16th December 10
The good people from the Cristal Festival (held in Crans, Switzerland.. not a bad place to be at this time of year) got in touch a few months ago, asking me to join a panel today with two very smart ladies, Fernanda Romano (Euro RSCG’s Global CD for Digital & Experiential Advertising) and Patou Nuytemans (Chief Digital Officer, Ogilvy EMEA).
We were each asked to come with an answer to the question that’s the title of this post. My response – a super short presentation and what was said to accompany it – below.
When I first heard the question, the answer felt pretty obvious. An immediate YES. Let’s kill it stone dead, with fire, right here, right now. Both Fernanda and Patou argued with absolute certainty that this should be the case, letting a series of integrated award entries from a single telco in Bahrain (yes, that was the point…) do the talking.
Personally, my response was driven by the fact the word feels both outmoded AND it suggests unnecessary complexity; a separation between “digital” and “analogue” that’s vaporising before our eyes. Even before analogue TV channels are switched off forever (in the UK in 2012), we all know audiences flow freely between on and offline and expect to see coherency from brands, wherever they find them. This blurring is only going to get more extreme, until we don’t even notice the difference. In fact, I’m fairly convinced we’re the last generation to even care.
Continuing in this vein, I borrowed the oft-quoted Charlene Li’s statement at SXSW in 2009 that “[digital] social networks will be like air”. Businesses need to prepare themselves for a future where open, hyper-connected networks are the norm. Talking about “digital” vs everything else out there is arguably unhelpful, reminiscent of a past when digital was an after thought and treated as a channel (“okay, we’ve got our big idea, now let’s do some of that digital stuff!”). Now that digital underpins much of what we do, it becomes next to meaningless as a descriptor.
Or does it? Before we draw the knife to kill the word, let’s just hold on a minute. If we stop using the word digital, what would replace it? How would we describe the creative canvas and media environment in which we operate? Note: ‘post-digital’ is not an option.
Taking a step back, there’s nearly always an answer somewhere in history – as Russell Davies’ reference to post-war England in his Post Digital apology perfectly encapsulates – or better still, given I was asked to talk about killing something, let’s learn from Mother Nature.
There’s a natural rhyme and reason to the flow of things in nature. Put incredibly simply, all living things experience at least two of the following during their lifetime: birth, sex, death.
Where are we *really* in the cycle of digital’s life? Actually, I’d argue we’re somewhere just after birth.
We’re certainly no-where near approaching maturity. Like virgins discussing sex, we’ve boasted about nearly doing it, thought we may have done it (not entirely sure) and excitedly talk about what it’ll be like when we’ve done it, you know, A LOT. There are people who are legitimately experienced, but most of us aren’t. Not in the “10,000 hours logged coding” sense of the word.
Sure, we don’t all need to know how to code brilliantly in order to qualify. Although I’d like to suggest we might want to learn a little. Ad agency creatives ten years ago didn’t need to be directors, editors or lighting cameramen to write great TV scripts. However, they’d lived with telly and newspapers their whole lives and learned the craft of writing, design and art direction before they ever dared set foot inside an agency. Likewise the UK’s IPA has stacks of papers which prove the effectiveness of advertising, yet would be the first to admit the real ROI of digital activity is still in its infancy.
Until the industry at large has a universal understanding of what it takes in terms of craft and intelligence to deliver *outstanding* digital work, suggesting we should ‘kill digital’ feels grossly premature.
In writing this, I’m reminded of Iain Tait’s last column for NMA just last month, in which he protested with good reason:
“Digital may be everyday, but it’s not effortless… It’s time to stop all the nonsense about trying to call this stuff this or that. Only thing that matters is whether it’s good or not. The only thing more stupid than all the word-monkeying is denying that technology, code and making things out of bits and bytes is important.”
I’ve got a lot of sympathy with this for a bunch of reasons (as I’ve said before here, a favourite post of mine is The Tragic Death of Practically Everything), but in the main I’d like us to show digital some respect. Yes, it informs everything like air, but that doesn’t make it easy to breathe.
In short, I’d like our industry to be allowed to reach its potential in terms of digital skill. Not recognising the particular craft skills and necessary time on the clock runs the risk of arresting our collective development. Let’s not let that happen.
19th November 10
Author: Matthew Gladstone (@gladstonematt), Partner, BBH London
So it’s official, “Applications are the white goods of the 21st century” and sales of virtual goods have crossed the $2bn threshold in the US and iTunes has over a billion downloads.
But, as we all know, not everyone is enjoying the party – Thom Yorke has told young bands not to tie themselves to the sinking ship of music companies, Murdoch is trying out pay walls for his newspapers, and a US court has caused outcry by ruling that people who have bought discs of software don’t actually “own” them – they cannot sell them second hand on eBay.
I think the difference is a lot to do with packaging and branding. Or, to be precise, virtual packaging and branding. People who are getting it right are getting paid more than those who aren’t.
What packaging and branding do is to create a sense of property and ownership. And property and ownership are norms that tell us to value and pay for things. Which are big problems in the virtual economy.
So my provocation is this: “Virtual packaging” is one way to create that sense of ownership and property. Just as the pioneers of branding created commercial value when they put trade-marks onto commodities in the tangible world – branded them as “theirs” – we have to reinvent packaging and branding for the virtual world.
The most obvious examples of this are Apps (packaged, single-purpose, branded on the button, tangible with a finger, made unique to you through use) and, at the other extreme, music (downloaded via anonymous browser, no presence other than a line of text in a database, totally generic). And who is persuading people to pay more successfully?
I think that one day we will look back at the App v.2010 and laugh at its crudity. One day we will have virtual packaging as iconic as this:
But let’s go back to the beginning.
My first wake up call was overhearing the oft-debated morality of downloading music. Free file sharing? Fine. Normal. That’s how you get music. Why the question? But walking out of a store with a cd without paying for it? Shoplifting. Stealing. Wrong. Equally obvious.
So what’s the difference between download and CD? To the artist, none. But to the user, one was packaged – physical, shiny, found in a shop – the other, just a piece of anonymous data accessed through a browser.
Look at Murdoch vs. the App. No detailed data are available yet, but anecdotal reports say that iPad apps are performing disproportionately well vs. subscriptions accessed via browser. And Ben Hughes, global commercial director and deputy CEO of the Financial Times, says the iPad is a “game-changer” for the newspaper industry. It’s the app vs the generic packaging of the browser.
Which leaves our last example – the action against someone selling software discs on eBay. The Software and Information Industry Association (USA) is breaking our norms of ownership and property when it says “I own that physical thing you bought”. We all feel that physical things belong to the person who buys them.
So the App is really just a virtual box. iTunes or Amazon just a virtual shop (no shit). Things that have cleverly used the norms of ownership and property in the virtual space, to make us more likely to pay for them. Right now the virtual retailers seem to be way more sophisticated than the products they sell – but hopefully that will change.
So here are some starters on creating virtual packaging (some of these may seem uncannily obvious or familiar to the real world, but maybe that’s the point):
- visual identity which differentiates the object
- tangible, touchable
- a differentiated experience (sounds, colours, even haptic “textures”)
- adaptive to the owner – evolving into something distinctively personal to the owner
- hard to copy and transfer; the sense of a physical transfer, not a lossless virtual one
Perhaps it’s time music came in Apps. As we said earlier: branded on the button, tangible, with a memory of what I did last time, with an experience unique to each app or band. Perhaps it would even be like a gatefold of old, but on steroids. Now that’s something I’d pay for.
We’d like to know what you think. Who’s doing this well? Do you know anyone who works in the world of packaging who’d want to comment?
3rd November 10
Posted in Events
We all know what a page is, and HTML, and a server – but did you ever want to code? Well, our afternoon of coding for beginners in London next week won’t make you into a ninja web developer, but it is a light-hearted, activity-led series of hour-long sessions for the most (and we mean ‘most’) inexperienced web wannabe.
Think of it as Blue Peter meets O’Reilly – by the end of the day you should have your own toilet-roll and sellotape webpage and a few new skills. You can come for any of the hour-long courses or for the whole afternoon. We’ll bring some experts (a couple of awesome Google engineers, along with BBH London’s Head of Technology, Jim Hunt and Head of Creative Technology, Jon Andrews). You’ll need to bring a laptop and some enthusiasm.
There’s limited availability, so please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
2nd November 10
We’ve written before about our straight-up admiration for Green Thing’s focus on using creativity to switch people away from thinking of green living as something we ought to do, to something we want to do.
This time around, they’ve applied their talents to t-shirts.
As the blurb says: “Saved is a new sustainable product and anti-waste campaign that takes unwanted or unloved T-shirts, washes them, hand-stitches ‘Saved’ lettering onto them, adds a Saved story (saved from bad taste, saved from disrepair, saved from neglect) and in doing so makes each T-shirt a bit more fashionable and a lot more desirable.”
Aside from the obligatory celebrity endorsement (stand up Marina and the Diamonds, Imogen Heap, VV Brown, Professor Green and Zandra Rhodes, who’ve all donated t-shirts) the thing we particularly like is the innovation and design Green Thing used at every stage of the Saved cycle. Including a “pay it forward”-style approach to delivery – already recycled, the packaging containing your t-shirt can be reused with a freepost label to send back one of your own old t-shirts to be Saved for somebody else.
But more importantly, buy one on their Facebook page here.
1st November 10
Posted in BBH Labs
“It is not the same to talk about bulls, as to be in the bull ring”
- Spanish proverb (HT @juzmcmuz)
We’ve mentioned before that we pick just 10 links we like the look of every week (provocative, challenging, useful and/or entertaining tend to be the order of the day) and send them to our friends at BBH around the world.
It’s heavily based on the @BBHLabs twitterstream across 7 days, but filleted, honed and whittled to a Top Ten for anyone who fancies a filter between them and the 24/7, 365 days a year drenching in data that is Twitter.
So here it is again. Feel free to pass on. As usual, ideas on making it more useful always welcome.
“140 chars is not a limit, it’s a shape” – exceptional interview with @discographies on Big Spaceship’s Think blog: http://bit.ly/bXzMkz
‘Ball Droppings’, a Chrome HTML5 experiment: http://bit.ly/9ua0s (via @timogeo @seth_weisfeld)
The history of mankind in a minute – a great stop-motion animation for BBC: http://bit.ly/aFhOUN (via @motionographer)
Super cool – Stamen Design’s 2 week long series of race data visualisations for W+K London’s Nike Grid is live: http://sta.mn/x3g
Not sure why this took so long. Augmented Reality app that lets users graffiti buildings. Interesting “steal” feature too: http://gizmo.do/bHdwRm
*Extraordinary* short ‘Nuit Blanche’ – if you’ve not seen this, think Brief Encounter + CGI – by Arev Manoukian: http://bit.ly/bEnTvw (via @finnbarrw)
NASA turns its attention to sustainability challenges right here on Earth, with its LAUNCH initiative: http://launch.org/ (via @jess3)
How Money Follows Attention, Eventually – Kevin Kelly on the commercial future of mediators who boost the signal: http://bit.ly/dfGfun
“The first step for each of us is to imagine fearlessly; to dream.” – big thinking from Ray Ozzie: http://bit.ly/a3RsM5 (via @Techcrunch)
And a bonus 11th, Power to the Pixel guest post on Labs: Powered by Pixels – on new storytelling: http://bit.ly/pttppost
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.