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    • Farewell to a Super Hero: Griffin Farley

      16th February 13

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in People

      “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”
      ~ Abraham Lincoln


      I remember extremely well how I felt when Ben told me BBH were hiring Griffin. A mixture of ‘Bam! Yes!’ delight and excitement, with a small sliver of anxiety thrown in. I really hoped we would be worthy of him.

      At the time, Griffin already had a thoroughly interesting and useful model for modern planning that he’d explored in public on his own blog. He called it Propagation Planning – “plan not for the people you reach, but the people they reach” – and it made a ton of sense. He practised and preached it with an elegant simplicity. He wrote beautifully. He wore a cool hat in his Twitter avatar photo. He had a name that sounded like it belonged to a mythical, dragon-fighting Knight. So far, so intimidating.

      Of course it turned out Griffin was all of these things – incredibly smart, ahead of his time, thoughtful and wise beyond his years. But, miraculously, not in the slightest bit intimidating. Rather, he was the most generous of men; kind and good-hearted. He also immediately made himself indispensable. I’m not sure anyone else can claim to have played a major role simultaneously in the main agency, BBH Labs and BBH Zag. Griffin got everywhere… he made a difference to everyone.

      It’s a rare thing, knowing someone who is truly talented and truly generous in equal measure. Very clever and very kind. Some people can pull that perfect balance off every now and then. Griffin was like that every single day. When I think about him in the weeks and years to come, it’s this that I will not forget.

      As the e-book below (made for Griffin in the midst of his fight against cancer) attests, everyone at BBH – particularly all his close colleagues and friends at BBH New York, plus a lucky few of us in London – will remember Griffin for the great work he did, his absolute commitment right to the very end, his gentle optimism and his courage in the face of such adversity. But mostly, like everyone who was lucky enough to know him, we will remember the overflowing love he had for his family and his huge capacity for friendship.

      RIP, Griffin. It’s an honour to say we knew you.

      SuperGriffin eBook

      Super Griffin eBook by Dean Woodhouse & Hugo Bierschenk, with the involvement of everyone at BBH New York.

    • BBH London: Hiring a Digital Analyst

      29th January 13

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in digital, People

      Who we’re after
      A digital analyst who knows their way around analytics and social metrics but who has that sixth sense to sniff out fresh insights that have real strategic value.  We need someone who can focus on the story that the data are telling them, not just crank out campaign reports.

      What you’ll be like
      Smart, curious, passionate and a great communicator.  Someone who will be comfortable working alongside strategists, creatives and clients.  An analyst that can explain complex measurement and analysis in plain and simple language.  You will love being a digital specialist but you will be able to see the bigger picture and you will understand that whatever tools we use to gather our insights we are ultimately seeking to understand consumer behaviour and motivation.

      Responsibilities/key attributes

      • In depth knowledge of digital analytics tools (eg Sysomos, Google Analytics, Comscore) and the creative use of free digital insight tools
      • Ability to bring the numbers to life and tell a story with data from different sources
      • Appetite and ability to translate insight into strategic recommendation
      • Experience of effectiveness measurement and KPI tracking
      • Desire to work in a creative environment with creative people
      • Entrepreneurial: actively seek new opportunities to gather insights and help teams benefit from digital intelligence
      • Good people skills and ability to build relationships across all disciplines
      • Other key attributes: Hardworking, energetic, collaborative, good organisational skills and cultural knowledge

      If this sounds like your kind of job, we want to hear from you. Please send a cv, details or link to

    • Technology in 2013: The Year of the Real World Web

      16th January 13

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in technology

      This post was originally published as an article, ‘The Year Ahead For Technology‘, which appeared in Campaign magazine’s first edition of the year last week, 10.01.13.

      Image: Aram Bartholl, 'Map' (public installation)

      We may have spent the past few years fretting and fetishising about the time we spend online vs offline, but here’s the good news: 2013 is going to be the year we relax a little. We’ll get over the novelty of social sharing online and just accept it, distracted instead by the utility and magic revealed when ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ worlds start to merge. The physical world becomes properly programmable. The physical web comes into its own.

      If there has been a meta creative goal of technology over the past decade or so, I’d wager it is to create online experiences that inch closer to feeling viscerally real; to strive for a ‘real world standard’, if you will. Cast your mind back to Second Life ten years ago, all the way through to the interactive 3D graphics made possible by Web GL today and the steady advances in virtual reality gaming, now being applied to healthcare. Within multiple industries fuelled by technology, there’s a fascination with mirror worlds and visceral experiences. And disappointment when they don’t quite measure up to the hype (goodbye then, Second Life).

      But what if we flip things for a moment: think about putting the web into the physical world, rather than trying to mimic the physical world online?There are a collection of reasons why the physical web’s time has come. Forget QR codes. Witness the leap Augmented Reality made with the announcement of Google’s heads up glasses, which justifiably caused a stir in 2012. Then add the emergence of the Internet of Things and Quantified Self into mainstream tech culture, as two sides to the same digital coin:

      1. Quantified Self looks at the physical web through a human lens.
      An expression coined by Kevin Kelly and Gary Wolf five years ago, it’s about self-tracking your performance – often via wearable, digital tools that collect and report how well you’re doing – with applications for health & fitness, finance, productivity, education, mobility and more.

      2. The Internet of Things looks at the physical web through the lens of objects.
      Coined by Kevin Ashton in 1999, it refers to connected sensors embedded in objects making them machine-readable and artificially intelligent – with giant consequences for everything from stock taking to security, architecture to art. A year ago Cisco calculated there were already more devices connected to the Internet than there are people on the planet.

      And we’re seeing brands back up the promise of both, with self-tracking services like Fitbitand Nike’s Fuelband breaking into the mainstream, whilst IoT services are emerging, likeLockitron, which remotely locks or opens your front door (never worry about losing your keys again) and Growerbot, which uses sensors to monitor moisture, light and temperature in your garden and water when needed.

      Why now?
      Solid broadband and smartphone penetration, super-fast mobile broadband, an expanding free WiFi network in the UK and the emergence of services like the ones above are together creating perfect conditions for the emergence of what might be called a ‘real world web’. Even Search is transforming, as Google puts it, to “things, not strings.” Their Knowledge Graph, introduced in May this year, aims “to understand real world entities and their relationships to one another” and already contains close to 600 million. “Search now understands that the Taj Mahal is a building, but also a music band, a casino and a bunch of restaurants.” Then there’s Apple’s Siri and now Google Now for Android; essentially predictive, personalised search on the move, although that barely does it justice.

      The rise of the networked brand
      What about brands in this context? All this powering up in technological terms and blurring between real & virtual worlds simply underlines why brands in any category need to grasp the value of operating in a network.

      A few things worth considering now:
      - If your physical product had a digital layer, what would it be?
      - What physical, live or exclusive experience can you give to your network to share?
      - Are you thinking about ‘views’ or subscribers? If you’re serious about content marketing to connected users, it’s the latter.
      - As users flip between devices on the fly, they’ll expect a seamless experience: are you designing responsively?

      What happens next?
      Beyond this year, we will need common protocols enabled by an open web for this to work at scale. Businesses to watch in the meantime: SmartthingsPlace Me (a “persistent ambient sensing” mobile app that collects all the sensory data imaginable) and Esri (formerly Geoloqi, a next gen location app). In short, our ‘phones will pick up so much real world, ambient data we won’t need to look further. To paraphrase Esri’s Amber Case: “Think what SMS did for telephones”…

      Welcome to the Real World Web.

    • The Mirror Crack’d

      10th January 13

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in culture, Insight

      Author: Jim Carroll, Chairman, BBH London

      ‘The mirror crack’d from side to side;
      “The curse is come upon me,” cried
      The Lady of Shalott’

      Alfred, Lord Tennyson – The Lady of Shalott

      Image: William Holman Hunt -The Lady of Shalott

      I attended the Pre-Raphaelites exhibition at Tate Britain. Not entirely my cup of tea. Rather flat, two dimensional narratives of a romanticised past. Curiously the Pre-Raphaelites were regarded as radical in their day. It’s perhaps very English to express revolt by looking backwards…

      I was nonetheless quite taken by a Holman Hunt painting of The Lady of Shalott. It seems to show a beautiful woman caught in a bizarre knitting accident. In fact it refers to a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

      In the poem the mysterious Lady of Shalott is imprisoned in a tower, cursed to weave imperfect impressions of the world outside from the reflections she captures in a mirror. She weaves images of the traffic on the road to Camelot, the shepherds, knights, market girls and page boys that pass by her castle prison. But the curse denies her direct sight of life outside and ultimately she is unfulfilled.

      ‘ ”I am half sick of shadows,” said
      The Lady of Shalott’

      One day The Lady of Shalott steals a glance out of the window at the noble, handsome Sir Lancelot and with that glance the mirror cracks. She escapes her imprisonment in the tower and takes a boat down river to Camelot. At last she can see the world as it truly is.

      This may sound daft, but I couldn’t help thinking about market research.

      My first job was as a Qualitative Researcher and I guess I was engaged in a form of reportage. Relaying to Clients what consumers thought and did, summarising their behaviour, interpreting their opinions. Like the Lady of Shalott I was weaving imperfect impressions of the world. Reducing culture to basic bullet points, pithy Power Point, vivid verbatims. We were all well aware of the shortcomings of this approach, but it was the best we could do at the time. I recall how, a few years into my career, the introduction of even the smallest piece of video stimulus to a research debrief could revive Clients’ flagging attention. It was the late arrival of actual consumers in the room.

      ‘For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.’

      1 Corinthians 13:12

      Perhaps with the social web a mirror has cracked. Disintermediation is the order of the day. We can gain fast, cheap access to raw, unfiltered consumer opinion. We can tame big data to animate culture. We can demolish the distance between concepts and customers. We can bring consumers into the creatives’ office, the innovators’ lab. We can workshop ideas. We can test real time in beta. We can see the world as it truly is. Live and direct. It’s invigorating, liberating, revolutionary. With one bound we are free. Read full post

    • Home for Christmas

      17th December 12

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in Creativityforgood

      Author: Alex Ball, Copywriter, BBH London

      Today sees the launch of by BBH London. A Christmas initiative aimed at raising money for children’s charity Barnardo’s, helping fund their work with homeless young people.

      The festive project, which runs for the next five days, invites the audience to donate as much as they can to Barnardo’s. In return, and as a show of appreciation, BBH will select an entrant’s home address each day and recreate their home in a snow globe using the latest 3D printing technology. This beautiful bespoke snow globe, complete with personalised engraving, will then be wrapped and boxed before finally being sent to the selected recipient.

      Watch this film if you’d like to learn more:

      Read full post

    • Robots in the Wild – is in public beta

      11th December 12

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in Experiments, robots

      Author: Helen Lawrence, @helenium, BBH & BBH Labs Strategist

      @helenium's robot

      It almost goes without saying that BBH Labs like robots. Of course we like robots. The potential for what robots could do challenges our view of the future. What will they be capable of? Do they free us from the mundane or render us redundant? Is the uncanny valley somewhere we’d like to live?

      At BBH Labs we’re interested in ‘artificial’ intelligence: how it starts, where it can go, what it means for us carbon-based lifeforms. Advances in sentience, emotion and learning within Artificial Intelligence draw on human data; as the internet collects more and more of ourselves the robots are finding it even easier to replicate our squishy selves. Even the little things – predictive text, Google Instant, EdgeRank – make us blink from time to time.

      But, despite the possibility of Skynet becoming self-aware, we decided to have a little play with it.

      BEEEEEP. BEEEEP. is here!

      We’ve talked about it before, but just in case you missed it then the basic idea for is that by plugging in your social data and using it to create a robot you can learn a little more about how you portray yourself online.

      It should uncover if you tend to lurk and not share, if you retweet rather than create, walk miles for a Slurpee or take more photos than a K-Pop fan. Your robot will change and evolve, so keep checking back and see how it’s doing. Don’t worry, it doesn’t need feeding. It’s no tamagotchi and it’s certainly not 1996.

      This is the first iteration of, it’s a simple little service at the moment. It will continue to develop and evolve over the coming months. So there might be a few bugs lurking in there and this early beta version of it certainly is lacking any bells and whistles. We’re already looking into adding some more networks to plug in, as well as seeing what else we can get out of the platforms we’re using at the moment. A more comprehensive ‘Roboguide’ is also in the works.

      One of the reasons for creating is to encourage a bit of self reflection and analysis, and perhaps to see if people form an attachment with their robot. We’d love to know your robot was what your were expecting or if it threw up something a little odd that you might not have known about yourself. We’ve found ourselves taking more photos, retweeting less, checking in more… all to see what our robots do.

      What is the mechanical bird on your shoulder whispering into your ear?


      Send questions or comments via twitter @robotifyme; or email too -

      This was an in-house BBH operation. Conceived by Labs, built with the BBH technology team in London, logo and site design by Zag. The beautiful robot illustrations are the handy work of Mick Marston, @futilevignette.

      Particular props go out to:
      Gabor Szalatnyai: @endofu: Creative Technologist
      Marc Owens: @marcowens: Creative
      Matt Bertocchi: @ux_matt: UX
      Kate Sutherland: Producer
      Mel Exon: @melex: Product Owner
      Jeremy Ettinghausen: @jeremyet: Creative Director
      Helen Lawrence: @helenium: Labs Strategist & Copywriter
      Shea Warnes: @sheawarnes: Social Strategist
      Luke Kidney: @creativekidney: Creative Technologist
      Vicki Maggs: @maggsy: Digital Analyst
      Abi Awomosu: @tekogram: Senior Digital Analyst
      Richard Davies: @richardtid: Graphic Designer, Zag
      Steve Wake: @stephenwake: Head Designer, Zag
      Gary Hudson: @garyhudson: Graphic Designer, Zag
      Henry Rowan-Robinson: Commercial Lawyer
      Sarah Pollard: @pollardfaure: Communications Director
      Simon Taylor: Producer
      Isobel Barnes: @isobelbarnes: PR Manager
      Mark Reddy: Head of Art
      Sarah Pascoe: Head of Print
      Pablo Marques: @pablo_marques: Creative Director

      And of course, the Rebel Alliance: James Mitchell: @jamescmitchell

      An honorable mention goes out to Liz Harper: @lizmarieharper: who has kept the Labs ship sailing while we tinkered with cogs and lasers.

      And a massive thankyou to all the wonderful beta testers, whose help, advice and support has been invaluable to date.

      Thanks to Contagious too, for their great write up of

    • Part 4: Advertising is Dead, Long Live Advertising

      7th December 12

      This is the fourth and final post in a series based upon our submission to Wharton’s Advertising 2020 initiative. The structure we’re loosely following here: 8 years, 8 potential future opportunities, 8 things to do now.

      Previous instalments in the series are available here: Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3.


      #7 Big Data, Big Patterns

      “No thought can perish” ~ Edgar Allan Poe

      “There is no point in collecting and storing all this data if the algorithms are not able to find useful patterns and insights in the data,” says Mr. Kleinberg at Cornell. “But the software is scaling up to the task.” ~ New York Times, 09.09.12, ‘Tech’s new wave, driven by data’

      According to Gartner earlier this year, the hype curve for Big Data reached ‘The Peak of Inflated Expectations’ (with an estimated 2-5 year gap before it reaches the ‘Plateau of Productivity’). The accuracy of that timeframe has been debated, perhaps fairly when we consider the exponential growth in speed and volume of data collection and analysis and the collapsing path to purchase that we’ve discussed already here.

      In advertising, it seems only likely that algorithms will continue to do more of the commoditised, heavy lifting for brands and their users in terms of achieving reach, frequency and low level message optimisation. And, in monetisation terms, successful media owners will have recast themselves as data owners. To take just one example, The Weather Channel’s CEO, David Kenny, described to us how he sees the growing commercial role of data: Read full post

    • Part 3: Advertising is Dead, Long Live Advertising

      6th December 12

      This is the third post in a series based upon our submission to Wharton’s Advertising 2020 initiative. The structure we’re loosely following here: 8 years, 8 potential future opportunities, 8 things to do now.

      Previous instalments in the series are available here: Part 1 and Part 2.

      The final instalment will follow tomorrow.


      #5 Content Marketing: brands as content owners & partners

      By 2020, the difference in value between access to basic information (demands to be free) versus knowledge (“okay, that’s valuable, I may pay for it”) will have been worked through. Mainstream audiences won’t respect old media owner boundaries. A younger audience today already feel that way:

      “It is not our fault that their business has ceased to make sense in its traditional form…”

      “One more thing: we do not want to pay for our memories. The films that remind us of our childhood, the music that accompanied us ten years ago: in the external memory network these are simply memories. Remembering them, exchanging them, and developing them is to us something as natural as the memory of ‘Casablanca’ is to you. We find online the films that we watched as children and we show them to our children, just as you told us the story about the Little Red Riding Hood or Goldilocks. Can you imagine that someone could accuse you of breaking the law in this way? We cannot, either.”

      “We, the web kids”, Piotr Czerski, writing in 2012

      When information flows freely, traditional ‘middlemen’ relationships get disrupted, even collapse. Will this lead to the eventual or partial disintermediation of the media owner? Sure, some traditional media owners will make a full digital transition to expert curators, aggregators and creators in their fields of entertainment (music, games, film etc), information and news. Elsewhere, social platforms are connecting owners of great content to their own audiences, allowing their content to be found, searched, shared and watched together easily. Even in 2012, as Brian Norgard at Chill puts it, “Social is emerging as a starting distribution point for content.” Assuming this happens to some degree, it follows that aside from paid-for advertising, more and more successful brands will have:

      a) formed partnerships with content owners directly, and/or
      b) become bona fide content owners themselves.

      With (a), the opportunity is to face the issue together. Brands play a legitimate role, funding the distribution of valuable knowledge or content to savvy audiences who know their attention is valuable too. Think partner, not sponsor. It’s a transparent, transactional relationship with 3 parties: the end user gets high value content and experiences for free or subsidised; the brand earns awareness, earned word of mouth and even purchase in return; the producer gets funding, reach and publicity:

      The 3-Party Market (Chris Anderson, "Free" 2009) adapted by BBH Labs here

      With (b), brands act as publishers and content owners in their own right, distributing their own content via their own networks, building their own audience databases… rinse and repeat. What content can a brand credibly create that people will want to seek out, share and make their own? Already, brands like Red Bull, Ford, Coke et al are pouring budget into content, eschewing traditional bought media and distributing instead via seeding, PR and the social web. It’s an all or nothing strategy, your content needs to be nothing short of extraordinary. By way of example, DC Shoes’ 9 minute epic featuring Ken Block treating San Francisco as his personal gymkhana playground. It has 27m 35m views and counting. Read full post

    • Part 2: Advertising is Dead, Long Live Advertising

      6th December 12

      This is the second post in a series based upon our submission to Wharton’s Advertising 2020 initiative. The first, introductory post in the series was published yesterday, here. The structure we’re loosely following: 8 years, 8 potential future opportunities, 8 things to do now.

      Subsequent instalments to follow over the next day or so.


      #2 Everything is Connected: The Rise of the Networked Brand

      “The dynamic of our society, and our new economy, will increasingly obey the logic of networks..We are connecting everything to everything.”
      ~ Kevin Kelly, New Rules for the New Economy

      A little context as we imagine it: by 2020 the media environment will be fueled by speed-of-light broadband and unparalleled connection. The Internet of Things already exceeds in size our planet’s human population and will number 50 billion by 2020, as Cisco has it: devices, buildings, clothing, even people – all machine-readable, perpetually transmitting and receiving data, universally authenticated. Very few people will care about distinctions like ‘online’ versus ‘offline’; we won’t fetishise IRL. Forget QR codes, if your product could have an interactive communication layer added seamlessly to it, what would it do or say?

      The once clearly defined physical experiences of TV, Internet and gaming will continue to blur. By 2020, we will still want to use large screens for shared viewing, MMO gaming and epic, time-sensitive broadcast events, but that’s about it. We won’t bother talking about ‘connected’ TV or Internet TV, that particular war will be over: all devices will be Internet-enabled and capable of showing HD content. We’ll care about context and content (the relevance, cost and quality of the experience), not which cable or cloud it’s streaming from.

      In 2012, mainstream TV struggles to integrate web content seamlessly.

      In this context, a couple of things seem inevitable in terms of how the advertising model might be disrupted: Read full post

    • Advertising is Dead, Long Live Advertising.

      5th December 12

      Earlier this year we were asked by Wharton to contribute to their initiative “Advertising 2020” (a book and a companion online platform to be published), part of their Future of Advertising Program. They asked for answers to two questions:

      1. What could / should advertising look like in 2020?
      2. What do we need to do now for this future?

      This is an extended version of our contribution to the initiative, which we’ve broken into a series of posts. Today’s Part 1 is an introduction looking at the cultural context and our first thoughts on the implications for advertising. Subsequent instalments to follow over the next couple of days.

      “Life is just a premonition of a flashback.” ~ Nick Gill, after Steven Wright

      At BBH we don’t much like making predictions. Fundamental human motivations don’t change and actual behaviours change a hell of lot slower than we’d like to think: mankind may be programmed to progress for better or worse, but “behavior is just motivation filtered through opportunity”, as Clay Shirky so neatly puts it.

      Nonetheless, sitting here in 2012, it seems unimaginable that technology and media will do anything but continue to evolve at pace, nor does it seem likely that the dominant influence of those two industries over advertising will falter. So, deliberately, we’ve sought out and included as part of our submission a few words of advice from people working at the cutting edge coal-face of those industries. Read full post

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