21st May 12
Author: Jim Carroll, Chairman, BBH London
Memories light the corners of my mind
Misty,water colored memories
Of the way we were.
~ Barbra Streisand, The Way We Were
I attended the Damien Hirst show at the Tate Modern. Flies and fags, butterflies and bling, spin and spots, drugs and death… There. You don’t need to see it now.
I walked away somewhat hollow. I felt a pang of guilt and recognition. Guilt because Hirst was in many ways the adman’s artist. Art that came with a nudge, a wink and a knowing punchline. Art as quick hit, shiny bright, paper thin. Recognition because, yes, that was Britain in the ’90s. Spin doctors and Spice Girls, boy bands and man bags, heroin chic and Shabba Ranks, lads and Loaded, puffas and Prozac, Wonderbra and Wonderwall, alcopops and Posh & Becks. Fool Britannia…. There was no god, no beauty, no other. Just money and death and irony. Things could only get worse…
I’m not sure I blame Damien Hirst. I suspect he’s a very good artist. He was very effectively holding a mirror up to us and our values. Or lack of them. And I suspect each generation gets the art it deserves. Flies and fags was maybe all we were good for in the ’90s.
Don’t you also think that we get the advertising we deserve? As an Agency, as a Client, as a culture ? When we hark back to a golden hued, bygone age of celestial communication, are we not condemning our own failure to create greatness now? When the disappointed Client fires the disappointing Agency, isn’t he or she shirking personal responsibility? When we rail against cruel fate and happenstance, when we bemoan the recession, or reach for the blame gun, shouldn’t we be looking in the mirror first?
I believe in commercial karma. That, broadly speaking, in advertising as in life, we reap what we sow. That what goes around comes around. Not for some spiritual, counter cultural, gaia-type reason. But because, though it seems trite to say it, in the long run, smart, open minded Clients, working with intelligent, lateral Agencies, for honest, worthwhile brands, will make better, more effective work. And vice versa.
I guess I have witnessed exceptions to this. The craven creative, the malevolent marketing director, the bullying business director have on occasion won the day. But overall in my experience fakes are found out, charlatans are shopped. Good prevails.
Instant karma’s gonna get you
Gonna knock you right on the head
You better get yourself together
Pretty soon you’re gonna be dead
~ John Lennon, Instant Karma
Of course in the past one had to wait for hubris to be followed by inevitable nemesis. Nowadays the social web has created a kind of instant karma. Because the courtroom of public opinion is so immediate and all seeing. It shines an unforgiving,instantaneous light on the ill conceived and poorly executed. It likewise rewards the virtuous with currency and value.
I had always believed that Corporate Social Responsibility was exactly that: a responsibility that a business owed to the communities it served. I wasn’t so enamoured of more fashionable phrases like social investment because I didn’t feel ethics needed commercial justification. And I wasn’t convinced CSR had a role in marketing or brand.
Now I have been persuaded that ethics are more than a responsibility. They are fundamental to a brand’s sustainability in a transparent, socialised world. Because increasingly consumers are unwilling to buy good products from bad people. Because in a world of commercial karma only the good Clients, good admen and good brands can win.
3rd May 12
BBH Asia Pacific Chairman, Charles Wigley, and Rob Campbell of W+K delivered their joint talk “Everything we know, is wrong” at The Asia Marketing Effectiveness Festival in Shanghai last week. Asked to be provocateurs, their talk (slideshare below) smartly tackles five flawed notions in one fell swoop: from ‘tv is dead’, ‘brand love’, ‘everyone wants to join in’, ‘pre-testing makes everything better’ and finally ‘London and New York know absolutely everything’. At Labs we particularly enjoyed the provocation of the last theme, which struck us as something not discussed nearly enough on these pages. If you’re someone with a client or simply a keen interest in Asia (so all of us, then..), then may we suggest – if you do nothing else – reading slides 64-81 of Chaz and Rob’s presentation below.
As Chaz himself puts it:
“We had what we knew would be a crowd pleaser in the East where we have both lived and worked for years, but may be less of one in the West. We’ll see. We firmly believe it anyway. Specifically we took on the notion that ‘West knows best‘. If you believe that culture significantly influences how people look at and interact with the world, then there is ample evidence that it causes Asian – more collectivist – consumers to interact differently towards brands and to read communications differently. Academia and our business are just at the start of understanding this one. But it’s going to be big. Read Richard Nisbett’s ‘The Geography of Thought’.”
29th March 12
Posted in BBH
Every now and again, we get the chance to stop and draw breath, to reflect a little. Today is BBH’s 30th birthday and, to mark the moment, Nigel Bogle wrote to everyone who works here. It’s a personal perspective on the story of BBH, sure, but in reading it, it struck us this might be something of value beyond these four walls. A celebration of – and provocation to – our industry, not just this agency.We hope you enjoy it.http://www.vimeo.com/39397525Hi Everyone,
Today BBH is 30 years old. Happy birthday to one and all.
As this day approached I found myself reflecting on what the last 30 years has taught us about running an advertising agency. We have learned a lot, obviously. Thirty years is a long time. A lot about the importance of attracting and developing the best people, creating the right environment, having clear beliefs and values. But for me, above all else we have learned one simple thing:
It’s all about the work. Or, as John puts it: ‘All roads lead to the work.’
I know this is a blindingly obvious thing to say. An advertising agency’s reason to be is to produce work. But the fact remains that when we singlemindedly put the quality of our work above anything else, then everything else falls into place. And when we say it’s all about the work, we are talking about the relentless pursuit of creative excellence. Game changing creativity that has the power to change the fortunes of brands and businesses. Ideas that break out of the confines of their category and enter popular culture.
That is not easy to do. It not only requires talent, it requires trust. It is harder in some categories than in others. It requires an environment that inspires trust in the clients who entrust their brand communication to us. That is a responsibility every one of us shares, not just those directly involved in the creation of our product. It is why I have said many times that all of us are involved in the work. The way a client is greeted on entering the building, the efficiency with which we handle their financial affairs, even the quality of a cup of coffee, these things all help to create the environment where we can be the best we can be and our clients will trust us to take the calculated risks we need to take.
Over the last 30 years we have been more consistent than many of our competitors both here in London and across our network. But on closer inspection you will see that we have had our ups and downs. The quality of our creative work has not always been top drawer by the high standards we judge ourselves against. And, reflecting upon the reasons for that, more often that not it has been because we got distracted. By obsessing about new ways of working, shipping in armies of consultants, (one of my bigger mistakes) too much introspection, coping with growth, dotcom madness, whatever. All well intentioned, but in their pursuit we took our eye off the ball that matters most and our product quality dropped. And then our confidence drops too and that is not good because the thing that you put in the fuel tank of an agency is confidence. And as the doubt creeps in you can start to question your belief.
BBH was built upon a set of beliefs, many of which others did not believe in. 20 plus years of no creative pitching, a policy the Financial Times called “suicidal.” The belief that we could build a strong global network that competed with the big boys, with a tiny number of offices. A holding company chief said “not in my lifetime” when I told him years ago that was our vision. He’s still alive.
We have chosen to zag while the world zigs. We have nailed our colours to our first belief, “The Power of Creativity and the Primacy of the Idea”. It is not easy being BBH. We have chosen a demanding path. A path that relies on confidence and self belief. And we have learned from those ups and downs that nothing reconfirms belief and builds confidence better than doing great work. Hence the lesson we have learned above all others. It’s all about the work.
Consider BBH London’s work for The Guardian. (And I could reference many other fine examples of BBH work over the years). A brilliant piece of communication, rooted in a fundamental truth about the brand, created by a team of talented people working with a visionary client. It has spread like wildfire and the concept of open journalism is being talked about from here to Australia. It has become news in its own right and entered popular culture. It is game changing.
But with all that come other good things. People want to know who created the film. People want to share it. Most people love it. Some hate it. That’s okay. Many of our clients admire it. It increases the interest people have in working at BBH anywhere in the world. It puts a spring in our step. It makes us proud. It makes us confident. It reaffirms our belief in ourselves. It makes the phone ring with calls from prospects wanting to meet us. And, perhaps most importantly, it inspires us to try even harder in all we do to reach for that level of excellence. So many other things fall into place when all we do is focus on the work.
Thirty years. One simple lesson. Running an advertising agency is a very simple business that on occasions we can make complicated. As long as we remember all roads lead to the work then the next 30 years can be even better than the first 30.
There is one other very important lesson that John, John and I learned before we started BBH. You cannot create a great agency or do great work without great people, working well together. We have been privileged over the last thirty years to have brilliant people join us all over the world and in many cases build their careers with us. Everything we have achieved as a business is down to all of them and all of you. Thank you to every single one of you for making BBH the very special company it is today.
All the best.
19th March 12
Posted in sxsw
Thanks to everyone who came to our talk at SXSWi last week. For anyone interested, you can find our slides and our speech below (we talk fast, so there’s plenty of it!) and please check out #sxbattle on Twitter to follow the commentary on the day. As the hashtag suggests, we pitched the benefits of two alternate futures as a battle, along the way inviting the audience to vote for the one they thought most likely to become a reality. We had a lot of fun doing it, thanks again to everyone who joined us.
Let’s start by stating the obvious, a disclaimer if you will.
We’re not really here to talk about Skynet and Mad Max. They’re both works of fiction, each film set after an apocalyptic event. We thought about trying to re-title this talk – “how an apocalypse might affect your business…” but we settled for this disclaimer instead.
They’re just an analogy. One we’d like to use to tell a story. Everyone in this room is a storyteller, it’s what we do. We tell stories to effect results. Here, it’s fair to say, both films paint insanely dystopian, radically different visions of the future, yet they are also classic narratives. Control vs chaos. A totalitarian state vs total anarchy. A closed network vs an open network. Read full post
2nd March 12
Author: Jason Gonsalves, Head of Strategy, BBH London
Our first ad for The Guardian broke on Wednesday night. It’s basically a product demo taken to epic proportions, re-telling and shedding new light on the classic story of the 3 Little Pigs. If you haven’t seen it already check it out and see what you think. Then below I’ve shared the thinking behind the work for anyone interested in hearing a little more.
Readers of this blog need little convincing of the merits of citizen journalism, crowd-sourcing and open platform collaboration. Nowadays eye witness accounts are shared instantly with the world through Twitter, whilst Google Alerts or new destinations like Gawker and Huffpo offer an alternative to traditional news brands. What’s more, we all know the broader Newspaper industry is struggling. Print circulations and revenues keep falling, and for most the business model simply isn’t working. Add to that mass criminality and corruption, and the long-term diagnosis looks terminal.
All this starts to beg the question, where does that leave a newspaper like The Guardian? It has to continue to be far more than simply an aggregator of opinion and comment. It’s an innovation business almost two centuries old, one looking to lead the global news agenda and set an example for how modern brands should behave.
Our brief was to help cut through preconceptions, engage new readers by bringing to life The Guardian’s remarkable transformation over the last 10 years from a left-wing, British newspaper to a global digital news hub.
This change has been driven by Alan Rusbridger, The Guardian’s editor and is built on a belief that in the modern world no single organisation can possibly claim to be sole arbiter of truth, with experts journalists working in isolation to pass down the day’s news to the masses. Instead, for The Guardian, modern news is a dynamic, participative and open dialogue in which the public and other news sources enrich and expand stories, inviting response and opinion. It’s open and mutual rather than closed and didactic. It’s iterative and alive rather than final and definitive. It’s multi-platform and digital first.
- Whilst most newspapers jealously guard the stories they are planning to cover, The Guardian now publish their news lists online daily, encouraging both public and experts to get in touch with their journalists if they feel the have something to contribute, advise on or just to have their say.
- When the MPs Expenses Scandal exploded, The Guardian swiftly built an app that enabled the public to get involved, sift through receipts and flag anything they decided was worthy of investigation.
- During Arab Spring, in addition to providing content from its journalists in the field, The Guardian invited Arab commentators to share their views and blog, in Arabic, on the Guardian’s platform.
- The Guardian’s open platform enables anyone to access data collected by the Guardian as well as providing a search tool so that users can search for government information from around the world. It also encourages readers to upload their own data visualisations or share their favourites.
Whilst The Guardian represents open news, it remains a brand with a point of view, with a role and purpose that is more, not less, important in today’s world. Rather than benefiting shareholders or a proprietor, the Guardian is owned by the Scott Trust which ensures that profits are reinvested to sustain journalism that is free from commercial or political interference. The trust, which was formed in 1936, and is named after CP Scott (Editor between 1872 and 1929) protects the Guardian’s commitment to a set of values that can be summarised as honesty, cleanness (today interpreted as integrity) courage, fairness and a sense of duty to reader and the community. Scott’s famous words “Comment is free, but facts are sacred” remind us of the importance of accuracy and truth in a world where information and opinion is ubiquitous. Relentless inquiry is the responsibility of organisations that want to set the news agenda, they must stop at nothing to get the bottom of the stories that matter. Nick Davies did just this – he was the Guardian journalist who spent 5 years finding and checking evidence and withstanding threats to uncover the truth behind the ’phone hacking at the News of the World.
If you couldn’t tell already, I’ll admit personally to being a huge fan. But I believe as digital innovators, creative pioneers, and champions of civil liberty and reform The Guardian is a rare and precious thing that deserves support. The story of the newspaper industry as we know is unlikely to conclude with a fairy-tale ending, but the Guardian is definitely painting an exciting vision of things to come.
Client Credits – The Guardian
David Pemsel, Marketing Consultant
Richard Furness, Head of Sales and Marketing, The Guardian
Anna Hayman, Marketing Manager, The Guardian
Media Buying Agency – PHD
Toby Nettle, Media Planner
Creative Agency – BBH
BBH Creative Director: David Kolbusz
BBH Creative Team: Matt Fitch & Mark Lewis
BBH Producer: Davud Karbassioun
BBH Production Assistant: Genevieve Sheppard
BBH Head of Strategy: Jason Gonsalves
BBH Team Director: Ngaio Pardon
BBH Team Manager: Alex Monger
BBH Team Assistant: Katie Burkes
BBH Creative Team (Print): Carl Broadhurst and Peter Reid
BBH Head of Art: Mark Reddy
BBH Designer: James Townsend
BBH Print Producer: Sally Green
BBH Creative Director: David Kolbusz
BBH Head of Strategy: Jason Gonsalves
BBH Team Director: Ngaio Pardon
BBH Team Manager: Alex Monger
BBH Team Assistant: Katie Burkes
Production Company – Rattling Stick
Director: Ringan Ledwidge
Producer: Chris Harrison
DoP: Franz Lustig
Editor/Editing House: Richard Orrick (Work post)
Post Production (Graphics + CGI effects): The Mill London
Sound Design: Will Cohen & Sam Brock
Music: Phil Kay (Woodwork Music)
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
TagsAdvertising BBH Barn creativity crowdsourcing design digital google Jim Carroll mobile participation social social media storytelling technology twitter
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