Archive for January, 2013
31st January 13http://www.vimeo.com/56722891
Every once and awhile we stumble upon a piece of technology or an innovation that changes behavior in all the right ways. For the most part these ideas are based on a very simple, very obvious insight that for one reason or another, has not yet been solved for. CentUp is exactly one of those ideas.
Quite simply, CentUp is a share button that lets you appreciate content and give a few cents while doing so. So, when things go viral, they create awareness. When things get CentUp, they will create change.
One of the most common reasons people don’t donate more online is because they forget. CentUp is an active reminder to give, and it lives where people are spending an enormous amount of time and attention each day: consuming online content.
So whether you are reading your favorite blog, browsing your friends instagram photos, or even loling at a local improv group’s video, let amazing creators know that you support them with more than just a share. CentUp changes behaviors by making social good a core element of the publishing business model.
We spent a bit of time with Len Kendall, one of the founders of Cent Up through the magic of Google Docs. Below are is our Q&A.
Q1. When and where did you first conceive the idea for CentUp? And how close to the original idea is the current incarnation?
There were two items that sparked CentUp. (Not including the damn amazing domain name that was available.)
The first inspiration came from our collective work in the advertising and pr world. It’s increasingly difficult to build digital things that people take the time to use, read, or donate to. People’s attention spans are low and distractions are high. So we wanted to create something that took miniscule actions and made them something more powerful in aggregate. This flash of inspiration happened at a coworking space in Chicago while we were dissecting a different project.
What really tipped us over the edge specifically was the Kony 2012 video that went viral last year. It so perfectly embodied the often negatively used term, “slacktivism” which describes people taking an action that doesn’t really lead to change. (The video was shared millions and millions of times, but war in Africa wasn’t being thwarted by most people clicking “like”). We decided to develop something that could take advantage of tiny actions, but collectively accomplish something good. Hence, CentUp was born.
While the focus of our idea was very much on raising money for non-profits, we quickly realized that publishers (anyone who creates content online) were our core customers and we needed to build a product that first and foremost served them. While the functionality of CentUp isn’t going to be that much different than how we first envisioned it, the relationship building and marketing will have a vastly different focus.
Q2. I assume that going into this, the shift into a start-up lifestyle was something you planned for. In retrospect, what would you have done differently if anything. And, what were some of the unexpected surprises?
In terms of surprises, the biggest adjustment for me was the management of my own time. I don’t wake up anymore with an outlook calendar full of meetings or client requests that need to be dealt with. The way in which I spend my time is very much up to me and it has made me hyper-sensitive to whether or not particular moments, conversations, events, and other diversions are helping my business. But don’t worry, I haven’t become a selfish jerk just yet. Also, I am lucky to have a wonderful and understanding fiance who doesn’t mind my increased work intensity, as long as I spend some of that time working from the couch next to her.
I always imagined I would leave the agency world to either build my own company or join a young one, but I didn’t know it would happen as soon as it did. I was presented with a solid opportunity to do freelance work on a recurring basis while focusing the most of my time on CentUp. Since a few hours here and there during the week helped me cover my expenses, it made the transition much easier to embrace. The critical element was that I no longer had to say, “I still have a full-time job” when talking to investors, partners, media, etc. I highly recommend this kind of shift for people because it allows you to build and run a company quite lean before it’s time to dedicate your entire life to it. A month after leaving my gig, CentUp was accepted into a startup incubator in Chicago and things started moving really fast.
Q3. How do you and your partners work together? Prior to CentUp, were any of the founders part of a start-up?
The three original co-founders: Tyler Travtiz, John Geletka, and myself all come from marketing and never had worked at a start-up. While we’re not veterans in that respect, we all have a solid set of experience in building brands for very large companies. Once CentUp joined an incubator program, we combined forces with our investors Chris McLaughlin and Marcus Duncan who have a solid background in the non-profit space and product development. We’re all in Chicago, and we intend on staying on our lovely city. When we’re not working from our lovely office we’re usually taking advantage of Google Hangouts to work from home and talk to each other along the way.
Q4. How has Ventricle been able to help you grow beyond staffing and talent?
What I really appreciated about their program versus the other big ones out there like Techstars is the level of partnership they brought to the table. They didn’t just invest in us, have a few mentors come in, and give us a desk. They are with us day to day helping develop and design the product. Beyond the added hands on deck, they’re also removing friction from the business building process. By helping address the minutia (accounting, legal, etc) of building a company, it leaves us time to focus on doing what we do best, designing, developing, and acquiring customers.
Q5. When do you expect to be out of beta, and open to the public? What are some of the first partnerships that will be connected at launch?
We expect to launch at the end of February (which incidentally is when our Indiegogo campaign will wrap up). We’re giving first access to the people that pledged to our campaign, even if it’s a dollar. We’re not using a crowdsourcing platform primarily to raise money, rather we’re using it to build our first set of fans and show publishers that they absolutely should install CentUp after our launch, because there is a demand from readers.
In terms of partners we’ve got a great set of non-profits that we’re in final discussions with. From the publisher side, we’re going to start with small to medium size sites to test out the system and then expand quickly on larger networks. We can’t reveal those yet, but they’re definitely names that readers of this blog will recognize. In the meantime we encourage anyone who hosts their own site to sign-up to be one of our publishers.
Q6. Do you envision CentUp being rolled into a larger platform or network, or is it too early for that kind of thinking?
Ultimately, we realize that the CentUp will be infinitely more powerful if it can partner with a platform like Google+ or Twitter, but we know we’ll need to develop our own ecosystem first.
Our intention for the first year is to have enough content getting CentUp so that we can build a Reddit-like home page that shows top content getting cents. It’s a place that we believe bloggers and other content creators will strive to show-up on because it doesn’t just represent virality, but a substantial endorsement from fans, backed with real money.
P.S. Look for the CentUp button right here on the Labs blog towards the end of February.
29th January 13
Posted in Goodbyes
And so, it is with major regret that we see our very own Optimus Prime, @saneel, leave the Lab and BBH. Happily he’ll be staying in the extended family, launching a soon-to-be-announced innovation offering being incubated at VivaKi. So I guess he has a new world to call home.
Personally, I’m going to miss the magic mix of insanely high-speed processing, megawatt brain and heart, motor mouth and deeply droll, bone-dry sense of humour that is Mr Saneel Radia. There aren’t many people who give such volume, value and velocity, whilst staying ice cool under pressure. He’ll hate me for saying this, but his final post here shares some useful lessons that demonstrate all of the above.
We wish him all the best. Go well, friend. (Mel, 29.01.13)
Well that was a crazy ride, no? From my first day to my last, we’ve had one of the most unique relationships I can imagine. I should have known I was in for something special when someone I respect as much as Ben recruited me, and about 100 days later said “I have bad news and good news” (‘I’m leaving’ and ‘you’re in charge’, respectively).
You let me be whoever I wanted to be, and for that I’m eternally grateful. You never questioned me as a strategy lead, an account lead, or a creative lead– even when I kinda questioned myself.What’s most awesome is that I was never forced into a particular bucket, but you made me better at all of them because I was surrounded by people (everyone?) who could do it at a whole different level. I mean, pitching creative ideas to people like John and Pelle? Talking brands with Emma and Sarah? Of course I got better at all of it. It’d be impossible not to.
And thanks for being committed to innovation the way you are. In an industry that should be under arrest for assault based on its treatment of that word, this place continues to be a beacon of hope for people with different ideas. Any company that has someone like Mel around is going to have misfits ringing the doorbell daily. I’m just happy someone answered even though I was dressed in bright colors.
Finally, thanks for all of the lessons I’m taking with me as I move on. It’s impossible to document them all in a post, but these ring most loudly in my ears as I head off:
Small ideas are kinda hot.
I originally came to BBH because I couldn’t think of a place with “bigger” ideas. It turns out my favorite things were the small ideas. Working with interns 10 weeks at a time forces small ideas into greatness. Working with a company like Google, that regularly reminds you how bloated all your shit is (they were right more often than I’d like to admit), forced ideas into their purest form. Or sometimes it’s just not having enough time for anything bigger. Regardless, I fell in love with small. Mainly because of how big it can be. (Special thanks to Tim Nolan for aiding me along in this particular journey.)
The volume of noise isn’t indicative of the sentiment.
Homeless Hotspots was a media frenzy. There was a full cycle of negativity, then acceptance, then full-blown defense on our behalf. Yet from the beginning to the end, nothing but a positive impact on homelessness ever mattered; for the vast majority of people who care about such a thing (and have spent time with the homeless), their support always outweighed the negativity, no matter how loud the noise got. In fact, there was some genuinely productive, well meaning criticism we adopted as our work with the homeless has continued to evolve. It’s easy to see the difference now, but when the volume dial is set quite high, it can be a lot tougher. That’s clarity I’ll always take forward with me.
The greatest disservice one can do to their team is accepting their shitty work.
I’ve seen some really good days, and some really bad days in my 3-or-so years here. Almost unilaterally the bad days were the result of people not speaking up (myself included). When they were just too damn polite, or agreeable. Sure, it’s awkward sometimes. It’s uncomfortable every now and again. And yeah, you have to be able to speak “British” on occasion. But everyone worth a salt would rather make better work than have a good meeting. This is a lesson so many people have learned, but it took being at a place with a culture of mutual, fiery respect for me to truly appreciate it. I’m just glad you would tell me when I was shoveling shit.
With the right carrot, even the weary can be motivated.
It was a weird feeling, helping lead a city-wide effort to recruit LeBron James within weeks of moving here. But there I was, living in corporate housing, bonding with New Yorkers of every socio-economic class to create a movement to bring the world’s greatest athlete to the world’s greatest city. In the end, the goal was to get notoriously jaded New Yorkers to talk about their beloved city, and by that measure, holy smokes it was successful… even if LeBron took his talents to South Beach. The lesson stayed up north though: for all the user participation nonsense from brands, it’s ultimately the right carrot that gets people involved. Keep it simple (and timely), stupid.
Alright, BBH. I won’t drag it on any longer. I certainly could. I’m leaving a better, smarter, more creative person than I arrived. That’s a transformation I’m really excited about.
And all it took were a thousand sleepless nights and my liver….
29th January 13
Who we’re after
A digital analyst who knows their way around analytics and social metrics but who has that sixth sense to sniff out fresh insights that have real strategic value. We need someone who can focus on the story that the data are telling them, not just crank out campaign reports.
What you’ll be like
Smart, curious, passionate and a great communicator. Someone who will be comfortable working alongside strategists, creatives and clients. An analyst that can explain complex measurement and analysis in plain and simple language. You will love being a digital specialist but you will be able to see the bigger picture and you will understand that whatever tools we use to gather our insights we are ultimately seeking to understand consumer behaviour and motivation.
- In depth knowledge of digital analytics tools (eg Sysomos, Google Analytics, Comscore) and the creative use of free digital insight tools
- Ability to bring the numbers to life and tell a story with data from different sources
- Appetite and ability to translate insight into strategic recommendation
- Experience of effectiveness measurement and KPI tracking
- Desire to work in a creative environment with creative people
- Entrepreneurial: actively seek new opportunities to gather insights and help teams benefit from digital intelligence
- Good people skills and ability to build relationships across all disciplines
- Other key attributes: Hardworking, energetic, collaborative, good organisational skills and cultural knowledge
If this sounds like your kind of job, we want to hear from you. Please send a cv, details or link to email@example.com
16th January 13
Posted in technology
This post was originally published as an article, ‘The Year Ahead For Technology‘, which appeared in Campaign magazine’s first edition of the year last week, 10.01.13.
We may have spent the past few years fretting and fetishising about the time we spend online vs offline, but here’s the good news: 2013 is going to be the year we relax a little. We’ll get over the novelty of social sharing online and just accept it, distracted instead by the utility and magic revealed when ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ worlds start to merge. The physical world becomes properly programmable. The physical web comes into its own.
If there has been a meta creative goal of technology over the past decade or so, I’d wager it is to create online experiences that inch closer to feeling viscerally real; to strive for a ‘real world standard’, if you will. Cast your mind back to Second Life ten years ago, all the way through to the interactive 3D graphics made possible by Web GL today and the steady advances in virtual reality gaming, now being applied to healthcare. Within multiple industries fuelled by technology, there’s a fascination with mirror worlds and visceral experiences. And disappointment when they don’t quite measure up to the hype (goodbye then, Second Life).
But what if we flip things for a moment: think about putting the web into the physical world, rather than trying to mimic the physical world online?There are a collection of reasons why the physical web’s time has come. Forget QR codes. Witness the leap Augmented Reality made with the announcement of Google’s heads up glasses, which justifiably caused a stir in 2012. Then add the emergence of the Internet of Things and Quantified Self into mainstream tech culture, as two sides to the same digital coin:
1. Quantified Self looks at the physical web through a human lens.
An expression coined by Kevin Kelly and Gary Wolf five years ago, it’s about self-tracking your performance – often via wearable, digital tools that collect and report how well you’re doing – with applications for health & fitness, finance, productivity, education, mobility and more.
2. The Internet of Things looks at the physical web through the lens of objects.
Coined by Kevin Ashton in 1999, it refers to connected sensors embedded in objects making them machine-readable and artificially intelligent – with giant consequences for everything from stock taking to security, architecture to art. A year ago Cisco calculated there were already more devices connected to the Internet than there are people on the planet.
And we’re seeing brands back up the promise of both, with self-tracking services like Fitbitand Nike’s Fuelband breaking into the mainstream, whilst IoT services are emerging, likeLockitron, which remotely locks or opens your front door (never worry about losing your keys again) and Growerbot, which uses sensors to monitor moisture, light and temperature in your garden and water when needed.
Solid broadband and smartphone penetration, super-fast mobile broadband, an expanding free WiFi network in the UK and the emergence of services like the ones above are together creating perfect conditions for the emergence of what might be called a ‘real world web’. Even Search is transforming, as Google puts it, to “things, not strings.” Their Knowledge Graph, introduced in May this year, aims “to understand real world entities and their relationships to one another” and already contains close to 600 million. “Search now understands that the Taj Mahal is a building, but also a music band, a casino and a bunch of restaurants.” Then there’s Apple’s Siri and now Google Now for Android; essentially predictive, personalised search on the move, although that barely does it justice.
The rise of the networked brand
What about brands in this context? All this powering up in technological terms and blurring between real & virtual worlds simply underlines why brands in any category need to grasp the value of operating in a network.
A few things worth considering now:
- If your physical product had a digital layer, what would it be?
- What physical, live or exclusive experience can you give to your network to share?
- Are you thinking about ‘views’ or subscribers? If you’re serious about content marketing to connected users, it’s the latter.
- As users flip between devices on the fly, they’ll expect a seamless experience: are you designing responsively?
What happens next?
Beyond this year, we will need common protocols enabled by an open web for this to work at scale. Businesses to watch in the meantime: Smartthings, Place Me (a “persistent ambient sensing” mobile app that collects all the sensory data imaginable) and Esri (formerly Geoloqi, a next gen location app). In short, our ‘phones will pick up so much real world, ambient data we won’t need to look further. To paraphrase Esri’s Amber Case: “Think what SMS did for telephones”…
Welcome to the Real World Web.
7th January 13
Posted in technology
Author: Saneel Radia, Head of Innovation, BBH New York and BBH Labs
The annual Consumer Electronics Show kicks off in Las Vegas today. The following is a piece written by Saneel for the Huffington Post on “What To Expect” this year. You can read other articles in the HuffPo series here . As always, follow @bbhlabs and @saneel for tweets from the showroom floor. You can also see last year’s recap on why marketers should be relieved based on what we saw.
I’ve been going to CES for a decade. As someone interested primarily in virtual (i.e., software-based) products and the role they can play for brand marketers, clearly I’m a glutton for punishment. After all, CES is a show about hardware, even if its lead brand has historically been the original software company, Microsoft. In fact, CES is not only a hardware show, but because of the copycat nature of consumer electronics, it’s a show about a particular type of hardware from year to year. Sometime between The Netbook Show, The E-reader Show and The TV show, I started losing faith in CES.
Yet I find myself headed back yet again, this time for The Tablet Hybrid show. Like a nerd voyeur, I’ll closely watch tablets breeding with phones in one booth, then breeding with laptops in another. And I have Samsung to thank for it.
You see, a year that proved tremendously successful for Samsung was a bittersweet one for other manufacturers. On the one hand, Samsung has proven that many users do want a device that fits somewhere between a smartphone and a tablet with its huge-for-a-phone (both in size and sales) Galaxy S3. This is on top of its successful Galaxy Note 2 sales. On the other hand, the industry buzzword of “convergence” is finally starting to rear its head. As devices have collided these last few years, manufacturers were pleasantly surprised to see new categories be created instead of just old categories be cannibalized. Just ask Apple. For years, Steve had people leaving Apple stores with iPhone, iPad and MacBook tucked under their arms. However, these new Tablet Hybrids from companies like Samsung fall into a gray area. These mixed breed devices are more clearly competing with their component parts, emerging from the lab as better alternatives to at least one of their parental units. Like some type of nature documentary, this is a case of offspring consuming parent.
I wonder if I’ll be able to sense the nervous anxiety this is creating amongst each of the manufacturers showing off their latest creatures on the carnival — oops, I mean “showroom” — floor.
While I am walking through this reminder of Darwinism, convincing myself yet again that this will be my last CES, I can only assume those people with the huge smiles on their faces are Google employees. You see, it’s Google’s Android Operating System that’s the real winner here. Android is running most of these mutant hybrids, which is incredible given Apple’s domination of the market as recently as 3 years ago. It’s especially intriguing this year, which marks the first show since Microsoft officially bowed out of the partnership with the organizers. That means Google is arguably the most important company in Vegas this CES (although Microsoft will certainly be making noise about Xbox, Surface and it’s shiny new Windows 8 Operating System).
So, it seems a software company will continue to reign supreme at this annual festival of hardware. I wonder what, if any, impact that will have on the show moving forward? After a decade of attendance, I can safely say that software is the lowlight of the event. There’s a sad monotony in playing with clunky interfaces while booth representatives explain why it’s great that whatever I’m tinkering with can’t possibly integrate with anything I already own. I guess working in a booth in which every device is made by your employer has a way of letting you see the bright side of one-stop shopping (with an employee discount).
But for the rest of us still dreaming of the walk-around-from-booth-to-booth-swiping-our-credit-cards-and-laughing-as-we-throw-the-latest-bit-of-not-yet-available-to-the-masses-technology-into-a-big-grab-bag-that-won’t-pose-any-TSA-issues-while-traveling-back-with-us-before-being-installed-instantly-and-without-reference-to-user-manuals-transforming-our-homes-into-scenes-from-sci-fi-movies-where-the-computers-eventually-turn-on-humans-who-for-some-reason-don’t-have-the-good-sense-to-welcome-our-new-electronic-overlords experience, I must say… it’s actually the lack of integration that’s most frustrating. It seems insane all my content and stuff can’t just go anywhere, anytime regardless of the logo on the back of the device. Microsoft never seemed to get it right, perhaps because they never truly embraced the cloud. I can only hope Google fares better.
If they do, I may just give up trying to give up on CES, and book next year’s ticket right from the showroom floor… on my new iPhone 5 of course.