Archive for the ‘People’ Category
1st June 11
- Picture the scene. There are around 4-6 people clustered around a table together. All trying to solve a problem, all very talented… most of them creative/strategy/tech hybrids. An hour later, they’ve gone in circles several times, sure, but between them there’s light at the end of the tunnel.. a few solutions look to be within reach. Then the school bell goes people have to head to another meeting and they agree to meet again. Except it takes a day or two to arrange the follow-up and then half an hour to remind everyone what they’re there to do. And repeat.. does this sound familiar?
There are some very smart people arguing that generalists are the future. When we have much more to do in less time, then it’s better we put together teams of people who can all spin plates, bang a drum and throw knives at the same time, right? Perhaps there are some people who are so extraordinarily talented across so many disciplines that they genuinely can claim to be the ultimate one man band; a steel-alloyed, swiss army knife of creativity. For the rest of us, I would beg to differ. Read full post
17th May 11
Posted in People
We recently ran a post asking if the junior talent in advertising are packaging themselves wrong. As we tend to do, we turned to a reader to help us answer that question after a number of very insightful comments on the post. In this case, we asked William Burks Spencer, who recently interviewed over 100 Creative Directors about what they look for in portfolios and compiled them into Breaking In, a book about creating a portfolio that will get you hired. For excerpts from the book, checkout the companion site.
Author: William Burks Spencer (@wspencer), Freelance Copywriter
Are students and juniors in advertising packaging themselves wrong? I think the answer is “most of the time, yes.” When I asked over 100 Creative Directors about what they look for in portfolios, on most topics there was a good diversity of opinion. But everyone agreed on one point: most books are pretty much the same.
Certainly a lot of it has to do with content–books all look the same because the advertising in them is the same. Often ads in student books lack strategic thinking. It is very obvious when someone jumped right into making ads without any thought as to what the business problem was, or how to solve it. Another common problem has to do with technology. Students often show executions across tons of different media including Facebook apps, iPhone apps, and more, without having a powerful idea at the core. They’re good at blowing out an idea, but not actually crafting it. But beyond just the ads, I think there is a problem and an opportunity here. Very few juniors venture outside of the normal format: 5-7 campaigns and a resume.
I think a solution can come from thinking about two things:
1. A portfolio tells a creative director “this is what I want to do”. That’s a very personal question and it gets to the heart of a student’s personality and passion. I think the reason a lot of books feel the same is that students haven’t thought about this question. They don’t have strong feelings about what they want to do so they let other people to figure it out for them. I’m not talking about “being an art director or writer”–that’s too broad. I’m talking about having a unique voice that comes through in your work. Or a strong point-of-view. Or specializing in one aspect of advertising that you love and demonstrating it. A lot of junior talent are trying to fit into what they think a creative should be, whereas Creative Directors are looking for people who know who they are.
2. A portfolio needs to make a point. It needs to make an impression on a Creative Director that stays with them. Matt Vescovo, an art director and artist, said in the book: “What’s really appropriate about the whole thing is that Creative Directors look at student books the way that consumers look at advertising.” Just as a good ad needs to leave you with a certain message or feeling, a good book should as well.
I think students need to combine these two goals and build a portfolio that demonstrates, in a memorable and original way, what kind of work they want to do.
If want to make Facebook apps and that’s what you’re good at, go for it. If you love crafting long-copy, show that. Make that your hook. It comes back to the idea of the T-shaped creative person that BBH and others use. Show what you’re good at and passionate about. And then show that you can do the other things that someone with the title you want would be expected to do. It seems like most students and juniors are afraid of planting the base of the T and the result is they end up just being an underscore.
I often tell students about a friend of mine whose student portfolio consisted of a 6-foot roll of paper. Unrolling it revealed a single campaign that he art directed 7 different ways. Think about the impact that has for a CD to see that layed out on the floor. It stands out because it is different and bold. It made the point that he’s a prolific, exacting art director who will work for as long as it takes to get it right. And he is. He works at Wieden+Kennedy in Portland.
In the book, Pat McKay, who is a freelance Creative Director in Seattle and worked at Wieden+Kennedy London with me, said that he thinks it is smart for a book to have an idea to it. Pat said he “would certainly look twice if a book came in with 100 sketches and they were all good ideas.” That book would say “I’m just going to have loads of ideas and that’s the one thing I want to leave in that person’s mind”.
Another way to package yourself differently is to get away from advertising completely. To show something else that shows your voice and personality. One of the other questions I asked everyone I interviewed was about showing this type of work–writing, art, hobbies, etc. Most Creative Directors I spoke to were interested in seeing it and it was usually those things that they could remember and talk about, years down the line.
Tony Davidson of Wieden+Kennedy London talked about a team who filmed themselves getting over a very low rail in different, often silly, ways to show that they solved problems differently. Dave Bell from KesselsKramer talked about someone who had a book called “Very, Very Short Stories” containing a hundred or more 3-line stories. Ted Royer of Droga5 talked about someone he hired who put a technical blueprint of Noah’s Ark in his book. Vince Engel of Engine Company 1 remembered someone who wrote absurd letters to companies and compiled them into a book. Those things all probably say more about a person than ads.
Your portfolio has to represent you for those precious few minutes with a Creative Director. The onus is on you to show that they can think differently than anyone else in the building. Why not make a statement? Be different. Take a stand. Demonstrate that you have the base of the T, whatever that might be. If you open the conversation, you will always have an opportunity to show that you have the broader skills at the top part of the T as well. It might feel risky, but the bigger risk is not taking one.
22nd April 11
Posted in People
We interview people all the time, even when we’re not hiring.
There’s no arguing that the quality of junior talent in our industry is exceptional. This is a group that’s taking a systematic approach to studying our craft, while balancing it with a pleasantly messy (as Global Planning Director, Heidi Hackemer, labeled it when screening candidates for the Barn program) mix of other interests that feed their insatiable curiosity.
Yet, there is an alarming trend about this talent. It has to do with packaging.
We look for T-shaped people when hiring. In other words, talent that’s got a specific area of awesomeness, but stretches into other areas in a highly collaborative way. This is distinct from being a hybrid talent, a label that most junior talent in our industry self-apply early into most of these conversations: “I’m a mix of strategy, creative, media and production.” True hybrid talent has more than one depth of expertise. That’s exceptionally hard (I know, I was a sub-par Media Director before being a sub-par Creative Director).
No doubt this crop of people is indeed a mix of expertise. In fact, it’s likely more true than of prior generations of ad talent. The question remains though, what arenas do they have or seek a depth of expertise in? In other words, what’s the base of the T?
No one wants to be put in a box, ourselves included. But, ultimately clients want to know what they’re buying, especially in a world of ever less familiar job titles. At BBH for example, it isn’t until clients see engagement planning as a discipline that they fully appreciate the value it brings to the table in today’s marketing landscape.
Which brings us to the punch line. The junior talent in this industry needs to remain buyable, even as they become messier and potentially more hybrid. So many talented young folks do a little bit of everything, but few are willing to commit to doing one particular thing quite well. In other words, those with the potential to truly be hybrid talent—deep skills in more than one vertical expertise—never manage to gain the depth to deliver on the promise such talent has.
Yet, it’s exactly that talent that I know every agency in the country would hand a job to right now if they were just more buyable. The question is simply, which one needs to change? The talent and how they package themselves? Or the agencies that struggle to explain their value to clients?
14th April 11
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, ShelterBox.org, 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 Shelterbox.org.
******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:
7th April 11
Whenever Boulder Digital Works puts on an event they attract some of the best talent in the industry. The event is in Boulder, Colorado April 28-29 and you can click here to register.
Below are some notes from the last BDW Event in New York which should give you a taste of what you might see in Colorado.
The Education of Staff and Clients
Edward Boches, Chief Innovation Officer at Mullen described how he got his agency and clients migrating over to social media platforms like Twitter. Before the “Trash Talk from Section Twitter” Mullen had around ten people on Twitter and a handful of clients using the platform. After inviting all their staff and clients to participate, Mullen surged to 350+ people on Twitter and half their clients using the platform. These clients now see Mullen as an expert in the space because they showed them how to use the platform.
The Importance of Partnerships
The trend in agency innovation is to increase dependence on partnerships. Agencies like Victors and Spoils and Co: depend on this model to survive but they also describe how one agency cannot be geographically everywhere to take advantage of all the available talent. This philosophy describes a completely different agency landscape where cooperation creates greatness.
Creative Technologists are the new Rock Stars
A number of speakers talked about Creative Technologists but Scott Pringle and Chloe Glottlieb really nailed the role in their presentations. Chloe talked about a book called ‘Program or be Programmed’ which seems to be the story of the day. Scott shared the importance of playing with technology, sharing that with creative teams and then combining that thinking to meet a client objective.
Speed of Thought
Tim Malbon of Made by Many shared the importance of agility and speed to get things to market and work with your users to refine. We love Tim’s approach to ideation through “sketch sessions” where people sit for an hour and sketch out ideas and then talk about the ideas with the team.
What do you think?
What’s the best way to educate clients on Social Media?
How important are partnerships in your agency?
Should Creative Technologists be the only people that know how to code?
18th January 11A few weeks ago, we posted about what collaborative consumption means for marketers. We found it interesting that the focus on collaboration for most brands tended toward production (innovation, development, etc), but that there wasn’t much noise about the consequence of people collaborating to consume a brand’s products. As is the case often, one of the comments was more insightful than the post. It raised the point that collaboration in consumption actually yields production innovation. Thus, we asked the commenter– Shaun Abrahamson, CEO of Mutopo Colaboratorie– to elaborate.
*** *** ***Author: Shaun Abrahamson (@shaunabe), CEO, Mutopo Colaboratorie
As a guest poster, some additional disclosure is required because my LinkedIn profile is incomplete. I’d like to add:
+ reviewer at Amazon
+ gas refiller at Zipcar
+ traffic data provider at Google Maps
+ plug-in tester at WordPress
+ opinion offerer at Jovoto
+ classifieds editor at Craigslist
+ A/B headline tester at the Huffingtonpost
+ music popularity statistics reporter at Apple
+ idea spreader at Kickstarter
I think most LinkedIn profiles have similar omissions. But that is only part of the problem, because I don’t just do work for organizations, but also for friends and family.
So why it is so important to know who I “work” for or with?
Of people, value creation, costs and revenues
All organizations incur costs to make and communicate – to create, design, develop, produce and distribute products or provide services; to generate awareness, evaluation and trials to generate revenues. Of course many of the costs in doing this relate to things like media buying, IT infrastructure, raw materials, rents and the like, but depending on the business a very large percentage of the costs come directly from paying people (i.e., salaries for ALL the jobs to make the organization function).
So what happens if one of your competitors figures out a way to get some of their work done more cheaply? Fewer people, lower salaries – off shoring and outsourcing over the last 20 years has fundamentally changed developing and developed economies.
Or, what happens when your competitors are able to attract better talent?
Most labour conversations tend to focus on full time employment, but there is another important workforce – they are doing the types of tasks we don’t disclose on our LinkedIn profiles. And they are not just working for organizations as we tend to think of them, but for the benefit of their peers.
Paid vs. earned vs. owned business activities
Recently Rishad Tobaccowala described among other trends for 2011, paid vs. earned vs. owned media. I’d like to steal this idea and expand it to paid vs. earned vs. owned business activities. Not as catchy, but I’ll keep the explanation short.
I believe that some of today’s most successful organizations are figuring out how to earn “business activities” that their competitors still pay for. It’s more visible in part because it has become easier to help people help you. Amazon sells more because so many of us choose to write elegant reviews there and Lego benefits from a relentless flood of new product ideas from their community. Zipcar has us refilling gas tanks in the name of sharing and the Huffington Post generates more pageviews when they learn what we like by observing our choices. Groupon gets us to band together into temporary “big organizations”, so we can get discounts previously only available to real big organizations.
The fundamental change in this collaborative model is that business can create value by “earning” our effort. If you’re looking for inspiration for all the ways in which people can add value, I like the business model canvas or board of innovation (their templates were used to create the diagram above). More specifically, these visual business model tools can be used to quickly highlight the number of ways in which consumers can also be producers, or customers can also be suppliers.
Beyond roles, these visuals also help outline the different value exchanges: from money and fame to reputation and experiences. The diagram at the start of the post was my attempt to describe the various value exchanges happening around this guest post. It is far from complete, but I hope it shows how “customers” also show up as “suppliers” in exchange for a variety of non-financial currencies. Organizations have many new ways to redefine their relationships with the people formerly known as customers (apologies to Jay Rosen).
Why this type collaboration matters to marketers
MIT Center for Collective Intelligence does a great job breaking collaboration down into its DNA – the who, what, why, where and how of collaboration. In Mutopo’s experience on projects like betacup and Life Edited, some of the hard questions have been:
+ why will people participate?
+ what are the right activites and outcomes to focus on?
+ what expertise is required?
+ what can organizations offer in return?
+ how do we quality control?
I don’t know that this is altogether new for marketers (or for markets). We’ve always had to build teams and find talent, but the scale has changed. Some activities will involve large numbers of people accomplishing tasking in a few minutes or in a few weeks. It will mean much more time evaluating what new outcomes we want, who we want to work with, what they want, what they can do, what we can give them and evaluating how they are doing.
Finding talent may feel like human resources’ responsibility, but this is a critical role for marketing. Not only because it can touch current or prospective customers, but because it is another way to create value for the organization beyond driving sales through a funnel. And these collaborations can build on exactly the relationships brands aspire to build anyway. Now they have the additional benefit of greatly expanding the reasons for conversation, as well as the types of conversations we can have. After all, it’s quite engaging to discuss what we can accomplish together.
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.”
29th November 10
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.
20th October 10
We’ve discussed “wind tunnel marketing” quite a bit recently. As a result, we’ve been thinking more and more about one particular facet of the issue: the misuse of metrics and data. Few industries more regularly confuse their objectives and metrics than marketing. I’m referring to when marketers take digital proxy indicators of progress, and make them the destination, even when they’re multiple degrees removed from the objective. This is distinct from our use of data to adapt our efforts. Maybe it’s karma for collectively turning to display advertising in the late 90’s to save our business, unknowingly opening the Pandora’s box of click-thru-rates that’s held us back for over a decade since.
We reject the notion that is due to some psychological need for validation. If it’s about validation, there can only be an empty feeling elicited from the knowledge that the metric isn’t the objective. Thus began our Inception-esque voyage into the psyche of marketers.
Operating under the assumption we’re rational at some level, it was easy to see the correlation between this seemingly irrational behavior and a code of conduct prevalent throughout our industry: self-preservation. Maybe most professions exhibit this behavior to some degree, but the level of self-preservation in marketing is extreme. Scientifically speaking, Cover Your Ass Syndrome is an epidemic amongst us. It couldn’t simply be that opportunistic, self-preservation obsessed humans just naturally tend to find their way to marketing, right? We couldn’t possibly be like baby geese following the first thing that moves, in our case another human that shows as much self-centered focus as ourselves— suddenly and inexplicably asking “what do you do for a living and how can I start?”
Perhaps we’re victims (wait, is that the self-preservation talking? We’re in too deep to tell). Maybe this misuse of metrics isn’t, in fact, innate survival behavior to ensure we’re not left holding the bag when things go wrong. Perhaps this is a learned behavior we’ve created as a result of our environment. Our environmental analysis turned up three factors that seem to be directly responsible for our rampant metrics abuse. The first is the obvious reality of impatience, prevalent throughout shareholder demands and modern human nature. Let’s put that one aside as it’s been discussed ad naseum via analysis of CMO tenures and the fault of modern capitalist markets. It’s the next two factors that are more interesting- and more productive- to analyze. At the surface, they don’t appear linked to our misuse of metrics, but in fact they are due to their impact on behavior and culture within marketing organizations, from clients to agencies. Both are addressable, but would require an organization’s senior leadership to operate in very non-standard ways.
1. Pre-defined Bonuses
When companies define bonuses of marketing executives based on specific metrics like site visits or total audience engagement or- gasp- product sales, it’s human nature to pursue that bonus at any cost. In fact, the existence of black and white bonuses regularly takes a metric for success and makes it someone’s personal objective. What’s best for the company, calculated risk taking and long-term innovation planning go out the window when considered against school tuitions or new drapes.
Although controversial in many business cultures, why not solve this environmental issue by creating subjective bonuses– ones where employees are judged on rational, subjective contribution to the company? Did the risks they take make sense? Did their approach add some broader value? If the objective is what’s best for your initiative, rather than a metric that is only one of many proxies for that success, shouldn’t a bonus be tied to that?
Compensation subjectivity makes people uncomfortable, but with good leadership in place at a company, it’s likely a more intelligent option. Those that truly want what’s best for the organization will trust their leaders.
2. Crediting Systems
In today’s marketing landscape, the way ideas manifest is complicated. All the various executions of an idea involve more moving pieces, multiple partners and blurrier lines between disciplines. Yet, somehow we employ the same crediting system- from awards to inter-company recognition- as we did 30 years ago.
Our credit list may be extensive, but it’s still partitioned by execution: creative, strategy, production, media (assuming media people even get credit). This is true external to the organization (award shows, press releases), but also true internally at most organizations (departments, recognition).
Why? If lines are blurry, why must we categorize contribution? If this sounds ridiculous, please interview young talent in our industry. They have a tough time defining their role by agency verticals and almost always pride themselves on their organic contributions to an agency output. We love that, and in fact look for T-shaped individuals when hiring.
It’s when marketers credit by specific discipline that metrics become disproportionately emphasized. We may call it a team effort, but we take a Hollywood approach to “team,” defining it as a collection of individuals. So, digital-era metrics like sharability, clicks and participation must be measured because they reflect individual contribution (“my part of the project”). As a result, we make decisions that emphasize metrics instead of simply contributing to the broader objective. Credit is needed for survival in this marketing habitat. As a result, metrics are exaggerated and the overall objective goes by the wayside, the remaining vestige of community achievement in a market that deals in only individual currency.
At the end of this pseudo-scientific examination, it’s clear the environment is polluted. The result is a cyclical reality that few companies and brands transcend; even fewer do so consistently. The environment impacts the inhabitants and the resulting means of survival requires substituting metrics for objectives. That said, we remain optimistic that in the near future, leadership of marketing organizations will nurture a culture that shifts our archaic approach to incentives and crediting. This will cleanse the environment itself, breaking the cycle of rational argument for or against the use and application of metrics. The work will no doubt benefit as a result. Ironically, the beneficial impact of the change toward correcting our use of metrics may at first go unnoticed.
Hey, maybe we should put a measurement in place for it….