It allows them to make a stand without exposing their own opinions and be part of something with a low risk of emotional or social damage. Viral behaviour is their version of the town square, the salon or the pub.
In effect, we were creating a practical joke with a purpose that couldn’t have been more serious: shocking people out of their complacency around domestic abuse, and allowing them to take a stand against it on their terms.
What we needed to do was find a Trojan horse who would carry our message to young women. That was where Lauren Luke came in.
Lauren’s relationship with her audience is paramount; every content decision and direction she makes is with her subscribers in mind. Her enthusiasm for the cause and participation in shocking her fans is, in short, the kind of unstinting bravery needed to tackle domestic violence as a subject.
The film itself has been deliberately designed to maximise the shock of the contrast between the context and content: particularly Lauren’s chirpy demeanour contrasting with her appearance. But this wasn’t about forcing a scripted film into a social channel. We provided a general framework and direction for Lauren and allowed her the space and time to make the film her own: a challenge she rose to brilliantly.
We then wanted to make sure the content was framed in a way that maximised the stunt aspect: the copy that appears alongside the film wherever it is shared is intended to draw people in without ever giving an indication of the content.
Finally, our call to action is the most simple and natural one that our audience know: share. And by sharing, speak out.
Copywriter: Jack Smedley
Art Director: George Hackforth
Art Director: Stephen Noble
Film directed by: Wesley Hawes and Gary McCreadie
Creative Director: Pablo Marques
Strategists: Claire Coady & Simon Robertson