When a few of us were sitting around talking about a film we’ve just produced for Virgin Media we agreed on two things. Firstly, we all really like it. Secondly, none of us know exactly what it is, or what to call it.
“Throughout the ancient world, naming was a sacred act … It was the voice of destiny, summoning the child into his future with all its glorious promise.”
We can tell you at least three things it just isn’t;
it’s not just native advertising.
it’s not just branded content.
it’s not just product placement.
What it is is some sort of hybrid three-way involving an entertainment property, a subscription streaming service and a broadband provider. It’s got characters from a TV show interacting with characters from an advertising campaign, in an advertising campaign for a TV show, a broadband provider and a subscription entertainment service.
Is this a new content type? We don’t know. Is it interesting? We think so, maybe simply because we can’t put it in a box.
“Why do you have to ruin everything?’ he asked. ‘Why do you have to name everything? Decide what’s real and what’s – why can’t you just enjoy things? What’s wrong with you?”
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)
For years we’ve been talking about and developing communications for the shortening attention spans of consumers. We are bombarded with statistics about the average dwell time on a web page (43 seconds according to Comscore) or the lifespan of a tweet which, if it isn’t retweeted within 60minutes, will never be, according to Sysomos.
Today, we’re ascending the slopes of Mount Sinai, the computer ready in our pockets and the promised land of ubiquitous always-on connection is on the horizon. But before we get there maybe there is a place for long-form communications to occupy us at those times where we can devote our attention to a piece of content but cannot easily surf away when our attention wanders.
Certainly the uptake of instapaper and its integration into all sorts of web and mobile apps suggests that people are saving more articles to read later and longreads recent revamp makes it even simpler to get long form textual content onto your mobile device.
So is the decline of attention as inexorable as previously thought? As well as video we are both producing and consuming more text than ever and today’s devices allow comfortable on the go reading of long-form narrative.
Time to consider whether a digital communications strategy needs to allow for both a wide, shallow spread and a long, deep dive.
Earlier this week @saneel and I were at Power to the Pixel’s Cross-Media Forum, contributing as part of a jury looking at 9 different projects competing for an ARTE Pixel Pitch Award (see who took part here). Whilst the talent and ideas were impressive, this post is to share something the founder of Arts Alliance, Thomas Hoegh, showed at the very start of the day. Thomas had just one slide, but it was killer. So simple and useful, we photographed it (badly) and then re-drew it for posterity:
Participant media model by Arts Alliance
We like the way it breaks down Jacob Nielsen’s 1:9:90 rule of participation inequality into something a little more chewy. The best bit about it? According to Thomas, this slide is 15 years old.
Our friend Dan Light (@danlight) live blogged Thomas Hoegh’s excellent keynote which you can check it out here.
BBH facilitated a Social Media Week event in LA, where the agency has recently opened an office focused on content creation. The subject of the event was “Exploring UX, content, and brand strategy” and was run in the style of a design studio. Brainstorm topics were presented to groups, the participants of which concepted on the topic, then presented their ideas to one other seeking critique.
We were asked to elaborate upon social media flings, a topic written about in a previous Labs post. This is what we shared:
Or you can check out a video of the 15 minute presentation:
(Skip to 1h13m mark)
In summary, the proposed opportunity of ‘social media flings’ is in all of those social environments where people connect online around a subject they’re interested in. The point is simply that a significant gap exists between having no non-paid contact with a brand and committing to a relationship with them in digital environment. Think blog comments, video responses, hashed twitter conversations, and so-forth—a collection of places where a brand can engage if they talk about something other than themselves.
The purpose of the breakout session was to determine how brands can credibly have such flings. The hour discussion led to some great debate. Below are some of the key points we found most interesting:
The majority of the group felt any brand could have a fling. It wasn’t a matter of how interesting the brand was, but how much the brand stood for beyond itself. In other words, old school brand equity work was the key to opportunity. Although lifestyle brands do this well, there’s nothing keeping Raid (the group’s proxy for the antithesis of a lifestyle brand) from having flings about a subject they could credibly talk about, such as environmental issue, hygiene, etc.
Alternatively, many participants felt that brands could “buy” credibility on a given subject. By taking a calculated approach to sponsorships, brands with no correlation to a subject matter could earn a voice within it through financial support. For example, Taco Bell and Major League Baseball have no logical relationship, but the brand can discuss baseball credibly thanks to its ongoing sponsorship and use of MLB talent and resources. This opens the door to flings, and could even help brands prioritize sponsorship opportunities.
Brands can have flings across a number of subjects, not just those with direct ties to the product offering. Starbucks was cited as a brand that could have flings in music, news, technology, environmental issues, community, or even politics. The tangential relationship to coffee and “third space” wasn’t seen as a barrier.
The biggest difficulty in having flings is making the connection to the product (although even loose association was considered enough by most participants). As a result, if a brand invests in becoming credible in a space (as say, Red Bull has with extreme sports), it actually opens the door for a challenger brand to step in and capitalize on the investment. This is a major opportunity for challenger brands (generally limited by finances). In the case of the Red Bull example, most participants felt Monster or another competitor, could have flings in and around extreme sports thanks to Red Bull’s commitment.
We’d welcome any further thinking around social media flings. Please let us know of brands taking advantage of this that you think are interesting, positive or negative.
We’d also like to thank Social Media Week for the opportunity, as well as all the wonderful participants that generously shared their thoughts.
There is such a thing as an Art Gallery. If you’re reading this blog, it’s likely you’ve been to one before. An art gallery’s purpose is to house paintings and art so that they can be viewed… and yet today, it’s entirely possible for me that selfsame content – say, Guernica – for free, in a heartbeat. Indeed, thanks to the power of the internets, I could do what was previously impossible and view an annotated version which explains what on earth is going on in that painting. And yet millions of people choose to take the time to visit the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid. Or the National Portrait Gallery. Or the MoMA. And if you asked many of them what specifically they had come to visit, they wouldn’t be able to tell you. They’re not there specifically to clap eyes on one item. They are, in the old terminology, browsing.
MoMA, New York (source: eschipul on Flickr)
So how have Art Galleries – or Museums, or certain kinds of shops, managed to retain a sense of identity independent from their content? I believe the answer lies in a sense of purpose. Purpose is when you take a long, hard look at what you deliver, identify the root cause behind all that delivery, what you were trying to do in the first place, and actually make something out of that cause, and try to satisfy that, rather than just letting the momentum of “same method, same content” pull you along until you become like everyone else.
So if we were to apply this thought process to a channel, what would we find? Channels talk to people en masse. They impart information. They excite the emotions to get their point across. They tell stories with the aim of making us feel something, and through the aggregation of their content they build up a certain vision of the world we live in. All the same essential qualities of Public Service. Public Service activities try and impart thoughts and feelings with people, that ideally lead to action. And they do so to people en masse, in a way that tries to galvanise people together. And And if it happens to entertain, all the better for perceptions of the TV channel. This was the thinking behind Channel 4’s new interactive adventure game blockbuster, The Curfew.
This is Part I of a two-parter. In tomorrow’s post, James takes a look at what’s already being done to address the provocation he makes here – with an interview with one of the men who’s behind the TV turnaround.
Imagine a bath with four very discrete taps: each tap is your access to a very particular supply of water; they cannot be mixed, and you may only turn one tap at a time. This was TV in the twentieth century. In this situation, the pipe and what it carries are basically interchangeable, and your view of a TV channel could be largely made up of the programmes it transmitted. And so, people watched channels – but this idea is crumbling. The perfect storm of several forces is occurring: the multiplication of channels (and the resultant drop in general programming standards), on-demand media via the net, time-shifting and recorded viewing.. they all mean when I go home tonight I’ll be watching nothing but Channel James. If you’re interested, tonight Channel James is probably showing a marathon of streamed Peep Show, a Radio 4 documentary on Russian spying, and my housemate’s bootleg of The Human Centipede. And if any of these things bore me at any point, I can sack the station’s controller and rewrite the schedule. I’m not watching channels, I’m watching programmes.
TV, yesterday. I like to think that the slightly menacing one bottom-right is Fox News.
We’re lucky enough to be hosting a stop for Aaron Goldman’s virtual book tour, in support of his new release Everything I Know About Marketing I Learned From Google. Aaron has worked across many facets of search and media in his career, so we were intrigued to find out that everything he knows is a direct result of a BBH client. The book is comprised of “Googley lessons,” one of which he has promised to address in the video below. As a *special bonus* [or, to quote Aaron, a potential “train wreck” – Ed] to viewers, he’s agreed to free-style rap at the end of the video, a clause we’re considering adding into all guest post contracts. Enjoy.