Events

All Together Now

Watching the music industry wrangle with disruption and try to redefine its offer *and* its revenue stream has been both a decent spectator sport and a cautionary tale. But the power of musicians to connect with their audience and push creative boundaries has remained undiminished, even as business models have mutated around them.

Last week the Convergence festival hit London, with an interesting and experimental set of performances, collaborations and events curated to focus attention on the intersection of music, technology and art. We sent a group of BBHers along and below are some of the provocations and takeouts they brought back to the office.

On Music Vs Sport

Dan Deacon‘s tales of dumpster diving for food and couchsurfing across America amused/appalled many of our attendees. Annie Little and Alana King were struck by his desire to create a collective ‘vibe’ at his performances; “People at a gig think of themselves as I, not we. At a sports match it’s like ‘Yeah we played really well’ but at a gig it’s more of an individual encounter that everyone experiences differently.” As Alana discovered later that evening, Deacon’s demands for audience participation did produce a very different and very communal gig, though one that might be awkward for a more squeamish audience!

On Creative Collaborations

Mercury prize winning produce Dave Okumu is a prolific collaborator who has worked with Amy Winehouse, Jessie Ware and Theo Parrish to name three. Richard Birkett was interested to see that while creatives from different disciplines approach a problem from different directions, there is often parity in the process they bring. Okumu emphasized the human nature of creative collaboration, going into them without an agenda, treating them ‘like a child playing’. What is at the heart of the project is fragile, he says, and must be protected and nurtured. The best way to do this is to create a real connection between collaborators and create the right conditions for magic to happen.

On tangible data

Touching Air, by Stefanie Posavec - a necklace made of data showing a week of air pollution levels.

Touching Air, by Stefanie Posavec – a necklace made of data showing a week of air pollution levels.

Between them, the panellists at the Tangible Data session have produced many of the most imaginative and impressive visualisations of recent years. While she was seriously impressed with the beauty and craft on display, Elle Graham-Dixon found herself wondering whether there was a real need to make *all* data more accessible. The difference between data visualisations and interactive data manifestations is that the former are beautiful in their own right, whereas the latter require our participation – perhaps the early experiments haven’t quite balanced the value equation to make that happen naturally. Yet.

On not messing with our algorithms

Spotify’s Discover Weekly service is an amazingly rich personal recommendation service generating a playlist based on your listening habits cross-referenced with those of others who share some of your tastes. It made Laura Osborne wonder whether Spotify should introduce a ‘Don’t Mess with my Algo’ button to avoid playlist pollution, when a friend takes over your account at a party or when you are using Spotify to search for music for a mood film. When an algorithm produces such individual and useful results, perhaps we need help to keep the inputs as personally relevant as possible.

Convergence London is scheduled to return next year. In the meantime check out their Facebook page for pics and videos of this year’s event.

 

 

On the Beach pt 2 – Awesome People Talking

Last week we sent Alana King, Strategist and Tom Willner-Reid, Commercial Finance Manager, to Silicon Beached. Here, Tom tells us about what he learned about creativity. Part 1 is here.

Sketch Notes from Silicon Beached, by Natalia Talkowska

Sketch Notes from Silicon Beached, by Natalia Talkowska

At BBH I’m in Commercial. I’m not a creative. I observe creativity happening from a distance; I greatly admire the genius of those who sit in an unlit booth all night and come up with something as brilliant as the Chokeables. Spreadsheets, on the other hand, now we’re talking. What would I learn from a festival of ideas such as Silicon Beached?

1. Here we are at the Conway Hall, home of the Conway Hall Ethical Society. They’d have a field day debating the ethics of advertising.

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2. They are also hosting a debate on the ethics of Star Wars. Brilliant, but sadly nothing to do with today’s festivities.

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3. The theme of the day is simple: to have awesome people talking about their day jobs. The line-up is all women. Therefore we have 10 awesome women talking about their awesome day jobs. This fact is pointed out. But these are supreme experts in their field who just happen to be women.

4. 99.9% of the audience is white, however. This does need pointing out.

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5. Proceedings kick off with a TV advertising lobbyist (Lindsey Clay of Thinkbox) extolling the virtues of her medium, allowing us all to shrug off the notion of working in a declining industry and feel better about our world. TV is the saviour of advertising!

6. Ms Clay goes on to talk about targeted TV advertising, such as the Sky AdSmart service. Since watching live TV is still by far the largest recipient of our watching time (>50%), this seems a logical step forward. Are the terrestrial channels doing anything though…?

7. Liz Pavitt from Rubber Republic asks us whether we would “date our brand”? Experience tells us that lying on our dating profiles isn’t going to get us anywhere in the long term, so why do so many brands go for short-term dishonesty over longer relationships? Her sound advice is to be honest, and take the piss out of yourself, like in this Innocent ad (no danger of BBH not being “rugby” enough!).

8. Matthew, our suave, pink-jacketed MC, is behind today’s event. If only more conferences could ditch the “theme” and maintain the element of surprise by giving participants an open brief. It keeps a sense of anticipation among the audience.

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9. One (American) presenter realises Brit audiences don’t punch the air, whoop, nor have the stomach for 25 minutes of self-promotion and motivational quotes. Sorry, it just doesn’t play here.

Spot-on with your final slide though.

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10. Chocolate covered cookie-dough balls are mighty fine tea-break treats. Not only very delicious, a couple of these sugar-loaded snacks ensure the audience’s attention levels are right up there for the final session.

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11. Any minute now, the robot accountant army is going to usurp me and my kind. So proclaims Pip Jameson, founder of The Dots. Luckily the creatives are safe.

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12. Pip gives some fascinating personal insights into the start-up experience. I realise it’s for braver people than me. She then describes how she pioneered the use of wall space in her office for employees to post all the random things they love. She calls it the Glory Wall.

13. You cannot go wrong in finishing your event with an industry legend reeling off a few anecdotes from a glittering career. MT Rainey delivers in spades. Her concise, witty tales and re-runs of classic 80s ads give the dwindling crowd a little late-afternoon boost. And make us pine for Ridley Scott to go back to directing for the small screen.

14. To sign-off, MT gives us some sage advice. Take regular time out to consider things you’ve achieved, things you’ve worked on, things you’ve been a part of. Keep the memories of being involved, because you’ll want to remember them when you share your experiences with others in later life. I think she’s absolutely right!

On The Beach pt 1 – A Conference for Everyone

Last week we sent Alana King, Strategist and Tom Willner-Reid, Commercial Finance Manager, to Silicon Beached. Here, Alana writes on the significance, or not, of a conference where all the speakers ‘happened to be’ women. Part 2 is here.

 

Something strange happened this week: I attended a conference (Silicon Beached) where all ten speakers were women. Even stranger, the conference promotion made no mention of the fact that the speakers were not men. And perhaps strangest of all: the topic of the conference was not “working while female” and all its variants (“how to be confident”, “how to be less stressed” or “how to achieve work-life balance,” as if only women have feelings or families).

It was an experiment, according to the conference’s organizer: he invited ten speakers who happened to be women, and asked them to talk about their work, not their gender. Given that the sky hasn’t fallen in and the sun still rose today, the experiment was a success and one I’d love to see the rest of the industry pick up on. (Or, even better than all-women speakers, it would be great to see mixed panels organized and greeted with a no-big-deal attitude.) As you’d expect from any group of 10 human beings, some of the talks were excellent, most were good, and a few not great.

But if I dwell any longer on the all-women line-up, I wouldn’t have learned the lesson would I? So taking a page out of Silicon Beached’s book, I’d like to talk about the speakers’ work, not their gender.

For me, the theme that emerged from the best talks was a reminder that the creative and digital industries thrive when they help and delight real people–not customers or viewers, but emotional, social human beings.

Lindsey Clay from Thinkbox presented some fascinating ethnographic research about TV viewing that reminded us that people watch TV to participate in the shared social fabric of the nation.

Liz Pavitt from Rubber Republic asked us to use the “would you date your brand” filter for whatever we put on our brands’ social platforms (“possibly”, “no way” and “never in a million years” was my conclusion).

Lauren Currie from Snook told us about her mission to ‘invert the pyramid’ in order to get to brilliant service design: that is, prioritize the wisdom and experiences of people who are closest to the service in question, an idea that shouldn’t seem revolutionary but probably is.

Pip Jamieson, founder of The Dots (a LinkedIn for creative people) gave an honest account of the human side of founding a successful startup, both the emotional highs (easy to talk about) and the emotional lows (easier to keep to oneself).

And MT Rainey closed the day with some wonderful stories from her career in advertising, including babysitting Kevin Costner’s dog on the set of an Apple ad, defending Apple’s now-famous “1984” to a hostile board, and a nerve-wracking address to the board of News International in 1997 about whether this internet business will take off and whether it will change journalism, brilliantly and boldly entitled “Crystal Bollocks”.

Most inspiring was her observation that her experiences didn’t seem as remarkable at the time as they do in retrospect, and a gentle reminder to step back and appreciate your professional life as it’s unfolding.

BBH goes Back to the Future

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October 21, 2015 is the date of BBH’s digital expo, SXW1 (yes, a terrible pun-slash-homage to SXSW, based on our postcode in London) and this year we’re going Back to the Future. Some of us are old enough to be obsessive fan girls and fan boys of the film and the date on the clock in Doc Brown’s DeLorean at the very end of the film was, well, just too good to resist.

So on Wednesday, this agency is going to be festooned with Back to the Future memorabilia, listening to a killer soundtrack courtesy of BBH’s own Black Sheep Music and most of us dressed up as the cast from the ’50s, ’80s or Robert Zemeckis’ vision of 2015. Across his trilogy, Zemeckis helpfully dropped into just about every century, so we have options.

As much as it’s fun to park a begged/borrowed/stolen DeLorean outside our doors and dress up, this also happens to be the third, annual instalment of our digital expo. SXW1 is designed to be a day when we down tools as a company and just learn through doing; immersing ourselves until we bleed in the cutting edge of technology and interactive creativity, together. Three years ago this felt like a bit of a risk (“um, you want to close the company for a whole day?”), now it feels normal and necessary.

Under the leadership of our newly minted CXO, Adam Powers, this year the theme is largely – and naturally enough – about looking to all our futures. The future of photography (drones), the future of online advertising (the ad-blocking debate) to the future of TV. We will then close the day with a look at the future of religion, with the amazing Louisa Heinrich talking about faith in Elon Musk replacing faith in the Almighty.

In previous years, our stage has been graced by the likes of Michael Acton Smith from Mind Candy and Ian Livingston, the Gamers’ Godfather. We’ve had Vine & YouTube workshops, Game of Thrones Oculus Rift courtesy of Framestore and pre-release gaming consoles. We’ve drawn gratefully on our many partners and friends – Google, Twitter, Vice, Buzzfeed and many more – to provide sessions that are hands on and get-stuck-in beyond the keynote speeches.

Most years there have been surprises. I imagine this year it will be no different. And if you fancy coming back to the future with us, we have a couple of tickets we’d like to give away. Just ping @bbhlondon or @bbhlabs on Twitter, or leave your name in the comments below.

For now, we leave the last words to Marty McFly: Time circuits on… Flux Capacitor… fluxing… Engine running… All right!

See you on the other side.

 

The Nine Nos of Innovation

Last week I spent two days at the glorious British seaside, attending and speaking at Silicon Beach in Bournemouth. Highlights included Louisa Heinrich of Superhuman, on technology as today’s opiate of the masses, a rousing rant from Mark Adams of Vice on attention in the 21st century and Nicklas Bergman, who not only admitted to passing on the opportunity to invest in Spotify, but was also sporting four (visible) wearables AT THE SAME TIME!

Our own contribution, ‘The Nine Nos of Innovation’, is embedded above, and a text only version is available on our Medium channel here.

 

 

Joyful and Extraordinary, meet Dismal and Mundane

With it’s gleeful puncturing of the tropes of advertising – a world where families chuckle around the breakfast table and where it is always golden hour – the promo for Banksy’s ‘bemusement park’ might just be the most interesting piece of marketing of the year so far. Given his disdain for advertising and his skill in the dark arts of self promotion, it’s really no surprise that Dismaland manages to be both an interesting spectacle in its own right and a twisted commentary on consumerism and entertainment. Group outing anyone?

But if Weston-Super-Mare is not on your map, the lineup at this year’s dConstruct, with it’s theme of ‘Designing the Future’, looks brilliant. Highlights include ‘paleofuturologist‘ Matt Novack, Dan Hill on very-near-future city making and friendof-Labs John Willshire on ‘metadesign … examined through the contents and context of the most intriguing bedroom in sci-fi’. And, in a (hopefully unforced) segue from Dismaland, Nick Foster of design fiction exponents Near Future Laboratory will be considering ‘the role of the mundane in building the future’. Tickets for dConstruct are available here.

Create Memories, Not ‘Stuff’

“People will forget what you say, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou, quoted by Katie Ewer, Design Strategist, JKR Global

In an information-saturated world, it isn’t surprising that people are seeking out experiences rather than messaging. This non-news undoubtedly has influenced the many brands who are moving budgets from informational advertising to experiential marketing, hoping to reach an audience who want to ‘participate’ and ‘engage’ and ‘feel’  as much (if not more) than they want to consume.

With this in mind, colleagues at BBH Singapore created a day of provocation and inspiration on the theme of creating memories, with contributors coming from the worlds of neuroscience, architecture, travel and design. A video of the highlights of the day is above and a fuller recap is available here. Details of past and future events are on the Insanity with a Purpose tumblr.

 

The New Revolutionaries, tonight at BBH London

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Tonight we’re co-hosting an event with Decoded to celebrate the “New Revolutionaries”, the people transforming their industries through creativity and technology in glorious combination.

Kathryn Parsons, Lindsay Nuttall and I are lucky enough to be hosting a night of inspiring showcases and talks celebrating the people driving that creative revolution.

We’ve got two tickets to give away if you fancy it: please just tweet us @bbhlabs or @bbhlondon or leave us a comment below.

Alternatively, we’ll be live streaming the event via Twitter thanks to our friends at Streaming Tank and we’ll write up the event for this blog when we’re out the other side..

BBH went to SXSW and this is what we found

Author: Ben Shaw, Social Strategy Lead, BBH London

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Last month, BBH London sent 11 lucky people to Austin to discover the latest innovations that tech, film and music had to offer. Amongst the BBQ, beer and banter, they managed to find a bunch of insights about the advancement of the human race. Topics like this may only truly be delivered under a desert sky with smoked meat and a pale ale, but in an effort to distribute our learnings to a wider audience we’ve tried to distil them down into some slides (below). We looked at three topics that we think are vital to our future – as an agency and as human beings. Enjoy.

TECHNOLOGY
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CREATIVITY
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PEOPLE
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[slideshare id=33418484&doc=bbhsxsw2014-externalversion2-140411114855-phpapp01]

The making of Nike Hypervenom: House of Deadly

Author: Miguel Andres-Clavera, Creative Technology and Innovation Director, BBH Asia Pacific

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For some time now, artists, programmers and marketers have been seeking innovative ways to collaborate, to blur the line between art and technology, thereby creating complex systems that merge the real world with the digital world. As these new experiences transcend digital mediums and permeate our physical experience, we begin to witness the emergence of public performance as a spectacle.

We had a great opportunity to explore some of these ideas when we were tasked to launch Nike’s new Hypervenom football boot collection in Southeast Asia. Our imagination ran wild at the thought of of creating an experience that combined real football with virtual challenges and got us really excited. In a way we wanted to allow fans to experience a whole new way of playing football, to make fans feel as if they were personally immersed in an epic video game.

The challenge was to create an authentic experience that preserved the physical skills and attributes required when playing football in real life, then take the player through an intense emotional journey culminating in a ‘deadly’ twist, giving him or her a sense of empowerment from the game.

The ‘house of deadly’ was born, a mixed-reality gameplay experience in a controlled environment where players were monitored and challenged to perform actual football skills but in a virtual context using an adaptive interface. (more…)