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    • Festivus for the Rest of Us – our favourite posts from 2012

      21st December 12

      Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

      Posted in BBH Labs

      Since the days of yore [2009], according to a tradition the origin of which has been long forgotten [Ben Malbon started it] we’ve used the last post of the year to look back over the previous 12 months of bloggery, not in a spirit of wistful nostalgia but in a spirit of enquiry. We look to see what our preoccupations were, what topics or technologies regularly bubbled to the the surface, what themes emerged from what has, like all the other years, been a hectic hurtle down the marketing superhighway.

      This is also an opportunity for us to say thank you – for reading, for commenting, for debating, for sharing, for writing on our blog and letting us write on yours. This blog isn’t our personal journalling site – openness and transparency are key Labs’ tenets – and every contribution you all make adds value, helping all of us think harder and smarter. Gracias.

      So below, in no particular order are the posts that to us seem to represent nodes of thinking or at the very least, nodes of writing activity. In an astonishing breach of protocol, this year we’re going to present them by theme – enjoy, comment, disagree and share, and see you in 2013.

      Happy holidays

      Mel, Jeremy, Saneel, Tim and Griffin

      ************

      Openness

      The uproar regarding the changes to Instagram’s Terms of Service – and continued debate about how web services treat users and the content they upload – demonstrates that discussions about openness and control are only going to get more empassioned as more users are exposed to the fact that, if they’re not paying for a service, they are the product being sold. Openness has featured regularly in Labs posts, and we debated this subject with some vigour at SXSW in our SkyNet Vs Mad Max talk, co-authored with our friend Tom Uglow (at Google Creative Lab, Sydney). Clients are also appreciating that openness can be as much of an asset as a quality – The Guardian making it the key reason to believe in the award winning Three Little Pigs. And James Mitchell used this blog to consider ‘truthiness‘ in marketing, the tightrope joining reality and hyperbole that we walk whenever we try to tell a story about a brand. As James writes, balance is not always easy to maintain.

      Subversion

      In the year that BBH turned 30 it’s perhaps not surprising that emphasising difference, subverting the norm and, yes, zagging, have been undercurrents on the blog. BBH Asia Pacific Chairman Chas Wrigley (together with Wieden & Kennedy’s Rob Campbell) offered a series of provocations and debunked some flawed notions in their ‘Everything we Know is Wrong‘ presentation – we were particularly struck with their observations on West knowing best. Then, in a series of posts entitled ‘Advertising is Dead: Long Live Advertising‘ Mel made a few predictions about where advertising might be headed over the next 8 years. Check back in 2020 to see how she did. Subversion also produced some startling work this year as highlighted in this smart piece of engagement thinking for Refuge, the domestic abuse charity.  Expecting to see the latest installment of her hugely popular make-up video tutorial, Lauren Luke’s audience were instead shown advice on how to cover up the signs of domestic violence – massive impact created through subversion of expectation, a brave performance and a riveting piece of film.

      Experimentation

      Great to see experiments coming from around the globe this year. The BBH Barn team in Singapore tackled social media overload with their Social Rehab programme and kit while in New York the Labs team created While You Were Off, a service which kept track of the all important updates that you might miss during those darned inconvenient minutes or hours of Internet downtime. More seriously (and controversially), SXSW saw the launch of Homeless Hotspots, an experimental programme in partnership with a large Austin homeless shelter to see whether street newspaper vending could be updated to be more digitally focussed. After an admittedly rocky start it’s great to see how the issues that the experiment raised might lead to some transformative change as we follow our ongoing attempt to drive innovation for Street Newspapers across the globe.

      Reflection

      It’s always a pleasure to get a note from BBH London Chairman Jim Carroll with a new draft post in it and in a particularly rich year for Jim’s elegant reflections it has been hard to shortlist a selection for this round-up. But if you don’t have time to go back and read them all here are a couple we particularly loved. In Laughing Together, Weeping Alone Jim suggests that we underestimate introverts at our peril – in a world that can’t stop talking (and sharing), perhaps its the unspoken, unshared feelings that are most true. In Swimming in the Shallow End Jim raises a toast to modest ambitions, incidental victories and frivolity – not every brand should aspire to sup with sages and kings. Lastly, in this farewell post, Labs’ strategist James Mitchell neatly articulated what for him (and many of us) BBH Labs offers - a place to wander, discover and build.

      Robots

      And so we end this round-up, with Robots. For us, as for Brad Pitt and Chanel No 5, it was inevitableFirst announced in April, Robotify.me was finally birthed this month. We’ve learned a lot on the way – about process, about MVP, about delivering (yes, ‘shipping is everything’), about APIs, about facets of our social media activity that we were not aware of previously. We continue to learn from the excellent feedback we’re receiving and will continue to evolve Robotify.me in the new year. But if there’s one conclusion that we can draw from the experiment so far it is this: you can learn through listening, you can learn from sharing, you can learn from reading, but there’s no learning like the learning you get from doing.

      See you all again in 2013.

    • Everybody Technology

      4th December 12

      Authors: Mareka Carter and Kimberley Gill, Creatives, BBH London

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      When we look into our mystic crystal balls of the future, who knows what we’ll be using technology-wise? Well, we could just shrug our shoulders and wait to see, or we could roll our sleeves up and get involved on the front line of development.

      The charity Royal London Society for the Blind has a dream about the future of tech and they came to us to see if we’d help them promote it.

      It’s a concept called Everybody Technology, a dream that tech companies, developers and users all collaborate to create and design with everyone in mind, creating 100% inclusive technology.

      To make concrete RLSB’s vision, we enlisted the help of the person who we felt would best deliver and represent both the disabled and able bodied – the great physicist Professor Stephen Hawking.

      His words are a rallying call to developmental arms, being ‘spoken’ by men, women and children, from different cultures, backgrounds and abilities. It encourages joining the Everybody Technology group, to create a network of developers and users to drive a revolution in thinking forwards

      The iPhone and iPad are certainly the modern day shining examples of this revolution, technology that each and every one can use, in very different ways. But it began way back in 1880 – with two Italian lovers. A blind woman, who couldn’t write to her partner had to dictate her sweet nothings to someone else aloud. Not very private – so to overcome the adversity, her husband invented the typewriter for her. Which developed into the keyboard this very post was tapped out on…

      RLSB see a future where more technology originating for specific needs enters the mainstream, and vice versa, enabling everybody to live fantastic lives to our full potential. That’s a future we quite fancy living in.

      If you agree and you’d like to get involved in Everybody Technology, then share our film or sign up to the group here.

    • I Will Not Follow

      31st October 12

      Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

      Posted in Brands, strategy

      Author: Jim Carroll, Chairman, BBH London


      In 1983 Celtic troubadours The Waterboys released a song called “I Will Not Follow”. I’m pretty sure it was a response to U2′s anthemic “I Will Follow”. Answer songs have a rather mixed history (though I’m grateful to the category for providing us with Roxanne Shante and Althea & Donna…), and I suspect “I Will Not Follow” was not The Waterboys’ finest moment  Nonetheless, I admired their courage in taking on the emerging Titans of Rock. And I loved the sentiment. The determination not to go with the flow, not to follow the masses, not to get lost in the crowd. A passionate rejection of passivity. A celebration of the power of negative thinking.

      When I was in my last year at College, thoughts turned to possible careers. It was the late ’80s and , in the wake of the Big Bang, there was a magnetic pull towards the Big Job in The City. It was natural, obvious, exciting. The dark satanic thrills .. I recall my decision not to apply for a City role felt more significant to me than any subsequent active career choice.

      I used to interview young graduates looking for a job. I found that their CVs were curiously similar. When asked what they’d achieved in life, they’d say they’d travelled to Asia, captained the hockey team, and they liked skiing and reading. But when one asked what the candidate had chosen not to do, more singular answers were forthcoming.

      Some of our most important decisions are the paths we choose not to take,the roads we refuse to travel. Our lives can often be best understood by mapping the things we didn’t do, the words we didn’t say. Perhaps we should more often consider a brand’s unspoken truth, quiet regret. Because in its silence and inaction may reside its strength and identity.

      ‘If you gave me a pound for all the moments I’ve missed,
      And I took dancing lessons for all the girls I should’ve kissed.
      I’d be a millionaire, I’d be Fred Astaire’
      ABC – “Valentine’s Day”

      My first job after College was as a Qualitative Researcher. ‘Brand elasticity’ projects were very much in vogue. Could this everyday family margarine perhaps be a cheese, or a biscuit, or a ready meal or a jam? With a sip of Chardonnay and a nod of assent, my respondents would consistently give the green light to a whole host of reckless innovations and insane brand extensions. And over the years the song has remained the same, even if the lyrics have changed. Could my brand be an experience, a portal, a membership club? Could it be a hotel, a hub, a content provider? Could it release a clothing line with rugged check shirts, boxer shorts and rain resistant outerwear? Isn’t my brand more a lifestyle choice than a yellow fat?

      Curiously perhaps, research respondents find it easy to endorse our grandest aspirations. But then it’s not their money and maybe they’re just being polite. Sometimes it seems we need to be better at defining the limits of our ambition, at identifying the red line, the point beyond which we will not go. Sometimes we need to demonstrate more restraint, more discipline, more negativity.

      Many Clients are instinctively suspicious of the negative perspective. Surely it betrays a lack of confidence, enthusiasm, ambition? In order to sustain consistency they develop processes and platforms, models and matrices, funnels and formats. But best demonstrated practice is often worst demonstrated imagination. Over the years negative thinking has inspired truly exceptional communication by the likes of Dunlop, Audi, Marmite, Volvo, Stella and Guinness. What would a world be like without this brand? Who are its enemies? What is its weakness? Whenever one is confronted by the bland, boring or undifferentiated, it’s always helpful to reach for a liberating ‘not’.

      Of course in the age of the social web possibilities seem infinite. We want campaigns to be all embracing, 360º, holistic. We want to tick off platforms like some bizarre game of I Spy. We want all the colours in all the sizes. Yet I wonder if the democratisation of knowledge and opinion creates a kind of accelerated conformity: the Consensus of Crowds. Surely brand behaviour on the web would benefit from a little more negative thinking? Perhaps more discipline and self denial? Maybe we need to see more of the brand that likes to say ‘no’, the brand that will not follow…

      Every morning I face the horrors of commuting as I change Tube at Kings Cross. Crowded, crushed, compressed. Downbeat, dour, depressed. In order to get onto my teeming southbound train into the centre of town, I walk along the less cluttered northbound platform. Periodically empty northbound trains stop and then recommence their journey out to the quiet leafy suburbs. I’ve always promised myself that one day I’ll jump on one of those empty northbound trains, make my way to the end of the line, find a caff and settle down to The Guardian, bacon, eggs, tea and toast. One day…

    • The Things You Need versus The Things You Love

      25th September 12

      Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

      Posted in Sustainability

      Authors: Kimberley Gill and Mareka Carter, Creatives, BBH London

      Do we really, really, want those Louboutin shoes? Can’t we live without that hand printed wallpaper? Maybe we can all take a little step back from what we think we want or need, and consider the realities of other peoples lives. Pinterest struck us as being the perfect place to highlight the contrast between its regular users’ lives and those who have far less, giving us a bit of a reality check.

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      Our charity partner AMREF’s focus this year is maternal health – in particular young girls in rural Tanzania who are becoming mothers as young as 11 years old, due to traditions and lack of sexual health education. So Pinterest is our chosen platform to give a young mother a voice to express herself and the realities of her life.

      Our search for a girl who would become AMREF’s voice for the project started back in April. The AMREF team over in Tanzania put forward Sihiba Yusufu, a girl who had become pregnant at the age of 11. Now 13, Sihiba is trying to bring up her baby and look after herself. She feels strongly about what happened to her and doesn’t want it to happen to any more young girls.

      What seems like a really simple and quick project has actually been a little while in the making, for the important reason that we wanted this project to be as genuine as possible. The Pinterest account has to be from Sihiba herself, and not by AMREF on her behalf. There have been many challenges along the way – the iPhone got stuck in customs, helping Sihiba learn to use Pinterest, working out the logistics of keeping the phone charged in rural Tanzania. And of course making Sihiba’s safety a priority – so she has the support of an AMREF peer educator during the project.

      Sihiba’s Pinterest profile can be found here: Please follow her and her boards, comment on and share her images and her film, to stand up for African mothers and help create social value from pinning. Let’s use social media to show what people need, rather than what they desire.

      You can also donate to support AMREF’s important work here.

      Children with Children is a @BBHBarn project by Mareka Carter, Kimberley GillMichael Nagy & James Briggs, with thanks of course to Pinterest.

    • (Don’t) Turn Your Back On Me

      10th September 12

      Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

      Posted in Brands

      Author: Jim Carroll, Chairman, BBH London


      I attended an Edvard Munch show at the Tate Modern. Dark, melancholy, awkward stuff. Angst, loneliness, jealousy. A difficult relationship with society in general and women in particular.

      It was striking that he painted quite a lot of pictures of women with their backs to the viewer. A powerful expression of exclusion, loneliness, unrequited love.

      I spent my youth being turned away from London’s elite nightspots. Perhaps it was the sleeveless plaid shirt, the white towelling socks, the caked on Country Born hair gel. But the bitter sense of disappointment hasn’t left me. I can taste it now. And I learned more about clubbing from Spandau Ballet videos than actual experience…

      ‘He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.’
      Handel, Messiah

      As a young executive I was invited to apply for an Amex card. I applied and was duly rejected. Naturally I was confused and disappointed and I never spoke to them again. I’m sure consumers often feel a similar sense of exclusion from brands. Refusal and denial are shaming, embarrassing. The fear of rejection is almost as powerful as rejection itself. And then there are the coded gestures, the arcane language, the gender and cultural specific semiotics. The feeling that you don’t belong, that you’re not welcome here. It’s a private conversation, you wouldn’t understand.

      I guess that’s why strategists so often recommend that brands are more open, inviting, transparent. We want brands to look us in the eye, to reach out from the canvas with a knowing glance and a welcoming smile. Easier said than done, of course.

      Yet the turned back does not have to be all bad.

      The Danish artist Vilhelm Hammershoi often painted a solitary woman with her back to the viewer. She goes about her daily routine in a quiet middle class home, lost in private thought. Hammershoi’s subjects seem more loved than feared. This distinctive reverse view gains its power in part from being so unusual. But also from the sense of intrusion on private time. The sense of seeing, but not being seen. It’s a little awkward, but also intriguing. Am I encountering her truest self, her identity freed of relationships, social constraints and concerns about appearance?

      It reminds me of the oft’ cited quote from George Bernard Shaw: ‘Ethics is what you do when no one is looking.’ (I’ve uncovered versions of this quote from many sources. Henry Ford said ‘quality means doing it right when no one’s looking’. And of course, most recently Bob Diamond suggested ‘culture is how we behave when no one’s watching.’)

      So how do brands behave when no one is looking? What would the brand encountered in a quiet room be up to? Would we find it dutifully engaged in customer-centric endeavours? Would its jaunty personality be sustained when there’s no one to impress? Would we discover an honest engagement with issues of citizenship and responsibility?

      I’m worried that we’d most likely find the brand plotting a marketing and PR plan. I’m worried that in business as in politics too much thought nowadays is given to how things will play, how they will be perceived and reported. I suspect that too often the brand’s instinctive ethical and commercial compass has been replaced by recourse to brand image tracking and favourability ratings.

      I appreciate this may be a curious thing for an adman to say. I should perhaps celebrate the triumph of modern marketing, the inevitable victory of perception in the All Seeing Age. Perhaps like a modern celebrity the smile must always be on, the guard must always be up. But it still makes me a little melancholy…

      And what of Agencies? How do we behave when no one’s looking?

      We are often perceived as conventions of feckless youth and superannuated yuppies. And I confess I was a little uncomfortable when Clients first started plugging in laptops, decanting lattes and working at our offices. I worried that they’d disapprove of our timekeeping, that they’d be offended by our cussing.

      But as more Clients have made the Agency their mid-week home, I think the Agency has benefitted. The Embedded Client often sees passion, industry, talent and integrity.They get to see our truest self. And it’s not as bad as they, or we, may have expected.

      In the words of the great Brit Soul luminary, David Grant…‘I’ve been watching you watching me. I’ve been liking you, Baby, liking me…’

    • The Killer Advantage

      29th August 12

      Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

      Posted in Film

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      To coincide with the ‘main course’ of the Paralympics, and after the Olympic warm-up, BBH creatives Kim and Mareka – with the great help of Chris Hyndman at Atomized - have made a mini documentary in their own time for charity TDF (The Disability Foundation) to celebrate the amazing feats of Paralympic athleticism and how TDF quietly helps make them happen. It features double amputee and great GB gold hope James O’Shea, who swims for 100m breaststroke glory on September 5th.

      More information about the unique charity TDF and its complementary health services (which are available to the able-bodied too!) can be found here. And if you’d like to donate to help keep more stories like James’ coming, then text TDFV11 followed by the amount to 70070. It goes straight on your mobile bill and costs you nothing more.

      Please share this film around and Tweet your support of @tdftweet with the hashtag #JamesOShea

    • Robotify.me – update, winners and learnings so far.

      24th August 12

      Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

      Posted in robotify.me

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      A few weeks back we asked our robotify.me early adopters to tell us who were their favourite robots and why they liked them so much. Thanks to everyone who replied. We did this for a number of reasons. Firstly so that we could give away some very exclusive artwork from Mick Marston, our (human) robot artist. And secondly so that we could learn a little bit more from about why people responded so enthusiastically to representations of robots and what particular facets of robotics provoked the strongest reactions.

      Happily we had lots of responses leading to a very healthy debate about who should win the prints. We’ve picked six winners (Magdalene for Henry the vacuum cleaner, Jeremy for Metropolis‘ Maria, Joakim for Bender, Matt for Wall-e, Tom from Bladerunner‘s Roy and Adrian for the Golem – your prints are drying and will be on their way soon). A special award goes to Jonathan’s three-and-a-half year old son for his personal invention, Fire Robot – Jonathan, we want to know more and we want pictures.

      So, there’s more on what we learnt, more on all of the winning robots and more of James Mitchell in the video above. If you feel we missed a robot and have a favourite you want to share, please let us know in the comments below and we are still open for robotify.me early adopter beta testing goodness – register at http://robotify.me.

    • Oversharers need not apply

      20th August 12

      Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

      Posted in Social

      Authors, Scarlett Montanaro, Rhys Hillman and Sarah Chan, BBH Barn, Singapore

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      A world where 24% of people miss out on important moments in their lives because they are busy trying to document on social media sharing, is a world needing an intervention from BBH Barn, tasked each year to produce projects that ‘Do Good, Famously’. We call this intervention Social Rehab.

      The first arm of the campaign was to create this set of social rules for people to abide by. This is a simple set of 6 rules that lays out what is acceptable, and what is not.


      Then we needed to develop something that could make abiding by these rules more achievable. We designed a toolkit that replicated people’s digital behaviour in the real-world. By creating other objects that replicate digital behaviour, such as Instagram glasses, Draw Something Doodle Pads and Like stickers, smartphone addicts might begin to realise that real life is more rewarding. We created a limited run of 100 packs which were available locally or could be requested online. We were chuffed when we ran out within a week and so directed outside interest towards a downloadable PDF of the kit for people to make at home.

      After starting a discussion online, and creating the toolkit we wanted to test our audience’s resolve in as social an environment as we could find. We held a public social experiment at a popular Singapore nightspot which offered time-based discounts to whoever willingly locked up their phones. Participants received 10% off their orders which then increased by another 10% for every hour people could stand to be away from their phones, up to 40%.

      The reaction was hugely positive and hundreds of people came to take part, demonstrating that people recognise the issue and are, when given the tools and incentives, willing to do something to change their smartphone etiquette, if only for one night.

    • In Their Shoes: Experience, Education and Empathy

      18th July 12

      Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

      Posted in storytelling

      Author: James Mitchell, Strategist, BBH London & BBH Labs

      The girl, Nina , is dressed for a meeting. “I’ve only got two business plans left,” she states matter-of-factly. She places two objects on the table in front of me: a condom, and a pouch of pills. “I would be very grateful if you could decide.”
      I hesitate, and the girl’s mask of professionalism falters. “These are my only options, so could you choose…please..?”
      In that moment, I realise that my choice is her choice, and her choice is the choice of a hundred young people across London.


      At an IPA event on Tuesday, Saatchi’s Head of Planning Richard Huntingdon commented that “beyond all else, what we do is empathy.” It’s true – the comms we create should be an act of empathy towards our audience. When the problem is just right, empathy itself can be the answer. Complicated issues of debate – particularly around things like social justice, where the topic is one we don’t like to discuss – can lose people in the discussion. When the most important measure of success is understanding, the quickest route to the head is through the heart, as empathy. Parents know this. When they try to convince children of the wrongness of a situation, the phrase you’ll most often hear is: “well, how would you like it if…?”

      When we feel anger or distrust towards someone we’re often told to walk a mile in their shoes. As humans, we’re actually very good at playing roles and seeing things from another person’s point of view – if we get the right prompts. But executionally, it’s a fine balance. You have to manage the audience’s experience positively enough to draw them into a character, and only then can you subject that character to their (often harrowing) fate. Finally, the immersive experience must offer the ‘immersed’ some sense of redemption, the sense that there’s something to be done to give this character a better future than their present. Only then can the audience leave not just with understanding, but with the desire to act.

      One of the most profound cases of alienation that divides “us and them” is shocking because it’s so everyday – homelessness. Centrepoint Parliament know this all too well. They campaign to raise awareness of youth welfare, but it’s easy for the messages to get lost in the debate. We all remember the point and counterpoint that swirled around the London riots last August. Whose responsibility was it – the kids’? The media’s? Blackberry’s? British society was about to give up the youth for lost and no amount of rational discourse would overcome those images in the press of a burning M&S, a looted Tesco, a burnt-out car.

      Centrepoint Parliament needed a way to viscerally cut through it all – and over six months, we worked with them to find it. The answer came directly from recordings of the youth hostel itself. No rhetoric, hyperbole or ‘advertising’ could match a simple recreation of the truth – this was Nine Rooms, an experiential theatre piece devised by its own members, with help from BBH. You are placed directly into the worst scenes of a young homeless person’s life – the loneliness, the idleness, and the dilemmas.

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      My choice made, I hand the item to Nina. Her expression flickers with pain but all she says is a polite “thank you for your time.” She collects her notes and walks out, leaving me alone with the untaken choice, and a sense of gratitude that I’ll never have to make this kind of decision for myself.

      They are scenes that we all have suspected are happening to ‘someone, somewhere’, and internally written off as the facts of life. To be forced to go through them – to wear the shoes – drags them out of the realm of statistics in the head, and into a the form of a nuanced human experience in the heart. To read the impact Nine Rooms had on people is both affecting and uplifting. It’s clear that the power of the performance has made this a brief well answered:

      “Powerful and emotive. So well done to get in touch with the reality of homelessness. Portrayed in a way which allows the audience to feel what the characters feel.”
      “Moving and very effective – being so close and personal made it a hard journey.”
      “Powerful stuff. Is this really going on in London? We all get so tied up in our lives that we don’t know what’s really going on. Thank you for the experience.”

      There were tough strategic choices to be made, too – we reasoned that delivering a powerful experience for the few was better than a message that would get tuned out by the many – as long as those few were so impacted that they would pass it on. The sense of shock and outrage we got from our comments book shows that it’s worked. And as we said above, immersive theatre at its best doesn’t just affect people, it moves them to take action – in this case, signing the petition to restore careers advice services so that no young person has to make Nina’s choice.

      From ‘events’ like Secret Cinema to political projects (Coney’s Early Days Of A Better Nation) and even new twists on horror, both secular (Hotel Medea) and sanctimonious (see the rise in the US Evangelical concept of the scare-you-straight “Hell House”), immersive theatre has come into its own as a way of heightening reality for a media-skeptic generation. Even traditional media becomes that much more powerful when technology lets us step into the scene (see the experiential touches of our own work for Missing People). Whilst at its most shallow, ‘experience’ is a play for PR-able creativity, at its best, it’s a dose of empathy that’s truly transformative.

      Ask the residents of Nine Rooms.

      You don’t have to have been through the rooms to take action – sign Centrepoint Parliament’s petition here.

    • A Lesson in Covering Up

      2nd July 12

      Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

      Posted in online video

      Authors: Claire Coady, Social Media Manager and Simon Robertson, Strategist, BBH London

      Want to find out how to get a great look under even the most trying of conditions? Let YouTube celebrity and makeup artist Lauren Luke show you how in this helpful tutorial:

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      If that wasn’t quite what you were expecting, you’ll know what Lauren’s many followers and their friends will be experiencing over the coming days, as a result of our partnership with Lauren and domestic abuse charity Refuge.  It’s a very different approach for a charity, but it’s one that we think is vital to help them adapt to a very different type of audience, and a different type of public conversation.

      The world is noisy. Everyone has something to say. But there are some things people just don’t want to talk about. And in a media landscape catering to our individual needs, people don’t have to talk or hear about things they don’t want to.

      People don’t want to talk about domestic abuse.

      MORE THAN JUST AN AWARENESS ISSUE

      When society doesn’t talk about the big important problems, particularly the ones that may cause fear or discomfort, a vacuum of knowledge inevitably forms, quickly filled with misinformation.

      People think that everyone “gets” what domestic abuse is. They’re wrong. Research shows that more than half of teenage girls aged 13-18 have experienced sexual violence at the hands of a partner – and considered it normal. 40% of teenage girls would consider giving a boyfriend a second chance if he hit them. A third believe that cheating justifies the use of violence.

      By not loudly and continuously reinforcing that domestic abuse is a problem, society sends a message that it isn’t serious.  By ignoring the issue, it is normalised, and creates a generation of  potential victims.

      In a very real sense, silence kills. Two women in the UK die at the hands of an abusive partner or ex-partner every week. Talking saves lives.

      That’s why Refuge’s call to action is “speak up, save a life”.  But speaking to teenage girls requires a different type of speaking up: one tailored to a fragmented media landscape, a group focussed on entertainment rather than weightier issues, and a subject that discourages discussion.

      A CASE FOR SUBVERSION

      A traditional disruptive approach wasn’t going to work. But we knew our audience wouldn’t come to use through choice. Our response has been to create a piece of communication directly tailored to the way that teen girls consume and communicate information. That encourages them to become part of the conversation on their terms. Not disruption of their experience, so much as a subversion of it.

      We knew we’d have to sneak our message into an existing channel that our audience were already interested in in a way that created maximum impact. Considering the role of subversion of expectation in viral spread – viral activity often takes the form of practical joking – we realised that the more that we could increase that sense of contrast between expectation and content, the higher the likelihood of spread.

      And we wanted to make sharing and commentary the call to action, because sharing is how teens conduct public debate.  It allows them to make a stand without exposing their own opinions and be part of something with a low risk of emotional or social damage. Viral behaviour is their version of the town square, the salon or the pub.

      SERIOUSLY UNFUNNY

      In effect, we were creating a practical joke with a purpose that couldn’t have been more serious: shocking people out of their complacency around domestic abuse, and allowing them to take a stand against it on their terms.

      What we needed to do was find a Trojan horse who would carry our message to young women. That was where Lauren Luke came in.


      Lauren’s relationship with her audience is paramount; every content decision and direction she makes is with her subscribers in mind. Her enthusiasm for the cause and participation in shocking her fans is, in short, the kind of unstinting bravery needed to tackle domestic violence as a subject.

      The film itself has been deliberately designed to maximise the shock of the contrast between the context and content: particularly Lauren’s chirpy demeanour contrasting with her appearance. But this wasn’t about forcing a scripted film into a social channel. We provided a general framework and direction for Lauren and allowed her the space and time to make the film her own: a challenge she rose to brilliantly.

      We then wanted to make sure the content was framed in a way that maximised the stunt aspect: the copy that appears alongside the film wherever it is shared is intended to draw people in without ever giving an indication of the content.

      Finally, our call to action is the most simple and natural one that our audience know:  share. And by sharing, speak out.

      Credits

      Copywriter: Jack Smedley

      Art Director: George Hackforth

      Art Director: Stephen Noble

      Film directed by: Wesley Hawes and Gary McCreadie

      Creative DirectorPablo Marques

      Strategists: Claire Coady & Simon Robertson

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