For 11 months and 30 days of the year at Labs we force ourselves to face forward. A relentless, 24/7, barely-stop-for-a-sandwich, is-the-singularity-here-yet? pursuit of the future. Okay, you know what we mean. On the last day of the year, however, it seems like a good moment to look back briefly, draw breath and say thank you.
The ten posts here that we’ve pulled from several times that number in 2010 are a representation, versus an exhaustive analysis, of the themes that coloured our year. Nonetheless, there are some common threads that emerge along the way to help paint a picture. This year, five particularly large threads dominate: collaborative creativity, social ideas, new agency models, ‘new school’ learning and sustainable marketing.
As we said when we did this in 2009, this post also gives us the opportunity to say thanks. Thank you for reading this blog and for inviting us to contribute to yours, for debating with us, asking and answering great questions, sharing your wisdom and making us smarter.
If the past few years have taught us anything at all, it is this: the more insanely steep the curve on change, the stronger our need for the talent and generosity of the people around us.
This was also a year of hellos and goodbyes at Labs. Hello to Saneel who joined us in NYC and Jeremy who joined us in London, and goodbye to Pats and to Labs co-founder Ben, who landed awesome jobs at CHI in London and Google respectively. We miss our partners in crime, but we’re as excited as ever about what’s coming next, both for them and all of us.
Which brings us neatly full circle, facing forward again. . .
Happy New Year Everyone.
Saneel, Jeremy, Mel
So here they are, the ten posts we most enjoyed and which triggered a conversation from which we learned a lot. Posts are in chronological order, with links (via titles) to the original posts.
We argued here that creative agencies need to move towards becoming permeable organizations. Those in networks need to be reconfigured as networked organizations versus simply organizations within networks. Creative business must be able to draw on not just the talent within the building, but the many skills and areas of expertise that lie beyond those walls. Written pre the launch of Co: and in the very early days of Victors & Spoils, this post provoked an interesting debate around two interesting questions we posed – what impact does this approach have on agency culture and how do you incentivise people in this framework?
Using the dip in trust of friends and peers cited in the latest Edelman Trust Barameter, we took a look at the factors in play: examining the implications and challenges thrown up for social media (as Mike Arauz summed up in a comment: “the management, navigation, and filtering capabilities we need haven’t kept up with our exploding networks..”). We put forward some thoughts for consideration on how to move forward, two of which I find myself returning to, time and time again: 1. Learn how to marry authority and inclusiveness, 2. Ask yourself if you’re offering something genuinely useful.
This post challenges just about everything we’ve ever learned about loyalty and customer relationships, but does so from the perspective of media efficiency and a shedload of humanity. We argue brands need to let go; concentrate instead on when the context and time is right to initiate a relationship with someone, then move on. The relationship is no less real or valuable, just because it may be fleeting. In doing so, we note, brands demand less depth of information from users, supporting their privacy on the web.
As remixes and spoofs go, we liked Opera’s take on BBH NY / Google Creative Labs’ work for Google Chrome. It also gave us an excuse share the current (awesome, though we say so ourselves) work that was live at the time, as well as go behind the scenes with the Making of.
Prompted to give a talk at our friends’ Power to the Pixel’s Pixel Lab, we examined how brands are telling stories on the web, what entertainment brands have to teach non-entertainment brands about transmedia storytelling and proposed a framework for how brands and producers may work together beyond straightforward product placement or promotions.
In a tour de force of five separate posts spanning the second half of the year by BBH Chairmen, Jim Carroll and Charles Wigley, we railed against the “Wind Tunnel” approach to marketing that uses identical methodologies to deliver insight, ironing out difference. The argument began with Wind Tunnel Politics at the time of the UK election. In the post we’ve chosen here, Jim focuses on a series of solutions looking at how we achieve divergent insight and deliver better value for brands. This in turn was followed up by a workshop Chaz held in Asia: The Anti-Wind Tunnel Marketing Movement. For the full series, please just put ‘wind tunnel marketing’ into the search box of our blog.
A lot more than a farewell post, a considered, entertaining and brilliant bit of writing that sums up 5 years’ worth of learning** on the inside of agency life. Justifiably our most popular post this year in terms of tweet love.
**Note: we’re talking about Ben here, who fits seven days’ work into one on a good day. So the time frame is misleading, better think in terms of dog years instead.
Griffin Farley’s post which does exactly what it says on the tin. An incredibly useful, generous post and a slideshare to boot (co-authored by Campfire’s Mike Monello), examining the hows and whys of “planning not for the people you reach, but the people that they reach.” And a great observation answering Edward Boches’s question: why give content away?
As we say in the post, we like nothing more than great creativity and innovation put to great use. BBH London’s work for St John Ambulance showed a clearly defined communication problem and managed to combine surprise and emotion beautifully.
Inspired by Rachel Botsman’s TED talk, our argument takes the line that marketers so far have focused largely on collaborative production, vs consumption. In this post we examine what the implications might be for brands to exploit this potential shift in focus. As with all these posts, the comments add immense value to the thinking.
AND THE THEMES THAT WOULDN’T STAY DOWN THIS YEAR…
– The rise and rise of social and participatory ideas. Just a few examples of the work and the thinking here: A kind of magic: Myspace Music Fan Videos, Superbowl, super social: The story of Yeo Valley, Burberry’s Global 3D Live Shows + Social, Digital Communities Can Learn From “Leading Clever People“, The Powers and Perils of Participation (originally a guest post on the Likeminds blog).
– Proof that awesome creativity is alive and well, just emerging in new, exciting, tech-enabled forms: our favourites ranged from Ali Merry’s story behind BBH London’s game for Barclays, 56 Sage Street and their Status of Africa Facebook app to awesome light painting with an iPad from Dentsu London and Analogue Digital’s hotel light show for Target. We also love the iOscars and, perhaps most of all, yet more of BBH New York’s outstanding work for Google Chrome.
– The desire to challenge orthodoxy where needed, with some solutions along the way: in addition to the Wind Tunnel series, BBH NY’s Emma Cookson challenged short hand marketing rules whilst Calle Sjoenell with characteristic perspicacity and good humour threw down his Radical Proposal To Save Advertising on the Web. We also asked the questions Agency, Does Your Client Need You?, Where’s the Coke Bottle of the Online World? and later in the year debated whether the word “digital” should be killed for good.
– Sustainable living becomes sustainable marketing? If we make one prediction for 2011, it’s this: the social web will both encourage and enable businesses to behave more sustainably and win in the process. Give to receive. Think about it. If brands and agencies need any encouragement or provocation from others, here are just some of the show-stoppingly great initiatives and platforms that caught our eye this year: Pencils of Promise, TIE – Exchange for Good, A Developing Story, Six Items Or Less and Green Thing’s Saved.
– Collaboration and crowdsourcing in all its forms came of age. I tried to write that exact sentence at the end of 2009 and Ben (rightly) questioned it. But this year, no question, crowdsourcing and the overturning of old models kicked into the mainstream. The topic stretched between agency models (see the first post to make our top 10 this year above, it’s also examined in Agency, Does Your Client Need You?), skillsets and attitudes (Are You Ready To Form Voltron?), to hands-on experience via the brilliant Betacup Project, an interview with the founders Len and Daniel of The 3six5 Project and Rick Liebling, not to mention flipping the idea of crowdsourcing on its head and examining the magic that happens when creativity and crowdsourcing meet.
– How storytelling can have the power to move and surprise us, no matter what its form: what the book sensation Tree of Codes can teach digital, James Mitchell’s great #bobt speech The Value of A Good Story and Jeremy’s reevaluation of Long Form. And grateful thanks to our friend Dan Light, who happily subjected himself to a three part interview on brands and transmedia at the hands of Ben Shaw and Mel, whilst setting up his brand spanking new company.
– All back to the new school: the power of perpetual learning. A fitting theme to end on. This year we learned a huge amount from others and it’s only given us appetite to learn some more. We put a call out to join us for an Internet Week Europe event and attempted en masse to learn how to code with the help of the super smart and nice Tom Uglow and friends at Google; we spent time at SXSWi and TED Global (thank you to June Cohen and Ronda Carnegie); Zach Blank showed us what open source has to teach us about creativity; we got a life and a 20% project and learned from one in particular, The Knot Collective. Much respect also due to both Boulder Digital Works (we continue to learn more from the students than they from us) and, er, the CIA. . .as well as BBH NY’s amazing internship program, the BBH Barn, which goes from strength to strength.