Going for Gold

Author: Ross Berthinussen, Strategy Director, BBH London

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

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

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

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Be confident

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

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

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

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

Build in reward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Do vs. say

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

Have a point of view, start a conversation

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

Get everyone onboard

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

Think tactically

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

Be generous (and dodge the tornado)

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

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

Thank yous

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

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

‘Everything we know, is wrong’

How communication is consumed: West vs East, from "Everything we know, is wrong"

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.

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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’.”

Chaz and Rob in action at AME 2012

Future Human: Transparent Life

A version of this post originally appeared in the 16.02.12 edition of Campaign magazine.

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Billed as a dive into the “rapid evolution of data visualisation tools”, last week’s ‘Future Human: Transparent Life’ could have lost its audience at ‘hello’. Data viz may have become a hot topic in recent years, but there was also plenty of healthy scepticism in the room relating to its publicity hungry off-spring, AR. Ah yes, Augmented Reality.. which, until very recently, has had to work hard not to be dubbed Awkward Reality.

Yet a few minutes in, the event’s organiser and first speaker, the journalist Ben Beaumont-Thomas, had held the audience’s attention, wise-cracking his way through a history of human motivation behind how we portray ourselves in public (the 1970s neatly summarised as a ‘me’ decade of solipsistic confusion; the 1990s as an ‘us’ decade, the start of social transmission and an accompanying loss of privacy), before moving swiftly up to date, to focus on how we consciously and unconsciously allow increasing amounts of information about ourselves to be generated and left in the public domain: the ‘transparent life’ of the event’s title. And with that, the talk became less about bytes of visualised data and instead about something both simpler and more profound: human identity and the blurring boundaries between our private and public selves.  (more…)

Tale Torrent – The Prologue

Author: James Mitchell (@jamescmitchell), Strategist, BBH Labs

Preparations for our night of storytelling for Internet Week Europe are almost complete. And with less than a week to go until Thursday the 10th, we thought we’d share a little preview info of some of our speakers. Tales will include…

Simon Sanders – “Postcards ‘n’ mix-tapes, Skype ‘n’ status updates”
Creative Strategist /

Basheera Khan“Tales from the Crypt-ograph”
UX Architect, EMC Consulting /

Katy Lindemann“Ye olde days of (web)logging: when it still began with a ‘w’ and people thought it would never take off…”
Freelance Strategist /

Rishi Dastidar / Matt Busher“Self Portrait Postcards”
Senior copywriter, archibald ingall stretton… / Designer, mandatory thinking

Claire Burge – “From Mud Pies to Geek Chick”
Photographer /

It’s looking to be a lot of fun. It looks like we’re at capacity, with a heavy waitlist – but there is still one way to get in. We’ve still got space for a few micro-stories: that is, tales of five minutes instead of ten. So, if you have any internet incidents that you think might amuse and enthrall and you want to come, drop me an email at in the next few days.

And if you just can’t make it but want to tune in, watch this space – we’ll try to get a stream up and running on the night, right here.

Until then,


P2P Storytelling – Telling Tales for Internet Week

Author: James Mitchell (@jamescmitchell), Strategist, BBH London & BBH Labs

Here at Labs, we’re fond of many things, but here’s two: the internet, and storytelling. (Mel also likes robots, but that’s her choice ) We wondered if this year, we could combine them.

In the main, Internet Week Europe is about making better use of the internet, from bringing out the amateur behaviourist in all of us to trying to master its very nuts and bolts. And BBH Labs has been no exception: last year, we got together with google for the binary bootcamp that was Coding For Dummies.

But while we should strive to do more with the net, it’s already done much for us to celebrate. The much-feted promise of connection that was heralded in 1990 has come true for us all, whether through Facebook, Twitter or a dodgy backroom BBS. And while it’s easy to talk about the macro impact cases, from Libya to London, the personal stories often remain just that: personal.

So as part of IWE’ 11, on Thursday 10th November, join us at BBH from 7 for TaleTorrent: a night of true stories about the internet. It’s a conference, a campfire, a confessional. Eight storytellers will take ten minutes to tell us something.

There are two ways to get involved. One: come along by grabbing a ticket on our Eventbrite page.

Two: we are still looking for a couple of people to tell their stories – it could be five minutes, it could be fifteen – in our little gathering. Funny, sad, uplifiting, anything you like. If you’d like to share with us, get in touch with me at

Tonight: Kronenbourg 1664 hosts a live Q&A with Suggs from Madness

Author: Agathe Guerrier (@agatheg), Strategist, BBH London & BBH Labs

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*Tonight at 9pm GMT* we’re happy to say Kronenbourg 1664 is hosting a live event on the brand’s YouTube channel, as part of its Slow the Pace campaign.

A Q&A with the star of our second commercial in the series, Suggs from Madness, it will be livestreamed from the studios of our partner Absolute Radio. Since Friday, users have been able to submit their questions on the channel via a Google Moderator widget, a tool that was developed a few months ago for YouTube’s own Worldview project (featuring Obama and David Cameron), enabling citizens to quiz world leaders on issues of global governance.

To our knowledge, no brand has ever done this before. So nous croisons les doigts, as we say in France, until 10ish in the UK.

Watch the interview here.

Kronenbourg 1664 YouTube channel

This campaign is an integrated approach to broadcast and the social web that we’re calling “Super Bowl, Super Social” (check out our post last year about Yeo Valley for a detailed case study). Very simply, we know successful brands marry broadcast and participation in ways that add value (utility, entertainment) to people’s lives – the real-time web pushes that a stage further: rewarding brands that provide experiences and content that are bolder, better.

In the meantime, let’s hope Suggs turns up tonight.

For more info you’ll find Kronenbourg 1664 in all the usual places: @K1664slow, Kronenbourg 1664 on Facebook, Kronenbourg’s YouTube channel.

Breaking A Sweat For Japan

Image credit: Dom Grant & Zak Razvi (@zakrazzle)

From 12pm GMT today, BBH’s global run/row/cycle-a-thon goes LIVE, streaming from all six BBH offices simultaneously for 24 hours straight. You can watch it happen via the webcams on the site. Please show your support by donating here, tweet #bbh4japan or leave a message for everyone breaking a sweat here. All donations, no matter how small, will help the charity we’ve chosen to support,, deliver emergency temporary housing, warmth and dignity to Japanese families who have lost everything after the devastating earthquake and tsunami.

A whole host of people around the world in BBH offices got this up and running.. you know who you are. We also caught up with Dom Grant and Zak Razvi at BBH London who designed the art work to promote the event:

“We wanted to create a powerful image that worked on more than just one level. Using the iconic design of the Japanese flag, we replaced the red circle with a textured heart graphic. We then used the shape of Japan as a crack to depict a broken heart. We hope the image encapsulates our love and respect for the people of Japan.” Please give generously. A big thank you for your support, from everyone here and at

******AN UPDATE, 21.04.11******

As of this morning, we’re happy to report a whopping £27, 110 has been raised! Thank you to EVERYONE who donated and supported the effort.

Here are some shots from Japan sent to us by Shelterbox today:

“Emotion is data too” – Google’s screening of Transcendent Man

“Here’s to living forever. That’s not just a salutation in our family”
~ Sonya Kurzweil

“This is of mythical proportions. We have to deal with it, even if it turns out not to be true.”
Kevin Kelly

Sarah Speake introduces the 'Transcendent Man' screening

Regular readers of this blog will know we have an abiding fascination with what technology may bring in the far flung future (see our The Coming Age of Augmentation post and, most recently, Greg Anderson on Asimov’s First Law).

So it’ll be no surprise to hear we got *extremely* excited when an invite arrived, courtesy of Google, to attend a screening of Barry Ptolemy’s Transcendent Man at the Science Museum in London, followed by a Q&A with the director and the film’s subject, the futurist, author and engineer Ray Kurzweil. (more…)

Advertising, mobile, the fall of capitalism and slankets.

Author: Peter Sells (@sellsy), Head of Mobile, BBH London

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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…

The value of a good story

Last Thursday (on Thanksgiving, if you are so inclined) the great and good and up-and-coming of London’s planning community gathered at the British Library for the APG/Campaign Battle of Big Thinking, an annual event that pits mind against mind for the chance to be crowned the Biggest Brain of All.

BBH London was well represented, with Peter Sells sharing thoughts on ‘The Fall of Capitalism, Bloody Revolution and the Destruction of Civil Society ….. And it’s Effect on KFC AM sales in the Tyne Tees Region” and winning his category in style. I apparently offered what was described as ‘an entertaining after-dinner speech’ on “What I have learned in 39 days in the advertising Business” and didn’t win my category which was won by an excellent pitch for a planner-owned product by PassionBrand. We’ll put these presentations up when the videos of the day become available.

But the star of the show and a very, very close runner up to the eventual overall winner was James Mitchell, who provoked and entertained the audience with his smart thinking and charming discourse on advertising, caring and storytelling.

So here is the extended remix of James’ talk – put on some headphones, hit play, enjoy and be provoked.