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    • Craft, the Journalist and the Agency Strategist

      23rd November 12

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in storytelling, strategy

      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.

    • Swimming in the shallow end

      25th September 12

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in Brands, strategy

      Author: Jim Carroll, Chairman, BBH London

      Portrait of an artist, by David Hockney

      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

      The fall of Icarus, Baglione

      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.

    • “Differentiate – or Die”

      22nd August 12

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in Brands, Insight

      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 Tyler Brule's column in the Financial Times, August 18/19, 2012

      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!

    • Nick Gill: 10 Things I’ve Learned That Might Help

      9th August 12

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in creativity, People

      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

      Weeble shot & designed by secretfunspot

      ‘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

    • #KeepAaronCutting – A Year On

      6th August 12

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in People, Social

      Author: Mareka Carter, Creative, BBH London

      Today, Monday 6th August, is the one year anniversary of the London riots. With the eyes of the world turning to London once again, this time for our moment of Olympic glory, we have fantastic news to report.

      All your generosities from all over the world at the time of the London riots raised so much money that we were not only able to refurbish Aaron’s barber shop, and bolster him a bit with his loss of earnings, but we had enough left over to help others in the Tottenham community as well. It was Aaron’s wish, (and our delight) that we support projects for young people, showing that youth are far from the enemy, but the future that needs nurturing.

      We have worked with the fabulous Kay Horne of Business In The Community (BITC, and pictured below with Aaron) to find recipients for the money that were appropriate. Kay has been tirelessly supporting the regeneration of Tottenham since the riots, and her BITC role will take her through until March and hopefully longer. She’s a smiley face that the people of Tottenham have come to trust and love, and almost as much of a local celebrity as Aaron!

      So it was with great pleasure recently that we met with Aaron at the shop, and hosted representatives from the projects we have chosen to benefit from the funds – sharing more than £10,000 in fact. They are:

      The Highway Youth Club at Bruce Grove Youth Club – this is a Dinner Club that feeds disadvantaged kids in the area and keeps them off the streets with loads of forms of entertainment. It makes sure they are set up properly to embrace their futures. Aaron spent his entire childhood in a youth club called Oxford & St. George’s in the Jewish East End, that provided everything for needy families, and he has a strong belief in it giving him the best start in life and skills he needed to survive.

      The Dandelion Project is a young citizens’ journalism project, which we chose because of the media connections to the Keep Aaron Cutting Project. We wanted to show that youth and social media could be used positively for good, and the Dandelion Project has the same aim. Their kids are going to come down and do a piece on Aaron.

      The People’s World Youth Club is an organisation that helps kids focus their energies through creativity and self-expression & exploration of the world and its cultures. We were very attracted by a project that helps kids focus their talents around working together to create. People’s World are hard at work on their Carnival float right now, which will be creatively themed around the riots of last year.

      Aaron also attended a lunch at a week-long event for young entrepreneurs that we supported, which was held at his beloved Spurs football club. It was run by NTYE, which is the Network for Teaching Young Entrepreneurs – the organisation gives young people business skills to work for themselves, as Aaron has done since he was 12 years old.

      As you can see, Aaron was on great form when he met the youth club representatives, speaking Ghanian with Pastor Alex from Highway, and full of stories to relate to Fiona, the young journalist from Dandelion. And he was chuffed to visit Spurs.

      As ever, the shop is open for business and social chatter from 6am-12:30pm Monday to Saturday, and business in Tottenham is still slow (you might have seen Aaron on BBC’s The One Show on 20th July, with other Tottenham traders and residents), so we’d encourage you to visit for a haircut. You’ll be very much welcomed, without a doubt.

      Thank you once again to everyone who made this wonderful conclusion possible, we are very proud of London and the world for their efforts, and, equally so, the little corner of Tottenham.

      A version of this post first appeared on Keep Aaron Cutting at the end of July.

    • #London2012 – an early look at the ‘Social Games’

      31st July 12

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in Events, Social

      Author: Vicki Maggs (@maggsy), Digital Analyst, BBH London

      As we’ve all heard repeatedly, London 2012 has been anticipated as “The most social Olympic Games yet”, and it’s easy to see why. Since the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Facebook users have grown 800%, Twitter users by over 8000% and Youtube videos are now generating 72 hours of video per minute. Not to mention the launch and growth of Google+, Pinterest, Instagram and Foursquare.

      Friday night saw the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games with 26.9 million UK viewers tuned in. According to Twitter, this one night alone generated more tweets than the entire duration of the 2008 Beijing Games - 9.66 Million.

      Using Sysomos, we found over 840,000 tweets tagged the #openingceremony with the peak of conversation occurring on Mr Bean’s entrance. Interestingly, he was also the most discussed topic of conversation (aside from mentions of Danny Boyle @DannyBoyleFilms) – being picked up all around the world as a successful nod to British culture and humour. Mr Bean gained a very positive response with 97% of conversation favourable. Read full post

    • The Planner / Creative Relationship: Results

      19th July 12

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in Events, People

      Authors: Fran Hazeldine, Head of Strategy and Pelle Sjoenell, Executive Creative Director, BBH LA



      A few weeks ago we asked Planners and Creatives from a range of agency backgrounds to fill out a short survey about the Planner / Creative relationship.

      As promised, we’ve got some results to share. If you like your slides with added innuendo, our Planningness presentation is available here. But it’s quite minimalist and really needs the voice over, so we’ve summarized the main findings below.

      A few notes on the sample

      The 324 respondents were a mixture of self-selecting BBH Labs readers, people from our extended professional networks and anyone else we could persuade to take part. So there are probably all sorts of research effects that mean you shouldn’t take any of the results as hard fact – more food for thought and discussion.

      What do we know about the survey respondents? Not surprisingly, we had more Planners than Creatives. And the Creatives tended to be more experienced and male. There was also a heavy North American and European skew across the board.

      But despite collecting a mass of demographic info, the results we’re sharing are not split out by gender, age or region. We tried cutting the data along these lines, but any variation was remarkably unremarkable. So instead we’ve focused on the simple comparison between Planners and Creatives, which turned up some much juicier stats. Read full post

    • 5th July 12

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in Cannes, Events

      Last month Google asked me along to their Creative Sandbox in Cannes to give a ‘lightning talk’ about ‘something I was particularly interested in’. Luckily, they gave me just 15 minutes to speak or we would have been there all day in the baking heat.. Thank you to everyone who came along and asked lots of questions afterwards – here, for what it’s worth, is a record of what got discussed.

      I’d like to talk about 2-3 things here, loosely connected by a theme around how and why we should keep contributing to, using and building the open web:

      1. The Guardian, the UK newspaper (a client of BBH London) and their ‘open journalism’ positioning.
      2. A project we’re developing at BBH Labs called Robotify.me.
      3. A postscript on how we like to work here and what “open and constant learning” means in practice.

      But first, some brief scene-setting: we’re all familiar with the debate that has raged and continues to do so about the open web – but why should we care? Read full post

    • Going for Gold

      19th June 12

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in creativity, Events

      Author: Ross Berthinussen, Strategy Director, BBH London

      At 11 o’clock this morning, we premiered the launch ad for our new Olympic campaign for British Airways on Facebook. At 7.35pm GMT this evening, it will be broadcast to the UK, just before kick off in England’s critical, final group game in the Euros.

      The campaign is a rallying cry for Britain to stay at home during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to support the national team. Just this once, when its country needs it most, when the Olympic Games comes to London, Britain’s national airline is telling Britain not to fly.

      Even with its tongue in cheek tone, it’s a bold move. I thought I’d share some of the thinking behind the campaign and some things we’ve learned along the way.

      YouTube Preview Image

      Be confident

      We’ve had a turbulent journey with BA over the last six and a half years. We’ve been with them through the PR disaster of T5, fog, volcanic ash, the recession and industrial disputes. But right now, confidence is high. They have new leadership, they’re financially solid after the merger with American and they’re reinvesting in the customer.

      Our communication has had a job to do to help restore this confidence – to rebuild pride inside the organisation and the emotional connection the nation has with its flag carrier.

      In September last year, the airline recommitted to “To Fly. To Serve”, a motto that has lived in the organisation for over fifty years, with a campaign that celebrated the people who live their lives by this ethos. We followed this fast with a campaign in February that heroed the BA team who were ready to welcome the world to London for the Olympics.

      Our body language over this time has been critical. To instil confidence we had to act with confidence. We bought big TV spots, press insertions and outdoor sites. We had the confidence to lighten up. We featured an orangutan and racing baggage in our ads. This summer billboards across London will rally Britain, “Don’t Fly. Support Team GB”.

      Build in reward

      We hope people are going to lean into this idea: we’ve got a series of high profile TV spots this week to build conversation; with the British Olympic Association’s backing we’ve persuaded members of Team GB and Paralympics GB to share the ad – so a lot of people will hear about it first from the athletes; and hopefully the nature of the idea will spark interest and debate.

      So we wanted to build reward in for those who want to get a bit closer.

      We’ve created a customisable version of the TV ad online in which you can enter your postcode and, using the Google Streetview API, watch a version of the film with the plane taking a detour down your street. To premiere the ad this morning, BA’s facebook community were asked to first enter their postcode to receive a personalised version of the film.

      We’ve made a documentary with Michael Johnson, Sir Clive Woodward, Denise Williams and Shelly Woods, that explores the difference it makes for sports people to compete on home soil with a nation behind them.

      YouTube Preview Image

      The ad itself has scenes that reward multiple viewing – like the old lady onboard who checks the time on her watch as she passes Big Ben.

      And we might have made a short film that suggests there might have actually been a plane driving through Richmond Park – whilst making a nod to the Fenton viral.

      YouTube Preview Image

      Do vs. say

      We obsess a lot at BBH about getting to different kinds of ideas. Asking what can we do, rather than what can we say, seemed a good place to start here. The creative brief for this idea was, “what can we do to show our support for Team GB?”

      Have a point of view, start a conversation

      We got to the idea of telling Britain not to fly early. It became grounded when we listened to an ex Olympian talk about the concept of the home advantage. This gave the brand a point of view on the Games and the guts of our campaign. All our activity invites you to join in with #homeadvantage.

      Get everyone onboard

      There are over 40,000 people working at BA. There was a chance that they might not like us telling people not to fly. We needed them to understand that this was the ultimate expression of our support for Team GB, that it would help build the brand and that people wouldn’t take us too literally. So BA have been running a huge internal programme to get them onside and share the thinking behind the campaign.

      Think tactically

      We’re telling people not to fly but we still need to sell flights. Whilst we can’t be seen to promote travel over the Games we can offer money off flights and holidays to get away afterwards – this idea actually came from our client in the meeting when we first shared the idea.

      Be generous (and dodge the tornado)

      You have two fears developing a campaign as an Olympic sponsor. One, that you will appear cynical, simply piggybacking on the event for your own gain. Two, that you will be swept up in the tornado of other sponsors (and hi-jackers) vying for people’s attention and time. Brands trying to claim that they are also faster, higher, stronger. Or showcasing athletes using their products.

      This campaign builds on a series of things BA have been doing over the last few years to support Team GB and Paralympics GB, including flying the team and its equipment around the world, which has built credibility in this space. We hope that this Olympics, by zagging when everyone zigs, by having the courage to admit that the fortune of the British team is more important than buying our product, we will not only dodge the tornado but be seen as genuinely contributing to the performance of the British Team.

      Thank yous

      We couldn’t have got here without a brilliant relationship with a very brave client, a talented BBH team and the support of a tight team of agency and production partners including Zenith Optimedia, IMG, Cake, 12th Floor, Partizan, Framestore, Stitch, Angell Sound, Black Sheep Music, Google and Paul Zak at Burnham Niker.

      (And, it goes without saying, if you’re British and reading this, please consider staying at home and supporting Team GB and Paralympics GB during the Games. Your support could be the difference between silver and gold).

    • Dance Lessons

      15th June 12

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in culture, strategy

      Author: Jim Carroll, Chairman, BBH London

      Asphodel Meadows, choreographed by Liam Scarlett

      I attended a talk by the top Royal Ballet choreographer and dancer, Liam Scarlett. He is only 26, but he has already choreographed two exceptional ballets for the main stage at Covent Garden. And he still finds time to dance in the company.

      Scarlett was discussing how he approached creating his 2011 work, Asphodel Meadows, around a particular piece of music, Poulenc’s Double Piano Concerto. One could be intimidated, he said, by the scale and complexity of the Concerto. Where to start? How to break into the task? Whereas with narrative ballet there is a natural sequencing to follow, with an abstract work there is no obvious entry point. He explained that his own process was first to identify the ‘epicentre’ of the music, its emotional core. He knew that if he could just design the pas de deux around a particular romantic passage in the second movement, everything else would follow. Having got to the emotional heart of the music, he could work outwards to the rest of the piece.

      I am often in meetings nowadays when a Client demands an idea that is media neutral, that extends across every channel, region, product and form of engagement. All the colours, in all the sizes.  Such a panoramic demand can be rather intimidating. And I have found that telling the Creative Department we need to cover the walls with ideas is not entirely helpful.

      I suspect that, following Scarlett’s lead, the key to cracking this kind of challenge is not to consider it in its totality or in the abstract. Ideas tend to be born in the specific. The key is to find the epicentre of the task, to find its emotional heart. Read full post

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