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)
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)
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.
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 friend–of-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.
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.
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.
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.
“People will forget what you say, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Maya Angelou, quoted by Katie Ewer, Design Strategist, JKR Global
In an information-saturated world, it isn’t surprising that people are seeking out experiences rather than messaging. This non-news undoubtedly has influenced the many brands who are moving budgets from informational advertising to experiential marketing, hoping to reach an audience who want to ‘participate’ and ‘engage’ and ‘feel’ as much (if not more) than they want to consume.
With this in mind, colleagues at BBH Singapore created a day of provocation and inspiration on the theme of creating memories, with contributors coming from the worlds of neuroscience, architecture, travel and design. A video of the highlights of the day is above and a fuller recap is available here. Details of past and future events are on the Insanity with a Purpose tumblr.
Author: Jeremy Ettinghausen, Innovation Director BBH London & Labs
When a few of us were sitting around talking about a film we’ve just produced for Virgin Media we agreed on two things. Firstly, we all really like it. Secondly, none of us know exactly what it is, or what to call it.
“Throughout the ancient world, naming was a sacred act … It was the voice of destiny, summoning the child into his future with all its glorious promise.”
Anne Hamilton, God’s Panoply: The Armour of God and the Kiss of Heaven
We can tell you at least three things it just isn’t;
What it is is some sort of hybrid three-way involving an entertainment property, a subscription streaming service and a broadband provider. It’s got characters from a TV show interacting with characters from an advertising campaign, in an advertising campaign for a TV show, a broadband provider and a subscription entertainment service.
Is this a new content type? We don’t know. Is it interesting? We think so, maybe simply because we can’t put it in a box.
“Why do you have to ruin everything?’ he asked. ‘Why do you have to name everything? Decide what’s real and what’s – why can’t you just enjoy things? What’s wrong with you?”
Michael Montoure, Slices
We know we haven’t discovered seven hitherto unknown species of miniature frogs, but if you have any idea how we might describe this *Frankenad*, or what we might call it, let us know in the comments.
Author: Melanie Arrow, Strategy Director, BBH London
A new feature for the Labs blog, giving you an insight into the literature that a selection of BBHers are enjoying this month. Consider this your finger on the pulse cultural briefing or at the very least, a more socially acceptable version of reading over someone’s shoulder on the tube.
This month, ridiculous sci-fi plots are described as “technically feasible” by the production department, the phrase “contemporary decentralised fiction” is thrown out there by a strategist like it’s the most casual thing in the world, and two featured books are set on or around Mars. Off we go…
Modiano won the Nobel Prize last year. He writes short and very personal stories. The plot itself is simple, but this allows him to delve deep into the mind of the main character – a young girl who never knew her father and only has faint memories of her mother. Her head is a bit of a mess. She obsesses about her mother’s whereabouts. She’s strong but weak at the same time. And lonely. I highly recommend it.
[nb Little Jewel is not out in English until July – our reviewer read it in Swedish. He is Swedish though, so he is not just showing off]
Clothes Music Boys by Viv Albertine, reviewed by Melanie Arrow, Strategy Director
Oh Viv Albertine, I love your book. I love that it’s funny and serious and cool and everything you could want from the memoirs of the bass player of a 1960s all-female punk band (The Slits). I love both halves of the book alike – A side, B side like a record. The former, stories of hanging out with Sid Vicious and Jonny Rotten, the latter, tales of turning into a suburban housewife who sings at open mic nights. But most of all, Viv, I love you. An incredibly talented woman who, as well as being a total nightmare punk back in the day, has battled cancer, struggled to have children, and dabbled in every kind of art including provocative pottery and independent film-making.
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, reviewed by Phil Shipley, Strategist
Yeah, yeah, it’s contemporary ‘decentralised’ fiction with cleverly interlocking chapters over a century-long timeframe that bring characters into each others’ orbits showing how humanity’s fate is linked. So far, so Dave Eggers…
But there’s a particular kind of hollow morose beauty to the character’s lives, in and out of the music industry. And Jennifer Egan’s novel turns it up a notch when we step into a worryingly real dystopian future, where touchscreen-toting babies are the ultimate arbiters of taste and people sell access to their mates as viral marketeers rule.
In short, a striking, original and vivid novel. Also – a whole chapter is written in Powerpoint slides, so perfect for strategists.
So good I’m on it for the second time. The daily diary of someone who, thought dead, is abandoned on Mars with no means of communication after the mission is suddenly aborted. A hugely funny whilst still technically feasible story of one man’s mission to get home.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, reviewed by Jen Omran, Team Director
The words ‘What if you grew up to realise that your father had used your childhood as an experiment?’ are a pretty compelling start to any novel, and Fowler’s first breakthrough book thankfully doesn’t disappoint. Intricately and evocatively written, yet also pleasingly pacy, our uncommonly bright protagonist Rosemary weaves us through this beautifully crafted tale with a genuinely surprising twist in its tail, set against the backdrop of family life in 1970s Indiana. What’s even better is that you’re not dragged through the most part of the novel before you get to the eureka moment. It’s achingly funny. And heart-wrenchingly serious. Read it.
Part one in an epic trilogy of science fiction/speculation about the colonisation and eventual terraforming of our nearest planetary neighbour – Mars! The story starts with the first hundred settlers arrival and covers a period of forty years, the welcome of additional colonists and then the challenging problems of hundreds of thousands of economic migrants, refugees and outcasts and resulting tensions between the authorities on Mars and Earth. Get past the sci-fi though and there is a great social/political story to enjoy and the idea that when we colonise Mars, this is exactly how we could mess it up.
Author: Jamie Watson, Strategist BBH London & BBH Sport
Imagine if your brand’s fans, or at least customers, had not even looked at a competitor since they were 8 years old.
They sing songs about your brand, they know everything about your history, they talk about you to their friends in the pub and spend vast amounts of money on your products – no matter how unhappy you might make them.
Well for football teams this is a reality. Jealous much?
So it must be easy when it comes to social & online content for football clubs? An engaged fanbase of millions who simply want more content? Well maybe, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is doing it well. And amongst those that are, a social media arms race seems to be appearing. Because of this besotted fanbase, there is a pressure to perform.
So let’s have a look back at who put in a social media shift during the 2014/15 season, and see if there are any lessons we can learn from their performance:
1) Integrated Team of the season – Southampton
(Disclaimer: I’m a lifelong Southampton supporter so please excuse the shameful bias.)
Southampton are the one club that I follow on every platform. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Vine, their socialised website and even Snapchat. And what impresses me most is not just the fact that they are on all of these channels, but the individual channel roles they all have. YouTube is in place for more premium video content, with highlights from games, live streams of U21 games, player interviews and additional content (more on that later). Twitter provides live updates on games for fans not there. Facebook provides a more official platform, whilst pointing to other channels. And then there’s Snapchat where Saints ran a treasure hunt campaign to give away their new shirt, behind the scenes game-day content (complete with MS Paint scribbles) as well as funny snippets from the players.
So, Southampton, well done on a strong team performance this season.
Learning: Have a presence across every channel but be specific to that channel
2) Backroom of the season – Manchester City
Due to the billions of dollars of that have been poured into the sky blue side of Manchester in recent years means that Man City have now developed a global fanbase of millions – and a couple of trophies to boot. So how do you keep said fanbase entertained? You give them more.
Head over to Man City’s YouTube channel for a wealth of content. There’s tunnel cam giving fans a truly unique insight as the players go through their pre-match rituals, pump each other up and try not to scare the mascots. Other content includes interviews with other staff members discussing players, a freekick masterclass with Lampard, showboating sessions as well as leaning on their Man City ‘family’ by borrowing New York FC’s David Villa to go head to head against the likes of Silva & Augero – pulling in a new fanbase. This variety of content appeals to hardcore City fans who will sit and watch a 2 hour training session to young fans watching SuperFrank’s masterclasses to a broader football audience who love to watch a bit of showboating (see the success of multiple showboating instagram accounts).
Learning: Give your hardcore fans more. More behind the scenes, more insight, more of what they love.
3) International team of the season – Manchester Utd
One of the challenges that the big clubs are facing is how to satisfy their global fanbase. Clubs such as Man Utd have a truly global fan base, selling 1.5m shirts worldwide and having a Facebook fanbase of 65m. The problem is the vast majority of these fans will never go to Old Trafford to see a game. So clubs are using online content to help these global fans connect with the club no matter where they are in the world.
Last season Man Utd used Google+ to bring their global fans to Old Trafford and put them in the front row. Through Google+ live stream of fans watching the game onto the digital hoardings surrounding the pitch.
Through shirt sales & global sponsorship deals clubs have to think of more ways to keep these fans loyal and engaged with the club – no matter where they are.
Learning: Engage with your audience, not just your customers
4) Personalities of the season – Arsenal
The image of flash, greedy and arrogant millionaire footballers doesn’t do players or the clubs any favours. A few years ago the only exposure we had to players was awkward post match interviews or press conferences – social media has opened up a new window into the lives of players.
Many clubs are using this to show their players in a different light – I like to call it footLOLs, but that’s just me – whether it’s Arsenal pranking their stars or playing up to their reputations as part of Paddy Power/Stonewall’s homophobia campaign.
Southampton have also been in on the act (I warned you). To announce the launch of their new kit Southampton invited comedian Tom Davis to star as Dr Barry Gale, a ‘colour and pattern psychologist’ in an Office-style mockumentary. This content shows players personalities, appeals to a broader audience and reflect content on the platform – not just other clubs YouTube content.
Learning: Don’t be precious – be funny, be real and be human.
So there we have it, a few highlights from the season gone by. A strong season for the likes of Arsenal, Man City and Southampton. It will be interesting to see whether other Premier League heavy hitters such as Chelsea or Liverpool can match their performance next season, or will we see a surprise from one of the smaller teams next season? And what about the clubs like Newcastle and Hull whose relationship with their fans can currently be described as ‘rocky’ – will they use social media to get back in the good books of their supporters?
But as for this season, the winner is…
Fans from any club in any country are the real winners. Every day they get to enjoy seeing entertaining, unique and insightful content (though not all at the same time!) from the clubs they love – and ones they hate.
And can brands compete? Well, in all honestly they can’t right now – no brand has the type of fanbase I described up top. But they can definitely learn.
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.