1st May 15
Posted in data
Author: Thomas Gwin, Data Strategy Director, BBH London
As the UK general election draws ever closer, many news organisations have picked up on the fact that political parties are using software to better understand voter audiences through data mining. Some are even going so far as to call this the “first true data driven election”.
Whilst much of the rhetoric in these news articles centres around how political parties are expertly using data as a secret weapon to seduce voters, the hidden truth of the matter is that whether considered through the lens of politics or marketing, the business of turning data into competitive advantage is a tricky one. And one that advertising knows only too well about.
Brands, of course have invested in sophisticated information systems to map, classify and prioritise target audiences for decades. Segmentations based on value, behaviour, attitudes, needs – you name it. More segmentations, and even segmentations of segmentations. Deeper and deeper insight, more and more powerful, but equally more and more fractured.
And at the heart of this lurks an internal tension between brand vision and audience understanding. The best strategists will know that these are not necessarily perfectly correlated, but will also know that ignoring either will result in compromise.
This same tension manifests itself in politics between political vision and voter understanding. But for politics, this tension arguably carries a far greater risk. To understand why, we must first return to how exactly parties are using data and what consequences one of these aspects could be having.
If the message is malleable, what does this say about a political party’s identity and values?
Data isn’t just providing political parties with insight, it is also allowing them to model voter intention and, crucially, provide them with the intelligence to adapt campaign messaging to individual profiles. For instance, what campaign message should Party A prioritise to conquest Party B voters who are potential “switchers”? Is it immigration, or is it the NHS?
This is not simply about maximising efficiencies (such as concentrating volunteer efforts on marginals or improving overall campaign targeting) – by adopting data, parties are also wading into the realm of predictive analytics.
Now in the world of marketing, Google suggest and Amazon recommended products are old news. With each passing day, evidence of organisations upping their marketing investment on initiatives like “intent-based” and “personalisation” accumulates. But in the less commercially agile world of politics, this is a huge step, directly imported from recent election campaign trends in the US.
But there is a vital difference here. Where brands use predictive analytics to (hopefully) better serve customers and be more useful, political parties can use predictive analytics to adapt their messaging to convert voter share.
But if the message is malleable, what does this say about a political party’s identity and values?
Some may say, this is nothing new. That politicians have always toyed with messaging and targeting at election time based on voter information, stretching the limits of how they can acceptably position big issues without contradicting party manifesto. And in a sense this is absolutely true. But what is also true is that the scale of intelligence now feeding these decisions is unprecedented. And the fact that this intelligence – so data lubricated and insight rich – is set against a backdrop of deep political disaffection, risks further aggravating public disillusionment with politicians and the political process.
Brands and parties alike have to adapt to people
Well if anything, brands understand the need for the brand idea, the long term, enduring vision that stems from a fundamental truth. Of course, this can and should flex with culture, but it must remain consistent. Otherwise consumers stop believing in you and stop trusting you.
Brands cannot remain static and endlessly pure – to the contrary, they are in a constant process of evolution, ebb and flow, plugged into the cultural zeitgeist which they tap into and also feed from.
And this does certainly not mean ignoring audience plurality, but it does mean that creating stand out aspirational stories that transcend differences is superior to developing powerful but micro-managed communication to suit heterogeneity.
The truth of the matter is that brands and parties alike have to adapt to people. But where the best brands are able to use data and predictive analytics to stay true to themselves and even better themselves, parties risk being perceived as selling out and losing the foundation values upon which they were built.
And the sharp, concise instrument that is data, with all of its clarity and processing muscle, is not alone able to solve this tension and afford parties the clear path they so desire to drive voters to the ballot box. At least not yet.
18th March 15
Posted in sxsw
Authors; a crack team of roving reporters, on the ground in Austin, Tx
SXSW isn’t just about tacos, BBQ and Shiner and to ensure that the lucky BBHers who were out there knew that, we asked them to send us a quick note about the best thing they saw and heard in Austin. These are those brief, barely edited, dispatches from SXSW 2015.
So one of my favourite things about SXSW so far was not a talk, it was a dog. A St. Bernard in fact. When your phone battery was on its last legs, which let’s face it was all the f**king time, you could tweet the Saint Bernard and he would come find you. Damn, he didn’t bring brandy. Sad face. Instead, he brought a selection of phone chargers, adorably strapped around his neck. While your phone charged, you were fully licensed to pet his face off. Amazing.
Marc Rayson, Creative
I went to this great talk yesterday from a guy who has created Mogees, a new instrument lets users make music out of any object. He had the idea from thinking about how musicians have always ‘hacked’ their instruments. Think ‘scratching’ vinyls on turntables and using distortion through electric guitars – these things were never meant to be a function of the instrument but have become synonymous with dj-ng and made rock n roll.
So he created an instrument without any defined user experience so that the user could make up how they would like to play it, like a blank canvas. Watch some of the videos on his site of ways different people have used it. The kid ‘playing his stove’ is brilliant.
Samuel Bowden, Producer
Last night I saw a film called Hot Sugar’s Cold World which was a music doc about a guy called Hot Sugar who obsessively records every sound around him (even recording the silence at a funeral) and then makes them into sick tunes – he also talks about musical instruments becoming defunct and instead uses the outside world and his synth to make music.
Vaia Ikonomou, Assistant Producer
Four amazing men. Four poor life choices (by their own admission). Four stories about turning your life around. They all share one thing in common, which is that they have spent the majority of their early adult lives in prison. In the US there is little support for people in their position when they come out. The world had moved on, especially the world of technology that we take for granted. These men didn’t let that stop them becoming leaders of their community, businessmen, writers and mentors. Hearing how they motivated themselves to change and to teach others how to avoid their situation was one of the most moving moments of SXSW.
Search #Cut50 for more
Mark Whiteside, Global Operations Lead
I’ve just listened to Dan Pfeiffer, President Obama’s former Senior Advisor discuss the White House’s comms strategy with legendary news anchor Dan Rather. They both predicted that in 10 years time Snapchat will still be going strong but the nightly news will cease to exist.
The proliferation of media means the president today has to work harder than ever to reach his audience, and it’s only going to get more difficult.
The next presidential campaign is forecast to cost $4 billion and it will look very different to before. There’s always a new technology that rules every election. In 2008 it was Facebook, 2012 was Twitter, and in 2016 there’s a good chance it will be Meerkat!
Isobel Barnes, Team Director
From Marc Goodman I learned that as technology gets better and better it becomes more invasive in our lives. But this means that criminals have more and more ways to commit crimes, and bigger crimes too. Crimes used to be one on one acts, committed in a dark alley. Now it’s one on one million, committed in dark parts of the web. So as technology becomes ever more part of our lives we need to remember that means our lives are ever more accessible to criminals. Technology can also become party to a crime. In the future we’re going to have ‘Siri & Clyde’ as technology is asked questions it doesn’t have the conscience not to give an answer to, like ‘where do I bury a body’. So we need someone to step up and make security a more accessible, user friendly system to navigate. We need a Jonny Ives of security.
Sara Watson, Creative
The Unseen describe themselves as ‘an exploration collective’ who combine science with art, design and performance. Their talk was hosted by the collective’s founder, an English woman called Lauren Bowker, who believes that technology is magic and strives to create a world of seamlessly captivating science through exquisite couture and luxury products.
The most awe-inspiring product she shared with us was ‘Air’ (above) - a series of colour-changing hand crafted leather garments that change colour in response to environmental changes such as touch and wind.
Raphael Bitner, Strategist
11th March 15
Posted in sxsw
Author: Mel Exon, Managing Director BBH London and Co-Founder, BBH Labs
Keep Austin Weird … is a phrase you are probably going to see and hear a lot once you get to Texas.
In several lucky years of going to South By, it’s the best bit of advice that has stuck with me: Austin prides itself on being an island of culture, creativity and difference in an otherwise very conservative part of the USA. As a visitor, it’s your responsibility to avoid everything you recognise and dive into the stuff you don’t.
So it’s really tempting to hang out with loads of UK agency folk, get press ganged into drinks with your brethren, attend loads of talks about advertising, but I’d ditch all of that and go see a talk by an astro-physicist or a roboticist, eat pancakes, ribs and tacos exclusively*, go find a karaoke club in an underground car park, place a bet on Chicken Shit Bingo … and make sure you head to the Lustre Pearl for beers and shots, not the Hilton. Except maybe your first night when it’s just nice to see some familiar faces and hear what’s happened that day.
(*You can get vegetables when you’re back in England.)
My second bit of advice relates to choice, or rather the over supply of choice. SXSW has been a massive conference for years and years.. several floors of several rooms all showing talks and workshops simultaneously, now in several different locations all around Austin. It takes some getting used to, take a minute on the flight over to look at the whole schedule and pick some stuff you want to see.
Over the past few years the Interactive bit of SXSW, neatly sandwiched between Film and Music, has got incredibly popular with the UK marketing industry, but that doesn’t mean it’s got tame or lame, you’ve just got to work a bit harder to find stuff that’s genuinely different and worthwhile… BUT perhaps somewhat counter-intuitively, I would avoid trucking all round Austin when it comes to going to talks, it takes ages and you waste tons of time shuttling between locations: only do that for something you hear is going to be amazing. The best talks are often under your nose in the main conference centre. Apart from seeking out the things you know nothing about, there are major keynotes not to miss every day, which often make headlines – for good or for bad – and are worth hearing. Bruce Sterling usually does a great closing keynote. If you don’t like a talk ten minutes in, you can get up and leave and try another one. Use Twitter to find out what people are enjoying most at any given time, most people tweet using #sxsw and #sxswi. If you’ve not done so already, make sure you set up a Whatsapp group IMMEDIATELY. Obviously.
Try to orientate yourself quickly around the conference centre early because it makes everything easier and don’t be afraid to ask for directions if you get lost (everyone gets lost, the whole time, this is normal).
Carry as little as possible. Get one of those mobile chargers for your phone. And use the abundant free wifi, or face the wrath of your office manager.
Eat from taco trucks as often as possible. Go to Salt Lick if you can arrange a bus out of town, or book a table at the Broken Spoke for line dancing and chicken in an odd white sauce. If you’re brave and your religion permits it, try a Baconator in a cone. Get a proper cocktail at The Driskill hotel. Old school.
I think that’s it. As you can tell, I’m two parts jealous and eight parts excited for you.
Have a whole load of fun, stay safe and come back with stories to share please.
9th January 15
Posted in technology
In the January edition of Marketing Magazine BBH London Managing Director and Labs Co-Founder Mel Exon highlighted ten tech trends that marketers could be usefully thinking about for 2015. The original article appeared here on 07.01.15.
Another year, another slew of new technology jargon undoubtedly on its way to a tablet near you. With that in mind, here’s a handy set of ten technological themes for 2015 that may prove useful to marketers this year. Some may just emerge into our consciousness, others become noteworthy, whilst others start to take root in the mainstream.
1. Virtual Reality gets real
”This technology has peeled back a layer to reveal another universe” ~ Lawnmower Man (1992). There is currently no technology that has more potential to break new ground in creativity and communication than VR. In 2015, Oculus Rift, the company that has made most strides in this space, is due to launch a consumer product. Hold onto your hats, it’s going to be a ride.
2. ‘Handmade’ digital design
We’ve been mechanising things for so long, it’s probably high time we humanised things instead for a while. Look out for what Babak Parviz (the inventor of Google Glass, now at Amazon), is calling ‘handmade’ digital design, aided and abetted by the ongoing blur between off- and online worlds.
3. Mobile marketing steps up a gear
So we all know display ads are worse than inadequate and branded apps aren’t the solution to every mobile marketing task. Last year we talked about how Facebook’s re-tooled Atlas was set to make marketing across devices and to ‘real’ people work much more effectively, this year we’ll see that become a reality.
4. The mobile web gets a shot in the arm
Also helping us on our way: revealed at their Chrome Developer Summit in December, Google are making significant investments in improving the performance of mobile web apps, effectively taking steps to bring mobile web functionality up to par with that of native Android apps. Big news.
5. The rise, fall and rise again of wearables
With the Apple Watch fully on the market, promising to put to bed the issues associated with the category (concerns around privacy, sustainable use cases and how stylish they really are), wearables have a chance to move from a sideshow to the mainstream.
6. 3D Printing finds its purpose (for now)
‘3D printing’ has always sounded so goddamn good. But until we can print genuinely usable, mixed material products more cost effectively than we can buy via a regular (mass production or artisan) supplier, we will have to live with the fact 3D printing is still for the few.
7. Networking The Internet of Things
So far the ‘Internet of things’ has been limited to products – the likes of Nest, Hive, August (the smart lock) – that operate as standalone systems. The truly connected home will only happen when different products can connect with one another. We’re starting to see it happen – for example Nest Protect (fire and CO2 alarm) can trigger a flashing red light alarm on Lifx, the connected lighting system.
8. Proximity marketing moves even closer
As iBeacons get installed in retail outlets, bars and entertainment venues up and down the country we can expect to see proximity marketing grow from being an experiment at conferences to a bona fide marketing behaviour.
9. Social feedback loops spin ever faster
More connected devices and sensors available 24/7 will demand faster adaptation and shorter lead times to provide users with data-driven, hourly relevant activity. Global marketing organisations finally make the most of resource in different time zones: the brand that never sleeps.
10. Micro-targeting at scale
Once the preserve of US political parties attempting to tailor unique messages to sub groups of voters, brands like Coke (with ‘America The Beautiful’) and Budweiser are using Facebook to reach a series of smaller audiences with different angles on the same idea. In the process building to scale.
15th December 14
Posted in luxury
In his essay Software is Eating the World, Marc Andreesen listed a whole bunch of industries whose business models had been, were being or were about to be massively disrupted by digital technologies – from photography and music to retail, publishing, health and education. Missing from Andreesen’s extensive list was any mention of the art, fashion or luxury goods industries – businesses that traditionally have relied on mystique, scarcity and exclusivity to drive demand and protect margin.
And at the International New York Times Luxury Conference, held 10 days ago in Miami, disrupters were ably represented by will.i.am, skyping in from Manchester to talk about wearables, collaborations and how not to get screwed by the tech giants while 93-year-old fashion icon Iris Apfel championed more traditional views, bemoaning the ‘great paucity of imagination’ exhibited today.
Things started amiably enough, with Francois-Henri Pinault declaring that technology could, should and would support and renew the way that luxury works. Citing innovation in manufacture and supply chain as well as commerce and retail as reasons to believe that tech and luxury could live in harmony, he then pointed out the elephant in the room; delivering consistent experience at scale is antithetical to the bespoke experiences demanded by luxury consumers. “There’s an emotional quality to luxury that can’t be sacrificed on the altar of innovation,” asserted Pinault.
This was a notion referred to again and again over the next 36 hours, and one that went unchallenged; “People have to yearn for things,” said Apfel, rather wonderfully. “How do we sell our watches? One by one,” said Francois-Henry Bennahmias, CEO of luxury watchmaker Audemars Piguet, who conceded that social media did have some usefulness in entertaining a new generation of luxury consumers, or perhaps the children of their traditional customers.
Technology is wonderful at reducing and removing friction – the market inefficiencies that hamper consumers from accessing the goods and services they desire. But in the luxury industry, friction is reframed as qualification, inefficiency as rarity. As new markets for luxury goods appear in the middle and far easts, creating an industry growing 4-6% to $307billion in 2015, there appeared to be little trepidation about the future among speakers and attendees at the INYT Luxury Conference. Of course, this is not to say that the luxury business has no use whatsoever for digital thinking, more that digital isn’t yet asking the difficult questions of luxury that have challenged other businesses.
So perhaps a different question worth asking is what can the digital industries learn from the world of luxury? A world where every interaction with a brand is carefully considered and crafted for a discerning customer. Why, so often, do digital experiences with brands feel undifferentiated, flat and templated? Shouldn’t we be thinking about treating our digital audiences like the discerning consumers they are? Perhaps the time is right for ‘handcrafted’ user-experience, bespoke digital design that makes every site visitor feel like the most important person in the world. Maybe we shouldn’t expect luxury to go digital, but instead demand that digital gets luxurious.
But as the luxury conference blended seamlessly into the spectacle that is Art Basel Miami, where some of the wealthiest people on the planet vied to buy some of the most expensive art on the market and attend the most exclusive parties happening on earth that week, it felt worth remembering that the star of the International New York Times Luxury Conference was a ninety-three year old woman who has never, ever googled herself.
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.