29th March 11
Author: Adam Arnold, Partner, BBH
Today sees the launch of The Black Sheep Fund – which we believe is the first venture capital fund of its kind. It is a venture between Zag (BBH’s brand invention business) and Spark Ventures – the London based VCs that backed start up phenomena including lastminute.com, Kobalt Music, notonthehighstreet.com and Moshi Monsters.
The background is increasingly obvious: There is a dearth of seed funds for start ups. If things feel tighter than they used to be in the States – then it is ten times harder to raise money in Europe right now. The banks demand personal guarantees for business loans (!), and institutions are incredibly risk averse. If you are proven entrepreneur with a string of successful exits under your belt, then you will get by. But if you are young, hungry and full of belief in your big idea – you might well get nowhere. The thing we spotted was that the next big digital business is just as likely to come from new entrepreneurs – and that is why we set up this fund.
The premise is simple: We offer a unique cocktail of business building and brand building in one investment package. All VC’s invest cash and sit on boards. Our fund will do this plus it will help to ensure the business captures the imaginations and loyalties of consumers too. We call it ‘creative capital’. We aim to invest this creative capital in businesses that intersect consumers, technology and content. Examples would include smart new social tools, disruptive e-retailing concepts or contagious GPS games. The portfolio will be broad so long as the role of the brand is business critical. The Fund was announced today in the Financial Times, and we already have our foundation funds in place. Over the next quarter we will be meeting prospective start ups and raising the rest of the fund – targeting £10m GBP.
The invitation is open: If you or anyone you know is currently sitting on a great start up idea that they plan to take to market – then do consider the Black Sheep Fund on your short list of VC’s. We are primarily a UK based fund, but we are idea led – and a good enough idea with the right management could be invested in overseas. And, if you are an angel, with a growing desire to re-enter or join in the start up scene, then do get in touch for more information. The fund will qualify as an Enterprise Incentive Scheme (EIS) – which the UK government made increasingly attractive in the Budget last week.
Get in touch: email@example.com
For more on the Black Sheep Fund, BBH and Spark Ventures:
19th March 11
Posted in Uncategorized
In Austin on Monday I was on a panel named in apt, Southwestern fashion “The Last of the Launch and Leave ‘Ems”, hosted by Made by Many’s Anjali Ramachandran, with Conrad Lisco from RGA New York and Peter Parkes from Skype.
Our task was to dig into “the ongoing shift in advertising and marketing from one-way campaigns to more valuable and meaningful communities and platforms.. and examine what that means for agencies and clients”. Check out Anjali’s post here or the #mxmlaunch stream on Twitter which rather excellently negates any need for a post-panel blog… such is the quality of the commentary.
With that in mind, this post is just to share, as promised, some super simple slides I talked around during the course of the panel.. And, much more importantly, to thank my co-panelists Peter, Conrad and Anjali and in particular everyone who came to see, question, support and generally contribute to a feisty debate. We had fun.
See y’all next year.
4th March 11
Author: Alice Bullimore (@alicebmore), Producer, BBH London
Poor 3D. It’s been around forever yet we still don’t seem to be able to make up our minds on whether it’s any good or not.
It’s exactly one year since we partnered with Burberry to stream their show live in 3D to 5 VIP locations. Everyone was excited about Avatar. We wanted to give the fashion elite from Paris, Dubai, Tokyo, Los Angeles and New York a real-time experience of the show that trumped watching a standard webstream at your desk. It was the first ever global live simulcast in 3D.
However I doubt Roger Ebert would have bothered.
He argued recently that our brains just can’t handle 3D visuals and it gives us all a headache. ”It doesn’t work with our brains and it never will” he categorically states. He quotes a letter from Walter Murch who argues a fundamental convergence/focus issue when watching 3D that “requires us to focus at one distance and converge at another. And 600 million years of evolution has never presented this problem before.” As far as Mr Ebert is concerned, that’s it. “3D doesn’t work and never will. Case closed.”
Except with 508 comments on his post and counting, it seems the case is not completely closed for the rest of us.
Now, these guys are clearly dons. Ebert is a Pulitzer prize winning film critic who’s written for the Sun Times forever and Murch, an award winning editor and sound designer who won an Oscar for his sound editing on Apocalypse Now and the English Patient.
But is it that black and white?
Does it have to be 2D versus 3D?
The main points leveled against 3D in this debate are worth digging a little deeper on.
1. 3D doesn’t work with our brains and gives us headaches
Look, I feel sorry for the dudes who get headaches, but that’s clearly not the case for everyone. Personally, Avatar and Tron at the IMAX were extraordinary to watch. Full feature length viewing, completely headache free. Sure, these films won’t win Oscars for their plots, but for the pure visual epic-ness of it all, they were stunning.
2. 3D doesn’t enhance the emotional experience of watching a film
Sure, there are films which have no reason to be in 3D. But studios are hard wired to make money and making a film like Yogi in 3D might just make the difference between box office success and failure. When watching Tron at the IMAX, billed as a 3D film, a lot of the scenes were actually in 2D. The 3D was used where it could create most impact. Similarly, for the VIP guests watching the Burberry show, the format suited the content. A long catwalk with models striding out towards you and the shortness of a show made it an ideal 3D viewing experience. 3D can still work well, when used well. The detractors seem to be in denial that there is emotional impact in the sheer wow factor of a great 3D experience.
3. Is 3D here to stay or is it today’s betamax?
Dramatic falls in DVD sales will require Hollywood and TV manufacturers to push whatever the next difficult-to-pirate camera technique is. Other than Cameron, few of the top Hollywood directors have gone for it though. 3D’s real home might be end up in gaming. I can’t wait to see the Nintendo 3DS (which looks amazing – you can even turn it ‘up’ from 2D to 3D just like turning up the volume).
Bring on the future I say.
Bring on different types of visual and sonic exploration.
Why not explore all the ways we can use the senses to give a heightened viewing experience (what did happen to smell-o-vision?). There may be some betamaxes along the way, but going to see a 3D film is still a special shared experience.
For a start, we get to laugh at each other looking goofy in the glasses (for the time being at least)…
11th February 11
Author: Dan Hauck, ex-BBHer, now Planning Director at Sony Music UK
The title might sound a bit presumptuous, but that’s not the intention. Clearly, there are a huge number of things that music labels can learn from agencies, and indeed most labels are only starting to embrace things that have been commonplace in agencies for years.
Why should anyone listen to an industry that is in such obvious structural and financial turmoil? Well, partly because that’s exactly why the music industry is starting to embrace change where it once ignored it, happy to let the CD dollars roll in. Those days have well and truly gone, and that has brought a realization that if they don’t do something new, they might not be doing anything at all.
But mainly because the particular nature of the music industry has led to certain practices that I believe agencies can learn from. I’ve worked at Sony Music for a year now. We’ve tried to establish some of the basic principles of brand planning into the way in which marketing campaigns are created – proper understanding of audiences, an informed neutral approach to channel planning, artist/campaign propositions, creative briefs, full campaign evaluation etc etc.
In truth, some initiatives have worked better than others. There are factors unique to the music industry that can make planning for bands more difficult than for brands (incredibly short lead times, and the difficulty of working with a living and breathing product, to name two).
But there are also factors particular to this industry that lead a planner in music to a certain type of planning, one which I think can offer some interesting learnings for the discipline as a whole. Read full post
14th January 11
- “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”
~ F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Crack-Up (1936)
- At the end of last year, I briefly questioned our fascination with making things. For some reason, I was feeling uneasy. A flurry of conversation on Twitter ensued and later our friend @willsh followed up with a post of his own reflecting anew on the topic.
- Just so we’re clear, we’re big advocates of making and experimenting, not just talking or thinking. And if we’re even half-coping with the maelstrom of change out there, it’s because we’re getting comfortable with the idea of perpetual learning. That may sound hideously exhausting, but it’s responsible for keeping us sane: it’s a blessed relief when you realise your job is to act on patterns and opportunities as they warp and wend around you, instead of sending yourself quietly mad searching for a linear, tried and tested path to knowledge.
- And yet.. we need to stop and draw breath from time to time. There are a few reasons for this, some of which, sure, we’re all familiar with:
- Read full post
- “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”
7th January 11
Author: Peter Sells (@sellsy), Head of Mobile, BBH Londonhttp://www.vimeo.com/18528044
It’s normally an absolute pleasure to speak to your peers about a topic of your choosing. A pleasure that turns to butt clenching FEAR when your know your peers are going to JUDGE you, in a contest against other speakers who are funnier and cleverer than you will ever be.
The Battle of Big Thinking event format focuses the mind then, but perhaps not necessarily on the big thoughts. For, as the review contends, this year there was a heavy emphasis on execution and perhaps less on the idea.
Mine obviously was the exception…
31st December 10
Posted in BBH Labs
For 11 months and 30 days of the year at Labs we force ourselves to face forward. A relentless, 24/7, barely-stop-for-a-sandwich, is-the-singularity-here-yet? pursuit of the future. Okay, you know what we mean. On the last day of the year, however, it seems like a good moment to look back briefly, draw breath and say thank you.
The ten posts here that we’ve pulled from several times that number in 2010 are a representation, versus an exhaustive analysis, of the themes that coloured our year. Nonetheless, there are some common threads that emerge along the way to help paint a picture. This year, five particularly large threads dominate: collaborative creativity, social ideas, new agency models, ‘new school’ learning and sustainable marketing.
As we said when we did this in 2009, this post also gives us the opportunity to say thanks. Thank you for reading this blog and for inviting us to contribute to yours, for debating with us, asking and answering great questions, sharing your wisdom and making us smarter.
If the past few years have taught us anything at all, it is this: the more insanely steep the curve on change, the stronger our need for the talent and generosity of the people around us.
This was also a year of hellos and goodbyes at Labs. Hello to Saneel who joined us in NYC and Jeremy who joined us in London, and goodbye to Pats and to Labs co-founder Ben, who landed awesome jobs at CHI in London and Google respectively. We miss our partners in crime, but we’re as excited as ever about what’s coming next, both for them and all of us.
Which brings us neatly full circle, facing forward again. . .
Happy New Year Everyone.
Saneel, Jeremy, Mel
So here they are, the ten posts we most enjoyed and which triggered a conversation from which we learned a lot. Posts are in chronological order, with links (via titles) to the original posts.
We argued here that creative agencies need to move towards becoming permeable organizations. Those in networks need to be reconfigured as networked organizations versus simply organizations within networks. Creative business must be able to draw on not just the talent within the building, but the many skills and areas of expertise that lie beyond those walls. Written pre the launch of Co: and in the very early days of Victors & Spoils, this post provoked an interesting debate around two interesting questions we posed – what impact does this approach have on agency culture and how do you incentivise people in this framework?
Using the dip in trust of friends and peers cited in the latest Edelman Trust Barameter, we took a look at the factors in play: examining the implications and challenges thrown up for social media (as Mike Arauz summed up in a comment: “the management, navigation, and filtering capabilities we need haven’t kept up with our exploding networks..”). We put forward some thoughts for consideration on how to move forward, two of which I find myself returning to, time and time again: 1. Learn how to marry authority and inclusiveness, 2. Ask yourself if you’re offering something genuinely useful.
This post challenges just about everything we’ve ever learned about loyalty and customer relationships, but does so from the perspective of media efficiency and a shedload of humanity. We argue brands need to let go; concentrate instead on when the context and time is right to initiate a relationship with someone, then move on. The relationship is no less real or valuable, just because it may be fleeting. In doing so, we note, brands demand less depth of information from users, supporting their privacy on the web.
As remixes and spoofs go, we liked Opera’s take on BBH NY / Google Creative Labs’ work for Google Chrome. It also gave us an excuse share the current (awesome, though we say so ourselves) work that was live at the time, as well as go behind the scenes with the Making of.
Prompted to give a talk at our friends’ Power to the Pixel’s Pixel Lab, we examined how brands are telling stories on the web, what entertainment brands have to teach non-entertainment brands about transmedia storytelling and proposed a framework for how brands and producers may work together beyond straightforward product placement or promotions.
In a tour de force of five separate posts spanning the second half of the year by BBH Chairmen, Jim Carroll and Charles Wigley, we railed against the “Wind Tunnel” approach to marketing that uses identical methodologies to deliver insight, ironing out difference. The argument began with Wind Tunnel Politics at the time of the UK election. In the post we’ve chosen here, Jim focuses on a series of solutions looking at how we achieve divergent insight and deliver better value for brands. This in turn was followed up by a workshop Chaz held in Asia: The Anti-Wind Tunnel Marketing Movement. For the full series, please just put ‘wind tunnel marketing’ into the search box of our blog.
A lot more than a farewell post, a considered, entertaining and brilliant bit of writing that sums up 5 years’ worth of learning** on the inside of agency life. Justifiably our most popular post this year in terms of tweet love.
**Note: we’re talking about Ben here, who fits seven days’ work into one on a good day. So the time frame is misleading, better think in terms of dog years instead.
Griffin Farley’s post which does exactly what it says on the tin. An incredibly useful, generous post and a slideshare to boot (co-authored by Campfire’s Mike Monello), examining the hows and whys of “planning not for the people you reach, but the people that they reach.” And a great observation answering Edward Boches’s question: why give content away?
As we say in the post, we like nothing more than great creativity and innovation put to great use. BBH London’s work for St John Ambulance showed a clearly defined communication problem and managed to combine surprise and emotion beautifully.
Inspired by Rachel Botsman’s TED talk, our argument takes the line that marketers so far have focused largely on collaborative production, vs consumption. In this post we examine what the implications might be for brands to exploit this potential shift in focus. As with all these posts, the comments add immense value to the thinking.
AND THE THEMES THAT WOULDN’T STAY DOWN THIS YEAR…
- The rise and rise of social and participatory ideas. Just a few examples of the work and the thinking here: A kind of magic: Myspace Music Fan Videos, Superbowl, super social: The story of Yeo Valley, Burberry’s Global 3D Live Shows + Social, Digital Communities Can Learn From “Leading Clever People“, The Powers and Perils of Participation (originally a guest post on the Likeminds blog).
- Proof that awesome creativity is alive and well, just emerging in new, exciting, tech-enabled forms: our favourites ranged from Ali Merry’s story behind BBH London’s game for Barclays, 56 Sage Street and their Status of Africa Facebook app to awesome light painting with an iPad from Dentsu London and Analogue Digital’s hotel light show for Target. We also love the iOscars and, perhaps most of all, yet more of BBH New York’s outstanding work for Google Chrome.
- The desire to challenge orthodoxy where needed, with some solutions along the way: in addition to the Wind Tunnel series, BBH NY’s Emma Cookson challenged short hand marketing rules whilst Calle Sjoenell with characteristic perspicacity and good humour threw down his Radical Proposal To Save Advertising on the Web. We also asked the questions Agency, Does Your Client Need You?, Where’s the Coke Bottle of the Online World? and later in the year debated whether the word “digital” should be killed for good.
- Sustainable living becomes sustainable marketing? If we make one prediction for 2011, it’s this: the social web will both encourage and enable businesses to behave more sustainably and win in the process. Give to receive. Think about it. If brands and agencies need any encouragement or provocation from others, here are just some of the show-stoppingly great initiatives and platforms that caught our eye this year: Pencils of Promise, TIE – Exchange for Good, A Developing Story, Six Items Or Less and Green Thing’s Saved.
- Collaboration and crowdsourcing in all its forms came of age. I tried to write that exact sentence at the end of 2009 and Ben (rightly) questioned it. But this year, no question, crowdsourcing and the overturning of old models kicked into the mainstream. The topic stretched between agency models (see the first post to make our top 10 this year above, it’s also examined in Agency, Does Your Client Need You?), skillsets and attitudes (Are You Ready To Form Voltron?), to hands-on experience via the brilliant Betacup Project, an interview with the founders Len and Daniel of The 3six5 Project and Rick Liebling, not to mention flipping the idea of crowdsourcing on its head and examining the magic that happens when creativity and crowdsourcing meet.
- How storytelling can have the power to move and surprise us, no matter what its form: what the book sensation Tree of Codes can teach digital, James Mitchell’s great #bobt speech The Value of A Good Story and Jeremy’s reevaluation of Long Form. And grateful thanks to our friend Dan Light, who happily subjected himself to a three part interview on brands and transmedia at the hands of Ben Shaw and Mel, whilst setting up his brand spanking new company.
- All back to the new school: the power of perpetual learning. A fitting theme to end on. This year we learned a huge amount from others and it’s only given us appetite to learn some more. We put a call out to join us for an Internet Week Europe event and attempted en masse to learn how to code with the help of the super smart and nice Tom Uglow and friends at Google; we spent time at SXSWi and TED Global (thank you to June Cohen and Ronda Carnegie); Zach Blank showed us what open source has to teach us about creativity; we got a life and a 20% project and learned from one in particular, The Knot Collective. Much respect also due to both Boulder Digital Works (we continue to learn more from the students than they from us) and, er, the CIA. . .as well as BBH NY’s amazing internship program, the BBH Barn, which goes from strength to strength.
16th December 10
The good people from the Cristal Festival (held in Crans, Switzerland.. not a bad place to be at this time of year) got in touch a few months ago, asking me to join a panel today with two very smart ladies, Fernanda Romano (Euro RSCG’s Global CD for Digital & Experiential Advertising) and Patou Nuytemans (Chief Digital Officer, Ogilvy EMEA).
We were each asked to come with an answer to the question that’s the title of this post. My response – a super short presentation and what was said to accompany it – below.
When I first heard the question, the answer felt pretty obvious. An immediate YES. Let’s kill it stone dead, with fire, right here, right now. Both Fernanda and Patou argued with absolute certainty that this should be the case, letting a series of integrated award entries from a single telco in Bahrain (yes, that was the point…) do the talking.
Personally, my response was driven by the fact the word feels both outmoded AND it suggests unnecessary complexity; a separation between “digital” and “analogue” that’s vaporising before our eyes. Even before analogue TV channels are switched off forever (in the UK in 2012), we all know audiences flow freely between on and offline and expect to see coherency from brands, wherever they find them. This blurring is only going to get more extreme, until we don’t even notice the difference. In fact, I’m fairly convinced we’re the last generation to even care.
Continuing in this vein, I borrowed the oft-quoted Charlene Li’s statement at SXSW in 2009 that “[digital] social networks will be like air”. Businesses need to prepare themselves for a future where open, hyper-connected networks are the norm. Talking about “digital” vs everything else out there is arguably unhelpful, reminiscent of a past when digital was an after thought and treated as a channel (“okay, we’ve got our big idea, now let’s do some of that digital stuff!”). Now that digital underpins much of what we do, it becomes next to meaningless as a descriptor.
Or does it? Before we draw the knife to kill the word, let’s just hold on a minute. If we stop using the word digital, what would replace it? How would we describe the creative canvas and media environment in which we operate? Note: ‘post-digital’ is not an option.
Taking a step back, there’s nearly always an answer somewhere in history – as Russell Davies’ reference to post-war England in his Post Digital apology perfectly encapsulates – or better still, given I was asked to talk about killing something, let’s learn from Mother Nature.
There’s a natural rhyme and reason to the flow of things in nature. Put incredibly simply, all living things experience at least two of the following during their lifetime: birth, sex, death.
Where are we *really* in the cycle of digital’s life? Actually, I’d argue we’re somewhere just after birth.
We’re certainly no-where near approaching maturity. Like virgins discussing sex, we’ve boasted about nearly doing it, thought we may have done it (not entirely sure) and excitedly talk about what it’ll be like when we’ve done it, you know, A LOT. There are people who are legitimately experienced, but most of us aren’t. Not in the “10,000 hours logged coding” sense of the word.
Sure, we don’t all need to know how to code brilliantly in order to qualify. Although I’d like to suggest we might want to learn a little. Ad agency creatives ten years ago didn’t need to be directors, editors or lighting cameramen to write great TV scripts. However, they’d lived with telly and newspapers their whole lives and learned the craft of writing, design and art direction before they ever dared set foot inside an agency. Likewise the UK’s IPA has stacks of papers which prove the effectiveness of advertising, yet would be the first to admit the real ROI of digital activity is still in its infancy.
Until the industry at large has a universal understanding of what it takes in terms of craft and intelligence to deliver *outstanding* digital work, suggesting we should ‘kill digital’ feels grossly premature.
In writing this, I’m reminded of Iain Tait’s last column for NMA just last month, in which he protested with good reason:
“Digital may be everyday, but it’s not effortless… It’s time to stop all the nonsense about trying to call this stuff this or that. Only thing that matters is whether it’s good or not. The only thing more stupid than all the word-monkeying is denying that technology, code and making things out of bits and bytes is important.”
I’ve got a lot of sympathy with this for a bunch of reasons (as I’ve said before here, a favourite post of mine is The Tragic Death of Practically Everything), but in the main I’d like us to show digital some respect. Yes, it informs everything like air, but that doesn’t make it easy to breathe.
In short, I’d like our industry to be allowed to reach its potential in terms of digital skill. Not recognising the particular craft skills and necessary time on the clock runs the risk of arresting our collective development. Let’s not let that happen.