13th November 14
Posted in Start ups
The first ‘tech’ conference I attended was SXSW in 2007. Screens in every hallway were showing a live stream of this thing called twitter. Everyone had a Second Life strategy, plan or notion. And no-one, as far as I noticed, was talking about Facebook which had only opened up to the general public six months earlier. I met some extraordinary people, I heard some outstanding talks and returned to London having drunk *all* the Kool Aid.
Last week, at WebSummit 2014 in Dublin, among the hundreds of eager start-ups who pay fancy money for the opportunity to meet more money, I saw a number of startups who wanted to be ‘The Tinder for real life encounters’, all using the word ‘spotted’ in their names. There were dozens of variations of ‘A social network/platform/app enabling friends/family/strangers to share photos/videos/plans’. There was even ‘A social network that allows you to share short updates with friends by answering the question ‘what are you up to?’ – something familiar about that particular concept, I felt.
Clearly, then, WebSummit made me feel old, grumpy and nostalgic and I don’t want to be old and grumpy. Not yet, anyway. It’s very tempting to hark back to 1994 or 2004, when the internet was a wide open frontier and everything was up for grabs and wax lyrical about all the big dreams being dreamt. But as Kevin Kelly says, right now, today, in 2014, is the best time in human history to start something. There are “more opportunities, more openings, lower barriers, higher benefit/risk ratios, better returns, greater upside,” than ever before, and the evidence of this optimism, this can-do spirit was certainly present in Dublin, even if the some of the ambition seemed a little slight.
Of course the majority of the startups exhibiting at WebSummit won’t get beyond year one, let alone year five – but all these young people (and these were young, young people) have all started something, raised a little capital from friends and family, worked late nights, called in favours and launched their own thing into the world. And they are keen and smart and committed and will learn from success and learn from failure and make better things and bigger things. And they’ll solve harder problems than what happens if you see someone you like the in the street but can’t find them on Tinder.
And, because they are not tired and old and jaded and grumpy and nostalgic, WebSummit was probably a great experience for them. They’ll have met their peers, discovered new technologies, allies, funders, competitors. They might decide to go back to the drawing board and start again, or refine their proposition, or perhaps decide that they might need some old-fashioned marketing to differentiate themselves from the other startups who are doing similar, but not exactly the same, things.
But I’m sure they won’t stop starting something new. They’re entrepreneurs, startups, founders, dreamers. It’s who they are and what they do. In Dublin last week there was lots of Guinness downed, but also plenty of a new vintage of Kool Aid. At WebSummit both tasted pretty good.
3rd November 14
Posted in Creativityforgood
Author: Damien Le Castrec, Strategist, BBH London
One type of post shouts out above the noise of our crowded social timelines: good causes. The Ice Bucket Challenge and #nomakeupselfie have been hard to ignore in 2014.
Social media is a fertile environment for good causes. They give users the opportunity to look good by spreading good, and for organisations to promote themselves.
Although ‘clicktivism’ and ‘hashtag campaigning’ is a relatively fresh move for charities, it has a lot in common with a more traditional model: interruption marketing.
Interruption marketing stops people while they’re consuming content in a broadcast environment, to “force” them to watch commercials. As social media platforms shift towards a ‘paid for’ model, behaving more like broadcast media, it is only natural that marketing attempts to interrupt content consumption here too.
But a few weeks ago we launched a new charity campaign, with a different take on interruption marketing.
The recent fame of these social media campaigns means that other forms of digital marketing are sometimes overlooked. There is a digital environment where causes can find more than a short span of attention and where they can tap into ‘The Database of Intentions’. It’s search.
We share more with Google than we do with our closest friends, and as any good friend, search engines have the opportunity to influence these shared intentions.
Social media gives causes mass attention and a burst of fame, while search offers specific intentions and the power to influence them. Search might not make the cause as famous in the short term as a broadcast burst; by definition, it is only targeting a limited group of people. But it can unlock genuine change and perhaps allow for a more prolonged campaign.
One million searches for elephant riding take place every year. We designed a campaign to interrupt this intention.
STOPPING TOURISTS FROM SPENDING ON ANIMAL ENTERTAINMENT BEFORE THEY BOOK
Our idea was to give tourists information about animal entertainment when they are in the mindset of planning and researching a trip. So we created a search-led campaign that intercepts the million queries for elephant riding, to reveal the suffering that takes place behind the scenes.
This is a media behaviour that tour operators already leverage to promote themselves through paid search advertising. We decided to outbid them to bring the truth to the top of tourists’ search results pages.
To outbid real tour operators, we behave like one: buying the same ads, promoting the same kind of experiences, but with a difference: we tell the truth about animal entertainment.
Thanks to a carefully crafted bidding strategy, our search ads promoting “an authentic elephant ride” are the first result holidaymakers see. The link takes them to our fake tour operator video who reveals the way elephants are trained to force them to get used to the unnatural act of being ridden.
Tourists who could have been part of the problem can then become part of the solution by funding the search bidding (on a CPC basis, £3 will educate 280 tourists). Their donations will help to hold our video at the top of search results to educate more tourists like them.
SEARCH: A NEW TAKE ON INTERRUPTION MARKETING.
- Media consumption vs. active intention: Interruption marketing is traditionally based on interrupting people’s media behaviours. But search gives us the ability to interrupt the intentions we’re trying to influence.
- Fame vs. relevance: Interruption marketing is usually an awareness-driven model where communications perform when remarkable. But in a search environment, the focus is on relevance.
- Short-lived vs. long-term: Interruption marketing operates with a traditional “launch and forget” mindset. But with search, ads are triggered as long as they have a purpose.
Search offers new opportunities for creativity and performance, whether for causes or commercial brands. Let’s hope our industry isn’t too hooked on fame to embrace them like it should…
14th October 14
Posted in culture
Last week we were lucky enough to be invited to speak at Belgrade Design Week – a fabulous event in an exciting city to visit.
Finally getting the opportunity to use William Gibson‘s great passage on bohemias (‘where industrial civilisation went to dream’) from All Tomorrow’s Parties in this most bohemian of cities, we compared physical and digital enclaves to see whether digital bohemians could learn anything from the decline of alternative subcultures in the real world.
As always, let us know what you think in the comments below.
28th August 14
Posted in Rants
I am happy that I’m not going to indadvertedly click a link on twitter and find myself watching a video of the beheading of James Foley. But the removal of this video and other content from Google, Twitter and Facebook raises important questions about media, freedom of expression and control of information.
In the digital age, we are nearing the point where an idea banished by Twitter, Facebook and Google all but vanishes from public discourse entirely, and that is only going to become more true as those companies grow even further.
As is pointed out here, this is not a question of censorship. Rather it is an editorial decision, made on perfectly reasonable moral and taste grounds and at the request of the family of James Foley. And while we might completely agree with the decision in this instance, are we happy for Facebook to delete content created by Syrian dissidents? Or not remove videos of other gruesome actions that do not involve Western journalists. Or allow the publication of live tweets of IDF military actions against Hamas? These complex religious and geopolitical issues are throwing up new moral, social and editorial challenges for technology companies. But as these companies morph into not just media companies, but media itself, it is becoming important to ask what precedents are being set? What actual policies are at work?
We have no rights beyond what the companies give us in their terms of service, where quaint ideas like the First Amendment have no application.
The huge centralized web services such as facebook and google, the Stacks as Bruce Sterling calls them, are making these editorial decisions because we’ve both asked and allowed them to. They are incredibly useful services and incredibly convenient services and incredibly free services to use. We might not pay with our wallets, but instead we pay with our views, our content, our shares, likes, retweets and our profiles. If you’re not paying for it, you’re the product being sold. We know this. Facebook and Google and Twitter ultimately can decide what goes through their pipes – if we don’t like their decisions we can take our cat photos elsewhere, however inconvenient that might be.
So, if we’re the product, who are the customers? Brands, obviously, who love the convenience and the scale and the data and metrics they get from their paid-for relationships with The Stacks. And brands too, make sacrifices when they embark on these relationships. The world of brand microsites was one of variable quality, but vast variety. Today’s uniformity of branded voice and imagery, the identikit, out-of-the-box formatting solutions provided by tumblr and facebook and youtube can almost induce nostalgia for the visual assault of the World Wild Web. Again, google and twitter and facebook have the right to design their pipes their way – if brands don’t like the formats on offer they can take their content elsewhere, however inconvenient that might be.
I am relieved that my kids can watch youtube without clicking on a thumbnail and seeing James Foley’s horrific murder. But I am also telling them that if they want a place on the internet where they are not the product, a place where they are the editor, where they set the precedents and make the policies, a place that is theirs, then they will have to own it and pay for it and make it. They’ll have to buy a domain and manage some hosting and create some content and establish their own digital identity. And they’ll have to deal with the inconvenience and freedom that comes with it.
28th July 14
Posted in leadership
Author: Jim Carroll, Chairman BBH London
I am not a leader.
It took me many years to realise it. Indeed I was in a position of some responsibility when the truth dawned. I finally understood that I am in a relationship business, but I’m uncomfortable with relationships; that I shrink from delivering bad news, when I should be characterising it as good; that I am emotionally squeamish, when leadership requires psychological strength. I was a disappointment to myself.
Despite, or perhaps because of, this revelation, I have remained interested in the art of leadership. What defines a great leader? How do you spot leadership potential? Can you train it, learn it, define it? I’m aware that a wealth of airport management books endeavour to answer these questions, but I confess I’ve never felt compelled to read them. Let me offer my own, admittedly simple, perspective on the subject.
In the course of my career I’ve been fortunate to have worked with quite a few great leaders. And I have to say that, on the face of it, they have little in common. Some were passionate and visionary, others were practical and pragmatic; some were sensitive and personal, others were pugnacious and combative. None was in any way a perfect paradigm. Indeed all have been flawed, often in very engaging ways.
But there was one particular thing they all shared. Their leadership style was consistently an extension of their own strong personalities. They were authentic, but they were also larger than life. Their very real virtues had found a louder voice, a bigger stage. They were hyperboles of themselves if you like.
Leadership in my experience is The Amplified Self.
This analysis has led me to a relatively straightforward piece of advice for the aspirant leader: establish what you’re good at and do it in a bigger, bolder way.
And yet this is easier said than done. ‘Know thyself’ was inscribed above the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. It was a resonant maxim precisely because self knowledge is so difficult to achieve.
I probably spent the first ten years of my career working out what I had to offer professionally. However much my appraisals identified the occasional virtue, I couldn’t help concentrating on the cited shortcomings. Because they were the same shortcomings year after year: a sluggishness with spreadsheets and Harvard Graphics, a lack of commercial rigour in my arguments, a failure to make eye contact in meetings. Like a diligent student I would concentrate on addressing my weaknesses. But however hard I tried, with every passing year my appraisal changed very little. And I never did win that IPA Effectiveness Award…
I think there comes a point in everyone’s career when we give up addressing the faults we cannot correct, the blemishes we cannot wipe clean. The point in one’s career when one focuses on building on strengths and virtues, accentuating the positives rather than eliminating the negatives. And I think that’s the point that one finally gets to discover one’s true leadership potential.
If you think you have the charisma, stamina, vision and appetite to lead, don’t spend your time reading the text books, mimicking your predecessor, emulating your hero. Don’t be someone else’s shadow, their pale imitation. Don’t try to be someone you’re not.
Look in the mirror. Isolate your truest strengths, the ones that set you apart, that make you unique. And turn those strengths up to eleven.
Be your own Amplified Self.
30th May 14
Posted in strategy
Author, Jim Carroll, Chairman BBH London
First published in Advertising Week Europe supplement
I knew a man who never blinked. It was quite discomfiting. I’d not considered blinking that important until confronted with its absence. This chap just seemed a bit odd, a little lacking in emotion. Was he perhaps an android? When talking to him I couldn’t avoid the impression that he was unnaturally certain of his own opinions. And that that blind certainty was what I was finding unattractive. I realised that, whilst I like the self-assured, absolute certainty can be troubling, alienating, disturbing.
I guess that’s why I’ve always responded better to leaders who, though boundlessly confident, exhibit a sensitivity to risk and doubt, a consciousness of paths not taken. I’m rarely convinced by absolute conviction.
For similar reasons I feel certainty in advertising has always been fool’s gold. Claude Hopkins wrote Advertising Science back in the 1920s. And science has given us analytical tools and techniques that have dramatically enhanced our understanding of consumers and our ability to communicate effectively. But, however much we may wish it, science has never given us certainty.
I recently attended a stage adaptation of the great Henry Fonda movie, 12 Angry Men. At its heart it’s a celebration of reasonable doubt, and an indictment of the unreasonable certainty that so many people carry around with them. I was struck by the idea that reasonable doubt is a force for good in society. Because life is an ongoing navigation of trade-offs, dilemmas and contrary preferences. Life isn’t about certainty.
In our business I’ve seen how, many a time and oft’, the quest for unreasonable certainty has actually fostered doubt and indecision. The pursuit of total proof can close windows of opportunity and analysis paralysis can inhibit bold leaps forward.
Recently we have all been redesigning the marketing model. We have embraced the vision of a customer engagement system that is more connected, more targeted, more knowing and less wasteful. Something that learns, creates, adapts and distributes in real time. But we should not imagine that any new model will deliver unreasonable certainty. All models need ideas to animate them. And the best ideas occur at the intersection of logic and magic, at the meeting point of rationality and emotion.
What is exciting about the modern age of marketing is the opportunity it affords us to explore this happy interaction between art and science. At BBH we’ve been talking a lot about High Performance Creativity. We believe that technology enables a more intimate relationship between creativity and performance, and that that intimacy will generate better, more effective work. We believe that data should not just be big; it should be strategically insightful and creatively inspiring. We believe that performance measures should not be backward looking proofs, but live, forward-facing guides. We believe that, while High Performance Creativity cannot promise certainty, it can deliver incredible potency.
I’m reasonably certain about this.
10th March 14
Posted in Experiments
We’ve closed the garage door on our first experiment of 2014 over at thinky.do and there’s a post about what we learnt about bitcoin from our Open Wallet Experiment there. A few weeks ago we went public about our rebooted approach to experimentation, so what have we learnt about learning one month on?
First off, constraints are both good and bad, or, more accurately, helpful and limiting. We set ourselves the goal of thinking up and launching an experiment, in public, in a 4 week period. And, Yay us, we got it out of the door. Just. We might have had a better conceived, better executed experiment if we’d given ourselves more time, but we might also still be in idea generation phase, filling up whiteboards with hypotheticals and possibilities instead of results and learnings. We did it, it’s done, onto the next doing.
Second, the subject of the experiment. The extended Labs team were absolutely certain that Bitcoin was the right subject for our first foray. Everyone was talking about it, none of us understood it properly, this was our chance to learn. And learn we did. We now know how to buy it, look after it and spend it. We’ve also learnt that bitcoin is a hard thing to think about and a difficult tool to use for experimental purposes. Getting to grips with bitcoin took time and the technical restraints meant several ‘pivots’ before the Open Wallet Experiment got out there. And while we’re not bitcoin billionaires, we’re in a better position to talk to clients about the benefits and drawbacks of cryptocurrencies than we were in January.
And lastly, how we work. We couldn’t have done anything without help from a number of people. Colleagues in BBH, partners outside (particular thanks to the guys at MediaMonks for talking us through bitcoin practicalities), people who emailed and commented on the blog and our G+ page, all helped tremendously.
And so, on to Experiment No2. Trying to remember what we’ve learnt already, and not forget that each month we’re starting over, all over again.
10th March 14
Posted in Start ups
In his new book on creativity Sir John Hegarty cautions the creative industry to not become enthralled with technology, but instead allow technology to liberate great ideas. This is the idea behind Pie, a tool for modern teams to save and share inspiring finds and ideas.
Pie originated in the BBH ZAG bakery and we spoke with Pieter Walraven, formerly Product Director of BBH ZAG Asia, about the things he learned during his journey from an idea to a funded startup.
So what is Pie and how did you get the idea?
Pie is a link-sharing tool that helps teams share and organize the zillion things they see at work every day. At BBH me and Thijs Jacobs (former BBH Asia Pacific Head of Creative Technology) noticed that people are constantly sharing and discussing inspiring things over email. We loved the culture of sharing, but we saw that sharing ideas over email is broken. It clutters inboxes and relevant finds easily get buried. After talking to other companies and clients about this issue we learned that they have the same problem. This is when started thinking about a technology enabling an open culture of sharing with the bigger vision of liberating great ideas.
When you say you ‘started thinking about a technology’ what does that mean, how did you translate your idea into an actual product?
What we did early on was look at the current relevant software offerings out there such as Yammer and Sharepoint and didn’t really like what we saw – who decided that enterprise software has to be dull?! So we shifted our focus to consumer apps as they’re much better at creating a great user experience.
Obviously, we liked the visual aspect of Pinterest and found that boards are a great way to organize things. We’ve used elements from Pinterest and other popular consumer applications to design our first MVP and tested 2 hypotheses: ‘do people want to use this?’ and ‘will people be drawn in by the visual consumer-like design?’.
(An early iteration of the Pie MVP)
So you tested your assumptions, what was the next step? When did you actually set up Pie as a company?
To maximise our chances of building a successful global SaaS company we knew we had to raise external funding and attract top talent. Most high-profile strategic investors only invest in strong and autonomous founding teams so shortly after we’ve completed testing our MVP we set up Pie as a separate company with myself and Thijs as founders and major shareholders.
As we both have prior experience of tech startups our pitch deck was mainly focused on the founding team. It also included the positive market outlook – “Adoption of Social Enterprise is Booming” – and the findings of our MVP which consisted of both usage data and the interest of potential clients.
(Pie pitch deck: market opportunity slide)
For structuring our financing we used a model called convertible notes. A convertible note is basically a loan that converts into shares of preferred stock upon the closing of a the next round – Series A – round of financing. Here’s a great TechCrunch article on convertible notes with all the pros and cons.
After a few hectic and uncertain months we managed to raise our target of $800K from a list of notable investors including BBH Asia Pacific’s former ECD, Steve Elrick, a U.S.-based VC, Siemer Ventures, and Peng Tsin Ong, founder of Match.com and widely considered one of Asia’s most successful tech entrepreneurs.
So tell us a bit about your daily routine at Pie, what keeps you busy?
It might sound obvious, but I underestimated the amount of time I have to spend on hiring. Our culture is our most valuable asset and it takes time to carefully select people that match the rest of the team. Of course it doesn’t help that these kind of people already have a great job! Basically hiring great people takes time, but luckily it gets easier as Pie’s exposure grows and we gain more international traction.
(Pie’s stream where you can see what coworkers are collecting and sharing)
Other than hiring me and the rest of the Pie team are 100% focused on growth. Everything we do is directly or indirectly related to growing our user base. We’re constantly iterating on Pie to improve either the user engagement or the virality. We’ve also been writing and seeding content for our target audience to attract users and have had some success with this – we’ve been live for 1.5 months and over 700 companies are on Pie ranging from Spotify to Shell. We’re seeing companies saving and sharing industry news, innovations, market data, trends, but also funny videos. Companies such as Edelman and IDEO use Pie to keep track of market trends and collaborate around certain topics. Besides internal sharing they also use Pie to share inspiration and links to relevant articles with clients.
Proximity (BBDO) uses Pie to collect and organize UX best practices. They create boards with finds that can be used for later use. Before Pie was introduced people were storing things in email drafts or spreadsheets invisible for their coworkers to see. By collecting things on boards knowledge that was previously hidden in silos now gets exposed to the rest of the team.
(A library of posts collected by a team on a ‘collaborative board’)