Archive for the ‘transformational change’ Category
7th December 12
This is the fourth and final post in a series based upon our submission to Wharton’s Advertising 2020 initiative. The structure we’re loosely following here: 8 years, 8 potential future opportunities, 8 things to do now.
#7 Big Data, Big Patterns
“No thought can perish” ~ Edgar Allan Poe
“There is no point in collecting and storing all this data if the algorithms are not able to find useful patterns and insights in the data,” says Mr. Kleinberg at Cornell. “But the software is scaling up to the task.” ~ New York Times, 09.09.12, ‘Tech’s new wave, driven by data’
According to Gartner earlier this year, the hype curve for Big Data reached ‘The Peak of Inflated Expectations’ (with an estimated 2-5 year gap before it reaches the ‘Plateau of Productivity’). The accuracy of that timeframe has been debated, perhaps fairly when we consider the exponential growth in speed and volume of data collection and analysis and the collapsing path to purchase that we’ve discussed already here.
In advertising, it seems only likely that algorithms will continue to do more of the commoditised, heavy lifting for brands and their users in terms of achieving reach, frequency and low level message optimisation. And, in monetisation terms, successful media owners will have recast themselves as data owners. To take just one example, The Weather Channel’s CEO, David Kenny, described to us how he sees the growing commercial role of data: Read full post
6th December 12
This is the third post in a series based upon our submission to Wharton’s Advertising 2020 initiative. The structure we’re loosely following here: 8 years, 8 potential future opportunities, 8 things to do now.
The final instalment will follow tomorrow.
#5 Content Marketing: brands as content owners & partners
By 2020, the difference in value between access to basic information (demands to be free) versus knowledge (“okay, that’s valuable, I may pay for it”) will have been worked through. Mainstream audiences won’t respect old media owner boundaries. A younger audience today already feel that way:
“It is not our fault that their business has ceased to make sense in its traditional form…”
“One more thing: we do not want to pay for our memories. The films that remind us of our childhood, the music that accompanied us ten years ago: in the external memory network these are simply memories. Remembering them, exchanging them, and developing them is to us something as natural as the memory of ‘Casablanca’ is to you. We find online the films that we watched as children and we show them to our children, just as you told us the story about the Little Red Riding Hood or Goldilocks. Can you imagine that someone could accuse you of breaking the law in this way? We cannot, either.”
When information flows freely, traditional ‘middlemen’ relationships get disrupted, even collapse. Will this lead to the eventual or partial disintermediation of the media owner? Sure, some traditional media owners will make a full digital transition to expert curators, aggregators and creators in their fields of entertainment (music, games, film etc), information and news. Elsewhere, social platforms are connecting owners of great content to their own audiences, allowing their content to be found, searched, shared and watched together easily. Even in 2012, as Brian Norgard at Chill puts it, “Social is emerging as a starting distribution point for content.” Assuming this happens to some degree, it follows that aside from paid-for advertising, more and more successful brands will have:
a) formed partnerships with content owners directly, and/or
b) become bona fide content owners themselves.
With (a), the opportunity is to face the issue together. Brands play a legitimate role, funding the distribution of valuable knowledge or content to savvy audiences who know their attention is valuable too. Think partner, not sponsor. It’s a transparent, transactional relationship with 3 parties: the end user gets high value content and experiences for free or subsidised; the brand earns awareness, earned word of mouth and even purchase in return; the producer gets funding, reach and publicity:
With (b), brands act as publishers and content owners in their own right, distributing their own content via their own networks, building their own audience databases… rinse and repeat. What content can a brand credibly create that people will want to seek out, share and make their own? Already, brands like Red Bull, Ford, Coke et al are pouring budget into content, eschewing traditional bought media and distributing instead via seeding, PR and the social web. It’s an all or nothing strategy, your content needs to be nothing short of extraordinary. By way of example, DC Shoes’ 9 minute epic featuring Ken Block treating San Francisco as his personal gymkhana playground. It has 27m 35m views and counting. Read full post
6th December 12
This is the second post in a series based upon our submission to Wharton’s Advertising 2020 initiative. The first, introductory post in the series was published yesterday, here. The structure we’re loosely following: 8 years, 8 potential future opportunities, 8 things to do now.
Subsequent instalments to follow over the next day or so.
#2 Everything is Connected: The Rise of the Networked Brand
“The dynamic of our society, and our new economy, will increasingly obey the logic of networks..We are connecting everything to everything.”
~ Kevin Kelly, New Rules for the New Economy
A little context as we imagine it: by 2020 the media environment will be fueled by speed-of-light broadband and unparalleled connection. The Internet of Things already exceeds in size our planet’s human population and will number 50 billion by 2020, as Cisco has it: devices, buildings, clothing, even people – all machine-readable, perpetually transmitting and receiving data, universally authenticated. Very few people will care about distinctions like ‘online’ versus ‘offline’; we won’t fetishise IRL. Forget QR codes, if your product could have an interactive communication layer added seamlessly to it, what would it do or say?
The once clearly defined physical experiences of TV, Internet and gaming will continue to blur. By 2020, we will still want to use large screens for shared viewing, MMO gaming and epic, time-sensitive broadcast events, but that’s about it. We won’t bother talking about ‘connected’ TV or Internet TV, that particular war will be over: all devices will be Internet-enabled and capable of showing HD content. We’ll care about context and content (the relevance, cost and quality of the experience), not which cable or cloud it’s streaming from.
In this context, a couple of things seem inevitable in terms of how the advertising model might be disrupted: Read full post
5th December 12
Earlier this year we were asked by Wharton to contribute to their initiative “Advertising 2020” (a book and a companion online platform to be published), part of their Future of Advertising Program. They asked for answers to two questions:
1. What could / should advertising look like in 2020?
2. What do we need to do now for this future?
This is an extended version of our contribution to the initiative, which we’ve broken into a series of posts. Today’s Part 1 is an introduction looking at the cultural context and our first thoughts on the implications for advertising. Subsequent instalments to follow over the next couple of days.
“Life is just a premonition of a flashback.” ~ Nick Gill, after Steven Wright
At BBH we don’t much like making predictions. Fundamental human motivations don’t change and actual behaviours change a hell of lot slower than we’d like to think: mankind may be programmed to progress for better or worse, but “behavior is just motivation filtered through opportunity”, as Clay Shirky so neatly puts it.
Nonetheless, sitting here in 2012, it seems unimaginable that technology and media will do anything but continue to evolve at pace, nor does it seem likely that the dominant influence of those two industries over advertising will falter. So, deliberately, we’ve sought out and included as part of our submission a few words of advice from people working at the cutting edge coal-face of those industries. Read full post
31st January 12
After Part I last Friday, which foraged largely outside the parameters of brands and marketing, this post – the final and second part of our interview with John Willshire (@willsh), founder of Smithery – comes back closer to home to discuss the future of advertising, what’s stopping brands universally adopting better marketing practices and ‘Real Marketing’ … along the way taking in cargo cults, starting fires and Doctor Who.
BBH Labs: In the past you’ve used a bonfires and fireworks analogy to describe the difference between advertising and social, and more recently we’ve debated what we at BBH call “Super Bowl, Super Social” on your blog. We can’t help but think (great) advertising will have a role in people’s lives for a good while yet, for the simple reason that good marketing acts as a persuasive shorthand for choice and news in a world increasingly flooded with terabytes of irrelevant information. And we’ve had the likes of Eric Schmidt speaking recently about advertising becoming super-relevant and connected in future. What’s your view on the future of advertising? Is there one?
JW: I think your point about the persuasive shorthand matters, and redefining the story that advertising is going to tell. When I was thinking more about the media planning side of advertising, it was useful to simplify it to two things, activity & phasing; what we should do, when we should do it.
So Bonfires & Fireworks is the what – never really an either/or choice, as companies still need to do social bonfires and advertising fireworks together to make each work.
The when of doing both together, the phasing, is crucial.
What the social bonfire piece allows you to do is, as a company, do noteworthy things that are amazing for your customers, for your employees, with your products, whatever… let the real human stories and triumphs emerge.
Then, after that, you can then tell the story of that. And if you want to tell that story with scale and immediacy, there is no better way to tell that story than in advertising.
The crucial difference is that advertising is no longer the thing you do, it’s the story of the things you’ve done. Read full post
27th January 12
Every now and again, we like to interview someone doing something interesting. It’s a pleasure to say that this time we’re featuring a good friend of Labs, John V Willshire, (or @willsh, as he’s known to the Twitterverse). John broke free from agency life last year to set up his own business. In this, the first of a two-part interview, we asked John to tell us a bit about it – along the way sharing his thoughts on a bunch of things from The Smiths, social connectivity, the economic viability of social production today and, er, rocks vs water..
BBH Labs: Tell us a bit about why you founded Smithery.
JW: The idea powering Smithery is Make Things People Want beats Make People Want Things. The former doesn’t replace the latter, as companies still do both, but what’s interesting is the switch in emphasis.
Over time, the advertising industry became very, very good at making people want things. It didn’t matter if those things weren’t all that good, because nobody could tell each other with any meaningful scale at a meaningful volume. Advertising was louder than bombs, to inappropriately hijack The Smiths (hey, if it’s good enough for John Lewis…).
Obviously we don’t need to go into the details here of how the internet has changed how companies can connect with people, but the advertising instinct is to use social connectivity to make people want things. That’s why I think the majority of social activity we see is poor.
As time passes, companies and agencies will work harder and think better about how to use social connectivity to make things people want, whether that’s changing established goods and services, or creating new ones.
So I founded Smithery to help do that; whether it’s working together in better ways, making better things, or helping telling better stories about those things. Read full post
24th January 12
Posted in transformational change
This post originally appeared as an article in Viewpoint at the end of 2011. Briefed to one of BBH London’s smartest strategists, Ed Booty, as a deliberate polemic, it’s a provocative argument designed to question our assumptions about the constant pace of change. We like being challenged (we enjoyed Matt Edgar’s post last year along similar lines) – please let us know what you think in the comments.
Author: Ed Booty, Strategy Director, BBH London
It is commonly accepted that a digital revolution is afoot. We have entered a brave new networked world. Individuals are empowered, social movements cannot remain contained and knowledge is free to all. Data is making our world more intuitive, bespoke and rewarding. We are mobile, always on, always entertained and hyper-social.
Things appear to be going swimmingly and never has the future been so clearly mapped out for us. It’s sexy, creative, inclusive and exciting. It’s one big SXSW festival.
Nothing new so far, and it does all sound rather good.
Maybe it’s too good to be true?
Unfortunately it is.
Advance apologies to neophytes, digital evangelists and west coast entrepreneurs. It’s time for a reality check. The speed, scale and depth of the so-called digital revolution has been wildly exaggerated.
What has caused this mirage of revolution?
Behind the hype, what might a more realistic vision of a digital world be? Read full post
30th September 11
Posted in transformational change
For the third event in the Google #Firestarters series its curator extraordinaire, Neil Perkin, chose to tackle the issues of “legacy structures, processes and thinking” head-on with the question: “what might the operating system for the agency of the future look like?“.
It’s a hairy, humbling monster of a question, not least because talk of new agency structures and ways of working so often teeters precariously on the edge of empty buzzword bingo (check out Tim Malbon’s post last year on Agile as a cargo cult).
On Tuesday night, Martin Bailie, James Caig and I were given 20 minutes to share a response. I attempted to avoid painting a picture of an agency built of silicon, and instead set out to describe something rather more prosaic. These days, perhaps more than ever, agencies are almost ALL about culture; their operating system a set of programs designed to encourage creativity and responsive behaviour, not codify inflexible structures and processes. Get the culture right and the rest follows. So the question becomes: what sort of agency culture do you want to create or be a part of? And what about all the contextual stuff we perhaps need to consider first?
A simple take on the impact of technology
We’ve known for years that the opportunities to buy mass attention are shrinking by the day, just as the opportunities to earn and measure attention become ever more enticingly available. If today Google’s Panda algorithm places ever more pressure on businesses to boost the signal not increase the noise and Facebook’s EdgeRank reduces the visibility of brands that send users to sleep, imagine what this will be like in future. At its simplest, it adds up to the same thing: ALL marketing – not just the rare handful of brands that regularly win awards – needs to be *genuinely* useful or entertaining. If not, marketing will become that thing that marketers and agencies fear the most: unseen and unheard.
If we can just wake up to this fact, this is a show-stoppingly great moment in time for our industry. There simply isn’t room for me-too, clutter-up-your-life, half-baked ideas, or one way messages dumped on the web dressed up to look “interactive”. However, there is lots of room for marketing done with skill and purpose, that people want to share, remix and make their own.
I’m calling this Marketing Singularity – an absurd title, which I’ll explain it in a second. For now, I just want to restate how it feels that we’re at a tipping point in our industry’s life cycle. If we can just set ourselves straight, it’s going to be epic. Let me explain why and how…
Is the pace of change exponential or logarithmic?
Let’s start with a question that’s at the root of why we’re having this conversation in the first place: the oft-discussed pace of change. Jeremy pointed me to a speech made earlier this month by Ben Hammersley, who spoke with provocative eloquence about an incumbent generation of leaders losing ground on a ‘Internet era’ revolution racing away from them. Around the same time, Matt Edgar wrote a spirited rebuttal to the common assumption that the pace of change is accelerating.. It feels important to decide where you sit on this debate, because if the pace of change is exponential, then it follows we need to have systems in place that encourage us to plan a lot further ahead – or react more nimbly – than we have currently. Or perhaps that isn’t the point. The pace of change may or may not be accelerating, but the pace of life is de facto faster than it was, say, five years ago. And whilst Matt questions whether technology’s exponential rate of change actually impacts on our lives to the same degree, I find that a peculiar assumption. Technology doesn’t sit on the sidelines of our lives these days: it’s embedded, root and branch. What’s more, the technology companies themselves regard speed as a competitive advantage (“Better products, faster” – Larry Page, Google shareholders’ meeting, 2011). Last week’s avalanche of tech news (again) is a case in point.
In fact you could argue we’re approaching Marketing Singularity: the point at which marketing is forced to become exponentially better, until it is so useful or entertaining it ceases to be a separate, stand-alone, one-way message and instead becomes indistinguishable from the product or service it promotes.
It might be content, it might be a framework or a game that invites participation; or even participation that gets displayed as a game. Platforms are brand operating systems, campaigns are applications. As Ben pointed out earlier this year, these are not binary.
Marketing as a profit centre, not a cost
Taking this to its logical conclusion, shouldn’t we aim to create marketing products and services that are so good, people are prepared to pay for them? Even if this approach isn’t what’s required (perhaps a Freemium model is the way to begin), I like the responsibility it places upon our shoulders: make marketing valuable to people. Looking further out, we may look back on the days we spent millions of dollars just paying for the privilege to reach people as a little odd. Brands like Audi and Red Bull are early experimenters in the guise of brands as committed media owners / publishers.
The kind of agency OS this demands
A few programs for starters:
Reductive thinking everywhere
At Labs, we admire the ruthless economy, flex and energy of a great start up as much as the next person. Kickstarter and Instagram are two of the better known examples of Minimum Viable Product thinking. For any agency worth their salt, the fundamental principles of MVP should not feel new. Great brand strategy and creative have *always* been about the art of sacrifice. The task now is to apply that mindset throughout agency departments: reduce to MVP, then listen (data) and pivot as required. This becomes all the more important when we look at shifts in business stability: from long periods of stability and short periods of disruption, to the reverse. This is a model for marketing too – let’s get comfortable with an environment that needs to flex and morph.
Silicon vs carbon
As Rishad Tobaccowala said a few days ago, ‘the world may be digital, but people are analog.” Any agency OS needs to be built around people, not technology.
‘Big is a collection of smalls’
People habitually join agencies like BBH from colleges and smaller agencies because they want to do something at SCALE. Accordingly, the very last thing we need to do is shy away from growth. Instead, the best agencies are increasingly breaking into nimbler, cross-functional teams, often with hybrid skills and collaborative in mindset. As Nigel Bogle puts it, ‘big is a collection of smalls’. Teams with autonomy, but access to shared services.
Whilst we should cast for the client or task in question (don’t take the team structure I sketched too literally), it’s worth drawing attention to the ‘broker’ role. If you’re interested in non-traditional media partnerships and thinking, you need a deal maker in your team.
Networked, versus in a network
We cannot do everything ourselves. With every layer of complexity, comes a deeper requirement to nurture and build strong external partnerships. Labs is a product of its network, plain and simple.
Foster Renaissance (wo)men
We’ve said this before, but we’re living through a Renaissance period. To be successful, we need fearless people who want to collaborate and learn from other industries. Deal makers, entrepreneurs, makers.. The people who never hold back from making the thing they dream of, just because the tools don’t exist today. Because they know they’ll exist tomorrow.
Make real things
You don’t need a 3D printer to make stuff or experience the benefits of making a proto-type of your idea. Making an early version of something – even if it’s rubbish (many years ago, I remember taking a mockup of a Boddingtons Tetra pak to a client meeting, to sell the idea of ‘Fresh Cream’. They hated it) – teaches you stuff you don’t find out if you stay in theory mode. So go buy a soldering iron and make something… There’s also a non-too-subtle shift going on between experiences that live entirely online (potentially interesting) and those that straddle the real world too (potentially fascinating). Check out Russell Davies’ piece for Campaign and the brilliant Marc Owens’ Avatar Machine if you want to read more.
Adopting and encouraging a culture of constant learning sounds exhausting, but it may well be the only way to stay sane. Learn to code, get comfortable in the wild, stay open, stay curious – I’m enjoying playing with my Weavr thanks to @zeroinfluencer – create your own here. A phrase used often at BBH and which turned up on our login screens this summer is perhaps an apt way to close: “Do interesting things and interesting things will happen to you.”
We’d love to hear what you think – what are the other programs you’d want to include in an agency OS?
Thank you to Neil, James, Martin and everyone who came and contributed… as always, the discussion got most interesting when the formal presentations stopped and everyone piled in. Aside from following the conversation here #Firestarters or nicely storified here, there have also been several thought provoking response posts (check out this one here from Simon Kendrick or this one here from Shea Warnes for starters). As always, Neil’s follow-up post will be one to look out for too.
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?
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….