Authors, Scarlett Montanaro, Rhys Hillman and Sarah Chan, BBH Barn, Singapore


A world where 24% of people miss out on important moments in their lives because they are busy trying to document on social media sharing, is a world needing an intervention from BBH Barn, tasked each year to produce projects that ‘Do Good, Famously’. We call this intervention Social Rehab.

The first arm of the campaign was to create this set of social rules for people to abide by. This is a simple set of 6 rules that lays out what is acceptable, and what is not.

Then we needed to develop something that could make abiding by these rules more achievable. We designed a toolkit that replicated people’s digital behaviour in the real-world. By creating other objects that replicate digital behaviour, such as Instagram glasses, Draw Something Doodle Pads and Like stickers, smartphone addicts might begin to realise that real life is more rewarding. We created a limited run of 100 packs which were available locally or could be requested online. We were chuffed when we ran out within a week and so directed outside interest towards a downloadable PDF of the kit for people to make at home.

After starting a discussion online, and creating the toolkit we wanted to test our audience’s resolve in as social an environment as we could find. We held a public social experiment at a popular Singapore nightspot which offered time-based discounts to whoever willingly locked up their phones. Participants received 10% off their orders which then increased by another 10% for every hour people could stand to be away from their phones, up to 40%.

The reaction was hugely positive and hundreds of people came to take part, demonstrating that people recognise the issue and are, when given the tools and incentives, willing to do something to change their smartphone etiquette, if only for one night.