26th September 13
One of the more innovative corners of the Web, is a dark and somewhat unscrupulous place. That does not mean that it cannot contain a wealth of innovative thinking, once you scratch the surface.
Since it’s launch in 2011, The SIlk Road has pushed the value of bitcoins (the digital currency underpinning its operation.) by over 200 fold, to today’s worth which is over $100 USD. Since the rise of the Internet, no other online marketplace can boast so high a demand, that it lifts a digital currency to become the world’s most valuable. Aside from its huge product demand, there are a number of innovations on The Silk Road that will likely be adopted by the rest of online retailers in the coming years.
US Senator Chuck Schumer summed up the site nicely as “the most brazen attempt to peddle drugs online that we have ever seen… by light-years.” He demanded that the website be shut down in 2011, but the Drug Enforcement Administration has yet to find a way to do so.
To an outsider, how such a site still exists may not make sense: the buyer and seller are anonymous, they sell illegal drugs, and do so with an online currency. However, the mechanics to make this work so seamlessly are in fact, light years ahead of their time.
The transaction process on The Silk Road is one of the most innovative systems on the Internet today and the population’s trust in the economy allows for an extremely simple system.
Here is the user experience of a transaction:
A buyer decides to make a purchase, they notify the seller of the quantity and their bitcoins are transferred from their wallet to The Silk Road. Their bitcoins are then held with The Silk Road, which acts as an escrow agent for the transaction. The bitcoins are only released to the seller after the buyer has received the product and leaves a review on the seller’s page.
This very simple mechanic of mandating product reviews is an extremely smart step when dealing with a black market because the market becomes more intelligent with every single transaction. This mandate naturally lessens the risk of scammers and builds the trust in the market that it requires to operate. Quite simply, The sellers with the better products get the best reviews and buyers shop with more confidence.
Online retailers like Etsy, Airbnb and Craigslist could benefit from implementing The Silk Road’s review-dependent transaction system. A major barrier for small vendors is garnering enough trust, which usually takes years and several purchases to gain. Although notorious for it’s drug-trafficking, beneath the pavement of the Silk Road lie a number of amazing innovations. happening in this surreal environment that we can all learn from.
20th May 13
As a product of the first dotcom boom in the mid-nineties I have always been digitally minded. I found my way to advertising through a decade of working in some of the finest interactive studios. More so than ever those two worlds have collided. Earlier this year I set out to write a book that took some of that learning and the mindset of working as a creative in a digital world.
The format of the book took on the look and feel a children’s book for learning the alphabet, with each letter referencing a way of thinking or an insight into the modern creative process. The book was lovingly illustrated by 26 of the industry’s best, and to introduced the book, I asked a simple question of five of advertising’s top creative minds. What does it mean to be a contemporary creative in today’s modern world of advertising? Below are three of the responses I received, the remaining responses can be found by reading the book itself.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.” What does it mean to be a creative these days? It’s almost impossible to answer this. The tasks of a creative are unrecognisable from as little as five years ago. You must decide whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. Certainly the days of easy three week shoots in the Caribbean are long gone. But when has an advertising creative ever had the chance to make a physical product from scratch? To really make something? Some would argue clients have never been more conservative but some guy just fell from space for a can of pop with no guarantee that his brains wouldn’t splatter across a million screens. It seems it’s wise to be foolish. One thing a creative does need to be is a hustler. There are no easy briefs any more. You have to fight for the crazy stuff. But I honestly believe in a more uniform and conservative world weird stands out, weird – like ‘Greed’ – works. Look at GaGa. When the going gets weird the weird turn pro. Is that what we are, professional weirdos? I can live with that. - James Cooper
“Creativity” is a loaded word – like “war” or “god” or “child.” It has a lot in common with these words too – for it’s a mix of heavy burden and a blinding belief in our own potential to invent. “Creative” is too often reserved for people who are quirky, strange, tattooed and/or mustachioed. But in truth, everyone is creative with the way they solve the needs of the contemporary world – be they juggling numbers, whittling a good spear, or even in the conjuring of creative design and advertising. What we’re talking about here is indeed creativity in the visual, interactive and social-psychological senses. The Contemporary Creative has the ability to excite all of these with ease, telling stories and inciting action. Those before us molded clay, steel, and wood, but we flex our power with pixels and clicks, flash frames and light, code strings and sensors. We are manipulators – hopefully for good. The one trick pony creative no longer exists; instant death comes to those with narrow-minds, parochial interests or inflexibility. Inquisitiveness, fearlessness and an insatiable thirst for The New are the only real mandates for today’s creative minds. So feed your inner child. Create something from nothing. It’s a war of the senses. - David Schwarz
You can’t be of your time creatively if you’re behind in how you can express it. Nice sound bite, that. And like most sound bites, half true, half full of shit. Why it’s half shit: you can be and do whatever you want creatively. There is absolutely no right or wrong, just expression or no expression. That’s the goddamn beauty of it. Why it’s half true? If you want to have an impact, to have other people see or hear or experience your creativity, it’s a good idea to understand the times you’re living in, the mediums and formats are resonating with people – and understand the tools are available to bring your expressions to life. Know those, and all that creativity inside has a chance to be seen, experienced, and shared. Which makes you a creative person of your time, a ‘contemporary creative’ so to speak. - John Patroulis
The printed version of the book is set to be released on June 6th, however in the spirit of the open Web, I have published the book in it’s entirety as a tumblr blog. You can scroll through it contents at this url: abcbook.tumblr.com
23rd April 13
Posted in Creativityforgood
Today you might notice we have added something new to the blog. A tiny little detail that has the ability to make a much larger impact.
At the bottom of this post and in fact at the bottom of every post, you will find the newly added CentUp button. If you remember we first spoke to Len Kendall about CentUp in an post earlier this year. CentUp encourages us all to donate to content creators and charities at the click of a button.
In short CentUp is here to help make the Internet a better place. So, if you are reading something you like here and you appreciate the content we provide, consider giving the CentUp button a click, and make a change for good. CentUp is in beta at the moment, but BBH Labs readers can request a fast-track invitation by clicking on this link. And lastly, all proceeds from CentUp donations on this blog will benefit charities that are dear to our hearts.
12th April 13
Author: Sam Jesse (@sam_jesse), Strategist, BBH NY.
It’s hard to believe the Barn is turning four this summer. During its short existence, the Barn and its interns have had some big moments. From the very first project to receive national attention (http://datingbrian.com/) to another which won two Lions at Cannes (http://underheardinnewyork.com/), the Barn keeps moving onward and upward. We even expanded beyond our borders as the global BBH family embraced the Barn, leading to inspiring work from intern teams in London (http://keepaaroncutting.blogspot.com/) and Singapore (http://www.madebymigrants.com/). And now, BBH New York is looking for the next wave of interns ready to make some noise in the summer of 2013.
This isn’t your typical advertising internship, so we aren’t looking for your typical advertising candidates. We want the mavericks, the ones who would rather do amazing things than talk about them, those who can see the future and make it happen. We especially want the ones who think and create in tech and code. Know how to code a site in html5? Know how to build an app for iOS? Know how to bring a film to life in Final Cut Pro? Great. If not, don’t worry. We want the resourceful ones too. The ones who will learn new skills on the fly in order to get the job done. The Barn is designed to empower these kinds of people. There will be plenty of rolling with the punches along the way.
Now, on to the details. The Barn internship program accepts six students or recent graduates every summer. Interns are split into two teams of three, which are then briefed on the same assignment. Over the next 10 weeks, each team develops a unique idea and brings it to life to answer the brief with a budget of $1000. Both teams will have full access to BBH talent and will be working on client business throughout, so it will be a busy summer. The goal for each team member is to end the program walking away with tangible public-facing work to showcase in their portfolio.
15th March 13
Having spent nearly a decade as a judge, panelist, or an attendee at SXSW I have witnessed massive sweeping changes in the size, scope, and tone of this festival.
My earliest experiences at South by Southwest were fueled by conversations with futurists, digital pioneers, and creative folks exploring a new medium. The festival was small, unknown, and very personal. It stayed that way, and became the annual vehicle for meeting up with the community in real life. It was where we could hear what everyone was thinking, doing, and more importantly what they were feeling. It was about those people and how they were helping shape the Web.
A few short years later the advertising agencies began to take note of SXSW and began attending in force. The first wave was of course the recruiters, hungry for “Digital Talent”. The next wave was comprised of creative, planners, strategists, and account people. There were agency parties, panels, and booths. The festival became too large to curate by a group of people who for the last few years were all on a first name basis. Enter the “Panel Picker”.
There is of course something admirable to be said about allowing the public to decide upon the content of next year’s festival, however the “public” had shifted from this group of connected people helping to shape the Web to a network of agencies, corporations, top-tier brands, and holding corps. This without doubt, was going to impact the tone of the festival. And it did.
SXSW panel content began to drift away from personal reflections of the past year and projections of the years to come. They became a platform for agencies and brands to build a presence within the interactive community. A large percentage of the conversations became pitches and the passionate thinking about the future went silent.
This year felt different. There was a visible shift. This year there was another generation emerging from within the festival. The maker’s movement had arrived and they took on many forms. Elon Musk gave an extremely illuminating talk. There were 3D scanners and printers that created our century’s first glimpse at the idea of teleportation. There were also production shops like Deep Local best know for Nike’s Chalk bot talking about the path of his company from Punk Rock to CEO. There was definitely a something new in the air. The festival subconsciously rebooted and began focusing on the future again.
“No one wants PCs” – Bruce Sterling
This year during Bruce Sterling’s closing remarks, he made clear the circle of life in technology. For every innovation and advancement we embrace, the previous piece of technology it replaces dies. He explained the importance of recognizing and owning that. Bruce also went on to talk about focusing on the people behind the tech, and the importance of the thinkers and makers vs. the end product. It was during this talk that made the turning point evident. We need to embrace the idea of making, but making in such a way that we were aware of what we are replacing. The only constants in the equation are the individuals behind the advancements.
The festival left me thinking that next year would mark a return to that original “futurist spirit”. Sure there will be a huge brand presence, but the content, the core of the SXSW will once again be about the future through the lens of technology and more importantly through the voices of those leading the charge.
11th March 13
Posted in Start ups
Author: Saneel Radia, Founder Finch15
When Ben and Mel set up BBH Labs long before I was ever given the keys here in NYC, one of its core ambitions was to birth new offerings. Well, I’m lucky to say this certainly panned out, which is exactly why I had to say goodbye.
One thing that became clear after years of conversations with clients about innovation was that many big, mature brands look upon startups with joy (and a touch of envy) as they see the culture of innovation with which they are imbued. At the same time, there are plenty of very big companies innovating at a speed and scale that no startup could ever comprehend (P&G and AmEx are two companies I find myself applauding all the time, even if the awe isn’t mutual). That’s because web innovation and product innovation are not the same thing – unless your core product is on the web. For companies that primarily create analog products, this innovation landscape can seem like a foreign land with a different language and odd custom
At the same time, more and more of these big companies are talking about their marketing outputs as assets. Thus an idea was born. These assets could provide real commercial value if they were used to create a competitive advantage in the digital space. If a brand has strong brand equity, distribution, consumer data and other “brand assets” that can help create digital businesses, that’s a well-lit path to product innovation. We created Finch15 to identify this path and guide clients down it.
In a nutshell, Finch15 creates revenue-generating digital businesses for brands. We identify market opportunities, quantify their value and determine the best way a brand can stretch profitably into that space using those precious assets. It’s a form of lateral innovation. The client stays true to their business and brand, but we help move them into a new, digital category. We mitigate the risk of this effort by ensuring whatever we do is good for the brand. So, if things don’t pan out, they have a self-funded marketing effort. If they do, they have a completely new source of revenue in what is likely a fast-growth market.
We certainly aren’t the first to pursue this, and hope we aren’t the last. In our effort, we aspired to create a unique mix of marketing, investment banking and tech talent that gives us a chance to create innovative, successful businesses for our clients. Yes, we do have clients. And no, we aren’t telling yet (you’ll see them when the businesses launch).
It’s exciting to found a company birthed at BBH Labs and incubated at VivaKi. VivaKi’s network of tech, media and strategy talent is a huge resource for a small startup. We couldn’t be more excited. I’m especially honored they’re letting me serve the concurrent role of EVP, Product Innovation for them. I get to work with VivaKi clients across the globe and actually talk to those very innovative companies accomplishing things at a scale few others can imagine.
Wish us luck. Or just “ooo” and “ahhh” at the dynamic logo Tim, Victor, Lasse and other BBH Labs members created here.
31st January 13http://www.vimeo.com/56722891
Every once and awhile we stumble upon a piece of technology or an innovation that changes behavior in all the right ways. For the most part these ideas are based on a very simple, very obvious insight that for one reason or another, has not yet been solved for. CentUp is exactly one of those ideas.
Quite simply, CentUp is a share button that lets you appreciate content and give a few cents while doing so. So, when things go viral, they create awareness. When things get CentUp, they will create change.
One of the most common reasons people don’t donate more online is because they forget. CentUp is an active reminder to give, and it lives where people are spending an enormous amount of time and attention each day: consuming online content.
So whether you are reading your favorite blog, browsing your friends instagram photos, or even loling at a local improv group’s video, let amazing creators know that you support them with more than just a share. CentUp changes behaviors by making social good a core element of the publishing business model.
We spent a bit of time with Len Kendall, one of the founders of Cent Up through the magic of Google Docs. Below are is our Q&A.
Q1. When and where did you first conceive the idea for CentUp? And how close to the original idea is the current incarnation?
There were two items that sparked CentUp. (Not including the damn amazing domain name that was available.)
The first inspiration came from our collective work in the advertising and pr world. It’s increasingly difficult to build digital things that people take the time to use, read, or donate to. People’s attention spans are low and distractions are high. So we wanted to create something that took miniscule actions and made them something more powerful in aggregate. This flash of inspiration happened at a coworking space in Chicago while we were dissecting a different project.
What really tipped us over the edge specifically was the Kony 2012 video that went viral last year. It so perfectly embodied the often negatively used term, “slacktivism” which describes people taking an action that doesn’t really lead to change. (The video was shared millions and millions of times, but war in Africa wasn’t being thwarted by most people clicking “like”). We decided to develop something that could take advantage of tiny actions, but collectively accomplish something good. Hence, CentUp was born.
While the focus of our idea was very much on raising money for non-profits, we quickly realized that publishers (anyone who creates content online) were our core customers and we needed to build a product that first and foremost served them. While the functionality of CentUp isn’t going to be that much different than how we first envisioned it, the relationship building and marketing will have a vastly different focus.
Q2. I assume that going into this, the shift into a start-up lifestyle was something you planned for. In retrospect, what would you have done differently if anything. And, what were some of the unexpected surprises?
In terms of surprises, the biggest adjustment for me was the management of my own time. I don’t wake up anymore with an outlook calendar full of meetings or client requests that need to be dealt with. The way in which I spend my time is very much up to me and it has made me hyper-sensitive to whether or not particular moments, conversations, events, and other diversions are helping my business. But don’t worry, I haven’t become a selfish jerk just yet. Also, I am lucky to have a wonderful and understanding fiance who doesn’t mind my increased work intensity, as long as I spend some of that time working from the couch next to her.
I always imagined I would leave the agency world to either build my own company or join a young one, but I didn’t know it would happen as soon as it did. I was presented with a solid opportunity to do freelance work on a recurring basis while focusing the most of my time on CentUp. Since a few hours here and there during the week helped me cover my expenses, it made the transition much easier to embrace. The critical element was that I no longer had to say, “I still have a full-time job” when talking to investors, partners, media, etc. I highly recommend this kind of shift for people because it allows you to build and run a company quite lean before it’s time to dedicate your entire life to it. A month after leaving my gig, CentUp was accepted into a startup incubator in Chicago and things started moving really fast.
Q3. How do you and your partners work together? Prior to CentUp, were any of the founders part of a start-up?
The three original co-founders: Tyler Travtiz, John Geletka, and myself all come from marketing and never had worked at a start-up. While we’re not veterans in that respect, we all have a solid set of experience in building brands for very large companies. Once CentUp joined an incubator program, we combined forces with our investors Chris McLaughlin and Marcus Duncan who have a solid background in the non-profit space and product development. We’re all in Chicago, and we intend on staying on our lovely city. When we’re not working from our lovely office we’re usually taking advantage of Google Hangouts to work from home and talk to each other along the way.
Q4. How has Ventricle been able to help you grow beyond staffing and talent?
What I really appreciated about their program versus the other big ones out there like Techstars is the level of partnership they brought to the table. They didn’t just invest in us, have a few mentors come in, and give us a desk. They are with us day to day helping develop and design the product. Beyond the added hands on deck, they’re also removing friction from the business building process. By helping address the minutia (accounting, legal, etc) of building a company, it leaves us time to focus on doing what we do best, designing, developing, and acquiring customers.
Q5. When do you expect to be out of beta, and open to the public? What are some of the first partnerships that will be connected at launch?
We expect to launch at the end of February (which incidentally is when our Indiegogo campaign will wrap up). We’re giving first access to the people that pledged to our campaign, even if it’s a dollar. We’re not using a crowdsourcing platform primarily to raise money, rather we’re using it to build our first set of fans and show publishers that they absolutely should install CentUp after our launch, because there is a demand from readers.
In terms of partners we’ve got a great set of non-profits that we’re in final discussions with. From the publisher side, we’re going to start with small to medium size sites to test out the system and then expand quickly on larger networks. We can’t reveal those yet, but they’re definitely names that readers of this blog will recognize. In the meantime we encourage anyone who hosts their own site to sign-up to be one of our publishers.
Q6. Do you envision CentUp being rolled into a larger platform or network, or is it too early for that kind of thinking?
Ultimately, we realize that the CentUp will be infinitely more powerful if it can partner with a platform like Google+ or Twitter, but we know we’ll need to develop our own ecosystem first.
Our intention for the first year is to have enough content getting CentUp so that we can build a Reddit-like home page that shows top content getting cents. It’s a place that we believe bloggers and other content creators will strive to show-up on because it doesn’t just represent virality, but a substantial endorsement from fans, backed with real money.
P.S. Look for the CentUp button right here on the Labs blog towards the end of February.
3rd October 12
It is quite obvious that we here at Labs are huge fans of both the open source community, and idea of social-coding platforms. It would go without saying that being fans of such a community is not enough, one would argue that we should not only be an observer, but also a participant. That being said, we looked at a few of the internal projects and experiments we have worked on and felt that at this point we should share bit of code with the rest of the Internet.
What began as an exploration in Processing quickly became a prototype and finally a solid bit of code that is a complete application. We called it The GIF-A-MATRON, and it is a processing application that interprets the brightness of the webcam’s image and translates it to dots that scale based on that image creating abstract interpretation. In the background the application detects a vistor’s motion and secretly captures three frames, two seconds apart and creates an animated GIF. The GIF is then send via PHP to a destination tumblr site for all to see.
Once we showed it around to a few folks, people instantly liked it. The next logical step was to release it as source for others to build upon, and interpret into what ever they see fit. It’s primary function is something like a animated gif generating photo booth, but we are interested to see where it goes from here. Feel free to grab the source from our Github page. If you do add a twist, let us know, we would love to see what you do with it.
19th April 12
Earlier this month we released a nifty little iPhone specific web app for the connected set. While we were off building it, (you see what we did there) we decided to produce some quirky promotional films to support the app’s launch.
We crafted short narratives that extended the comedic tone of the application, and helped explain the usefulness of While You Were Off through a series of possible situations may have kept you offline and away from the glorious Internet. Watch them all on our Youtube Channel.