31st January 12
After Part I last Friday, which foraged largely outside the parameters of brands and marketing, this post – the final and second part of our interview with John Willshire (@willsh), founder of Smithery – comes back closer to home to discuss the future of advertising, what’s stopping brands universally adopting better marketing practices and ‘Real Marketing’ … along the way taking in cargo cults, starting fires and Doctor Who.
BBH Labs: In the past you’ve used a bonfires and fireworks analogy to describe the difference between advertising and social, and more recently we’ve debated what we at BBH call “Super Bowl, Super Social” on your blog. We can’t help but think (great) advertising will have a role in people’s lives for a good while yet, for the simple reason that good marketing acts as a persuasive shorthand for choice and news in a world increasingly flooded with terabytes of irrelevant information. And we’ve had the likes of Eric Schmidt speaking recently about advertising becoming super-relevant and connected in future. What’s your view on the future of advertising? Is there one?
JW: I think your point about the persuasive shorthand matters, and redefining the story that advertising is going to tell. When I was thinking more about the media planning side of advertising, it was useful to simplify it to two things, activity & phasing; what we should do, when we should do it.
So Bonfires & Fireworks is the what – never really an either/or choice, as companies still need to do social bonfires and advertising fireworks together to make each work.
The when of doing both together, the phasing, is crucial.
What the social bonfire piece allows you to do is, as a company, do noteworthy things that are amazing for your customers, for your employees, with your products, whatever… let the real human stories and triumphs emerge.
Then, after that, you can then tell the story of that. And if you want to tell that story with scale and immediacy, there is no better way to tell that story than in advertising.
The crucial difference is that advertising is no longer the thing you do, it’s the story of the things you’ve done. Read full post
27th January 12
Every now and again, we like to interview someone doing something interesting. It’s a pleasure to say that this time we’re featuring a good friend of Labs, John V Willshire, (or @willsh, as he’s known to the Twitterverse). John broke free from agency life last year to set up his own business. In this, the first of a two-part interview, we asked John to tell us a bit about it – along the way sharing his thoughts on a bunch of things from The Smiths, social connectivity, the economic viability of social production today and, er, rocks vs water..
BBH Labs: Tell us a bit about why you founded Smithery.
JW: The idea powering Smithery is Make Things People Want beats Make People Want Things. The former doesn’t replace the latter, as companies still do both, but what’s interesting is the switch in emphasis.
Over time, the advertising industry became very, very good at making people want things. It didn’t matter if those things weren’t all that good, because nobody could tell each other with any meaningful scale at a meaningful volume. Advertising was louder than bombs, to inappropriately hijack The Smiths (hey, if it’s good enough for John Lewis…).
Obviously we don’t need to go into the details here of how the internet has changed how companies can connect with people, but the advertising instinct is to use social connectivity to make people want things. That’s why I think the majority of social activity we see is poor.
As time passes, companies and agencies will work harder and think better about how to use social connectivity to make things people want, whether that’s changing established goods and services, or creating new ones.
So I founded Smithery to help do that; whether it’s working together in better ways, making better things, or helping telling better stories about those things. Read full post
24th January 12
Posted in transformational change
This post originally appeared as an article in Viewpoint at the end of 2011. Briefed to one of BBH London’s smartest strategists, Ed Booty, as a deliberate polemic, it’s a provocative argument designed to question our assumptions about the constant pace of change. We like being challenged (we enjoyed Matt Edgar’s post last year along similar lines) – please let us know what you think in the comments.
Author: Ed Booty, Strategy Director, BBH London
It is commonly accepted that a digital revolution is afoot. We have entered a brave new networked world. Individuals are empowered, social movements cannot remain contained and knowledge is free to all. Data is making our world more intuitive, bespoke and rewarding. We are mobile, always on, always entertained and hyper-social.
Things appear to be going swimmingly and never has the future been so clearly mapped out for us. It’s sexy, creative, inclusive and exciting. It’s one big SXSW festival.
Nothing new so far, and it does all sound rather good.
Maybe it’s too good to be true?
Unfortunately it is.
Advance apologies to neophytes, digital evangelists and west coast entrepreneurs. It’s time for a reality check. The speed, scale and depth of the so-called digital revolution has been wildly exaggerated.
What has caused this mirage of revolution?
Behind the hype, what might a more realistic vision of a digital world be? Read full post
13th January 12
Author: Jim Carroll, Chairman, BBH London
I was watching the splendid Truffault film, Jules et Jim. There’s a scene in which Jules, courting the mercurial Catherine, endeavours to impress her.
‘Catherine, I understand you’, he says.
Catherine replies,’ But I don’t want to be understood.’
I paused for thought. Don’t we spend our lives trying to understand consumers? What if, like Catherine, they don’t want to be understood? Understanding implies explanation, logic, rationality. And, critically, it suggests control. Which is precisely, I suspect, why Catherine didn’t want to be understood.
As a young Planner I’m not sure I completely understood the behaviour, ethics and attitudes of British consumers. But I did feel a strong sense of empathy with them. I felt for them in a way. I wonder now whether I’ve lost some of that natural, instinctive judgement. I wonder whether, in a data fuelled world, we have a diminished regard for feelings in our engagement with consumers.
A friend of mine occasionally dismisses films she did not enjoy with the simple assertion that she ‘did not feel it’. As an Anglo Saxon I was originally somewhat nonplussed. Surely a fuller explanation would help? Similarly we were always taught to grill Clients on their responses to work, to demand that they account for their instinctive immediate reactions. Now I wonder whether I have been wrong on both counts: in the way I expect my friends to assess movies and my Clients to judge work.
Shouldn’t feelings always trump understanding? Shouldn’t feelings suffice?
Do you ever find it a little sinister when modern marketers promise to translate data into knowledge, and knowledge into sales? I do. I confess ‘hidden persuasion’ has never been my bag. I don’t aspire to that level of control.Of course we all want the web to be all-knowing, but should I want it to know all about me? Personally I don’t want the web to know me; I want it to feel me. And I find the prospect of an empathetic, all-feeling web increasingly attractive.
Who am I to talk? I’m generally uncomfortable with unfiltered emotional expression. I shudder at the prospect of corporate hugs. Nonetheless, I return to work with a modest resolution: in 2012 I want to base more of my judgements on empathy and feeling, rather than on logic and understanding. And I’d like the web to do the same please.
Chaka was, as ever, right all along. ‘I feel for you’…
15th December 11
At Labs we like nothing more that creativity put to good use (reference our love for ichainsaws, gloves, design-led activism and fightwear with a social mission). Chuck in some Mortal Terror and we’re yours.
With the recent launch of their online shop, www.monstersupplies.org, our friends at Hoxton Street Monster Supplies have extended what is essentially an imaginative, immaculately designed fund-raising platform. It’s all in aid of Ministry of Stories, a creative writing non-profit which is supported by all proceeds from the shop.
And, hey, the holidays are upon us, so satisfy the buying-spree beast within with a little monster-based goodness – just make sure you get your order in by this Friday 1pm (GMT), if you want to make last orders before Christmas.
Behind the shop at 159 Hoxton Street, through a hidden door, the Ministry of Stories exists to help young people in East London learn how to be storytellers. Which, as @jeremyet always likes to say, is where the magic happens.
The website was created “by a small group of unpaid humans in their spare time”: design by Gavin and Jason Fox, build by Simon Pearson, project management by Chris Meachin, user experience by Mike Towber; and art direction by We Made This.
28th November 11
Author: Mareka Carter, @marekacarter, Creative, BBH London
Many people living in villages in Sub-Saharan Africa have to walk c. 5 km every day just to collect clean water.
#WaterRun is about running (or walking, if that’s more your thing) the same distance, our aim to raise enough money to build 30 new wells in the region.
5 km takes about an hour’s walk a day; for many of us it’s the equivalent of walking or running into work, instead of taking public transport – see what we did there?
Log your runs and donate here: waterrunproject.com. If you’re a Water Runner, you could donate the money you’ve saved not using public transport, if you’re a Supporter you can donate, well, as much as you feel able.
It’s something for everyone, not just the creative and tech community: we’d love everyone’s Mum and Dad, Mom and Pop, Mama and Papa to get involved too.
Think of it as a win-win, ‘pre-tox’ cleanse before the debauchery of the holiday season kicks in - or, if you’re in the States, a quick post-Thanksgiving fitness drive – a chance to do some good towards others and yourself in the process.
Why are we doing this?
You will have seen news coverage of the widespread famine in East Africa and very possibly heard about the 50/50 project launched in response by our friends at Made by Many, hatched with Good for Nothing. If you haven’t: each project on the collaborative platform combines fund-raising with digital goodness, aiming to engage a network of supporters to help spread the word and generate as much money for as possible for UNICEF famine aid. Like our brothers and sisters at BBH NY, we knew we wanted in the moment we heard about it.
Those links again:
Log your runs and make a donation here: www.waterrunproject.com.
Find us on Facebook here.
And check out the raft of other amazing initiatives for 50/50 here: 5050.gd
#WaterRun starts now, but you can join in whenever you want. Do it once, or you can do it every day for the next few weeks – it’s up to you. The main thing is to keep logging your distances on the super simple website and telling the world about it, so together we can send the total raised sky high.
Thank you. Happy Water Running!
11th November 11
Posted in culture
Author: Nicky Vita (@stellavita), Strategy Director, BBH London
A few weeks ago, I was at the Temple Synagogue in Krakow’s historical Jewish district, Kazimeirz. It was the closing night for Unsound, an avant-garde music festival with the central theme of “Future Shock”.
As a whole, Unsound deliberately defies expectations – about how music should sound, how music genres should/ shouldn’t fit together, who should be collaborating, whom we expect to create modern music or art and even what ‘modern music’ actually means.
This – along with the music – got me thinking about a project I’ve been working on for client of ours, around ‘the lofty subject of human progress’ and what this means today. In a recent international survey, 96% of respondents agreed that‘It is important for me to continually improve as a person’. Ordinary people wanting to do extraordinary things.
While the desire to move forward is not new, the context or the approach required to achieve this has shifted radically. In the past, the key ingredients were focus, stamina and the wherewithal to keep slogging until the finish line. Tow the line.
And now? Well, there may not be a clearly defined ‘there’ or final end goal. There are fewer linear paths, one-way ladders and singular directions. The “tried & trusted” is no longer appropriate and all the rulebooks have been ripped up. Seemingly more than ever, people want to advance themselves. Technology is an especially great enabler. However, what you actually need to do to achieve this progress is less clear than ever before.
At a global level, this thought is either hugely terrifying or massively exciting. And what emerges is that the key to ‘success’ today is having the right attitude. Glancing at modern role models and entrepreneurs across the world, it isattitude that they have in common. No rules means you can try anything, explore everything, break things up and put them together in completely different ways.
Much of what I saw at Unsound reflected this attitude, so I thought I’d outline a few underlining principles for progressing in today’s modern world…
Retain a youthful mindset.
1960s pioneer Morton Subotnick & 1980s synth performers Chris & Cosey (ex-Throbbing Gristle) belonged at the festival as much as young, incoming acts such as Pontone (Poland) and Laurel Halo (USA). Curiosity, creativity and experimentation do not age.
Keep it open.
Music genres don’t sit in boxes. Or rather, amazing things can happen when you don’t assume that they should. Hype Williams threw together R & B, techno and dark ambient, coupled with constant strobe lights, to create a visceral, challenging performance. Trying different things and putting them together in unusual ways can create something special.
A wonderful term I picked up from Google’s Tom Uglow a while ago, speaking passionately about the wonderful things that could happen if we stopped focusing & opened up our awareness to the things going on around us. Every artist had taken a deliberate step away from his or her known individual sound and had nicked, borrowed or repurposed from the experiences around them. To capture this spirit, we’ve created team ‘Lantern Sessions’, as simple as a quick chat about the things that are exciting us or a good excuse to get out of the office and to an exhibition. Less focus creates more enhanced encounters.
With experimentation and exploration comes inherent risk. Some of what I saw and heard was massively improvised. Leyland Kirby’s mad video of his life on the road, wrapped up by a mimed rendition of Elton John’s ‘Can you feel the love tonight?” could have gone horribly wrong. It didn’t. Trying new things means allowing yourself to be at least a little open to potential failure.
Live in the moment.
For me, the entire festival was an immersive, immediate experience. This may sound obvious (being a music festival), but I came back feeling more excited about life because I’d allowed myself to be completely absorbed in an experience. If everyone there came away with this same feeling, you can feel confident that this will soon be manifested in a future performance, track or video. Soak up every encounter.
Go with your gut.
Everyone at Unsound was passionate about music. Not in a rational ‘let’s think about why this works’ way. It was much more of an emotional ‘how the music makes you feel’ way. Things were being put together in ways that were intuitive and based on gut impulses. Great things can happen when you go with the rhyme instead of the reason.
It’s about substance.
There were few ‘big names’ and while many of the artists were successful in their own right, at Unsound they were respected for their spirit, energy & experimentation in the moment. What you do matters more than what you have.
Act like an entrepreneur.
What makes an entrepreneur great is a bit of charisma. While many artists were there to perform, they were also there to create opportunities for future collaborations & endeavours, to show a difference side to themselves. Curiosity and a ‘can do, will do’ attitude is what made them interesting. Not so difficult is it?
The closing down party…
None of this might strike you as particularly groundbreaking. Steve Jobs spoke openly about the importance of connections, of being allowed to fail, of the opportunities that come up when you’ve tried different things. Einstein believed in experimentation and playfulness. Tom Uglow wondered what could happen if we all quit our jobs, played more and got closer to the edges. What is striking for me is that this attitude is shifting the way people think about progress at a universal level. This is not about the super elite, the super eclectic, the technologists at Google or Facebook or Labs, even. Sure, I am referencing some edgy artists, playing at a festival you’ve never have heard of. But we’re also talking about ordinary people wanting to apply this attitude to create extraordinary things.
I think it’s tremendously exhilarating. Can you even begin to imagine the great things that would happen, the progress that would come about if we all lived this way?
4th November 11
Posted in Events
Author: James Mitchell (@jamescmitchell), Strategist, BBH Labs
Preparations for our night of storytelling for Internet Week Europe are almost complete. And with less than a week to go until Thursday the 10th, we thought we’d share a little preview info of some of our speakers. Tales will include…
It’s looking to be a lot of fun. It looks like we’re at capacity, with a heavy waitlist – but there is still one way to get in. We’ve still got space for a few micro-stories: that is, tales of five minutes instead of ten. So, if you have any internet incidents that you think might amuse and enthrall and you want to come, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org in the next few days.
And if you just can’t make it but want to tune in, watch this space – we’ll try to get a stream up and running on the night, right here.