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Author archive

  • The Power And Perils Of Participation

    18th September 10

    Posted by Mel Exon

    Posted in interactive, social media

    This post was originally written for the Likeminds blog. More about them here, and check out their Creativity and Curation event down in Exeter, UK, 28/29th October.

    Ulysses & The Sirens by Herbert Draper

    Don’t get me wrong. We’ve argued long and hard here in favour of brands embracing new behaviours if they’re to drive real cultural and commercial impact. To invite participation; to get out there and allow their customers in. And in terms of audience appetite for this, we’ve even gone as far as to question whether Jakob Nielsen’s 90:9:1 rule – that states the vast majority of visitors to any website are only there to lurk – will hold water for much longer in this post last year.

    We’re going to continue arguing the case for new behaviour, not against. Nonetheless, there have been a couple of instances that have given us pause for thought recently. Read full post

  • Raging Against The Machine: A Manifesto For Challenging Wind Tunnel Marketing

    16th September 10

    Posted by Mel Exon

    Posted in Brands, Insight

    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

  • Wind Tunnel Marketing (in today’s Campaign)

    16th September 10

    Posted by Mel Exon

    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

  • How Do Agencies Move Upstream?

    7th September 10

    Posted by Mel Exon

    Posted in business models, strategy

    Author: Griffin Farley, Strategy Director, BBH New York

    Image Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

    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?

  • The End of The Beginning – Ben’s move to Google Creative Lab

    27th August 10

    Posted by Mel Exon

    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.

    Mel

  • What We’re Planning at SXSW, 2011, & Why We Hope We’re Worth Your Vote

    16th August 10

    Posted by Mel Exon

    Posted in Uncategorized

    On the road to Austin (photo credit: Bud Caddell, 2010)

    Anyone who knows us well will already know we’re big fans of SXSW. As conferences go, it’s a glorious, greasy, gratifyingly mad brain melt of great speakers and great company all located in the strangest city ever to find itself in Texas.

    Next year, we’d like to go back and do a little more than take copious notes during the day & earn our Super Swarm badges at the parties. So, here is a short outline giving you a quick rundown of the panels we’re hoping to be a part of. Many of them are around the same broad theme of agency re-engineering; we’re unapologetic about that, it’s what we’re especially interested in. Anyway, you know the gig, we won’t be doing ANY of these things without your votes and comments to help us on our way. So, this is also a huge advance thank you. We’re planning a party too, so hope to see you there over a beer and thank you in person (more on this nearer the time). In fact, you can come to that even if you don’t vote for us, but just pretend you did . . .

    Read full post

  • 56 Sage Street: the story behind the game

    13th August 10

    Posted by Mel Exon

    Posted in creativity, Gaming

    Author: Ali Merry, Creative, BBH London

    56 Sage Street – The Game – Game Play Video Trailer from 56 Sage Street – The Game on Vimeo.


    The first release of 56 Sage Street – BBH London & B-Reel’s game for Barclays – went live last month and, we´re happy to say, has just received NMA’s Campaign of the Month. Ali, one of the creatives behind the project agreed to tell us the story behind the game’s inception, how it got made and what the team learned along the way. Read full post

  • TEDGlobal: And now, the good news

    26th July 10

    This post is adapted from a piece written for Campaign magazine (22.07.10), also available online at campaignlive.co.uk later this week.

    Image by @LenKendall

    Founded in 1984 as a one-off event in California, TED (Technology Entertainment Design) has come a hell of a long way. The numbers tell their own story. Since the launch of TEDTalks online in 2006, over 700 talks have been viewed 300m times and the non-profit has, in keeping with its tagline “ideas worth spreading”, expanded into a family of conferences and content available on an ever-growing number of platforms. The latter now include the TED Open TV Project (allowing broadcasters to incorporate TEDTalks into their programming without license fees) launched in May this year and an iPad app out in a couple of weeks. As they put it, TED is becoming “an organising principle for ideas.”
    Read full post

  • Interview with Dan Light, Part III: The role for brands in transmedia

    16th July 10

    Posted by Mel Exon

    Posted in creativity, storytelling

    Author: Ben Shaw, Strategist, BBH London

    http://www.iamironman2.com/home/

    In the last of our blog posts with Dan Light we’ve saved the trickiest questions for last. What, if any, are the roles for brands in these transmedia extensions of the narrative? Can it ever get deeper than product placement and, if so, can brands ever make a legitimate contribution to the storytelling experience?

    In the past decade we’ve seen that the music industry had to get screwed before it would change, the newspaper industry is struggling and the film industry is being forced to reinvent itself. Can entertainment industries transform themselves? Where do you see the film industry going?

    I think the film industry is going to polarise. I think you’re going to have your Avatars – they will be big 3D events that will be 15-year projects and will command bigger and bigger sums of money.

    At the other end will be the classic independent films, built around a good story but also written from the ground up, with a view to all the ways in which that story can be told, developed and audiences be found.

    So brands need to find new ways to engage audiences and clearly sponsorship of this kind of content is a legitimate path, albeit it represents a fairly transactional relationship with the producer. Is this how you see the role of brands developing?

    Read full post

  • Interview with Dan Light, Part II: the intricacies of creating transmedia content

    15th July 10

    Posted by Mel Exon

    Posted in creativity, storytelling

    Author: Ben Shaw, Strategist, BBH London

    http://www.vimeo.com/11229983

    Last time we left off talking to Dan about the role of transmedia in extending the relationship between entertainment properties and audiences. As expected we soon moved onto Dan’s favourite topic, creating transmedia content for today’s multimedia world. This was just after Dan managed to pour an entire cup of fresh coffee all over himself.

    Read full post

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