1st May 13
Posted in strategyAuthor: Jim Carroll, Chairman, BBH LondonThis is an edited version of a piece I wrote a while back for the APG. Reprinted with permission.It is a melancholy truth that the more expert I have become, the less my expertise is valued. I recognise that this may be because my dusty tales of Levi’s watchpockets,strategic chords and yin yangs lose a little of their lustre with every passing year. And I suspect I’m not pronouncing SXSW with convincing emphasis. But it may also be because Clients no longer come to me for expertise. Or at least not the expertise I imagined I had to offer.I had always thought that we Planners were akin to strategic doctors. We assessed the patients’ symptoms, we prescribed treatment, we arrived at prognoses. I imagined that sitting in four reviews a day, year after year, gave us a special authority on the anatomy of communication. I’m sure there was a time when my Clients nodded gratefully as we offered sage counsel. The blinding insight, the lyrical proposition, the Damascene conversion…There was, wasn’t there?… But modern Clients are more strategically and creatively confident than ever before. They have their own strategy departments, they’re closer to their own data, they work across more channels than most of us.They go on creative role reversal courses…I’m really not sure they come to us primarily to listen to our opinion. And I have to say sometimes nowadays it’s difficult getting a word in edgeways.It’s true, I have considered an alternative career as a bus conductor. And when the 25 year old Millward Brown consultant’s opinion carries more weight, I find myself yearning for a passing Routemaster. But advertising people are inherently positive. And so I reconsider…I am increasingly of the view that Clients don’t come to us for medicine; they come to us for therapy. And I suspect that our value resides, not as strategic doctors, but as strategic psychoanalysts.Often a successful modern Client engagement is not unlike a session of analysis. Clients begin with problems. They verbalise their thoughts, they make free associations, they express their fantasies and dreams. We listen, we interpret, we consider the unconscious conflicts that are causing their problems. We help them reach solutions through a process of self realisation.Freud, in addressing the unconscious, talked about the need to ‘unearth buried cities’. This doesn’t sound too alien to brand planning.I should at this point issue a health warning. I’m a Planner from Romford. Whilst I enjoyed Keira Knightley’s performance in A Dangerous Method, I can’t claim any particular knowledge of psychoanalysis . For me it’s just an illuminating analogy. Besides, if we were too literal about this, we’d never look a Client in the eye. And I suspect that’s a sure fire way to lose business…Let us nonetheless consider some of the basic principles that would derive from a psychoanalytic approach to Client engagement…Set out on a quest for meaning, not cure. The answers to most problems reside in the minds of the Client. We are enabling self knowledge,helping them to create their own narratives.Behave as a participant observer, not a detached expert. Analysis only works if we embark on it together, as willing equals.Embrace free association. Often we are too quick to impose order on our Clients’ challenges. Bear in mind that fantasies and dreams can illuminate unconscious conflicts.Remember, everything has meaning. Be attentive to behaviour,body language, choice of words and phrases.Look for meaningful patterns. Consider consistencies,
symmetries,repetition. Probe for the meaning within the pattern.Our time is up..I used to believe there was only one correct answer to every problem. Now I believe there are many correct answers. The challenge is to establish the correct answer that best suits the Client’s character and personality. Anais Nin famously once said: ‘We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are’. I’m sure this maxim applies as much to strategy as it does to creative.
26th April 13
Author: Ben Fennell, CEO, BBH London
As I write, we’ve just completed a six month, ‘in house’ course on Leadership for 30 of BBH’s finest. The course is a tangible acknowledgement that leadership skills are not simply ‘picked up’ over time. But that they have to be developed, they have to be taught, they have to be learnt.
Throughout my career I’ve been a keen student. I’ve always tried to observe, emulate and customise the leadership behaviours I most admire. From mentors, from clients, from within BBH, from history, politics and sport.
There are a couple of interesting things about our course:
- It is totally bespoke to BBH, by that I mean it is focused on developing the skills and tools to succeed in our culture.
- It is cross discipline, so in attendance are strategists, suits, producers, and those historically reluctant trainees, CDs.
- It is personal, because leadership always is. I invited the 16 speakers, 13 BBH and 3 clients, to talk about the leadership attribute that I most associate them with, eg ‘making good and bad decisions’, ‘leadership in tough times’, ‘creating positive pressure’.
- Having been exposed to a whole series of very personal, and very diverse leadership orthodoxies, one has come out head and shoulders above all others.
The power of difference. All the delegates have told me that a better understanding of their own unique strengths, and a strategy to amplify those, is the key to creating higher impact, and greater followership in the workplace.
Despite almost all of the delegates’ pre course perceptions to the contrary, they have found that BBH is packed with a range of very different types of leaders.
I think this has probably always been the case at BBH. It was the complimentary differences in personality type, style and delivery that made our founders John, Nigel and John such a compelling cocktail.
It is interesting to me that, somehow, as we’ve grown, people have started to believe that there is only one way to lead and succeed at BBH, one leadership archetype: competitive, quality obsessed and, yes, relentlessly dissatisfied.
People like myself may well have propagated that myth. Which is ironic, because I know exactly how much I depend on the difference offered to me by my closest partners. Leaders with any sense of self awareness learn quickly to assemble a team that complements their strengths and compensates for their weaknesses.
One simple example. I think in metaphors and references from sport and film while Jim Carroll, our UK Chairman, uses renaissance art and soul music. I want our people to be exposed to both, and a hundred more besides.
Jim spoke at my 40th, he stood in front of 100 people, only 10 of whom he knew and who knew him. It would be fair to say that it was a fairly rowdy and sporty crowd. He won over his audience, and nailed me with his opening line:
“Ben and I share not one personality trait”. Genius.
And that’s the point. I want our company to be filled with all kinds of different leaders: visionaries, operators, closers, nurturers, warriors, enthusiasts, rocks.
It’s the celebration of difference that makes a culture powerful and unique. It is the managed tension between different types of thinkers and personalities, that gets us to our best answers. I urge every new joiner to “keep their edges”.
I think it was Warren G Bennis that famously said that “Failing organisations are usually over managed and under led.”At BBH we want more leadership, in all its forms, at every level of our company.
I am always energised when I face the company and see a whole new cohort coming through.
I wonder if the next great horizon for our business should be less defined by our outputs: digital, social, CSR. And more by our inputs. By developing a generation of industry leaders to inspire staff, clients, and most important of all, the consumer.
The longer I do my job the more I believe that ‘Inspiration’ is the petrol you put into the tank of a creative business. It’s our fuel. It is leadership’s most fundamental obligation.
Of one thing I am certain. You can’t possibly inspire others unless you are 100 percent clear about the single question we started, and have focused, our whole course on:
‘What kind of leader do you want to be?’
19th March 13
The second of series of reports from Austin, by a few lucky BBH SXSW survivors.
Author: Helen Lawrence, Strategist, BBH Labs & BBH London
The most recurring topic of conversation in Austin during SXSW isn’t the future of technology, it isn’t the principles of responsive design and it certainly isn’t what makes something viral. It’s meat. What meat to have in your breakfast taco, what meat to choose for your lunchtime ribs and what meat should top your dinnertime hot dog (I can’t believe Tim didn’t mention this in his SXSW reflections!). This is a town dominated by BBQ joints and smoking shacks. I fear that after five days there I may have the incredibly sexy combination of scurvy and gout:
However, we have a problem. One hundred thousand years ago humans still needed 2000 calories a day to function. Back then, to produce that 2000 calories we’d get through 1800 to find and produce something to nibble on. Fast forward to today’s brisket loving era and it takes 200,000 calories to produce those same 2000 calories. Our food production habits are screwed up. We waste everything: energy, resources and it even the food itself once we’ve got it to that juicy, edible point. It’s not at all sustainable. We’re messing it up, and we’re doing it quickly.
So – who is the obvious person to turn to in order to solve this problem? An astronaut of course. Nothing beats an astronaut. Ahem.
The 100 Year Starship project is using the question of interstellar space travel to get to an answer:
“We exist to make the capability of human travel beyond our solar system a reality within the next 100 years. We unreservedly dedicate ourselves to identifying and pushing the radical leaps in knowledge and technology needed to achieve interstellar flight, while pioneering and transforming breakthrough applications that enhance the quality of life for all on Earth.”
If we’re going to have to consider exploration outside of our solar system we’re going to have think a little beyond a simply bigger rocket. One self sustaining pod hurtling through the sky; it has to keep a bunch of humans alive for a century, stop them killing each other and prevent them from getting hungry.
The space race in the 60s was a tangible one: getting to the moon is a challenge that could be imagined and solved. The 100 Year Starship Project wants to set a challenge that trickles down solutions into our own fuzzy planet in the same way. The space race has given us some of the biggest everyday technologies we use now: scratch resistant lenses, GPS and water filters for example. By posing some of the biggest societal and sustainability questions out there and considering how we’d achieve them to last 100 years in space, we can hope for properly realistic solutions to the things we’re messing up at the moment.
Meat is a big one, clothes are another. It’s a terribly energy intensive hobby. We make too many, we own too many, we wash too many and we don’t recycle nearly enough. 100 years at our current clothing rates would need a lot of wardrobes up on our space ship, not to mention cotton fields, plastics factories and silk worms. We can’t take clothes to space, despite them being such a core part of our creative identity as humans – one solution put forward by the 100 Year Starship project includes reusable sheets that we project clothes onto, allowing us to change them whenever we like.
Back to the bovines. As much as I love the idea of cows in space, wearing little cow shaped astronaut helmets, it just can’t happen. ‘Fake meat’ companies are popping up all over the place, even Twitter co founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams are investing. That’s one possible solution for our 100 Year Spaceship. What else is there?
I like the 100 Year Starship project. It frames a problem into a great story. Mae Jemison, a brilliant astronaut, told the SXSW audience that we should tell better stories, ones that inspire and ones that can bring about social change. The project neatly frames sustainability into something we can picture. There are no cheats when you’re somewhere outside of Alpha Centauri. So many of our so called sustainable solutions aren’t that at all. We feel we’re doing well when actually the problem is just popping up somewhere else. You can’t do that on a spaceship.
This makes me ruminate a bit on brand strategy – we talk a lot here about strategy being the art of sacrifice. What would you sacrifice in your brand armoury if forced to focus on the essentials? And would your brand get a spot on the starship in the first place? Is it ducking and diving, pushing superfluous issues elsewhere? Perhaps not being quite as sustainable or transparent as it could be? Whack it in a bubble and put it in space: it’s a good way to test it.
I’m excited about the 100 Year Spaceship. The hippies and the astronauts are getting it on. And damn, it’s even sexier than gout.
26th February 13
Posted in Insight
Author: Jim Carroll, Chairman, BBH London
“Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet.”
I recently saw the Bob Marley documentary that came out last year. Insightful, inspirational, touching stuff.
I was quite struck by a story relating to The Wailers’ early career in Kingston. Their manager would take them to rehearse late at night in the local cemetery. He believed that if they could conquer their fear of ‘duppies’ (spirits), they could also conquer any stage fright.
We often talk of advertising as a business fuelled by confidence. And it’s true. Confidence gives you the courage to be honest, to be different, to challenge conventions. Confidence is the foundation of sustained success.
But I have also found that the reverse is true: agencies run on fear.
Fear of corporate change, competitive threat and Client whim. Fear of forgetting, of fluffing one’s lines. Fear of fashion, of falling behind and falling apart. Fear of failure. Fear that the latest success may be the last. Fear of complacency, of hubris. Fear of lost relevance. Fear of irrelevance. Fear of redundancy. Not just losing your job, but losing your utility. Fear that your best years are behind you. And your worst meeting is in front of you.
As Nigel Bogle has been wont to warn, even in the good years, ‘We’re three phone calls away from disaster’.
I still go into every presentation with an awkward feeling in the pit of my stomach. And under sustained pressure I develop painfully itchy shins. Hardly the romance of a saint’s stigmata. Faintly ridiculous really. But nonetheless a physical manifestation of stress, anxiety, doubt.
John Hegarty once bumped into our Levi’s Client in Reception. The Client said he was worried because the proposed print route was a bit risky. Rather than reassure him that it wasn’t at all dangerous, John said, ‘You’re right. It is risky. I’m worried it might even be a mistake, possibly a disaster.’ And then he marched briskly on to his next meeting.
I think a successful business should be fuelled by confidence, but oiled by fear. The one delivers ambition, the other insures against complacency. I’m drawn to the same qualities in people too: I like enthusiasm, appetite ,optimism; tempered by a little self doubt, angst and humility. (‘Once a Catholic…’, I guess…)
“The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.”
But whilst fear in moderation may be useful, attractive even, fear in excess is paralysing, corrosive. You see it in the eyes of the team whose competence has been questioned, whose business has been put up for pitch, whose job is on the line.
So I suspect we could still do with a little singing in the cemetery. We still need a means to confront our darkest paranoias, to defeat our deepest doubts. Of course in a modern, sanitised age we don’t have ‘duppies’, ghosts and ghouls. Maybe, post Freud, just articulating our misgivings is healthy. Maybe we ought to give more time to sharing our angst, anxieties, apprehensions.
Maybe I’m just singing in the cemetery right now…
16th February 13
Posted in People
“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”
~ Abraham Lincoln
I remember extremely well how I felt when Ben told me BBH were hiring Griffin. A mixture of ‘Bam! Yes!’ delight and excitement, with a small sliver of anxiety thrown in. I really hoped we would be worthy of him.
At the time, Griffin already had a thoroughly interesting and useful model for modern planning that he’d explored in public on his own blog. He called it Propagation Planning – “plan not for the people you reach, but the people they reach” – and it made a ton of sense. He practised and preached it with an elegant simplicity. He wrote beautifully. He wore a cool hat in his Twitter avatar photo. He had a name that sounded like it belonged to a mythical, dragon-fighting Knight. So far, so intimidating.
Of course it turned out Griffin was all of these things – incredibly smart, ahead of his time, thoughtful and wise beyond his years. But, miraculously, not in the slightest bit intimidating. Rather, he was the most generous of men; kind and good-hearted. He also immediately made himself indispensable. I’m not sure anyone else can claim to have played a major role simultaneously in the main agency, BBH Labs and BBH Zag. Griffin got everywhere… he made a difference to everyone.
It’s a rare thing, knowing someone who is truly talented and truly generous in equal measure. Very clever and very kind. Some people can pull that perfect balance off every now and then. Griffin was like that every single day. When I think about him in the weeks and years to come, it’s this that I will not forget.
As the e-book below (made for Griffin in the midst of his fight against cancer) attests, everyone at BBH – particularly all his close colleagues and friends at BBH New York, plus a lucky few of us in London – will remember Griffin for the great work he did, his absolute commitment right to the very end, his gentle optimism and his courage in the face of such adversity. But mostly, like everyone who was lucky enough to know him, we will remember the overflowing love he had for his family and his huge capacity for friendship.
RIP, Griffin. It’s an honour to say we knew you.
Super Griffin eBook by Dean Woodhouse & Hugo Bierschenk, with the involvement of everyone at BBH New York.
29th January 13
Who we’re after
A digital analyst who knows their way around analytics and social metrics but who has that sixth sense to sniff out fresh insights that have real strategic value. We need someone who can focus on the story that the data are telling them, not just crank out campaign reports.
What you’ll be like
Smart, curious, passionate and a great communicator. Someone who will be comfortable working alongside strategists, creatives and clients. An analyst that can explain complex measurement and analysis in plain and simple language. You will love being a digital specialist but you will be able to see the bigger picture and you will understand that whatever tools we use to gather our insights we are ultimately seeking to understand consumer behaviour and motivation.
- In depth knowledge of digital analytics tools (eg Sysomos, Google Analytics, Comscore) and the creative use of free digital insight tools
- Ability to bring the numbers to life and tell a story with data from different sources
- Appetite and ability to translate insight into strategic recommendation
- Experience of effectiveness measurement and KPI tracking
- Desire to work in a creative environment with creative people
- Entrepreneurial: actively seek new opportunities to gather insights and help teams benefit from digital intelligence
- Good people skills and ability to build relationships across all disciplines
- Other key attributes: Hardworking, energetic, collaborative, good organisational skills and cultural knowledge
If this sounds like your kind of job, we want to hear from you. Please send a cv, details or link to email@example.com
16th January 13
Posted in technology
This post was originally published as an article, ‘The Year Ahead For Technology‘, which appeared in Campaign magazine’s first edition of the year last week, 10.01.13.
We may have spent the past few years fretting and fetishising about the time we spend online vs offline, but here’s the good news: 2013 is going to be the year we relax a little. We’ll get over the novelty of social sharing online and just accept it, distracted instead by the utility and magic revealed when ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ worlds start to merge. The physical world becomes properly programmable. The physical web comes into its own.
If there has been a meta creative goal of technology over the past decade or so, I’d wager it is to create online experiences that inch closer to feeling viscerally real; to strive for a ‘real world standard’, if you will. Cast your mind back to Second Life ten years ago, all the way through to the interactive 3D graphics made possible by Web GL today and the steady advances in virtual reality gaming, now being applied to healthcare. Within multiple industries fuelled by technology, there’s a fascination with mirror worlds and visceral experiences. And disappointment when they don’t quite measure up to the hype (goodbye then, Second Life).
But what if we flip things for a moment: think about putting the web into the physical world, rather than trying to mimic the physical world online?There are a collection of reasons why the physical web’s time has come. Forget QR codes. Witness the leap Augmented Reality made with the announcement of Google’s heads up glasses, which justifiably caused a stir in 2012. Then add the emergence of the Internet of Things and Quantified Self into mainstream tech culture, as two sides to the same digital coin:
1. Quantified Self looks at the physical web through a human lens.
An expression coined by Kevin Kelly and Gary Wolf five years ago, it’s about self-tracking your performance – often via wearable, digital tools that collect and report how well you’re doing – with applications for health & fitness, finance, productivity, education, mobility and more.
2. The Internet of Things looks at the physical web through the lens of objects.
Coined by Kevin Ashton in 1999, it refers to connected sensors embedded in objects making them machine-readable and artificially intelligent – with giant consequences for everything from stock taking to security, architecture to art. A year ago Cisco calculated there were already more devices connected to the Internet than there are people on the planet.
And we’re seeing brands back up the promise of both, with self-tracking services like Fitbitand Nike’s Fuelband breaking into the mainstream, whilst IoT services are emerging, likeLockitron, which remotely locks or opens your front door (never worry about losing your keys again) and Growerbot, which uses sensors to monitor moisture, light and temperature in your garden and water when needed.
Solid broadband and smartphone penetration, super-fast mobile broadband, an expanding free WiFi network in the UK and the emergence of services like the ones above are together creating perfect conditions for the emergence of what might be called a ‘real world web’. Even Search is transforming, as Google puts it, to “things, not strings.” Their Knowledge Graph, introduced in May this year, aims “to understand real world entities and their relationships to one another” and already contains close to 600 million. “Search now understands that the Taj Mahal is a building, but also a music band, a casino and a bunch of restaurants.” Then there’s Apple’s Siri and now Google Now for Android; essentially predictive, personalised search on the move, although that barely does it justice.
The rise of the networked brand
What about brands in this context? All this powering up in technological terms and blurring between real & virtual worlds simply underlines why brands in any category need to grasp the value of operating in a network.
A few things worth considering now:
- If your physical product had a digital layer, what would it be?
- What physical, live or exclusive experience can you give to your network to share?
- Are you thinking about ‘views’ or subscribers? If you’re serious about content marketing to connected users, it’s the latter.
- As users flip between devices on the fly, they’ll expect a seamless experience: are you designing responsively?
What happens next?
Beyond this year, we will need common protocols enabled by an open web for this to work at scale. Businesses to watch in the meantime: Smartthings, Place Me (a “persistent ambient sensing” mobile app that collects all the sensory data imaginable) and Esri (formerly Geoloqi, a next gen location app). In short, our ‘phones will pick up so much real world, ambient data we won’t need to look further. To paraphrase Esri’s Amber Case: “Think what SMS did for telephones”…
Welcome to the Real World Web.
17th December 12
Posted in Creativityforgood
Author: Alex Ball, Copywriter, BBH London
Today sees the launch of homeforxmas.org by BBH London. A Christmas initiative aimed at raising money for children’s charity Barnardo’s, helping fund their work with homeless young people.
The festive project, which runs for the next five days, invites the audience to donate as much as they can to Barnardo’s. In return, and as a show of appreciation, BBH will select an entrant’s home address each day and recreate their home in a snow globe using the latest 3D printing technology. This beautiful bespoke snow globe, complete with personalised engraving, will then be wrapped and boxed before finally being sent to the selected recipient.
Watch this film if you’d like to learn more:http://www.vimeo.com/55782359
11th December 12
Author: Helen Lawrence, @helenium, BBH & BBH Labs Strategist
It almost goes without saying that BBH Labs like robots. Of course we like robots. The potential for what robots could do challenges our view of the future. What will they be capable of? Do they free us from the mundane or render us redundant? Is the uncanny valley somewhere we’d like to live?
At BBH Labs we’re interested in ‘artificial’ intelligence: how it starts, where it can go, what it means for us carbon-based lifeforms. Advances in sentience, emotion and learning within Artificial Intelligence draw on human data; as the internet collects more and more of ourselves the robots are finding it even easier to replicate our squishy selves. Even the little things – predictive text, Google Instant, EdgeRank – make us blink from time to time.
But, despite the possibility of Skynet becoming self-aware, we decided to have a little play with it.
BEEEEEP. BEEEEP. Robotify.me is here!
We’ve talked about it before, but just in case you missed it then the basic idea for Robotify.me is that by plugging in your social data and using it to create a robot you can learn a little more about how you portray yourself online.
It should uncover if you tend to lurk and not share, if you retweet rather than create, walk miles for a Slurpee or take more photos than a K-Pop fan. Your robot will change and evolve, so keep checking back and see how it’s doing. Don’t worry, it doesn’t need feeding. It’s no tamagotchi and it’s certainly not 1996.
This is the first iteration of Robotify.me, it’s a simple little service at the moment. It will continue to develop and evolve over the coming months. So there might be a few bugs lurking in there and this early beta version of it certainly is lacking any bells and whistles. We’re already looking into adding some more networks to plug in, as well as seeing what else we can get out of the platforms we’re using at the moment. A more comprehensive ‘Roboguide’ is also in the works.
One of the reasons for creating Robotify.me is to encourage a bit of self reflection and analysis, and perhaps to see if people form an attachment with their robot. We’d love to know your robot was what your were expecting or if it threw up something a little odd that you might not have known about yourself. We’ve found ourselves taking more photos, retweeting less, checking in more… all to see what our robots do.
What is the mechanical bird on your shoulder whispering into your ear?
This was an in-house BBH operation. Conceived by Labs, built with the BBH technology team in London, logo and site design by Zag. The beautiful robot illustrations are the handy work of Mick Marston, @futilevignette.
Particular props go out to:
Gabor Szalatnyai: @endofu: Creative Technologist
Marc Owens: @marcowens: Creative
Matt Bertocchi: @ux_matt: UX
Kate Sutherland: Producer
Mel Exon: @melex: Product Owner
Jeremy Ettinghausen: @jeremyet: Creative Director
Helen Lawrence: @helenium: Labs Strategist & Copywriter
Shea Warnes: @sheawarnes: Social Strategist
Luke Kidney: @creativekidney: Creative Technologist
Vicki Maggs: @maggsy: Digital Analyst
Abi Awomosu: @tekogram: Senior Digital Analyst
Richard Davies: @richardtid: Graphic Designer, Zag
Steve Wake: @stephenwake: Head Designer, Zag
Gary Hudson: @garyhudson: Graphic Designer, Zag
Henry Rowan-Robinson: Commercial Lawyer
Sarah Pollard: @pollardfaure: Communications Director
Simon Taylor: Producer
Isobel Barnes: @isobelbarnes: PR Manager
Mark Reddy: Head of Art
Sarah Pascoe: Head of Print
Pablo Marques: @pablo_marques: Creative Director
And of course, the Rebel Alliance: James Mitchell: @jamescmitchell
An honorable mention goes out to Liz Harper: @lizmarieharper: who has kept the Labs ship sailing while we tinkered with cogs and lasers.
And a massive thankyou to all the wonderful beta testers, whose help, advice and support has been invaluable to date.
Thanks to Contagious too, for their great write up of Robotify.me