18th November 13
Latest in a series of cross-posts we’re publishing here from the monthly tech column we write for Marketing magazine in the UK. This article first appeared in the October edition.
For half a decade or more, marketers have been told to expect ‘the year of mobile’ as we watch helpful graphs plot an inexorable path to where x marks the spot: the moment mobile overtakes desktop usage globally. And yet still we see mobile marketing spends failing to keep up with user behaviour (source: KPCB, Internet Trends report, May 2013).
Some businesses are notable exceptions. It’s no surprise that smartest and most marketing-savvy of CEOs, Burberry’s (now outgoing) CEO, Angela Ahrendts, recently declared a wholesale commitment to a mobile first strategy:
“Our design teams design for a landing page and the landing page dictates what the store windows will look like, not the other way round. In creative media, they’re shooting for digital, then we are turning it back to physical… now let’s do everything for mobile and then take it back to desktop.” (CEO Talk, Business of Fashion, September 2013)
Okay, so this approach may not work perfectly for every geography, category and every audience (Ahrendts is clear that their core target audience are Millennials), but if a company the size of Burberry can adopt behaviour like this and win, what’s stopping other organisations?
With the benefit of hindsight, the issue is easier to call. We’ve had at least three false dawns for mobile marketing:
i. innovations in hardware, specifically tablets
ii. mobile apps
iii. responsive design practice
Don’t get me wrong, each of these has brought tremendous value in multiple ways, but none of these has provided a perfect solution to marketing on the move. We know most tablets stay at home. Branded apps fail more often than not (as I’ve shared before in this column, 80% of branded apps have less than 1,000 downloads according to Deloitte data published in 2011). Responsive design is an elegant solution some of the time, but of course can’t solve every communications and design issue all of the time, particularly with banners.
Truthfully, most marketers still stare at the real estate available on a mobile ‘phone and frown at the tiny little ad units with even tinier little links contained within them.
So what now? Enter cards. Yes, cards. They don’t sound like the key to the mobile marketing universe, but bear with me for a bit. Cards, aka modules, are not new in digital media, services like Pinterest and Flipboard are built on cards, for example. What is exciting is how cards are rapidly emerging as an elegant design pattern to distribute individual, small packages of information (if you’re a marketer, a light bulb should have just gone off in your head). Witness Twitter Cards (enabling multi-media data to appear in-stream alongside tweets), Google Now, Spotify’s Discover service, not to mention Google Glass, for which “timeline cards are core to the user’s interaction” according to their developer guidelines.
It’s important to note cards aren’t simply an html rectangle; think instead of a manipulatable pattern you can arrange in stacks, flip over or fold to expand or contract the information. Aggregated content can be marshalled and presented depending on different, personalised criteria: location, interests, behaviour etc.
Quite fundamentally, the likes of Google Now show us how mobile use is forcing a move away from a web that mimics the publishing world of old (linked pages of content), to individual, dynamic and shareable pieces of content instead. Cards that feel beautifully native to a mobile experience, not a mobile version of something born on a desktop. As cards as a communication canvas becomes a new norm, it strikes me the opportunities for more effective, more exciting mobile work will only grow.
Perhaps finally, we have found an elegant solution to the real estate of a small screen.
5th November 13
One more in a series of tech columns we’ve written for Marketing magazine this year. This article by Adam on flat design appeared in the September issue.
Author: Adam Powers, Head of UX, BBH London & BBH Labs
Sir Jony Ive revealed his vision for Apple’s iOS7 operating system on September 10th, and the SVP of Design’s vision of the world is flat.
This redesign is about more than just eradicating embossed buttons and drop shadows. In typically thoughtful mode, Ive declared, “True simplicity is derived from so much more than just the absence of clutter.” For the first time in perhaps a decade though, Apple is joining a movement rather than creating one.
The flat design movement has been gaining momentum amongst technology companies for some time now. Looking back, it may well have been Microsoft Windows 8 design team that pushed things past the tipping point. They created a crisp, clean and minimalist approach where geometric shapes, bold colours and sharp corners dominate the rather nice operating system. The next flat design fans were Google, with their new aesthetic applied across a dramatically improved suite of applications (Google Maps, I adore you). Then came Yahoo’s elegant weather app, but many others have followed.
Like many art and design movements, flat design was a reaction to the dominant aesthetic that preceded it. Skeumorphism – the approach that borrows affordances from a user’s day-to-day life and translates that to screen-based design with the aim of aiding comprehension. All that stitched leather, aqua shine and drop shadow of the past few years was borne from that belief. It goes back further, to the days of WYSIWYG computer desktops where the workplace norms, such as files, folders and trash cans, were employed in the language of the operating systems to help us comprehend and participate in the desktop computing revolution.
Fans of this flat aesthetic, ahem, cite this change as a sign of the maturity of human and computer interaction. Our interaction with technology no longer needs to be disguised to make it more palatable. Flat design embraces the constraints and challenges of screen-based design and runs with it. Minimalist and utilitarian design that foregoes excessive ornamentation and is sensitive to bandwidth and functionality.
Before I get caught up in adulation of this latest expression of modernism, we should pause.
It would seem that flat design might come with risks. That (once?) esteemed voice of digital usability, Jakob Nielsen, has undertaken extensive user testing focussed on everyone’s must have tech – the tablet. After testing on a whole range of fondle slabs, Jakob concludes that flat design is not optimal for tablet devices. It would appear that the absence of hover-states on tablets, combined with departure of drop shadows and the ‘less is more’ conviction of flat design, means there is “…a dearth of distinguishing signifiers for UI elements.” i.e. It is harder to intuit what is and is not clickable and therefore things are harder and less satisfying to use.
This presents a very specific challenge, but I would suggest that there are a couple of wider reaching challenges that face the flat design movement.
The first is the ever present spectre of commodification of the web. Look at the search returns page on Google, the tightening embrace of iOS and Android design guidelines or the increasingly far-reaching rules for brands on Facebook or Youtube – it’s just getting harder for brands to cut through on tech platforms and services. Though the folks at YouTube etc. might argue that brands should focus on the quality of their content rather than the ease with which they can spray their colour palette across their respective brand channels. Either way, the flat design movement does appear to be at risk of further contributing to the commodification situation.
The second challenge that I see is that much of the impetus behind flat design is from Europe and North America – where there is long history with Modernism.
What does a critical market like Asia make of flat design, for instance? A Hong Kong based expert, working at the juncture of global marketing and technology, advised me, “Whether you’re considering ux design, user testing or anything else for that matter, you mustn’t think of Asia as a single market. China is as different to Japan as it is to Australia…and each has quite a different relationship with technology…”
Actually, one doesn’t have to look too far for some quite specific insights. This Tech in Asia blog observes that in China, Vietnam and Thailand, flat design may frequently be interpreted as overly austere or ‘…a lot of hot air…” It also proposes that for many of these commercially important markets, it is in fact ‘crowded design’ that performs best.
Somebody better tell Jony.
24th October 13
Guest Author: Tom Uglow, Creative Director, Google Creative Lab
> No epilogue, I pray you; for your play needs no excuse. – Theseus
On the 21st to 23rd June 2013, the Royal Shakespeare Company put on a unique, one-off performance of Midsummer Night’s Dream in collaboration with Google’s Creative Lab. It took place online, and offline – at the same time. It was the culmination of an 18 month project looking at new forms of theatre with digital at the core.
Midsummer Night’s Dreaming occurred as a live performance in 4 locations over three midsummer days, following the time structure of the play (which, it turns out, meant mainly at night. Clue is in the title apparently). Simultaneously, an universe of 30 new characters were created on Google+ (i.e. Hercules, Theseus’s best man, Phoebe the Moon & Bottom’s Mum). Their role was to illuminate and augment the play. We didn’t really expect them to go spinning wildly off from the play into their own fractured and fragmented narratives online. But that happened. Even fictional characters like to document their mundane (fictional) experiences: a concept that an audience member described as “like a live online soap opera wrapped round the drama of the play”.
This piece isn’t about what we did or why – for that see about.dream40.org/why. Our collaboration on Midsummer Night’s Dreaming was an experiment for Google and an experiment for the Royal Shakespeare Company. It wasn’t really marketing or sponsorship, it wasn’t a live stream; it was a trial, a rehearsal, an attempt to do something new. #dream40 was an experiment in online narrative for the digital creative world from local theatre through to global agencies. It wasn’t a passive broadcast of a play and it was always meant to be more about questions than answers – so that is why we want to share our thoughts, what we learnt. It’s for you, if you are interested in this sort of thing.
We soon discovered that our experiment had two paradoxes buried firmly at its heart.
1. Until we saw what we were creating we didn’t know what we were creating.
2. Until new paradigms for interaction are defined it is impossible to interact within them.
And finally a truism: An audience with no idea what to expect can only have their expectations confounded. People ‘watch’ plays, they don’t ‘perform’; cultural consumption is traditionally passive. I personally realised that physical theatre is magical, transformative. It is a form of virtual reality.
“We learn through doing” said Sarah Ellis. Wisely.
And what did we learn? Well, we learnt a lot. There is almost nothing that could not have been done better, but there was also nothing wrong with what we did. And if it were a rehearsal we would be able to change up for the big night – instead of which (alas) these ‘notes’ are for other players with similar ideas.
Fail once, fail twice, fail better said Beckett. Although I am not sure who was there to hear it. Maybe Mrs Beckett tweeted it.
This project started out as an essay for Sarah Ellis’s MyShakespeare project of 2012.
It began as a question: What would theatre look like if you invented it in 2013? Would this new theatre would be physical, with a stage, un-augmented by the dominant technology of the day? A format uniquely unaffected by the profound shift from static to fluid information?
Then, we thought the essay would work better as a single scene translated via social media. This became a single act. Then a whole text, perpormed live, in real-time, in Selfridges, with cctv, and celebrities. But we never quite got to that. Google finally committed to the dream in Jan 2013 and a more modest schedule that involved a full RSC production performed over three days in the middle of the night, a creative team of five writing 2000 pieces of material for 30 new characters to be shared online non-stop for 72 hours, and a digital team of three.
Our expectations also scaled up as the project became more visible; the more people we brought in the grander the vision became. We all know how that story ends. Several things didn’t change: 1) the principle – to illuminate a traditional play with online augmentation; 2) the core team (Geraldine Collinge, Sarah Ellis, myself and James Boyce); 3) the budget.
Looking back what we achieved seems unimaginable.
Energy and reach – the ability to reach so many people worldwide on our terms was unexpected.
Theatre – the RSC’s ‘scratch’ performance was transcendent and mesmerising.
Behind the scenes – the transparency of RSC process (e.g. Hangouts) was a special win.
The RSC went from 0 to >300k followers on Google+ moving them into the top 1k brand pages globally. Their page has 375,000 +1′s (‘likes’)
We assembled a community of more than 1k creators as part of the project.
On twitter we reached more than 20m people; we assume similar reach on Google+
#dream40 trended 4th worldwide on G+ for two days
The project lives on in as a timeline and in archive form at http://dream40.org
We made a film
What people said: storify.com/tomux/dream-quotes
Behind the scenes: storify.com/tomux/dream40
What would we do differently?
1. Do all the new writing a long long long way in advance. Like a long way. Really long. We hurt the production through the anarchic chaos of having creative arriving simultaneously to the performance, and trying to incorporate live content via the audience, and having creatives live-write for their characters. Having said that, it was great fun.
2. One vision directing every aspect. We had digital, artistic and creative directors without oversight of the other teams. It was a miracle the three parts came together at all.
3. Have a strong, obvious over-arching narrative that brings in the online characters. In television a show-runner makes sure every line, every character feeds back into a topline story arc. So photos, responses, quotes should all be part of a grand whole. Keeping it firmly in the world of the play and with characters who digress less wildly onto their own orbits.
4. We didn’t let the main characters speak (which was correct,) but we should have involved them more. The play must be real, and have integrity and you shouldn’t break from the words Shakespeare wrote, or their characters — but those characters needed to exist more online and interlink with the new cast more intelligently.
5. A story requires the audience to see themselves revealed through a character. Action: Have a hero online, as well as on stage. Puck got closest to this for us and created the most interaction online. He was brilliant but we could have made more of his part.
6. Create strong media channels. People understand how to share news and gossip. We allowed too much content to be led by the characters not the events. This is the thing I feel we did least well.
7. Introduce your characters more slowly and clearly. Clarify the characters and introduce them easily. (Big profile pieces).
8. Know your content. Build a content library (including imagery & video) which can be drawn on – digital content needs significant pre-production to make sure it responds to the original text appropriately.
8. Have a stage performance that made sense of the online characters. It was a shame that the online characters did not ‘appear’ in the live performance – which in turn could have made the use of their phones make sense in the context of the play.
9. Contrive opportunities to ‘show’ the live action more, ‘Film’ must be contextual, you can’t just ‘live-stream’ – but we could have done this better than just letting audience members film and share raw from the room.
10. Screens break the wilful suspension of disbelief. When we physically sit together as a collective audience (simultaneity) this we become part of that moment; the actors transport us as a whole (transformation) to another world. But operating a phone or ipad drags us out of that world into a solitary world connected to our lives. Which is not where we should be at that moment. Mediating a shared reality or fantasy through a screen removes the possibility of being present in the reality/fantasy. This probably applies to life in general. Ban screens unless they are integrated into the dynamic of the performance.
11. The power of music. The live musical arrangement created magic and drama and tension – right down to the blackbird at daybreak in Act II – we completely failed to transfer this to the online. Which was a shame.
12. Know your tools better. I came away impressed with Google+ but we should have used it more widely beforehand. It has endless confusing but epic properties. Communities, Events, Circles, Photos, Q&A, Hangouts, +1′s, Pages, API’s etc. Fb wasn’t a focus but Twitter, Vine, Instagram and Storify were all great tools.
13. The digital stage confounded some, annoyed others, and delighted a few. It suffered from trying to show too much, yet also carried too much exposition. Trying to show the story but also not baffle first-time visitors.
14. To ‘watch’ the play, the online audience took a ‘research’ approach. While the site was pretty, the audience indicated that the play worked best in conjunction with their native G+ and Twitter i.e. as if they were browsing a news event, rather than watching a channel. Allow and encourage multiple ways to experience the action online (and maybe offline).
15. Don’t confuse the hell out of your audience. However much we hide behind the “first time” or “experient” argument, clearly the structure was baffling to some we could have done better at guiding our audience. Create catch-up trailers and hold the hand more.
16. Ask clearly and make it easy. When we specifically asked people to do something it worked well. Yet we had a community of 1k people who actively signed up yet we didn’t successfully ‘ask’ them to do as much as they clearly wanted to. Choose clear activities, create roles and jobs and assign those roles to users.
17. We obey 4th wall dynamics even when told not to. It was optimistic to imagine that our audience would disobey the natural instinct to ‘watch’ a play rather than interact. Those that did found it rewarding but those that didn’t found the fragmented, fractured and intentional disorganization off-putting. We could have helped them more. Don’t fight the desire to consume passively – give easy ways to ‘just watch’.
18. Know your level. Working with the RSC actors was incredible and perhaps highlighted the distance between 10 years of social digital and 500 years of theatrical practice.
19. Be in the room. We made it so hard by having the digital, creative and theatrical teams on different sides of the planet. That was dumb.
20. If you don’t tell people, they won’t come. Online advertising works. I know you think I would say that, but it is true.
21. Involve everyone. Alix Christie brilliantly suggested (the day before) that a journalist would have wanted a hangout round-table on issues around subjugation and misogyny in Athenian/Fairy marriage. Talk to everyone about your idea, all the time. No one will steal it.
At the end of the project we must re-examine the hypothesis and interrogate our ambitions.
Have we explored? Certainly.
Have we reached new audiences? Yes.
Was it successful? No idea.
We believe it was a blueprint for something with enormous potential. As a kindly friend put it, something that shouldn’t have worked, did sort of work – and for that reason we are very happy with the outcome.
There is more we could have done with the content and activating passive audiences. This is the power of retrospect. Also I disliked the way we used phones and cameras. They broke something – so we need to integrate the hardware, more intelligently. They need more context to be less clumsy. The actors were unperturbed, nor was everyone in the audience bothered – so possibly just me.
Throughout the project I was astonished by the Royal Shakespeare Company, it’s bravery and energy, it’s ability to conjure fairy worlds, and its belief in trying. Both from the board but also the people there, everyone was so many passionate, courageous, involved – so I would like to offer a one-person standing ovation to the entire Company. Bravo.
This was a disruptive experiment and a hugely successful one if judged simply on what we learnt and where we now move forward from.
My hope is that the next time someone wants to have a non-linear play that leaks across multiple realities in real-time performed physically and digitally simultaneously to a global audience they will not have to explain it from the ground up to blank looks and puzzled faces. They can point at the RSC’s seminal 2013 production and say “like that, but much better”.
17th October 13
Author: Ben Shaw, Social Strategy Lead
Does the idea of using data to tell stories and to inspire the very best creative ideas make you weak at the knees? If so, listen up – BBH is looking for a digital analyst to help bolster the existing team of hand-picked social specialists.
What do digital analysts look like at BBH?
They need to know digital & social metrics inside out, as well as having knowledge of the tools that allow us to get to these metrics (Facebook Insights, Crimson Hexagon, Hitwise, ComScore, True Social Metrics etc.).
They are relentlessly curious and motivated; a person who understands how social fits into the bigger picture and can interpret this sometimes complex relationship, into simple and tangible terms for our clients.
We need someone who can make our clients feel loved, by understanding their business objectives and translating these into social KPIs.
Above all, they are someone who acknowledges the ever-increasing number of data points, but can demonstrate the separation between simply reporting on and actually analysing the data – someone who avoids (the beautifully coined) ‘data puke’ in favour for concise analysis and pithy insights.
We’re looking for someone who eats and sleeps social data – who is comfortable guiding both the clients and account teams on metrics that matter to them. Someone who is used to pulling together measurement frameworks tailored to each client. They will have been intrinsic in not only how campaigns should be measured, but in using data to optimise a live campaign to demonstrate the merits of reactivity.
In addition to all of the above, they will have an understanding of the crowded social technology landscape and have infectious enthusiasm for new tools & methodologies that will help us produce great work for our clients. They will have mourned the loss of Google Reader as a means to streamline the many blogs they read on social analytics – and importantly, have a point of view on the million dollar question of ROI. We want someone who can use this knowledge to evolve existing products and create new ones. Most importantly, they will impart this knowledge in an inspiring and approachable way to the rest of the agency – to help spread our objective of creating more socially connected ideas.
BBH is fortunate enough to have some of the biggest brands in our portfolio because we’re a restless company, constantly striving to do the best, most creative and innovative work possible. Creating socially connected ideas is at the top of agenda for growth so we need someone who has an entrepreneurial attitude to their work – enough to continue to grow the BBH social analytics offering.
Ultimately like all BBHers, we want someone who is ‘good & nice’- someone who wants to make great work and work in a great environment.
If you think you are one, or know of one, then send in a CV to: firstname.lastname@example.org
14th October 13
Author: Miguel Andres-Clavera, Creative Technology and Innovation Director, BBH Asia Pacific
For some time now, artists, programmers and marketers have been seeking innovative ways to collaborate, to blur the line between art and technology, thereby creating complex systems that merge the real world with the digital world. As these new experiences transcend digital mediums and permeate our physical experience, we begin to witness the emergence of public performance as a spectacle.
We had a great opportunity to explore some of these ideas when we were tasked to launch Nike’s new Hypervenom football boot collection in Southeast Asia. Our imagination ran wild at the thought of of creating an experience that combined real football with virtual challenges and got us really excited. In a way we wanted to allow fans to experience a whole new way of playing football, to make fans feel as if they were personally immersed in an epic video game.
The challenge was to create an authentic experience that preserved the physical skills and attributes required when playing football in real life, then take the player through an intense emotional journey culminating in a ‘deadly’ twist, giving him or her a sense of empowerment from the game.
The ‘house of deadly’ was born, a mixed-reality gameplay experience in a controlled environment where players were monitored and challenged to perform actual football skills but in a virtual context using an adaptive interface. Read full post
1st October 13
Posted in Creativityforgood
Author: Nicolas Jayr (@nicolasjayr), Team Manager, BBH London
BBH & Wieden+Kennedy are joining forces to organise a fundraising party in the name of #GOOD to support the T.I.E. initiatives which I will lead in Brazil with Grupo Ruas e Pracas and Hanne Haugen (Account Director @WK) will lead in Uganda with The Kasiisi Project.Both of us thought it would be a great idea to unite our efforts and put up a night of music and entertainment to raise awareness of our projects and celebrate with everyone who will have contributed to the fundraising efforts.Venue and date as follows:
Friday 11 October, 6PM to 12PM, Corbet Place, E1 6QR, Shoreditch.
There will be music, dancing, DJs from both BBH and WK sides and a fantastic live act in the name of the Danish artist, MØ (check her out here).
Most importantly, your presence will help support the work that Hanne and I will be doing for organisations that affect real social change.
Tickets are £10 per head. 100% of that will go to Grupo Ruas e Pracas and The Kasiisi Project, my and Hanne’s respect and Hanne’s respective projects.
To buy your ticket, simply check out www.cityofgood.me and click on the green ‘Donate’ button on the top left of the screen. Last minute tickets will also be available on the door on a first come first served basis!
23rd September 13
Author: Mareka Carter, Writer & Art Director, BBH LondonWe know anyone reading this blog is interested in hearing about new digital experiences, and so we’re proud to announce a little probono project that a small team have been working on at BBH.Artist Rosalind Davis approached us to see if we could help give some exposure to an exhibition she was mounting of work made in response to the London Riots.With our connections in Tottenham built from the Keep Aaron Cutting project, we suggested a venue and then a concept – to turn fine art into a truly digital and immersive interactive experience.Inspired by Rosalind’s theme of using creativity as a means to repair after destruction, we have built her a website for her show, To The Light - which makes two of her artworks in the online gallery, Splinters and The Distance Between, into soundscapes of archive from the time of the riots, combined with commentary and opinions from Rosalind herself and others. Snippets of sound are released as you mouseover the brushstrokes and structure of the image.The site encourages people to add their own thoughts to Rosalind’s work by recording voice memos and emailing them through to further populate the soundscape, which we hope will grow and grow.The show’s private view is next Wednesday 25th September between 6-8:30pm at the Bruce Castle Museum in Tottenham.We’ve definitely enjoyed demonstrating Rosalind’s belief in creativity’s power to effect change and open up discussion, so please participate if you’re moved to, and do spread the word.Thankyou.The creative band involved:Mareka Carter & Adam Powers on concept, Alex Matthews & Luke Kidney on tech and build, Heather Alderson & Xoch Ireland on connections and organisation, Izzy Barnes on PR advice, and Ian Lambden at the Mini Mill on sound engineering.