30th May 14
Posted in strategy
Author, Jim Carroll, Chairman BBH London
First published in Advertising Week Europe supplement
I knew a man who never blinked. It was quite discomfiting. I’d not considered blinking that important until confronted with its absence. This chap just seemed a bit odd, a little lacking in emotion. Was he perhaps an android? When talking to him I couldn’t avoid the impression that he was unnaturally certain of his own opinions. And that that blind certainty was what I was finding unattractive. I realised that, whilst I like the self-assured, absolute certainty can be troubling, alienating, disturbing.
I guess that’s why I’ve always responded better to leaders who, though boundlessly confident, exhibit a sensitivity to risk and doubt, a consciousness of paths not taken. I’m rarely convinced by absolute conviction.
For similar reasons I feel certainty in advertising has always been fool’s gold. Claude Hopkins wrote Advertising Science back in the 1920s. And science has given us analytical tools and techniques that have dramatically enhanced our understanding of consumers and our ability to communicate effectively. But, however much we may wish it, science has never given us certainty.
I recently attended a stage adaptation of the great Henry Fonda movie, 12 Angry Men. At its heart it’s a celebration of reasonable doubt, and an indictment of the unreasonable certainty that so many people carry around with them. I was struck by the idea that reasonable doubt is a force for good in society. Because life is an ongoing navigation of trade-offs, dilemmas and contrary preferences. Life isn’t about certainty.
In our business I’ve seen how, many a time and oft’, the quest for unreasonable certainty has actually fostered doubt and indecision. The pursuit of total proof can close windows of opportunity and analysis paralysis can inhibit bold leaps forward.
Recently we have all been redesigning the marketing model. We have embraced the vision of a customer engagement system that is more connected, more targeted, more knowing and less wasteful. Something that learns, creates, adapts and distributes in real time. But we should not imagine that any new model will deliver unreasonable certainty. All models need ideas to animate them. And the best ideas occur at the intersection of logic and magic, at the meeting point of rationality and emotion.
What is exciting about the modern age of marketing is the opportunity it affords us to explore this happy interaction between art and science. At BBH we’ve been talking a lot about High Performance Creativity. We believe that technology enables a more intimate relationship between creativity and performance, and that that intimacy will generate better, more effective work. We believe that data should not just be big; it should be strategically insightful and creatively inspiring. We believe that performance measures should not be backward looking proofs, but live, forward-facing guides. We believe that, while High Performance Creativity cannot promise certainty, it can deliver incredible potency.
I’m reasonably certain about this.
28th May 14
There are a couple things you need to know about Aarhus:
1. It’s the second biggest city in Denmark after the capital, Copenhagen;
2. The airport is 45km away from the town centre and a taxi will cost you £70, so take the shuttle bus, especially if you’re travelling on the Labs budget.
I was there to talk about BBH’s answer to the challenges and opportunities that creative businesses face today. The tensions between creativity and commerce, and the question of the monetization of creative outputs in the digital economy, had been recurrent throughout the day, since SPOT started out as a music conference, and a lot of the participants (including RECHO app developers, who launched their app at the conference) were connected to the music business, which has obviously had to spend the last two decades revolutionizing its value model.
Have a flick through the presentation if you fancy. Or read the ten points below for the gist of the keynote.
1. BBH was founded on the belief that growth needs space, and space needs difference, and creativity is the best tool at creating difference. Far from seeing creativity and commerce as opposites, we have a fundamental faith in the ability of brilliant creativity to deliver business results.
2. Conveniently, the IPA has actually proven through correlating Gunn report awards (a good proxy for quality of creativity) with ROI data, that creativity multiplies the effect of marketing investment by a number included between 7 (historically) and 12 (more recently).
3. Increasing connectedness of users, platforms, objects, channels, brands, devices, life, and generally everything, means that creativity needs to adapt both its inputs and outputs in order to continue to deliver commercial success.
4. We call this new type of creativity, High Performance Creativity.
5. High Performance Creativity is:
- Rooted both in genuine user and business insight;
- Fuelled by real time, real world data;
- Connecting all of a brand or property’s touch points into a consistent ecosystem that it itself connected to culture, to deliver at scale.
6. High Performance Creativity generates a new breed of creative ideas. Here are four examples.
7. Data-led ideas:
The New York Times reported that Netflix, which has 27 million subscribers in the US, found the idea for their version in House of Cards by running the numbers. The combination of the high popularity and engagement rates of David Fincher films, Kevin Spacey films, and the British version of “House of Cards” suggested that commissioning the series would be a very good bet on original programming.
In the BBH world, a team led by Creative Technologists has recently created a digital Audi billboard in Waterloo station which runs on real-time, station-related data. Check out the video inserted in the slide.
8. Network ideas: Sometimes the best strategy to triumph is to partner with the obvious competition. When your customers don’t care about what you make any more, think of what they do care about, and go befriend it.
A good (and befittingly, Danish) example of this is part of the spectacular Lego recovery story. Upon realizing that kids were more interested in blockbuster film and video games than they were in small stackable bricks, they initiated a whole new collection of franchises, and in one swift move turned themselves into a successful cross-platform entertainment brand, driving growth through innovation in gaming and film partnerships such as Harry Potter and Dark Knight. More recently, this strategy has taken the form of a long-term partnership with the Cartoon Network.
Working with our friends at Refuge, we were faced with the issue that domestic violence is an issue young women don’t want to talk about. So we found a way into their conversations by associating ourselves with a property they did want to talk about (make up and beauty) through celebrity blogger Lauren Luke.
9. Shoppable ideas: The idea that the various steps alongside the consumer journey from awareness to purchase are separate in time and mindset is eroding in the digital age, since all phases are increasingly connected. In the new world, those steps have become layers of a single ecosystem.
Founder Nicola Massenet describes Net A Porter as a fashion magazine that sells, rather than an ecommerce property. Quality creative content delivered by top fashion journalists and photographers, one click away from purchase: that’s inspiration and conversion wrapped into one. A winning strategy that has gone full circle this year with the launch of Porter Magazine.
At BBH, we have recently created a product for British Airways which similarly combines inspiration and delight through content, with optimized e-commerce. Picture Your Holiday is an intuitive holiday planning tool which allows for both dreaming up and buying your next trip away.
10. Triple Win Ideas: A lot of success stories in the world of digital products and services, come from unlocking a group of users or a type of use for the product, that wasn’t part of the original plan. So it’s always worth asking yourself who else your idea could be a win for.
Dog-sharing services such as Tailster put dog owners in need of a sitter, with dog lovers who don’t have their own pet. Dog owners get a cheaper rate on a dog walker or sitter, and dog lovers get an hour with a dog.
BBH Zag recently partnered with OMG Plc to create the world’s first intelligent, wearable camera.
The partner company had created a medical product designed to help those with memory loss. We set out to help them create a mass consumer product with cutting edge tech credentials. Positioned as a life streaming and social photography tool, Autographer launched in the spring.
More to come shortly on High Performance Creativity; in the meantime let us know what you think.
13th May 14
Posted in People
Author: Chris Meachin, Head of Interactive Production, BBH London
Mid-Weight Digital Display Producer
BBH London are looking for an experienced mid-weight digital producer with specific experience in display advertising (online banners). Mobile and outdoor digital advertising experience would be a bonus.
The right candidate will join a growing and dynamic team working on high-profile briefs for world-class clients. It’s a demanding but fun environment.
The role requires working directly with client teams and creatives to own projects from concept through to delivery. This includes responsibility for budgets, timing plans, general project management and liaison.
If you are a motivated team player with lots of initiative, and would like to join a high-performing team at BBH, then we’d love to hear from you. Please tell us about yourself here, under Digital.
29th April 14
Author: Richard Helyar, Head of Research, BBH London
Last week Disney’s icy fairytale Frozen became the 6th highest grossing film of all time. It had already taken more money at the box office than any other animated film in history, relegating Pixar’s Toy Story 3 to second place. Incredibly, a two-man leadership team is behind both films and their respective studios: Ed Catmull and John Lasseter.
So BBH was highly animated when we welcomed one half of this duo, Ed Catmull, Pixar’s co-founder and President of both Pixar and Disney Animation, to talk to us last week on his two-day visit to London promoting his new book Creativity, Inc.
Together with the backing of Steve Jobs, Ed and John built Pixar from scratch and I doubt if anyone reading this hasn’t seen, and loved, one of their films. Pixar’s 27 Oscars and $7bn revenue is a pretty compelling demonstration of the creative and commercial yin yang, but what is truly remarkable is that when Disney acquired Pixar in 2006, Ed and John were put in charge of Disney Animation, then on its knees, and pulled off the same trick again. Frozen is testament to their methods and it’s these methods that were the subject of Ed’s remarks.
What I found fascinating listening to Ed was that he talked more of failure than success. Sure, we’re all well versed in the merits of failing fast, it’s practically an internet meme, but the scale here is epic and the anecdotes are richer. Ed shared stories about how so many iterations of new movies suck. Really suck. “On Up, the only thing to stay the same from the start was the bird and the word Up”.
He went on to talk about how the best people know how to rip up months of hard graft and start again if it’s not working and how there has only been one film when the reset button was not pressed (Toy Story 3 for the record). He concluded that “failure isn’t a necessary evil. It’s not evil at all, but a necessary consequence of doing something new”.
Ed went on to describe Pixar’s ‘Braintrust’. Basically a steering committee, but one where absolute candour and a shared investment in success, ensure that even the gnarliest problems are worked through and solved.
And what made him most proud? Not Toy Story or Frozen, nor the awards and the revenues, but how his people react when things go wrong. Like for instance an employee accidentally deleting 90% of Toy Story 2 during production. Two years work by 400 people gone and the back-up failed (you’ll have to read the book to find out what happened).
Another topic he warmed to concerned people and process. “Give a great idea to a poor team and they’ll screw it up. Give a poor idea to a great team and they’ll either fix it or throw it away and start again”. People trump process every time. His barometer for how a movie is progressing? Not the quality of the work (it will probably suck, see above), but the spirit in the team producing it.
And it was a person not a process that Ed talked most passionately about. No-one worked with Steve Jobs longer than Ed Catmull and he was clearly moved when talking about the compassionate side of Steve that never made the biography. Ed finished with an observation that was pure Steve Jobs: “Making processes better and more efficient is a vital task, but it’s not the goal. Excellence is the goal”.
11th April 14
Author: Ben Shaw, Social Strategy Lead, BBH London
Last month, BBH London sent 11 lucky people to Austin to discover the latest innovations that tech, film and music had to offer. Amongst the BBQ, beer and banter, they managed to find a bunch of insights about the advancement of the human race. Topics like this may only truly be delivered under a desert sky with smoked meat and a pale ale, but in an effort to distribute our learnings to a wider audience we’ve tried to distil them down into some slides (below). We looked at three topics that we think are vital to our future – as an agency and as human beings. Enjoy.TECHNOLOGYCREATIVITYPEOPLE
9th April 14
Another in our intermittent repostings of our monthly tech column written for Marketing Magazine. This one on why Beacons, specifically Apple’s iBeacon, might make all that proximity marketing jargon simple and actually usable. The original article appeared here on 31.03.14.
Talk of frictionless mobile payments and proximity-based targeting has felt a little like waiting for jetpacks. We’ve all seen the diagrams of the device in our pocket sensing information from the environment around us with magical accuracy and we know it’s technically possible, but there’s been little sign of it actually happening in our daily lives.
The phrase ‘proximity based targeting’ may not make your pulse race. But forget for a moment the clunkiness of a QR code or the basic act of swiping a card over a sensor using NFC technology (NFC tends to be capable of simple transactions only) or location-based services like checking in on Foursquare (GPS-enabled, so not fantastically accurate, particularly indoors).
Instead, say hello to iBeacon. Unveiled by Apple last year as part of its iOS 7 launch, iBeacon is described as “a new class of low-powered, low-cost transmitters that can notify nearby iOS 7 devices of their presence.” And use that physical proximity to pass data. In Apple’s case the ‘phone (from iPhone 4 onwards) is also a beacon in its own right, capable of transmitting information not just receiving. Google is also coming up fast with beacon technology, baking it into Android 4.3.
Two things make this particularly interesting for marketers:
First, the fact that the beacons use Bluetooth LE (low energy), so succeed in delivering greater accuracy than GPS, whilst also draining less precious battery power. Suddenly we have the data transfer capabilities of Bluetooth, accurately pin-pointed to your exact location, now possible for a viable period.
Second, the data transfer is passive and immediate: it seems we’re finally at a point when devices can talk to one another without us needing to do the work.
Two commercial applications (and watchouts) to think about:
1. Enhanced experiences
For gigs, art galleries, stadiums and parks, strategically placed beacons allow users to pick up information about the history of a location or the background to a painting in a gallery, say, just by having their phone to hand. The exhibition owner in turn picks up useful information about where there are hot spots, blockages or dead zones. At SXSW in Texas this year, for example, the conference’s official mobile iOS app used iBeacon to send users information about the individual sessions they were in. Obviously the trick here as app developers is to judge the messaging content and velocity very carefully, ie do not spam people.
2. Next Generation Retail
iBeacon can work in a number of ways to change and improve a retail environment (beyond simply welcoming or issuing a coupon on arrival), for starters:
- Act as an “indoor GPS” system helping someone find the product they’re looking for
- Map where the best deals are for them, based on their previous shopping habits or perhaps the time of day/week
- Develop location-specific offers, like Macy’s are doing in the USA in partnership with Shopkick, where offers are dynamically tailored to customers based on where they are in the store.
- Beacons also make mobile payments faster and easier. Paypal are bringing out their own beacon, allowing users to make hands-free payments. The issue to overcome in the early days will be behavioural: we humans are used to physically exchanging something for goods.
And then there are the implications for out of home advertising, on-premise, not to mention peer-to-peer and our future digital identities. As marketers this is a way to rethink how we design user interactions. Fundamentally, this technology has the potential to change how we interact with the world, not just how we shop, and it’s closer than we think.
10th March 14
Posted in Experiments
We’ve closed the garage door on our first experiment of 2014 over at thinky.do and there’s a post about what we learnt about bitcoin from our Open Wallet Experiment there. A few weeks ago we went public about our rebooted approach to experimentation, so what have we learnt about learning one month on?
First off, constraints are both good and bad, or, more accurately, helpful and limiting. We set ourselves the goal of thinking up and launching an experiment, in public, in a 4 week period. And, Yay us, we got it out of the door. Just. We might have had a better conceived, better executed experiment if we’d given ourselves more time, but we might also still be in idea generation phase, filling up whiteboards with hypotheticals and possibilities instead of results and learnings. We did it, it’s done, onto the next doing.
Second, the subject of the experiment. The extended Labs team were absolutely certain that Bitcoin was the right subject for our first foray. Everyone was talking about it, none of us understood it properly, this was our chance to learn. And learn we did. We now know how to buy it, look after it and spend it. We’ve also learnt that bitcoin is a hard thing to think about and a difficult tool to use for experimental purposes. Getting to grips with bitcoin took time and the technical restraints meant several ‘pivots’ before the Open Wallet Experiment got out there. And while we’re not bitcoin billionaires, we’re in a better position to talk to clients about the benefits and drawbacks of cryptocurrencies than we were in January.
And lastly, how we work. We couldn’t have done anything without help from a number of people. Colleagues in BBH, partners outside (particular thanks to the guys at MediaMonks for talking us through bitcoin practicalities), people who emailed and commented on the blog and our G+ page, all helped tremendously.
And so, on to Experiment No2. Trying to remember what we’ve learnt already, and not forget that each month we’re starting over, all over again.