21st December 11
Posted in BBH Labs
“The past went that-a-way … We look at the present through a rear view mirror. We march backwards into the future.” – Marshall McLuhan
Predictions are a mug’s game. In these uncertain times you won’t find us sticking our heads above the futurology parapet and making some rash pronouncements on the coming this or the tomorrow of that. Instead, at this time of the year, we like to approach the future with a longing gaze in the rear view mirror and a look back at the last 12 months of postings on this blog – 81 of them in all from 35 contributors.
As in previous years, below you’ll find ten of our favourite posts from 2011 – the ones that have provoked us in the learning and writing and our generous readers in the comments. But our self-analysis has also uncovered buried themes, some revisited, others newer, which marked our 2011 and perhaps set a tone for the year to come.
Storytelling and new forms of narrative have always been of interest to us in Labs, but this year we’ve added the growing attention paid to, er, attention to the mix with a couple of guest posts on connected TV and further exploration into storytelling with our Fray Cafe-esque TaleTorrent event for Internet Week. For many, all around the world, 2011 has been a year of grassroot activism and whilst occupying Kingly Street and 32 Avenue of the Americas is our day job, sustainable marketing and creativity for good have also bubbled up as pervasive themes in a number of posts this year. And given the tumultus changes happening within our industry, you won’t be surprised to see industry innovation and reinvention well represented as another theme below. Perhaps more than any other year since Labs was founded in 2008, this has been a year of rolling up sleeves and putting theory into practice.
It might seem that 2011 has not been a stellar year in terms of innovation in the broader technology industry. While our Facebook experience has been timelined, our Googling plussed and our questions quora-ed, the space shuttle programme has come to a close, the Higgs Boson remains elusive and so perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised that this year also saw a number of more reflective rather than reactive posts. BBH London Chairman Jim Carroll set the tone for a theme we’re calling ‘Think While you Make’, with a lovely series of elegiac posts on sleep, ennui and nocturnally abnormal wildlife.
So while we recover over the holidays we look forward to much more thinking and making, talking and doing in 2012. As always we are are astonished by the generosity of everyone who writes for, reads, shares or comments on the blog. It’s been an amazing year. Thanks for taking part, thanks for letting us in and thank you for everything you’ve taught us this year.
We’re already looking forward to the start of the Spring term – see you back at school in the new year.
Mel, Jeremy & Saneel
So, finally, Labs top 10 for ‘11, in mostly chronological order.
Some setting out of the stall in this post which encouraged us to find a balance between action and reflection, to not have too many tabs open at once, and occassionally to leave things alone for a while to let them ripen at their own pace.
It might be a small cheat to bundle these two great posts together in a top ten, but as a pair they make a strong argument for more evolved thinking when it comes to creativity, collaboration and consumption. When audiences are willing to participate in branded activities and business see the benefit of a more transparent and collaborative model, co-creation and collaborative consumption are surely pivotal to the ongoing success of any forward facing brand.
A fascinating guest post from Google’s David Bryant on the convergence of computer and human operating systems and the increasing adoption of intuitive physical interactions that provoke a more instinctive than reasoned response.
Provoked by a couple of posts on the need (or not) for agencies to employ Chief Innovation Officers this post looks at how to be an innovation unit and what the wider agency can and should demand of those it employs to push the envelope and live on the edge.
‘No one works for a Creative Director. Everyone works for the idea. The idea hires us and we go to work.’ The most popular post of the year from BBH LA’s ECD Pelle Sjoenell on the role of the Creative Director as politician, farmer and assassin.
For Labs, meeting Amber Case and learning about Geoloqi, the location sharing startup she is developing with Aaron Parecki, was one of the highlights of SXSW. We’re already looking forward to seeing her keynote in 2012 and catching up with the great concentration of smart people that SXSW attracts. Come and say hello if you’re there.
To mark the launch of Sir John Hegarty’s book, we asked him a series of questions which he answered with a series of sketches, an appropriately witty, incisive and ‘different’ interview celebrating an iconic advertising career.
At Labs we celebrate the hybrid, but in this post recognize that a team of hybrids might lack the depth in specific disciplines, might spend too much time agreeing with each other and might only be appropriate to crack certain tasks. As Ben points out in the comments, it’s important for a jack of all trades to be a master of some!
A consideration for a new thinking about what an agency can be, should be and could do as we approach ‘marketing singularity’, the moment the message becomes indistinguishable from the product or service it promotes. Instead of codifying an agency operating system around functions and outputs, we suggest that an agency of the future needs an OS rooted in a culture of collaboration, experimentation and transparency.
Lastly, in a year when social media has been both blamed for fuelling the London riots and praised for fuelling the Arab Spring, we can’t have a top ten list without acknowledging the Keep Aaron Cutting project. Thanks to the generosity (there’s that word again) of all the BBH blog and twitter stream readers who used social media to spread the word about an 89-year-old barber from North London who might have lost everything, Aaron’s shop is well on the way to being rebuilt and a nice old guy has had his faith in young people and in technology restored.
More of this next year, please.
2nd December 11
Posted in awesomeness
Author: James Mitchell, Strategist, BBH Labs
Back in November, Internet Week Europe happened – many of you might better know it as #iwe11. Last year, we challenged London’s digital elite to get their hands dirty and code up a storm in an afternoon. This year, we did something altogether more warm and fuzzy.
This November, we asked people to step forward and bare their souls for TaleTorrent – a night of true stories about the internet. And step forward they did! We had a truly fantastic lineup of speakers telling stories from the funny to the sad, the professional to the personal, but all extremely entertaining. Thank you guys, again.
It was very much a night run on volunteer goodwill – not least from the guys at Kinura, who approached us a full three days before the event and said “hey, d’you want us to stream it online?”
We said an emphatic yes. And so, for anybody that missed it, grab some port and enjoy after dinner.
TALETORRENT – PART ONE
Featuring @BetaRish and @mndtrythnkng‘s ultimate answer to Facebook’s “What’s on your mind?”,@katylindemann‘s True Confessions Of A Teenage Weblogger, @documentally‘s 999-style car crash reenactment, and @claireburge‘s paean to the gods of Serendipity.
TALETORRENT – PART TWO
Featuring @jnicholasgeist‘s Zombie apocalypse night-on-the-tiles (a transatlantic special!), @simonsanders‘ pen-pal to PM saga, @mananatomorrow‘s cyberphilic daughter, and my experiences of chartroom romance, of a sort.
…and if you enjoyed that, know now that there are plans for TaleTorrentTwo, to land sometime in March. A little less rushed this time around. Details will come when they exist, but if you’re inspired by what you’ve seen and you want to have a go, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to have you.
23rd November 11
Posted in culture
Wouldn’t it be nice to smell the internet? Well, thanks to the clever chaps at Mint Foundry this might soon be possible.Their concept product, the punningly named Olly (details at ollyfactory.com!) will convert tweets, checkins, likes or other digital notifications and blast out an arduino-powered whiff across your keyboard. So now every William Gibson tweet can smell like a long-chain monomer and every checkin at a Starbucks like fresh roasted coffee. Sadly you will need two Olly’s to experience the double hit of Testosterone and Smug released whenever Piers Morgan tweets @Simon Cowell.
The interesting thing about the Olly is that it is an attempt to add texture to wholly digital experiences. A decent proportion of my last job was spent arguing with people about page-turning animations in ebooks – I felt that they were a legacy metaphor and had no place in a purely digital experience. There are definitely things about the physicality of a book that would be great to transfer to an ebook. For example, knowing when you are nearing the end of a book by the distribution of weight in your hands feels different from the knowledge that you are on page 1324 of 1346. Such additions would add both context and texture to the ereading experience, wheras the page-turning animation is texture without context.
Brett Victor’s much-discussed rant (his word) on the ubiquity of the finger-swipe in visions of future interfaces suggests a disquiet with what is being sacrificed in the quest for frictionless interaction. As touchscreens increasingly become our interface to the web it is healthy that there are those out there documenting what we are losing whilst everyone else, including us at BBH Labs of course, celebrates the gains. Will the sound of an optical drive go the way of the rotary phone dial or an analogue tape rewinding or these other disappearing noises?
So, are we adding textures such as smells and page-turning animations because digital is less sensuous than the physical world? When we create new digital experiences should we think about adding textured UX as well as intelligent UI? And as brands transition more and more to digital marketing initiatives, should we worry about what sensory experiences they and we are losing, out here in meatspace?
Update 9 jan 2012: If you want your workstation to smell like teen spirit every time @justinbieber presses ‘send’ then you should head over to kickstarter where there’s a month left to back the project to make the dream reality!
21st November 11
Posted in business models
Author: Sarah Eno (@enoism), Brand Planner, BBH Zag
It’s nearly impossible these days to conduct any relationship entirely offline. Professional relationships are managed on email, Linkedin, and blogs; brands develop robust relationships with us through online loyalty schemes; friendships are built and maintained through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, to name a few; and more and more people are meeting their romantic partners via online dating sites.
So I suppose I shouldn’t have been particularly surprised the other day when I came across a set of start-ups in the area of online relationship management for couples. These businesses claim to help us keep the spark alive, monitor our relationship health and generally be happier together by using their online services. Here are a couple in detail:
- Tokii claims to be ‘the world’s first relationship management platform’ with a suite of products designed to ‘proactively improve relationships’. Couples can use the ‘tradingpost’ tool to trade things like washing the car for a backrub, monitor each others mood through the ‘moodmeter’ and spice up their relationship with fun, interactive games.
- The Icebreak helps couples keep their love lives fresh and fun through a game-like platform where couples score points by sharing moments from their day, answering ‘icebreaker’ questions and working together to improve their relationship health.
In many ways, these businesses signal a natural progression to complete management of relationships online. If most of our relationships are blossoming online, why not throw our romantic ones into the digital world as well?
Whether I’d personally use the service or not (undecided, at best), I have to admire the Zag-like thinking behind these businesses. They’ve identified an opportunity area that appears ripe for brand invention – you can see how by looking at the idea through these three key principles of brand invention and innovation:
Principle #1. Meet a consumer need
If romance is blossoming online (Match.com claims 1 in 5 relationships start through online dating), people will need a safe place for their relationship to develop digitally. Consumer need? Tick.
Principle #2. Go where the money is
Online dating is a growing business, as is the booming business of divorce. A digital service that helps keep the spark alive and maintain relationship health in the time between meeting and potential divorce could slot right in to this open space and scoop up all those struggling couples. Money? Tick.
Principle #3. Piggyback on existing behaviours
Self-tracking and the gamification of everyday activities are both hot behavioural trends currently connecting our ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ worlds. Tokii and The Icebreak both feature metrics and statistics that chart the health of your relationship over time and track improvement. They also reward you for improving your relationship with points and physical rewards, making working on your relationship like a game. Existing behaviours? Tick.
It’s not easy to find open spaces for brand invention and I’d argue that these two businesses have managed to do just that. Well done.
But perhaps there’s a bigger, moral question that has to be asked: There’s now a brand called Eulogy in the UK which aims to bring death and mourning into the online/social sphere; there are countless online dating brands to help you find love; online brands help couples throughout the process of marriage counselling and divorce; and now we can manage our romances online too.
So, are there any areas of private life that should remain private and untouched by brands?
7th November 11
Posted in technology
Author: Dan Harris (@gecko84), Social Media Manager, BBH Labs
Every day we use technology to find answers, from Google processing billions of searches, through to emailing colleagues or sending a question on twitter. We are increasingly relying on algorithms, communities and the fact that our colleague’s eyes may pass over our request at the right time.
On top of this, users have to contend with the filter bubble. This selective distribution of information based on a web user’s location, search history and previous clicks relies on a previous viewpoint and won’t necessarily reflect what somebody wants to know *now*.
This reliance on a fast digital response leads us away from existing relationships and habits and all too often we forget the value that can be provided by people with decades of experience, thoughts and stories. For example, when my ninety-four year old Grandad listens to my fairly trivial stresses and comes back with the maxim “You can only give it your best shot son” it resonates because I know he fought in World War II, worked for 40 years, opened a lodging house aged 60 and has been through plenty of loss and happiness.
Online searches may be able to supply the facts about historical events, but it will never be able to replicate the emotions and feelings of someone who was there and witnessed an event first hand or the personal delivery of that information. A status update asking for help is just as likely to illicit sarcastic responses as actual, useful advice. In fact, sometimes the best reply is sitting in a lonely old chap up in Scotland who is just waiting to be asked, whatever the question.
Hugmail is a partnership between BBH Zag and Touchnote, a British technology company whose aim is to bridge the increasing digital divide and making it easier for different generations to keep in touch.
That’s why Labs & Zag are excited to announce ‘Search for a Sage’, the hunt for Britain’s most interesting grandparent. We’re looking to find a great character that’s seen it all, with plenty of stories and a unique slant on life.
We’ll ask a Sage to answer the nation’s questions via regular webcasts and take it from there. We want to put real wisdom on a pedestal in a place where modern society is likely to look for it.
So if you know a grandparent that fits the bill then send a nomination to hugmail.com.
Our sage will be unveiled and start answering questions and laying down wisdom from 21st November.
19th October 11
Posted in Events
Author: James Mitchell (@jamescmitchell), Strategist, BBH London & BBH Labs
In the main, Internet Week Europe is about making better use of the internet, from bringing out the amateur behaviourist in all of us to trying to master its very nuts and bolts. And BBH Labs has been no exception: last year, we got together with google for the binary bootcamp that was Coding For Dummies.
But while we should strive to do more with the net, it’s already done much for us to celebrate. The much-feted promise of connection that was heralded in 1990 has come true for us all, whether through Facebook, Twitter or a dodgy backroom BBS. And while it’s easy to talk about the macro impact cases, from Libya to London, the personal stories often remain just that: personal.
So as part of IWE’ 11, on Thursday 10th November, join us at BBH from 7 for TaleTorrent: a night of true stories about the internet. It’s a conference, a campfire, a confessional. Eight storytellers will take ten minutes to tell us something.
There are two ways to get involved. One: come along by grabbing a ticket on our Eventbrite page.
Two: we are still looking for a couple of people to tell their stories – it could be five minutes, it could be fifteen – in our little gathering. Funny, sad, uplifiting, anything you like. If you’d like to share with us, get in touch with me at email@example.com.
29th September 11
Author: Pablo Marques (@pablo_marques), Creative Director, BBH London & BBH Labs
A few hours ago we introduced Weetakid to the world, together with his arch-enemy, Evil Eater. The game is a playful execution of Weetabix’s brand strategy and a great example of an idea as a direct solution to a clear business challenge.
Weetabix’s boxes are making into families’ cupboards in great numbers, but they are just not making it out of there often enough.
If we could increase the number of times the box makes it to the breakfast table we would be able to increase consumption and sales.
So Weetakid was born to do just that. It is a game targeted at kids, especially those from 7 to 11 years old, as they are the gravitational centre of the household during the busy hours of our morning rituals.
In the game, kids take control of Weetakid, a creature who has just seen his little world robbed of all its energy by Evil Eater, the galaxy’s villain. The game involves a quest to retrieve the items stolen by the Evil Eater which can be found through playing a number of engaging mini games.
But Weetakid like any other kid, needs energy, especially if it is going to travel the galaxy to rebuild its world. So every morning kids will need to feed Weetakid to ensure that they both have a day full of fun and adventure.
To feed Weetakid, players will need a box of Weetabix. And that is what makes the idea so special.
To enable the interaction between the the product package and the game we’ve used a set of technologies more notoriously known as Augmented Reality.
That link between box and game is a special and symbiotic one. It doesn’t get in the way of the experience, but actually enhances it. And it does it in a way that not only helps us solve our business problem but also enables us to start driving consumer behaviour to a place closer to our brand messaging, Weetabix is your fuel for big days.
The pack has also become the place in which we are launching the game. With widespread distribution and wide readership (the back of pack is arguably one of the most read items in the household) it will be a perfect way to reach our audience and promote the game.
A multi layered production challenge
Weetakid, albeit a small game, was a big integrated production puzzle that involved many different disciplines. We had to create bespoke songs, write films, direct and record voice overs, create characters and animations, design a game and make a website, among other things. And we had two months to do everything.
We had two amazing integrated producers from BBH working on it and coordinating the whole joint effort.
As Dani Michelon (@danimichelon) our lead integrated producer on the project puts best:
“By the time we contacted our partners we had gone a long way into the game already, we had game flowcharts, schematics and storyboards. We had a good picture of it in our heads but there was still a lot to be done to make it reality and it was humbling to see how all the people involved collaborated so well. It was great fun to work on it and see it coming to life.”
Firstly we contacted Yum Yum London (@yumyumlondon) and worked with them to develop the characters and animations to bring our universe to life and to design the back of the Weetabix boxes.
Secondly came Radium audio (@radiumaudioltd) to create the amazing music that players will enjoy in the game and North Kingdom (@northkingdom) to actually put the game together and code all of that magic in.
We also engaged society46 (@society46) who designed our Weetakid website.
And finally The Mill (@millchannel) helped us produce our trailer.
So after many long weeks and nights we pulled the game together; an effort of epic proportions. It was a clear labour of love and the amount of fun myself and the creative team (Felipe Guimarães @think_felipe and Lambros Charalambous @creativelamb) felt borderline illegal.
We hope you and your kids can enjoy playing it as much we enjoyed making it. Let us know what you think in the comments below.
Full project credits
Creative Direction: Pablo Marques (@pablo_marques) / Dominic Goldman
Art Direction: Felipe Guimarães / Pablo Marques / Yum Yum London
Writer: Lambros Charalambous
Game Design: Pablo Marques / Felipe Guimarães / Lambros Charalambous
Lead Producers: Daniela Michelon, Jo Osborne
Strategy Director: Nina Rahmatallah
Business Director: Nick Stringer
Team Manager: Luke Algar
Legal: Henry Rowan-Robinson
Character Design / Awesomeness: Yum Yum London
Music / Sound: Radium Audio
Sound Producer: Sam Brock
Game and interface programming: North Kingdom
Trailer edit: The Mill
Website design/production: Society 46
20th July 11
Posted in Friendship
The launch of Google+ brings once again the opportunity/chore to categorise our real world and digital relationships into some sort of meaningful schema. It’s the social media equivalent of copying out names and numbers into a new address book (remember those?) and analysing the probability of ever needing that contact again.
Is the person I spent a night with drinking at a conference and discussing our children a friend, an acquaintance or a co-delegate? Where do colleagues fit in on my relationship map? And what about the person who I’ve never met in ‘meat-space’ but correspond with regularly in conversation on twitter/flickr/facebook? Do I need to worry about circling someone as a ‘Social Media Maven’ rather than a ‘person who does cool stuff? (Answer: Yes)
“Create around one at least a small circle where matters are arranged as one wants them to be.” – Anna Freud
It will always be hard to put people into broad categories because, well, we’re all special and unique flowers, man. But questioning the nature of online friendship is an exercise worth revisiting every now and again. As the lines between online and offline blur we’re going to need to find new ‘friendrank’ algorithms. So, while code can reveal to us who we communicate with most often, it can’t tell us who we care for. Right now I’m categorising ‘friends’ as people I am genuinely pleased for if something good happens to them and ‘acquaintances’ as those whose news I am merely interested in.
This is as far as I’ve got with my Circle Schema and is subject to change – I’d love to hear your strategies in the comments below.
20th July 11
Posted in interactive
Author: Priyanka Kanse, Strategist, BBH London
If you are under 11 you might be aware that Fruit Shoot launched something very cool last week. If you’re not, here is the story of Champion of the Playground:http://www.vimeo.com/26663730
The work we’ve been doing with skills for the last couple of years meant that the Fruit Shoot brand was in good health, but this wasn’t transferring to success at the checkout: our core target audience (8-10 year olds) were turned off by the younger kids coming into the brand and didn’t want to be seen drinking the product.
Our solution wasn’t a big ad campaign, but a branded gaming platform which merges the virtual world with the real world and recognises the importance of competition and challenge for 8-11 year olds.
One of the very first pieces of paper that the creative team wrote were the principles of Champion of the Playground (below). It’s really nice to sit down at the end of phase 1 and think that the site is still true those original principles.
What we’ve learnt
Much of the commentary about participation platforms seems like common sense, but how the hell do I implement it? We’re learning all the time and there is so much we could say about this project, but these are some of our most interesting findings:
Measure every decision you make against what your user will find compelling. I’m not always a massive fan of research for traditional advertising, but for Champion of the Playground it was essential. One, we’re not 9-year-olds and two, the project lives or dies by its ability to engage.
The first response by kids to the initial ideas was ‘but how do you stop other people from cheating?’, which meant without unique codes that encrypted the Skills Kit scores, the idea would be fundamentally undermined. We were told that we’d have to wait over a year to get kit with codes, which didn’t really fit with our delivery date, but our Creative Technology wizards worked directly with suppliers to program boards and test prototype equipment.
I also now have a favourite ever research moment: In user-testing with a site prototype one of the kids was asked if they would play the game. His response? “Yeah, but they have to advertise it on TV so I know about it” – so well trained!
Picking the right battles:
Not that we had lots of fights, but it’s really hard to pick what to invest development time, brainpower and cash into when all the features look so darn good. And sometimes the most important details are the ones that you can’t see. We bought a games designer in to fix the games and reward logic so that the game felt fair. Just writing that sentence makes it sound simple, but it’s such a delicate balance to achieve and so crucial to the playability.
For us, Champion of the Playground is a great example of how a brief doesn’t have to be answered by traditional advertising solutions. Why do we expect our audience to spend time with us if we’re not entertaining? By creating a game which is inextricably tied up with kids’ personal progress, we are giving them something that they genuinely want to participate in.
When you create an idea that isn’t a campaign, you naturally earn the right to exist for a longer time and in different formats. The initial response to Champion of the Playground from kids has been enthusiastic, which means that we get to keep creating and keep evolving. So keep an eye on FruitShoot.com, because we have some exciting things planned.
Credits (names in bold might as well get COTP tattoos, such has been their dedication to the cause)
Clients: Nadia Moussa & Debbie Eddy
Creative team: Simon Pearse & Emmanuel Saint M’Leux
Creative directors: Rosie Bardales, Jeremy Ettinghausen
Digital producer: Susan Liu
Technical director: Jim Hunt
Head of Creative Technology: Jon Andrews
User Experience: Ricky Faria
Account team: Ngaio Pardon, Alex Monger, Anna Halliday
Strategist: Priyanka Kanse
Strategic Business Lead: Nina Rahmatallah
Production Company: Unit 9
Game consultant: James Sheahan, Metagames [http://metagames.co.uk/]
Below the line agency: The Marketing Store
30th June 11
Posted in Participation
Labs were lucky enough to be invited back to Power to the Pixel’s Pixel Lab held at Schwielowsee this week. The attendees – writers, filmmakers and producers among them – spent most of the week intensively workshopping their cross-media projects, punctuated by tutorials and talks from external experts.
Raising money in a still nascent format is always going to be challenging, so Pixel Lab participants were keen to know how brands and advertisers viewed transmedia storytelling as a platform and what approaches were likely to lead to successful fundraising.
Using the smart thinking from Metafilter forum user blue_beetle as the starting point I suggested that rather than try and sell a story to a brand, selling the audience might be a more productive approach. This is partly because it’s so noisy out there that a brand needs to work exceptionally hard to cut through with a story and also because increasingly brands see participation (through a variety of mechanics) as a good route to engaging an audience and building brand loyalty.
It wouldn’t be a Labs talk if we didn’t reference Kevin Kelly, and his ‘Six words for the modern internet‘ made for a useful primer on participation and behaviours. Taking each of the behaviours and looking at campaigns that had shone them through a branded lens I asked whether it was possible to extend the idea of audience as product and ask what they paid with for each form of participation.
With each of these costs of participating the audience clearly need to be rewarded and this reward will vary with the depth and type of participation. The reward might be a story or another form of transmedia experience but there are other rewards for participation and access and engagement might sometimes be reward enough.
The full presentation is below – let us know what you think in the comments.