Jeremy Ettinghausen

Jeremy is Innovation Director, BBH Labs & BBH London.

tl;dr – some recent longreads


Yes, we know that it’s all about video these days and streaming boxsets and hashtags and old people marooned on the moon, but for thousands of years humankind has used words to convey complex ideas and so here are lots of words, with a roundup of some of the best longreads that have recently crossed our tablets.


  1. Selfie – A long, passionate and provocative defense of the selfie, ‘an artifact and a gift’.

Selfies, though, are all about looking away. They are not a closed loop​. T​hey are a new and vibrant language. Selfies never exist in a vacuum. Once they go live, they have adventures, they go out and ​make friends. They are born by waves, digital driftwood: millions of faces washing up on various shores, launching various ships. They ​voyage ahead ​and probe new communities, and sometimes they bring back stories. Our selfies are weightless versions of ourselves, with wings.

2.   The Story Trap – why do we fall back to narrative to describe complex phenomena?

We need narrative not because it is a valid epistemological description of the world but because of its cognitive role. It’s how we make sense of things. An inability to render life experiences into a coherent narrative is characteristic of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. Text that fails to deliver narrative coherence, for example in terms of relating cause to effect and honouring the expectations of readers, is harder to understand.

3.   The Doomsday Invention – profile of Nick Bostrom, AI philosopher and author of SuperIntelligence

In people, intelligence is inseparable from consciousness, emotional and social awareness, the complex interaction of mind and body. An A.I. need not have any such attributes. Bostrom believes that machine intelligences—no matter how flexible in their tactics—will likely be rigidly fixated on their ultimate goals. How, then, to create a machine that respects the nuances of social cues? That adheres to ethical norms, even at the expense of its goals? No one has a coherent solution. It is hard enough to reliably inculcate such behavior in people.

4.   User Behaviour – on the UI and ethics of Internet Addiction

A handful of corporations determine the basic shape of the web that most of us use every day. Many of those companies make money by capturing users’ attention, and turning it into pageviews and clicks. They’ve staked their futures on methods to cultivate habits in users, in order to win as much of that attention as possible. Successful companies build specialised teams and collect reams of personalised data, all intended to hook users on their products.

5.   Inside the Sony Hack – a gripping account of life inside Sony in the days and weeks after the hack.

The telephone directory vanished. Voicemail was offline. Computers became bricks.  Internet access on the lot was shuttered. The cafeteria went cash-only. Contracts—and the templates those contracts were based on—disappeared. Sony’s online database of stock footage was unsearchable … “It was like moving back into an earlier time,” one employee says. The only way to reach other Sony staffers was to dial their number directly—if you could figure out what it was—or hunt them down and talk face to face.

Well, that little lot should fill your reading quota for the week – please let us know of any longreads worth sharing in the comments below.

f5 f5 f5 and breathe

f5 f5 f5 f5 and breathe.


f5 and f5 and f5 yeaaaaaaah.


Refreshing my browser doesn’t usually provoke such catharsis. But for the last 24 hours any attempt to revisit a previously reviewed page has resulted in being bounced to google search. So perhaps my reaction is a little more understandable.

But you might lose any sympathy when I tell you that I broke my internet on purpose. In the interests of science. With myself as the rat in a hall of mirrors of my own design.

Because I wanted to see what would happen if I forced myself to only go forward on the web, to break my surfing habits, to forge new digital trails and discover new lands. To turn my back on the familiar and the routine. To not check Facebook a half dozen times a day. To maybe avoid the distraction of my regular web browsing, or at least find new distractions.

So I got our Alex Matthews, our Creative Tech guru, to build me a browser extension that, when activated, only let me visit particular web pages once. That visit added them to a ban list and any attempt to revisit bounced to google homepage. I whitelisted google sites since our work email runs off google apps – I didn’t think that I’d be able to use ‘Amateur Science’ as an excuse for not replying to email.

Simultaneously I ran some extensions tracking my browsing and web activity to see if I either spent less time online or visited a greater variety of sites with the blocker turned on. The results, I must admit, are inconclusive. Work does get in the way of pure academic research. I had to turn the blocker off quite regularly to get anything done at all. I also found myself cheating my own experiment – browsing in incognito mode where I didn’t have the blocker activated. Using my phone to check twitter and other sites. But yes, I did use less internet with the blocker activated, largely out of frustration.

Of course, a browser extension that stops you revisiting the same old web is only partially interesting. What if instead of bouncing to google it displayed a list of previously unvisited web pages related to the site you had tried to visit? Could it become a serendipitous discovery engine based on the sites you already visit and enjoy? There isn’t really an alternative to facebook or twitter or netflix, but for news and entertainment and sports and tech reviews and online video there is plenty of scope for diversification. ‘Here’s something new’ trumps ‘You can’t go back’ and we’re talking about integrating this into a future release.
A 2010 Nielsen survey reveals that on average people visit 89 sites in a given month. So far in November I have visited over 350. On this computer. Which is one of four connected devices I used on any given day. The point of the Don’t Go Back extension experiment was two-fold. First, to force me to take a look at my online behaviour and maybe make some changes to how and where I browse. And second, to demonstrate that it’s a big old web out there with billions of pages to visit and explore and experience. Habits are hard to break – enforced variety might be what’s needed to spice up online life.


If you want to try out the ‘Don’t go back’ extension and break the internet for yourself, here’s what to do:

– Download Don’t Go Back
– go to chrome://extensions
– select “developer mode” at top of page
– then click “Load unpacked extension”
– select the folder that you unzipped to



The Case for Content

In last week’s Campaign, venerable ad-man Dave Trott launched a salvo aimed at ‘content’, the word and the business of. BBH’s Digital Publishing Director, Richard Cable, responds below.

Shipping Containers at a Chinese Port by Lou Gold

Dear Dave,

We read your article in Campaign with great interest. ‘What is content?’ you asked. You concluded that it wasn’t actually important. Unlike advertising, where the idea is the important thing, ‘content’ is just stuff to be moved around by exciting new ‘delivery systems’. Ideas don’t matter.

So, given that content marketing is now worth £4bn a year in the UK alone, what exactly does everyone think they’re doing?

We can only speak for ourselves, but at BBH we believe there’s a very clear case for content. You’ve raised some excellent challenges and we’ve taken the liberty of addressing them here.

What is content?

‘Content’ is a really bad word, there’s no denying it. Content is just stuff in a container. It’s a word that encompasses rather than differentiates. A bin has content, but then so does a Shakespeare First Folio.

Unfortunately it’s the word we seem to have settled on to describe a new kind of marketing activity that isn’t advertising. It’s the stuff that used to be over the wall that we’d built between Church and State until the digital revolution came along, kicked down that wall and told us we could do whatever the hell we liked.

So here’s a definition.

Where advertising is a marketing communication that interrupts what you are doing (whether you like it or not), content is a marketing communication that you choose to spend time with. It’s not about being the thing people block, skip or ignore, but the thing they appreciate, seek out and share.

That’s arguably a much, much harder proposition to get right – you not only have to answer the question of what’s in it for the brand, but what’s in it for your audience as well – but also potentially much, much more powerful.

It’s all about ‘delivery systems’

By becoming the thing you want to spend time with rather than the thing that interrupts it, content has liberated marketing from the strictures of banners, six sheets and 30 second slots. It can literally be anything you want it to be, from a single tweet or a six second Vine to an immersive virtual experience to an interactive data visualisation to a full blown feature film – and all points in between.

The sheer bewildering versatility of content has the benefit of allowing you to be precisely where your consumers are, which these days is atomised across an ever-burgeoning array of fast moving media platforms. Each of these has its own grammar and its own local rules of engagement. If you’re not mildly obsessive about what success looks like on each, you’re a) not doing your job and b) not going to succeed.

Ideas don’t matter

This is the most serious charge levelled at content and also, arguably, the easiest to dismantle.

Content without ideas simply isn’t content. People don’t buy magazines, or watch films, or read articles, or spend time on social media for the adverts. They are there for the content. More precisely, they are there for the ideas within the content. They are there to be entertained, inspired, informed, moved, engaged. These experiences don’t happen in the absence of ideas.

Content is an unconstrained and endlessly adaptable idea delivery machine designed to build quality relationships with people. Building those relationships demands thought, creativity and craft. Just like advertising.

We think that what you were describing, Dave, was bad content and you were absolutely right to call it out. Like bad advertising, bad content can be genuinely harmful. But good content, like good advertising, is an extremely effective and valuable part of any brand’s marketing arsenal. Great ideas should be at the heart of both.


This article was first published on Campaign on Tue 3 November

Medium Well Done

Photo by Dustin Lee

Photo by Dustin Lee

A little over a month ago we published our first post on Medium, the first platform we are testing out in our Publishing Laboratory. Since that first piece a further five have been added, for a grand total of 23 minutes of reading as calculated by Medium’s proprietary algorithm.

All combined, our stories have received 3187 views and 1625 reads, with a read ratio of a touch over 53% which strikes us as pretty acceptable. Our most recommended story received 28 recommends, our least popular was liked just eight times, and we got the odd comment and highlight here and there.

Over the same period we’ve published five posts on our trusty stalwart, the BBH Labs blog, a couple of them versions of the Medium posts and three unique to the blog. 4,372 users spent an average of 1.31 minutes on the blog, over 5201 sessions. We had a couple of trackbacks, no comments and, of course, no likes, since this isn’t a metric that we register or measure on the blog.

So, if my shaky maths is correct, people spent a little over 37,ooo minutes reading our posts on Medium as opposed to just under 8000 minutes on the Labs blog. Of course we don’t know whether the time spent on the Labs blog was spent pouring over every em dash and colon – for all we know the blog might have been open in another browser tab while our visitor looked at cat videos on facebook.

What can we take away from this? Well, firstly Medium is a lovely, clean writing platform, a real pleasure to use. It brings a simple (but limited) interface together with an immersive writing experience that does encourage the words to flow. And clearly, Medium is a platform where people come to read – both desktop and mobile versions are optimised for absorbing text, as opposed to imagery or video or audio.

Medium is also most definitely a good platform for sharing content in our area of interest – the intersection of culture and technology and brands. But we have to ask ourselves whether Michael Wolff’s observation about twitter – that it’s a forum for media people to talk about media – is also true of Medium, right now. Maybe Medium is simply a nicer place for our twitter followers to read on, than a platform we can use to reach a new audience with new content.

Lastly, during the course of this first phase of our publishing experiment, Medium underwent a major rehaul of its writing tools, logo and feature set (custom domains!). This is again a reminder that when you are publishing on someone else’s platform you are a guest in their home, using their tools at their whim and as they allow. Medium is lovely to write and read on, and for the dozens of new followers who are joining us there each day we will continue to add to our presence there, but again we are reminded of the importance of having somewhere on the world wide web that we can call home.

Update: Periscope is our new jam and over the next few weeks we’ll be streaming live on occasion over there – make sure you’re following us on twitter to catch the stream as it goes out.

The Nine Nos of Innovation

Last week I spent two days at the glorious British seaside, attending and speaking at Silicon Beach in Bournemouth. Highlights included Louisa Heinrich of Superhuman, on technology as today’s opiate of the masses, a rousing rant from Mark Adams of Vice on attention in the 21st century and Nicklas Bergman, who not only admitted to passing on the opportunity to invest in Spotify, but was also sporting four (visible) wearables AT THE SAME TIME!

Our own contribution, ‘The Nine Nos of Innovation’, is embedded above, and a text only version is available on our Medium channel here.



Official Partner of the Future

Author: Richard Atkins, Production Director BBH London

Last Monday I went to IFA – the  Consumer electronics show in Berlin (a bit like CES in America)



Here are my top 5 things.
1. I went to my first World Premiere
It was for a Washing Machine. It didn’t have a red carpet.
Sony’s version of the VR headset, due early next year. It was great to play on a really interactive game where you weren’t just an observer, but your real-world movement had in-game responses such as ducking out of the way of incoming projectiles or attacking characters yourself.
3. The future of the office is ‘no desk phones’.
We visited Wooga, a freemium mobile game company who’s got a number of large successes under their belt – such as Diamond Dash and Jelly Splash. The offices were calm, serene and when someone in our group’s mobile went off it felt like a real intrusion to their space. If they need to make calls or need an even quieter space, then they can go to one of a number of small booths.
4. Admitting and celebrating projects that don’t always go to full production
Wooga have a ‘Hit Filter’ showing how project cancellation is the norm and how rare it is for a game to make it through to actual publication.
Their ‘Wall of Fame’ celebrates all jobs created over the past 5 years, not just the ones that have gone live!
5. Shops will soon calculate the best layouts of shops by wirelessly tagging customer journeys
Mi-Nodes is a new start up which can detect a user’s wifi ping (when your phone searches for a wifi source). Even if the user doesn’t connect to a wifi source, the company can use the data to understand where users go in a store, and what the onward (internal) journey is and in turn how best to lay the store out. So if a customer only ever goes into the immediate ‘shop window’ area to look at some high tech gadgets, but rarely moves further in, the shop might want to move things around so that premium items are further back in the store, forcing the user to pass other items which they might want to upsell in the path of the user’s journey through the store.
This, along with existing techniques such as using cameras gives a great amount of accuracy in order to plan store layouts.
*Richard went to Berlin as a guest of JCDecaux who own a large portion of the Digital and Non-Digital outdoor sites that we put our ads on.

Introducing The Publishing Laboratory

Author: Jeremy Ettinghausen, Innovation Director, BBH London & Labs


Blogging has been good for us and good to us. Since launching this blog in 2009 we’ve published hundreds of posts, read thousands of comments, engaged in dozens of great conversations and made many new friends. Of course we’ve also been DDoS’d, hacked and spammed, but that’s all part of the rich tapestry of digital life and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

And above the mechanics of blogging, pushing ourselves to write and share our ‘reckonings’ outside the realms of powerpoint and pitch have enabled us to engage with a culture outside the walls of the agency – a rich, exciting world of innovators and instigators, start-ups, pioneers, early adopters and tinkerers. Blogging has helped us learn, process, filter and share and these learnings have been invaluable not just for the individual bloggers, but for the agency as a whole.

But now it’s time to spread our wings and try something new. A few new things in fact. Because today, in late 2015, publishing on the web encompasses a wider, more diverse range of channels than the self-hosted blog and it’s hard to deny that sometime early in the twenty-teens we might have moved past peak-bloggery. There is certainly plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that the days when blogs ruled the web are gone.

So, this week we are launching our latest experiment, a ‘publishing laboratory’ where we’ll explore some of the new platforms and services that have risen over the past six years. We’ll be creating new content for these channels to actively engage with new audiences, to reinvigorate our publishing and to continue learning through reckoning, sharing and doing.

Of course this blog will remain a key pillar of our web presence and activity — we strongly believe that owning and using a corner of the web that is yours (ours!) is a civic duty — and we’ll be cross publishing to the blog as we go along. But from today, and starting here with Medium, expect to see BBH Labs pop up in some different and hopefully unexpected places on the web.

As always, we appreciate your attention and your thoughtful comments. Thanks for coming on the journey with us.

Joyful and Extraordinary, meet Dismal and Mundane

With it’s gleeful puncturing of the tropes of advertising – a world where families chuckle around the breakfast table and where it is always golden hour – the promo for Banksy’s ‘bemusement park’ might just be the most interesting piece of marketing of the year so far. Given his disdain for advertising and his skill in the dark arts of self promotion, it’s really no surprise that Dismaland manages to be both an interesting spectacle in its own right and a twisted commentary on consumerism and entertainment. Group outing anyone?

But if Weston-Super-Mare is not on your map, the lineup at this year’s dConstruct, with it’s theme of ‘Designing the Future’, looks brilliant. Highlights include ‘paleofuturologist‘ Matt Novack, Dan Hill on very-near-future city making and friendof-Labs John Willshire on ‘metadesign … examined through the contents and context of the most intriguing bedroom in sci-fi’. And, in a (hopefully unforced) segue from Dismaland, Nick Foster of design fiction exponents Near Future Laboratory will be considering ‘the role of the mundane in building the future’. Tickets for dConstruct are available here.

Don’t Discount the Present

Occasionally there’s an piece of writing and thinking so full of interesting, smart, provocative thoughts that my screen is pretty much covered with highlighter.


Web Design – the first 100 years‘, is such a piece. Why not click on the link, have a read, then come back here and let’s have a chat about it, OK? There’s a brief summary at the bottom of this post in case you can’t bear to leave this page.


You *could* skip the history of aviation if you wanted to, but it’s both fun and interesting, so you might as well read the whole thing.


Done? Oh you want to reread the bit about the experience of exponential growth leading us to discount the present? Can’t blame you.


OK, so that was pretty good and interesting, right? Maciej Ceglowski is talking to an audience of web designers, but reading the piece it struck me that much of what he says is just as pertinent to the wider digital marketing community. To whit; our habit of discounting the present in favour of the bleeding edge. Our love of gratuitous change. A tendency to add features to turn an idea from good to great, instead of removing features that might simplify the complex.

Maybe Ceglowski’s boldest assertion is that the web of 2060 will look pretty much the same as the web of today. Arguably, that might be as good news for us digital creatives as Ceglowski says it is for his design audience.

And that’s because a good enough web is a wondrous place for brands to explore and play in. Ceglowski’s preferred vision of the web – (to connect knowledge, people and cats) – already ‘erases distance between people [and brands] and it puts all of human knowledge at our fingertips’. And, of course, it’s all made of cat GIFS. He describes this vision of the Internet as a humble one, saying that ‘on a planet of seven billion people and millions of cats, the chance that you are going to be able to think of all the best ideas is zero.’ For creatives, this should be fine. We don’t need to have all the best ideas – one per brief will do nicely.

The passage that most resonated with me was Ceglowski’s articulation of ‘exponential despair’ – ‘a restless sense of excitement we feel that something new may be just around the corner, bringing with it a hopelessness about whatever we are working on now, and a dread that we are missing out on the next big thing.’

There is always a need to fuel a creative agency with the newest thinking and doing out there on the world wild web. The technologies and behaviours that are shifting the paradigm for us and for our clients. But what I’ve taken from my highlighting of Web Design – the first 100 years is that constantly focussing on the horizon can cause us to wilfully miss the amazing things that are happening, or could be made to happen, right in front of our noses. The right here and the right now is a pretty amazing place to be.

Thanks for reading with me.


*in case you didn’t read the piece (and more fool you if that’s the case), Ceglowski argues that, like the commercial aviation industry in 1960, the most dramatic transformation in internet technology has already happened. Dazzled by our experience of the last 20 years of exponential growth (Moore’s Law) we design for continued transformation at similar rates and scale. So instead of yearning for a techno-utopian future that might never happen we should accept that the web as it is, connecting knowledge, people and cats’ is both beautiful and good enough and we should enjoy it and not take it for granted.

What We’re Reading – Summer Special

As a refugee from the genteel world of publishing, it’s been a pleasant surprise to realise that my colleagues are actually a seriously literary bunch, with a varied taste in books of all shapes and sizes. So here’s this month’s BBH reading pics, featuring narco-thrillers, classic fiction, philosophy, social commentary and, to kick off, the superest of superheroes.

Amazing Spider-Man #19.1, Written by Gerry Conway, Illustrated by Carlo Barberi, Reviewed by Matt Fitch, Creative


In this issue, Spider-Man finds himself caught between a cabal of super criminals known as the ‘Circus of Crime’ who are back and deadlier than ever.

To be honest, it’s not a great issue. There have been some great Spider-Man storylines recently (Death of Peter Parker, Spider-Verse) but it seems like for now we’re coasting through generic-ville while we wait for the next big plot turn.

But I don’t mind. I love Spider-Man. Always have, always will. He’s the superhero for the people, a timeless everyman who faces as many battles in his humdrum day-to-day life as he does in his crime-fighting moments.

Everybody, from teenagers, to students, to young professionals, to Dads (of which I have been all at one time or another) can relate to the trials and tribulations of Peter Parker.

Despite the fact that they’re now a mainstream, billion dollar industry, some people still maintain that comics are for kids. Spider-man proves they’re not.

Matt’s love of Spider-Man and comics in general have inspired him and his creative partner Mark Lewis to create their own comic, Frogman, which lovingly riffs on the whole comic book genre. The latest issue, Frogman 3: The Death of Frogman, is currently funding on Kickstarter, and you can read issue #1 for free here.

The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, by John Le Carré, reviewed by Sacha Ward, Head of Copy

It’s 1962 and Alex Leamas, a British spy in Berlin, is rapidly going to seed. But before he can come in from the Cold, he must frame and expose a high-ranking, deadly East German operative. Even if, after a career of deception, it means surrendering what little morality he has left.

Le Carré’s plot is as dark and devious as the times it was written in. More than 50 years later, it remains relevant – questioning the morality of intelligence gathering methods and whether a righteous end can justify any means.

The Cartel, by Don Winslow, reviewed by Jeremy Ettinghausen, Innovation Director


It felt a strange coincidence to be finishing this fictionalised account of the Drug Wars and their effect on Mexico as Joaquin ‘el Chapo’ Guzman was walking out of his high security jail cell through a mile long tunnel. But then again, fact is often stranger than fiction in a country where corruption, violence and collusion between criminals, law enforcement and government are all endemic, ever-present and devastating in their effect on ‘civilian’ Mexicans.

A sequel to the fantastic Power of the Dog, The Cartel can be read and even enjoyed as a bang-up-to-date narco-thriller. But as it would belittle the scope and gravitas of The Wire to describe it as a ‘police drama’, so The Cartel is, by way of Winslow’s research, empathy and ambition, far more than an unputdownable thriller. It’s powerful, brutal and illuminating – and well worth reading.

On The Shortness of Life, by Seneca, reviewed by Samantha Choo, Strategist
I’ve discussed this book with many, and the one thing that keeps coming up is how amazing it is that something written over 2,000 years ago is still so relevant today. In this essay, Seneca challenges the notion that life is short – it only seems short to us plebs because we waste so much of it. Life, he posits, is long if you know how to use it. This is not to say that we should bury ourselves in our work and become superhumans (or inhuman, depending on how you look at it), doing everything for everyone all the time – busyness is in fact the greatest distraction from living. We mindlessly and mechanically go through the motions, present ourselves at our obligations (work, family, society) while being absent from ourselves, mistaking the doing for the being. A must-read for anyone finding themselves empty day after day.


The Circle, by Dave Eggers, reviewed by Stephen Pirrie, Social Strategy Director


Dave Eggers’ The Circle is now a couple of years old – a lifetime in tech – but with each passing month, it becomes more like reality. Set in the near-future, Eggers introduces us to the world’s most dominant tech company The Circle. The Circle releases products that feel unnervingly realistic – not far off what Google or Facebook would release – the ability to search anyone’s past history (back to their colonial roots) or tiny connected cameras that can document everything from what’s going on in your home to personal interactions.

Eggers’ near-future is far from an obvious state-dictated dystopia which makes it all the more unsettling and unnerving – we already let this technology into our homes, willingly. The Circle raises profound questions we should all be asking of social media, personal data and privacy. Readers (myself included) may write it off claiming that we wouldn’t let an invasion of our privacy go so far – until you open the latest Photos app from Google, search for a “car” or “beach” and wonder how the devil Google knows what’s in your photos. More technology like this exists, the key holders simply haven’t turned it on yet.

How to Build a Girl, by Caitlin Moran, reviewed by Charlie Dodd, Producer

It is shocking only by its ability to say the things that are absolutely true that I would like to be able to say without feeling shocked. I found myself hiding the pages I read on the tube this morning in case a man read these secrets of a 17 year old girl when the whole point of the book (and the basis of liberal modern woman) is that these things shouldn’t be matters for embarrassment. Most confusing and liberating. Not high literature but highly important reflections of woman and girlhood.

Far From the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy, reviewed by Selina Strasburger, Account Manager


I 100% admit to reading this book because I saw the movie poster on the underground. I read Tess of the D’Urbervilles ages ago and did not enjoy it … at all. She made me angry, he made me angry, everyone in the book made me angry, and it was all just so tragic. After that I decided to avoid Hardy as I didn’t think I could take the emotional trauma. However, I’m glad to report that Far from the Madding Crowd didn’t leave me a total mess. It stars a feisty young woman named Bathsheba and three very different men who are all after her affection. The book has all the drama and all the unfortunate happenstance that Hardy loves, but manages to maintain a thread of hope and humour throughout it. Well worth a read.