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Archive for the ‘transformational change’ Category

  • Making Digital Work: Voices from Boulder

    23rd August 10

    Boulder Digital Works recently put on a two-day Executive Workshop around the theme of ‘Making Digital Work’. Industry leaders – who on paper are ‘rivals’ – came together for an intensive, collaborative and interactive program around evolving agencies and agency talent in readiness for the emerging landscape (there’s a bunch more detail about the Executive Workshops right here).

    In this short film, put together by the tirelessly enthusiastic & ever-disruptive Edward Boches from Mullen, Gareth Kay (GS&P), Matt Howell (Modernista), Kim Laama (AKQA), Brian Morrissey (AdWeek), Kat Egan (Exopolis) & David Slayden (Executive Director of BDW) share their thoughts after a two-day executive session at Boulder Digital Works. This gives you a sense of the energy and enthusiasm of those who come to teach and learn and share at BDW.

    Making Digital Work: Voices from Boulder from edward boches on Vimeo.

    Follow Boulder Digital Works on Twitter: http://twitter.com/bdwcu

    To learn more about Boulder Digital Works go to their site, here.

  • TEDGlobal: And now, the good news

    26th July 10

    This post is adapted from a piece written for Campaign magazine (22.07.10), also available online at campaignlive.co.uk later this week.

    Image by @LenKendall

    Founded in 1984 as a one-off event in California, TED (Technology Entertainment Design) has come a hell of a long way. The numbers tell their own story. Since the launch of TEDTalks online in 2006, over 700 talks have been viewed 300m times and the non-profit has, in keeping with its tagline “ideas worth spreading”, expanded into a family of conferences and content available on an ever-growing number of platforms. The latter now include the TED Open TV Project (allowing broadcasters to incorporate TEDTalks into their programming without license fees) launched in May this year and an iPad app out in a couple of weeks. As they put it, TED is becoming “an organising principle for ideas.”
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  • Is the iPad the new campfire?

    7th May 10

    Author: Calle Sjoenell, Executive Creative Director, BBH New York

    ipadfire

    Over the last two weeks I have noticed an interesting phenomenon around people with iPads. Maybe it’s because I haven’t got one yet (I’m trying to refrain until my birthday) so I’m more aware of those who do have them already. Right now I can have more of an outsider’s view on this new device.

    That said, it’s become apparent that I’m far from an outsider. Barely an opportunity goes by for someone with an ipad to share something with me. “Check this out”. “Look at this”. “Let me show you something”. Users seem to want to show off new apps, cool new vids (and of course the device itself). I am very often drawn into the experience others are having around the iPad. We literally gather round, pull up chairs.

    Unlike a laptop, it’s super easy to ‘turn and share’. Unlike the iPhone, it’s genuinely shareable (the iPhone is unashamedly personal, even private). With the iPad you can gang around at least three, four people to see something together. It all feels very natural.

    So I’ve been thinking, is this one of the true revolutions with the iPad? It’s the first truly communal computer. Almost like sharing stories around the campfire.

    If that’s the case, how should that impact how we design content and applications for it?

  • A Developing Story: Founder interview

    19th March 10

    “Designers are natural activists…taking responsibility for the consequences of what we design needs to be part of the value system of our industry, not a burden for a fringe group to take on. We have reached critical mass in terms of consciousness of the challenge; now we need to move from awareness to action.”

    Valerie Casey profile, SXSWorld magazine 2010

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    Ideas that marry great design with real purpose make us sit up and take notice. So it is with A Developing Story, which we’ve been following since its launch at the end of last year.

    ADS publishes news stories from developing countries with a clean & intuitive design that avoids all the worthier-than-thou clichés associated with the category.  It also has a mindblowingly simple campaign at its core: to make the creative assets created for public awareness campaigns freely accessible across developing markets.

    Makes perfect sense, right? A campaign that nonetheless needs all the support it can get if governments are to be persuaded to dump red tape and adopt what is in effect a Creative Commons approach across developing nations.

    Of course that’s easier said than done. If you want to get involved or just show support, visit http://www.adevelopingstory.org/joinus or email adevelopingstory@googlemail.com.

    To find out more we spoke to the people (John, Benjamin & Phil) behind A Developing Story.  Check out what they had to say below.

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  • TIE: Exchange For Good

    9th March 10

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    When we first heard about The International Exchange (TIE), we were immediately impressed and a little scared in equal measure. TIE is a rare and radical thing: a magical combination of social change and personal development, with a difference. This isn’t a series of talks in swanky conference centres: TIE puts you on the ground where you’re needed, testing everything you think you know about the communications industry along the way.

    In a sentence, TIE marries the skills of an individual in the communications industry looking to be stretched professionally and personally, with a project in a developing country needing their time and skill (at this point in time TIE’s focus is Brazil). The experience is like no other, as people who’ve taken part so far testify:

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    Check out more case studies on TIE’s site: they are an inspiration and an education in equal measure.

    We’re happy to say BBH has signed up to take part, so we caught up with Philippa White, TIE’s founder, to hear more about the idea. Read full post

  • What actually goes on at Boulder Digital Works?

    17th December 09

    Posted by Ben Malbon

    Posted in transformational change

    Boulder Digital Works at the University of Colorado (BDWCU) is a cutting edge new school designed to create ‘the leaders of the future’ in the design, tech and creative industries. Sounds great, but what do the first intake of students really think about it, so far? And what are the ‘works’ that actually go on there?

    Some background first.

    There are already a number of (very cool) dedicated digital programs in the US but they tend to focus on individual specialties, such as advertising, business, design, or technology. The starting point for BDWCU was how things actually work in practice, once the student leaves school. It’s a whole lot messier than a school syllabus, that’s for sure. At advertising and digital agencies, start-ups, and software companies, business, creative, and technology people work in much more of an integrated and fluid setting and are expected to be multi-disciplinary thinkers and problem solvers. So BDWCU sets out to be a more broad-based educational program that covers the full spectrum of digital disciplines and media.

    The program is impressive – take a look here. (I only wish I could attend.)

    I was honored to be asked to sit on the Board of Directors and have got to know the program and the set-up a little. What I think is the coolest thing about the school is that the program they offer is live, so is constantly changing to reflect what matters today and tomorrow (not what mattered yesterday) and is led by leading practitioners in key industries such as advertising, design, interactive, and innovation, as well as entrepreneurs and academics. The team led by David Slayden, Michael Lightner and Allison Kent-Smith have done an awesome job of gathering some exceptional faculty to bring genuinely leading edge content and insight to students.

    So, yes, as I said before, it all sounds great, but what’s it really like? What do the students think? And how are they finding it?

    The initial intake of 12 twelve trailblazers in the first Boulder Digital Works 60 Weeks Program finish their adventure in December 2010. To mark the one year pre-anniversary they have created the 12/10 Project. This short film takes stock of what they’ve learned so far, considers their hopes and plans for the upcoming year and sees them explore their dreams, goals and predictions more broadly. It is essential viewing for anyone in a creative business who has an eye on the talent pool of the future. It’s people just like these guys whom we will all by vying to hire.

    It’s striking that for many the reasons they went to the school in the first place are not always the reasons they’re staying.

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    (It’s available in HD on YouTube).

    Follow the 12/10 Project as it unfolds over the next 12 months. You never know, you might spot a rising star in the making.

    The 12/10 blog is here.

    If you’re interested, here’s a little more about BDWCU.

  • So what exactly might ‘Adaptive Brand Marketing’ be?

    16th October 09

    (Jointly authored with Greg Andersen, our MD in BBH New York)

    The imminent publication of Forrester’s new report on the challenges facing clients – “Adaptive Brand Marketing: Rethinking Your Approach to Branding in the Digital Age” is a welcome turning of the spotlight toward client organizations. Without question agencies of all sizes, shapes and persuasions need to get their collective acts together and transform into leaner, more agile, more creative, & more technology- and data-fuelled businesses. The best in the business are no doubt all plotting how they can come out of this recession leaner, meaner, quicker, better.

    But that’s kind of pointless unless clients adapt too.

    We’ve not got hold of the report yet; we’re looking forward to getting stuck in, and are intrigued by the ‘new 4 Ps’ presented in the report: permission, proximity, perception, participation (AdAge covered some more of the detail in this piece from last week). But the idea of adaptive brand marketing is something we’ve been kicking around for a while at BBH.

    We believe marketing communications are already being forced to become increasingly agile; particularly for more youth-oriented brands. In such a fast paced and dynamic media environment, relevance is increasingly determined in the moment. Recency matters. Audience and attention are fleeting. Fame spikes … even for the famous. For brands to achieve and maintain fame in this context, it’s our view that communications for certain types of brands must make a dramatic shift from highly polished epic launches to a continuous and diverse stream of messaging and content designed to ride hyper-current cultural trends, consumer attitudes and competitive maneuvering. The performance of this diverse activity continuously monitored and optimized like a portfolio of stocks … kill the under-performers and reinvest in the ones showing returns. However, this ‘continuous beta’ mentality is a big leap from 18-month planning cycles and dogmatic, rigid testing protocols, despite its more real-time and real-world feedback.

    Just as this is culturally challenging for many agencies, so it will prove for marketing organizations. As marketing becomes more technology-powered, with learning more real-time, it will be critical to identify who is responsible for leading within marketing organizations … and more importantly, who is empowered to make decisions on the fly. Committee decision making and hierarchical organizational structures, for all their perceived benefits, won’t hold up to the strain of an accelerated process.

    So in advance of the full report, here are some of our starters for ten (or seven, actually) on how client structures, skill sets and approaches might adapt to deliver ‘adaptive branding’. We’re learning as we’re going, and as usual we’d value your input, opinions, builds or disagreements.

    We’d particularly like to hear about clients that are exploring new ways of engaging agencies, and new forms of leaner, faster, more iterative & curatorial process. Again, there’s much we can learn from these pioneers.

    1. Consumer intelligence at the center

    We wholeheartedly agree with Forrester’s points around a more prominent role for research. We all have an increasing number of highly sophisticated, real-time and granular measurement tools at our disposal, especially in interactive environments. Adopting an agile approach to using this data becomes more significant; if one can measure everything, one must decide what really matters to avoid drowning or becoming paralyzed. Less, but better measurement, enabling more responsive data-powered marketing, should be the ambition (what Tim @ Made By Many called ‘Agile Measurement‘). These observations suggest an elevated role for the insight & research functions that can quickly distribute and integrate learning in real time.

    2. Marketing as a catalyst for change within the broader company

    This points to a potentially larger opportunity. It’s not just the marketing organization that needs to reorient itself given the now normal digital age, but the company itself should consider how it reorients itself around its marketing organization. In most progressive companies, it is the marketing function that has most quickly and deeply engaged with the new interactive toolkit. This expertise can play a role well beyond the traditional confines of marketing communications. For example, a proper understanding of social media tools and the proper employment of resulting insights could impact everything from new product/service innovation to customer service to crisis management.

    What some, such as Dachis, are calling ‘social business design‘ is a significant opportunity in which marketing teams could play a leading role in driving efficiencies and creating new models internally. Marketing as a revenue source and a genuine competitive advantage, not just a cost. If marketers want a seat back at the big boys’ table, this is one potential way of getting it.

    3. The networked organization

    The structural definitions of, and relationships between, agencies and marketing organizations must change if companies are to ensure access to the very highest quality and leading-edge partners delivering at speed. With the emergence of what Forrester call “the federated organization” (we prefer ‘networked’) Global brand leaders and directors need to be able to cast elite teams of people (talent that spans several departments, companies or geographies) to get best results and avoid capacity bottlenecks.

    This places special emphasis on an evolved role for ‘lead agency’ partners, both providing the conventionally critical services around quality control and coordination, but also performing a new casting director role for marketing directors; knowing whom to bring into a project, and when, and then managing that engagement. Further, client organizations must foster a culture of generosity and collaboration both within their organizations and across multi-agency teams to get the most out of them. Just as dogs and owners look alike, so do clients and the culture of their agency roster (but let’s stop right there with that analogy).

    4. Brand leaders as curators

    Without question, global brand leaders do need to become more responsible for evolving marketing assets and them adapting to local markets (in many cases this is already happening, for example with some of the Unilever brands with whom BBH works). However, we believe this evolved role needs to go well beyond adaptation and coordination. We envisage an increasing role for both client and agency organizations as not just creators of content, but as curators as well. In a world awash in content, time can be saved by smart curation and the hacking of existing properties. Not everything needs to be conceived of, crafted and produced from the ground up every time. This is particularly important as brands move beyond the development of the traditional ‘campaign’ and start evolving more ongoing platforms that need growing, managing, sustaining and refreshing.

    5. Reframing investment timelines

    With campaigns evolving into programs and platforms, the annual planning & budgeting framework currently used to allocate monies needs revamping. This is clearly challenging, but if some marketing activity is designed to build long-term enduring platforms and other marketing is to be more opportunistic, then it seems sensible to begin to think about marketing investment in a parallel fashion. We agree that a more active and fluid approach to marketing investment is the correct approach, but this places even greater emphasis on agile and, as much as possible, live measurement.

    6. To fail is to learn

    We think client organizations need to find new comfort in failure and place increased value in learning as long as both happen for real, and in close to real time. Embracing more of a continuous beta mentality means getting communications into market more quickly and less expensively … with early real learning as the result. This beta learning can help redirect the program while it’s still being developed instead of after its finished. A marketer can spend 10 months of theoretical testing in artificial environments and a highly polished, highly researched program still has a chance of failure, or in many cases creates no real impact one way or another. What good is the post-program audit? The budget is gone and the market has moved on.

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    7. The time is now

    Historically, recessions have proven to be crucibles of change. The current recession is already turning out to be rather more of a complete reset for the industry than a temporary dip in revenues. Structurally, the smartest agencies and agency groups have been quietly plotting not only their future size, but also rebuilding their capabilities, simplifying their processes and gently retooling their skillsets. The smartest marketing organizations must ensure they are doing the same.

    So who’s doing this well?

    No doubt the Forrester report will be full of strong cases of where this is already happening. We look forward to that.

    But we’re after your examples of clients re-inventing process, resourcing models, cultures in the pursuit of better work, produced more efficiently. Whilst it’s perhaps easier to highlight examples of where this *isn’t* happening, let’s try and stay focused on things we can learn from.

    Let us know.

  • The Coming Age of Augmentation

    3rd October 09

    Photo: cluster of neural cells by Su-Chan Zhang, University Wisconsin-Madison

    Photo: cluster of neural cells by Su-Chan Zhang, University Wisconsin-Madison

    As in thrall as we may be to the firehose of new stuff drenching us in the here and now, occasionally we want to look a little further over the horizon. Two thoughts collided in the collective Labs brain a short while ago. By ‘collided’ we mean we saw a consequence of the relationship between the two that made us sit up and think:

    1.    The mass socialization of technology. 300 million + Facebook users can’t be wrong. We’re still in awe of how mainstream the adoption of technology has become and just how networked the world is. Increasingly the ‘loop’ never seems to close.

    2.    How ill-equipped we are to cope with the deluge. Natural human processing power is sadly finite and struggling to cope. Certainly, we know we’re not alone in adopting coping strategies like continuous partial attention and ignoring much beyond tomorrow or next week. Steve Rubel at Edelman also has written extensively on the attention crash and its relevance for marketers.

    Courtesy of xkcd web comic

    Courtesy of xkcd web comic

    The heady mix of excitement and uneasy tension brought about by these two things has felt irresolvable and on an accelerating curve. Sure, we can help speed our path through the data with better micro tools (“there’s an app for that…”) but they invariably lead us to consume more, faster; giving us the sense that we’re simply accelerating to the point where our brains implode are placed under too much stress. We’re not wannabe priestesses and priests of Zen around here, but is there a longer term, more profound step change to be made where technology actually enables a more balanced life?

    An answer began to emerge when we read a thought-provoking piece in the NYT by John Markoff subtitled “Artificial Intelligence Regains Its Allure.” AI. Cybernetics. Nanotechnology. Post Humanism? Sounds eccentric, but stay with us. Markoff’s assertion that a groundswell of attention and respect has been building around AI, in particular around an idea dubbed the Technological Singularity, made us curious.  In a sentence, the idea is that once we create an an artificial intelligence greater than our own, it follows that any resulting ‘Superbrain’ will be capable of augmenting itself extremely quickly to become even more intelligent and so on, leading to an explosive growth in intelligence that is (literally) beyond our imagination.

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  • I Think, Therefore I Am (a Self-aware, Superhuman Cyborg)*

    3rd October 09

    *John Markoff, “The Coming Superbrain”, New York Times, May 2009

    This post exists to house the material we digested to write the “The Coming Age of Augmentation” Labs post which follows this one.

    We have to come clean first. Yes, we do like tech innovation and even sci-fi.  We count amongst our Labs midst a few fans of Philip K Dick and one who still reads Yevgeny Zamyatin, so we may appear to be on less than entirely rational, objective ground here.  Then there is the fact there is something fabulously seductive about the language and imagery used to describe prospective real & imagined scientific frontiers: Dystopia, Utopia, Rapture (of the Nerds), the Singularity, that extraordinarily gripping, nightmare sequence in Terminator 2 when the playground is blown to smithereens… But we’re drifting from the point.

    Here we’d like to create a virtual library of all the very best content about the Technological Singularity and related topics. Please add links to other good stuff worth reading in the comments. We’ve arranged the content here on a make-shift scale from Tech Evangelist all the way to Sceptic, starting with the former. Here goes -

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  • Campaigns, Programs, Platforms – The Way Forward According to R/GA

    1st October 09

    In this film, recorded in NYC last week during Advertising Week, Bob Greenberg (Chairman, CEO & Chief Creative Officer) & Barry Wacksman (EVP, Chief Growth Officer) provide smart, grounded, food-for-thought around agency model re-invention, and particularly around the role of technology in the emerging shape of agencies, post-recession.

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    It’s of value for a number of reasons. First, because they’re talking from experience rather than about theory – always preferable. But second, they’re not just talking about themselves or about how great they are (though they are clearly very good within the niche they occupy). And so it doesn’t feel preachy. It feels honest and useful. And so no matter whether you’re a tiny & groovy start-up with six people or a networked mega-shop, there are provocations here.

    The dissection of the very real differences between CAMPAIGNS, PROGRAMS and PLATFORMS is useful, not least when it comes to resource implications, processes and structures. This seems the key take-out. And two numbers have stayed with me: 25% of their headcount are technologists (where do they get *that* much great talent?). They produce 95% of their output in-house.

    Their model won’t be right for the great majority of agencies – they’re still production specialists in many ways – but they at least seem to have a model, and can talk coherently around why it’s right for them. They seem to have worked out how technology can work for them, rather than the reverse.

    Smart people. Worth watching.

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