11th December 12
Author: Helen Lawrence, @helenium, BBH & BBH Labs Strategist
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. Robotify.me is here!
We’ve talked about it before, but just in case you missed it then the basic idea for Robotify.me 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 Robotify.me, 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 Robotify.me 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?
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 Robotify.me
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.
#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
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.
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.”
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:
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
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 this context, a couple of things seem inevitable in terms of how the advertising model might be disrupted: Read full post
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
23rd November 12
The Guardian’s Editor, Alan Rusbridger, came into BBH earlier this year and spoke to a group of us about what it takes to deliver open journalism. In particular he described how one of his most awarded journalists, Nick Davies, operates day-to-day. He shared three or four articles Davies had written recently, breaking down the anatomy of each story in meticulous detail. And it properly sank in that “open journalism” doesn’t just mean simply laying the news bare, unfiltered, checked or analysed, nor does it mean opening up a new fire hose of information in the hope someone will make sense of it.
Perhaps the clue is in the phrase “Open Journalism”. As they say at The Guardian, “Comment is free, but facts are sacred”. The Guardian staff are information omnivores, analysts, fact checkers and storytellers. And, as Rusbridger put it to us, there are 3 characteristics that define ‘craft’ in journalism. Very few journalists master all three (Nick Davies is perhaps a rare example), but here they are:
1. A relish or hunger to find out new intelligence
2. The intellectual ability to see patterns in that data; see the big picture and understand the facts
3. An ability to write beautifully
It sounded strikingly similar to what makes a truly great Strategist in an agency. Three things a Strategist usefully might aim for, either way.
Good weekends, all.
25th September 12
Author: Jim Carroll, Chairman, BBH London
My father worked for a time at a gasket factory in Romford. One Christmas he presented me with a corporate diary he had been given by an industrial felt supplier. Inside they’d printed their slogan: ‘You need the felt. We felt the need.’ I loved that line. I thought it was so funny, clever and beautiful at the same time.
I was at school studying for my A Levels: Latin, Greek, Ancient History. It was a robustly academic diet. I found that, having immersed myself in Homer, Horace and Herodotus, I was increasingly distracted by Essex fashion and soul music, pub banter and puns. I was drawn to the facile, frivolous and foolish. I guess it was a kind of mental displacement.
In the early ’80s, pop was revered anew in the UK. In the wake of the ponderous rock and precocious punk of the ’70s, we embraced ABC, Haircut 100 and Dollar with gusto. We believed in the beauty of the three minute pop song: shiny lyrics, shallow sentiments, shimmering production. We believed that there was an integrity in pop that raised it above the pretentious posturing of the indie crowd; that there was a kind of perfection in its brevity and wit. We believed that love itself was fragile, funny and transient.
Around about that time I determined that I’d one day like to work in advertising.
‘And all my friends just might ask me.
They say,”Martin, maybe one day you’ll find true love.”
I say,”Maybe. There must be a solution
To the one thing, the one thing, we can’t find”’
The Look of Love, ABC
In my 20s I noticed my social circle was narrowing and deepening. I was spending more and more time with a tight knit bunch of close friends. Although I greatly enjoyed their company, I became concerned that my conversation was increasingly predictable, that I was reinforcing my own prejudices and opinions. And so I set myself the task of developing a broad but shallow social set. I endeavoured to ensure that I saw a lot of friends infrequently. (I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this particular game plan. It was frankly rather exhausting).
Nigel Bogle once complained that Planning had a nack of digging down to Australia to discover the meaning of a paper clip. In my brief, and I have to say less than successful, tenure as Head of Planning at BBH, I endeavoured to address this. I transposed my ‘broad and shallow’ strategy to Planning: I encouraged the department to experience more things less profoundly; to work on more projects less intensively. Broad and Shallow Planning was to be my legacy to the strategic community. Strangely it was never widely adopted…
I guess I have always felt a little uncomfortable with the elevated status we afford brands nowadays. We talk of trust and love and ideals. Loyalty, passion, faith. Visions, missions, purposes. It sometimes strikes me as faintly bombastic. Brands as Wagnerian heroes. The Emerson, Lake and Palmers of consumption. The high concept action movies of marketing. Roll the credits. Lighters in the air. Cue the helicopters. Cue the smoke machines. Cue Coldplay. Cue Ghandi…
Surely not all soft drinks can save the babies, not all toothpastes can launch a thousand ships. Surely many brands have more modest roles to play in people’s lives. The fleeting glance, the quiet companion, the casual acquaintance. Shouldn’t we of all people be celebrating the inconsequential, the insignificant, the incidental? For these foolish things are truly the stuff of life.
‘A cigarette that bears a lipstick’s traces,
An airline ticket to romantic places.
A tinkling piano in the next apartment,
Those stumbling words that told me what your heart meant.
These foolish things remind me of you’
These Foolish Things, Eric Maschwitz & Jack Strachey
Finally, a word of caution. We have all learned to ladder up to higher order concepts and social goods. Ordinary, everyday brands get to leave behind base functionality, to sup with sages and kings. And often it serves a brand well to give it a higher purpose and social resonance. But beware the Icarus Effect. You may be playing with the Pomp Rock of Planning. In a Creds meeting once, I told a High Street optical retailer that his brand gave consumers the gift of sight. He excused himself and said he was due back on Planet Earth.
So don’t get me wrong. I love a big, ambitious, high ground, universal idea as much as the next man. I love brands with vision, confidence and courage. I’ve even nodded along to Coldplay occasionally.
But, just for once, let’s raise a glass to the little guys, to the not-so-crazy ones. Here’s to the inconsequential, the incidental and frivolous. Here’s to the modest, the momentary and fleeting. Here’s to swimming in the shallow end.
22nd August 12
Author: Chaz Wigley, Chairman, BBH Asia Pacific
It was about 2 years ago that Emma, Jim and myself started talking and writing about the ‘marketing wind tunnel’ that we as an industry seem to have gotten ourselves into (this blog has plenty of past pieces). The thinking being that, because we all broadly follow the same consumer insight led and validated process, we produce far more sameness than difference.
In the light of this, it’s fascinating to see Tyler Brule’s latest ‘Fast Lane’ piece in the FT where he inveighs against the same issues, but this time in the context of magazines, airlines, hotels and shops. It’s well worth a read for those who haven’t yet seen it (and always gratifying to see an FT journalist cry ‘Bullshit !’ on corporate excuses):
“Spend a bit of time at a US newsstand and it’s clear that the crisis in the magazine industry isn’t so much about plastering covers with hash tags, the problem is that everything looks and feels alarmingly the same.. We’ve come to a point in our popular and consumer culture where uniformity isn’t just stifling innovation, it’s also making consumers number and dumber.
…Magazines should focus on what their most loyal consumers are looking for – something new to read.”
From our point of view, many presentations and a number of articles later, the response we get from marketing teams is a consistent ‘Yes we agree, but how do we change things within the context of my organisation?‘ (sub-text: ‘where I don’t feel I have the power to do so myself ‘). Quite possibly the subject of our next initiative. Bring on the organisational change consultants!
9th August 12
This piece was originally published in Creative Circle’s 2012 Annual last month. It’s packed full of advice from the great and the good, with special mention to our own John Hegarty and also to Ben Kay on how to write an advertising blog. You can buy a copy of the annual in magazine form here.
Author: Nick Gill, Executive Creative Director, BBH London
‘Creative’. I’ve never really come to terms with this word. The very notion that some people are defined as creative, whether by trade or persuasion, I still find strange. Even if I wasn’t creative the last thing I’d do is admit to it.
When I was at school I never thought of myself as a creative person. Just someone who could draw and paint quite well. And these basic skills would be my ticket out of obscurity.
But growing up I soon realised that for all my talent I was never going to be an artist. It wasn’t that I wasn’t good enough. I just wasn’t made that way.
Because someone had tuned my brain to solving problems. Give me a blank sheet of paper and I’d break out in a cold sweat. Ask me to draw a picture that included a giraffe, a lawn mower and a magic carpet and I’d enjoy working out how to cunningly weave these three seemingly disparate objects into one satisfying image.
I went to art college in Manchester. I stood in the graphic design studio on day one, waiting for a tutor to read out my name. But it never happened. This is because they had me down for another course. One entitled ‘Design for communication media’. ‘What’s that when it’s at home?’ I enquired. ‘Advertising’ came the reply. And that’s how I got into this business. I fell into it. Like a drunk tripping over a chair leg and landing in the arms of Charlize Theron. I am one lucky bastard.
Because advertising is a great career. And ‘creative’ is a truly wonderful way to go through life. To make money out of your imagination is as exciting as it is scary.
What have I learned from my time in the business? Here are a few things that might help. Read full post