1st November 10
Around here we like nothing more than creativity put to great use. Last Friday night, in a cinema in central London, St John Ambulance (a BBH London client) staged an event they hope the audience – and anyone watching the film of what took place – won’t forget for a while. The film you see here was edited at speed over the weekend. Below, we catch up with one of the CDs on the project and share our starters for ten on what perhaps we can take from it.
First up, inbetween edits, Adrian Rossi told us a bit about how the idea came about.
“People eat popcorn in cinema. One of the main reasons people, especially children, choke is from eating popcorn. So we thought how do we make people in a cinema audience (and beyond) question the importance of First Aid. To shake them out of that lethargy that “It won’t happen to me.” Or “Someone will know what to do.”
There were several parts to this. The first was writing and filming a commercial for popcorn that felt believeable as a real popcorn ad. Something that no one would even question. This meant trawling through bland commercial after bland commercial to get the feeling for the language, music and pacing. Even finding a unique popcorn name which felt real and which hadn’t been used before. This kept people in their ad comfort zone. These ads almost kind of wash over you in the cinema. Which is what happened when it played in the cinema, people carried on chatting, looking at their phones and of course eating popcorn.
After creating this idyllic ‘ad family’, we shatter it by having the little girl choke and the Mum – understandably – completely lose it. The actress who played the ‘Mum’ was amazing. She cried on cue so many times during the shoot itself, amazing to do it once – but to keep to carry on doing it – extraordinary. It was one of the most emotional shoots I or any of the crew had been involved with. Everyone was absolutely drained afterwards.
Like all good stories there had to be a third act. Here, we had an individual in the audience volunteer to help, then run down the cinema aisle and disappear behind the curtains at the side of the screen, before you see her appear in the film itself. Getting the timing and her eyeline (so it felt the two actresses were actually looking at each other and talking to each other) right as she made her way through several hundred people and onto the stage, then behind the curtain to reappear a beat later in the film… that was the nerve wrecking part. This hadn’t been done before. It worked perfectly, the actress, Joanna, nailed it. Even reducing one corner of the cinema audience to gasp and point.
For Joanna she was only half way through her performance – she had to reappear on the other side of the curtains just as her onscreen character leaves, after saving the little girl. This was the real feelgood moment – as she appeared, the entire audience broke into spontaneous applause. This wasn’t scripted, but it made for a genuinely uplifting end to the experience and worth all the effort everyone had put into it.
I believe in this idea and St John Ambulance so much that even though I left BBH 3 months ago I’ve taken holiday from my new agency, Glue, to do all the rehearsals and shoot the cinema event itself. And that goes for almost everyone involved in this project from the beginning – too many people to mention have believed in this and have given up their time and more to make this the best it could possibly be.
There was always that element of risk and nerves attached to doing a live performance as you can’t control entirely what might happen. In the end everyone went with it. Seeing a couple of people reduced to tears and the entire audience spontaneously clapping at the end makes you realise the power a message like this can carry. Strangely, people didn’t seem to be eating so much popcorn afterwards. . .’
What can we do now?
Not to put too finer a point on it, we can all be the difference. Here we’re celebrating the thinking behind this idea by sharing the film, as well as the accompanying campaign collateral (below). We hope you will too, either by sharing the link to the film which is up on the St John Ambulance site and/or YouTube.
We believe there are a few things to take away from all of this – some are age-old advertising truths, some a little more new-fangled. Please let us know what you think:
1. A clearly defined problem: St John Ambulance know there are 150,000 deaths every year in the UK that could be prevented if someone in the vicinity knew first aid.
2. A relentless focus: St John Ambulance could be about a lot of things, but they are focused on First Aid. They believe no-one should be out of reach of someone who can help in an emergency. Someone who can *be the difference*.
3. Imagination + commitment beat money: this idea is more proof, if proof were needed, that big impact doesn’t rely necessarily upon big budgets.
4. Coherency beats consistency: each component part of the campaign (print campaign, the cinema event, an iPhone app and a pocket-sized guide) adds layers of knowledge and usability. Different, connected platforms, not identikit, matching luggage.
5. Awareness is not enough. The St John Ambulance team want this film to be watched and shared, but most of all they want it to acted upon. The advertising doesn’t simply tell a dramatic story, it a) gives us basic and top line knowledge about what to do in an emergency and b) gives us somewhere to go – text SAVE to 82727 in the UK for a free pocket-sized guide to Essential First Aid, which covers five common conditions where straightforward first aid could be the difference between a life lost and a life saved:
And if the booklet’s not your thing, you can try the branded iPhone app (note: the app costs £2.39):
St John’s Ambulance: Scott Jacobson – Director of Marketing Communications & Fundraising
BBH Creative Directors: Alex Grieve and Adrian Rossi
BBH Producer: Olivia Chalk
BBH Asst Producer: Chris Watling
BBH Team Directors: Louise Addley, Nick Stringer
Director: Jeff Labbe
Producer: Gregory Cundiff, Gabi Kay
Production Company: Sonny London
Director of Photography: Daniel Bronks
Sound: Wave Studios, BBH Voodoo
Post Production: The Mill
Editor/Editing: Sam Gunn, The Whitehouse
Media Partners: DCM – Louise Trinder, Jill Cooper
Digital Cinema Media and the Cineworld Haymarket - Ash Chaudry
Special thanks also to the team behind the scenes: Emma Shepherd (PR Manager at St John Ambulance), Kevin Brown, Helen Kenny, Zak Razvi, Lucy Powell, Justin Abuzid, Christina Collins, Tracy Blyth, Andrew Southam, Romy Miller, JoJo Jenkins, Gemma Smith, Hannah Gibson and Paisley Wright.
15th October 10
Earlier this week @saneel and I were at Power to the Pixel’s Cross-Media Forum, contributing as part of a jury looking at 9 different projects competing for an ARTE Pixel Pitch Award (see who took part here). Whilst the talent and ideas were impressive, this post is to share something the founder of Arts Alliance, Thomas Hoegh, showed at the very start of the day. Thomas had just one slide, but it was killer. So simple and useful, we photographed it (badly) and then re-drew it for posterity:
We like the way it breaks down Jacob Nielsen’s 1:9:90 rule of participation inequality into something a little more chewy. The best bit about it? According to Thomas, this slide is 15 years old.
6th October 10
Author: Charles Wigley, Chairman, BBH Asia Pacific
Following our series of Labs posts tackling the issue of “Wind Tunnel” marketing, the natural next step was to put the thinking out into the wild and see what we could learn… I recently ran a workshop at the SPIKES creative festival in Singapore, where solutions were brainstormed by the 100 + attendees.
I began with a run-through of the issue as we see it:
And the workshop attendees responded. Below are just some of the ideas that came out, we’d love to hear any you have to add.
Some of the most popular practical solutions to the key areas discussed (measured by that highly accurate methodology of level of cheers and clapping at the end of the session) were as follows :
The Overall Strategic Process
- Twin team it on major projects – one that the client sees that follows the set process, the other that just has a blank canvas and no set rules
- Follow your gut irrespective of set process – and get more skilled at post rationalisation
- Scrap it ! – well, it was a predominantly creative audience
- Aim off – always ensure you also talk to people intentionally outside of the core target that everyone else is talking to. There maybe unearthed gems there
- Ask ‘why’ more often than ‘what’ – reportage is useless, the reasons behind the actions are what people a looking for
- Creatives more involved in client management – clearly there’s a lot of folk who want to come out of the back room
- Stop hiring ourselves again and again – how can we build difference into our hiring policies?
- Forced job swaps – agency people should work as clients for a while and vice – versa
- Earlier and deeper – agencies arrive too late too often. What can they do to swim upstream in the client briefing process?
- Creative speed dating – too much time working opposite the same person. Time for some new inspiration from different people in the building. Quickly. And ones with different skill sets – eg tech.
- Stop looking at advertising – too much cannibalism. If our only influence is advertising…..then our output will be more…er…….advertising.
- Move the office to the beach – well, that’s the audience again for you (when they get there they’ll probably discover management has been there for a while).
Again, these are just a starter for ten. We’d love to know your thoughts.
Also check out Jim Carroll’s Manifesto here.
24th September 10
Posted in media
The second and final part of a pair of posts (read the first here). Today’s includes an interview with Darren Garrett at Littleloud.
Author: James Mitchell (@jamescmitchell), Strategist, BBH London
There is such a thing as an Art Gallery. If you’re reading this blog, it’s likely you’ve been to one before. An art gallery’s purpose is to house paintings and art so that they can be viewed… and yet today, it’s entirely possible for me that selfsame content – say, Guernica – for free, in a heartbeat. Indeed, thanks to the power of the internets, I could do what was previously impossible and view an annotated version which explains what on earth is going on in that painting. And yet millions of people choose to take the time to visit the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid. Or the National Portrait Gallery. Or the MoMA. And if you asked many of them what specifically they had come to visit, they wouldn’t be able to tell you. They’re not there specifically to clap eyes on one item. They are, in the old terminology, browsing.
So how have Art Galleries – or Museums, or certain kinds of shops, managed to retain a sense of identity independent from their content? I believe the answer lies in a sense of purpose. Purpose is when you take a long, hard look at what you deliver, identify the root cause behind all that delivery, what you were trying to do in the first place, and actually make something out of that cause, and try to satisfy that, rather than just letting the momentum of “same method, same content” pull you along until you become like everyone else.
So if we were to apply this thought process to a channel, what would we find? Channels talk to people en masse. They impart information. They excite the emotions to get their point across. They tell stories with the aim of making us feel something, and through the aggregation of their content they build up a certain vision of the world we live in. All the same essential qualities of Public Service. Public Service activities try and impart thoughts and feelings with people, that ideally lead to action. And they do so to people en masse, in a way that tries to galvanise people together. And And if it happens to entertain, all the better for perceptions of the TV channel. This was the thinking behind Channel 4’s new interactive adventure game blockbuster, The Curfew.
23rd September 10
Posted in media
This is Part I of a two-parter. In tomorrow’s post, James takes a look at what’s already being done to address the provocation he makes here – with an interview with one of the men who’s behind the TV turnaround.
Author: James Mitchell, Planner, BBH London (@jamescmitchell)
Imagine a bath with four very discrete taps: each tap is your access to a very particular supply of water; they cannot be mixed, and you may only turn one tap at a time. This was TV in the twentieth century. In this situation, the pipe and what it carries are basically interchangeable, and your view of a TV channel could be largely made up of the programmes it transmitted. And so, people watched channels – but this idea is crumbling. The perfect storm of several forces is occurring: the multiplication of channels (and the resultant drop in general programming standards), on-demand media via the net, time-shifting and recorded viewing.. they all mean when I go home tonight I’ll be watching nothing but Channel James. If you’re interested, tonight Channel James is probably showing a marathon of streamed Peep Show, a Radio 4 documentary on Russian spying, and my housemate’s bootleg of The Human Centipede. And if any of these things bore me at any point, I can sack the station’s controller and rewrite the schedule. I’m not watching channels, I’m watching programmes.
16th September 10
Author: Jim Carroll, Chairman, BBH London
This is the second of a two-parter by Jim. For the introduction to Wind Tunnel Marketing, check out his earlier post here or read both pieces in today’s Campaign magazine (available on campaignlive.co.uk next week). As always, we’d like to know what you think – please share any thoughts in the comments.
1. Seek Difference In Everything We Do
“Is it different?” has been relegated to the last question, the afterthought, the bonus ball. But the last should be first.
We should tirelessly seek difference in the people we talk to, the questions we ask, the processes we follow. “Is it different?” should be the first question we ask when we look at work – both in terms of content and form.
2. Kick Out the Norms
We’ve become addicted to backward looking averages. But norms create a magnetic pull towards the conventional. Norms produce normal. The new frontier doesn’t have norms, but it does have endless supplies of data, and a rich diversity of tools with which to mine it.
We should create a data-inspired future, not a norm-constrained past.
3. Only Talk to Consumers who are Predisposed to Change
Where there is change, there are people that lead and people that follow. In research we mostly talk to followers, because there are more of them and they’re cheaper. But ultimately they are less valuable.
If we’re seeking to change markets, shouldn’t we talk exclusively to change makers?
4. Embrace Insights From Anywhere
We’ve lived for too long under the tyranny of consumer insight. Of course consumer insight can be engaging, but it can also be familiar.
Surely insights can come from anywhere and we’re just as likely to find different insights from an analysis of the brand, the category, the competition, the channel, and, above all, the task. Read full post
16th September 10
Posted in Uncategorized
Author: Jim Carroll, Chairman, BBH London
Jim wrote a post here a few months back which we’re happy to say Campaign magazine (campaignlive.co.uk) asked him to expand on further for today’s issue. We’re sharing the article in full here now, so anyone outside the UK can see it simultaneously. This is one of two posts – we particularly like his solution to the issue: Raging Against the Machine: A Manifesto for Challenging Wind Tunnel Marketing, which you can read here.
Have you noticed that all the ads are looking the same?
Perfectly pleasant, mildly amusing, gently aspirational.
The insightful reflection of real life, the pivotal role of the product, the celebration of branded benefit.
Advertising seems so very reasonable now. Categories that were once adorned with sublime creativity are now characterised by joyless mundanity.
Some of you will recall the day in 1983 when we woke up and noticed that the cars all looked the same. There was a simple explanation. They’d all been through the same wind tunnel. We nodded assent at the evident improvement in fuel efficiency, but we could not escape a weary sigh of disappointment. Modern life is rubbish…
Are we not subjecting our communications to something equivalent: Wind Tunnel Marketing? Read full post
7th September 10
Author: Griffin Farley, Strategy Director, BBH New York
I have returned from the promise land, a place of myth and fable among ad agencies. We have many names for this place but I tend to call it… upstream.
It’s a question we as an industry often ask ourselves: “How can we get more upstream in our client’s business?” and this isn’t an uncommon theme here on the Labs blog (if you’re interested in reading some related material, check out Ben’s post So What Exactly Might Adaptive Brand Marketing Be? and Mel’s Marketing Mashup).
We’re just wrapping up a consulting project with a client where we had the opportunity to work more upstream than agencies typically work. We were asked to help a client develop an investor presentation that would allow them to raise funds to hire an ad agency. Before I get into that story I wanted to take a step back and share how agencies move upstream and what steps need to come first.
1. Moving from Execution to Strategy:
Having a dedicated strategic planning department is the first step. This isn’t as easy as it sounds for all agencies. Many agencies in smaller ad markets want to hire planners but struggle to find them. As an industry we have done a poor job training and cultivating young planners over the last 10 years, which I believe is the reason we have a shortage of Senior Planners in the States today.
The question inevitably comes up… Can we cross-train somebody to be our planner? I have worked with many strategic account managers and the biggest difference between an account manager and an account planner is the time planners get to think about strategy. It’s hard to be conceptual and strategic when your time is filled with other aspects of agency business like hounding the client to sign production estimates.
Being strategic by itself isn’t enough to hold your own as a planner. Schools like VCU and Miami Ad School help with this transition. They provide the fundamentals of research, moderation and creative inspiration. Some of the best cross-trained planners that I have met include Pam Scott who worked at Goodby years ago, and Laura Scobie who currently works at Fallon.
2. Moving from Strategy to R&D:
In the agency world we are told that meeting with the ad agency should be your clients best meeting of the week. However many brand managers might say meeting with the R&D folk makes the best meeting of the week. Some industries are more prone to employing brand managers that get excited about R&D than others. In my experience these categories include Toys, Consumer Package Goods, Casual Dining Restaurants and Technology to name a few.
Sometimes strategic and creative time is best spent thinking of new product or service innovations for clients. Ad agencies have developed amazing innovations for clients, and I think the best example of this is the Happy Meal for McDonalds. Just this week I heard CP+B is testing a new product for Kraft Mac and Cheese for the Grill.
3. Moving from R&D to Venture Capital:
Like I mentioned at the beginning, BBH Zag is helping a technology start-up develop an investor presentation. The goal of presentation is to raise a large sum of money that will allow them to hire an agency, be first to mass market and own this developing category.
Rarely do agencies get a chance to work this far upstream with a brand because the resource and time risk is too great. However, if agencies want to live in a world where ideas rule, there is no other place like venture capital. Understanding how to pitch an idea in 30 minutes or less, understanding what investors have to see and correctly size the marketplace for new market categories are unusual assignments for most agencies.
MIT has a program that teaches students how to pitch venture capitalists and if you do some searching on YouTube you’ll find videos that get students excited about the program like this one:
These are just a few thoughts. We don’t have all the solutions and would like to hear what you think: Do agencies belong upstream? Have we earned the right to be more than a vendor… to be a true client partner? Are we professional enough to make commercial recommendations? Do we demonstrate daily a habitual, deep-rooted interest in their business? Are there other ways for agencies to find themselves upstream?
27th August 10
Posted in Uncategorized
- “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
~Sir Winston Churchill, November 1942
- So you will have heard Ben is leaving the BBH fold after six or so years, to take up the role of Director of Strategy, Google Creative Lab. Anyone who knows Ben knows this is exactly the kind of role he was built for: at the cutting edge, challenging-as-hell, massive in scope. It’s a huge job at one of the world’s most exciting companies – to say we’re extremely excited for him is a massive understatement. In fact, perhaps you’d expect us to say this – BBH do work with Google on a range of projects, after all – but the truth is Ben has developed an extraordinary relationship between Google and BBH, going back five years to our original assignment with Google (in which the very first slide of the presentation read: ‘We Don’t Want To Be Your Ad Agency’). We’re happy he’ll still be part of that team, albeit client-side from now on.
- I’m sure there’ll be plenty of opportunities for all of us who know Ben to wax lyrical about his cyborgian ability to work harder and longer than most sentient beings on the planet; his obsessive playing of Kraftwerk and Prince (for decades on end); his incisive mind and brutally funny wit; his energy, talent and relentless dedication to creativity in all its forms; his ability to multi-task (I don’t know anyone else who can simultaneously email me a keynote deck for comments, send a link to yet another YouTube mashup, tweet his boundless joy at finally becoming the Mayor of Columbine, eat a sandwich – 1/2 chipotle roasted chicken, 1/2 flank steak w/ red onions – from the same establishment… all whilst talking to me on Skype) for Britain and NYC combined. However, this is my opportunity to say a few words briefly, so please bear with me for another sentence or two.
- Ben is quite simply the best partner I’ve ever had the privilege to work with. We began BBH Labs back in 2008 with a half-baked business plan, a blind faith in one another and the desire to disrupt. For my part, I figured if you’re going to take a risk like set up a unit like Labs, then better do it with someone you like and respect. I knew I had a partner who’d be fearless, inquisitive and challenging; who’d push me and support me in the same breath.
- Maybe the definition of a great partner is someone who helps you to be the best you can be. I could add, who does so without driving you insane. Truth is, we’ve had our moments. But in the main we’ve got through it and, I think, come out stronger.
- Looking to the immediate future, Ben has a month or so before his time at BBH and Labs ends and his new role begins. I hope he’s going to relax, take a deep breath and enjoy himself. I’m sure we’ll know about it if he does. For anyone curious to know, I will continue to run Labs in London – and we’re fortunate insofar as BBH is packed with people around the world willing and able to get involved. More on this another day.
- For now, we simply want to wish Ben the very best of luck at Google. They’re lucky to have him.
- “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”