19th November 10
Posted in awesomeness
Author: Heidi Hackemer (@uberblond), Strategy Director, BBH NYC
Well, here we go again.
This past summer we tried a little intern experiment at BBH New York called the Barn (and actually wrote our very first post about the idea here).
The Barn is all about trying new ways of working and finding new solutions to old problems. We bring in six interns, put them in teams and give them a problem to solve. A tough problem. A problem that requires moxy and guts. Last summer it was “Here’s $1000, make something famous” and the funny thing is, through a great idea, lots of work and some wicked use of the web, one team actually did.
The upshot is that we had a great summer and in the true spirit of beta and chaos, we learned a lot. So we’re going to do it again. Want to apply? You can do it here.
In the meantime, we asked one of our Barn’ers from last summer, Daniel Edmundson, to outline what the Barn was all about and what he learned. His rather astute thoughts are below:
The following Barnisms, we believe, provide a valid offering of the Barn experience. As the industry moves toward a more hybrid model in mentality, specialty and creative sheen (see: Voltron), individuals with little to no experience in the ad world can contribute some pretty weird and crazy ideas while embracing the truths of technology, brands and businesses.
Here’s what we gleaned:
People are smart and all, but it’s nothing if you’re not nice.
Folks at BBH go by this axiom, and it can at first be daunting to accept. There is an innate inferiority to the intern experience, and it’s not easy to shake. But the Barn was built on the idea of integration within the agency–not just integration by discipline and interest, but by collaboration and lending new thoughts.
For us, it was as basic a learning as knowing it’s cool to pitch your early ideas to one of the creative teams, or discuss ongoing strategy with top planners. It was about access to smarts, and being comfortable saying, “I need your brain.”
Be clear. Very, very clear.
At a time when our social lives are as open and transparent as a storefront window, our communications, we learned, must follow suit. When members of the media or the ad community challenged the social relevancy and sincerity of the projects we were executing, we were immediately honest about our motivations and our associations to BBH. Not only did it help us to move forward to better develop the idea, it got the subject out early and placed the focus back on what was important.
Feed feed feed.
When consumers commit to a brand or platform, they formulate expectations.And with the brevity and ubiquity of stuff today, those expectations need to be forthright and on schedule—they must live and operate as their character does.
We learned that, especially when making a chronological or episodic product (say, 30 dates/30 days or a constant cookie delivery), content must deliver on that promise. The market, particularly online, is one big ocean of fishes and underwater activity—there are sharks that are hungry for new feed all the time. It’s important to keep them full.
Build dynamics from those around you.
Little was more important than realizing the crazy importance of working in a team. Put together at the start of 10 weeks with complete strangers, we had to recognize strengths early, put egos aside and move very quickly to process ideas.
Most importantly, it was designing a system with the insurmountable intelligence that we had on hand to make things happen.
Become a community manager.
Whether it was living in the online space or in the physical, both teams had to pay careful attention to what was being voiced and how to respond. As we developed each project monitoring feedback and reacting quickly became paramount—even more so, understanding how particular channels consumed and reacted to the bits of information informed our output as we moved along.
Understand and do timely collaboration.
Make it messy. Curate timelines for concepts to enter in and out, and bring everybody in. Collaboration should be like a big party, with everyone invited and all ideas honorable. The Barn is an incubator for collaboration—but it needs to be controlled and relevant to real-world happenings and interactions, or else it could be DOA.
Speak many languages, and carry a big idea.
Everyone in the Barn came from disparate backgrounds and it was very easy to simplify being very good at one thing. Whether it was coding, filming or writing copy, it was imperative that we leaned on other efficiencies to make each project work. The idea ran faster, operated better and was more agile with the distribution of skills and resources.
You must be curious, and you must ask why (or why not). This goes both for the culture within the wooden walls of the Barn, as well as outside in the fields and world-at-large. Be all, WTF about the workings of things, the lives of people and the wherewithal of ideas. Well-traveled—physically and mentally.
It’s like championing @kanyewest, AND questioning if the @John_Hegarty Twitter handle was a genuine or a fraud.
Beta can save your life, and your livelihood.
As many in the ad world can attest, it’s simply our nature to constantly massage, tinker with and hold close the ideas that are meant for the world. Getting them out into the real world early and often (half-dressed and really ugly, even) can pay off and help to shape the route towards the road ahead.
Make friends, be human.
While brands and businesses are trying so hard to be all the more human (and their agencies doing some of the handholding and small talking along the way), we forget too often that we, too, should do the same. Many in the Barn joined the soccer team, celebrated camaraderie with fellow black sheep and spent quality time with our mentors, all in the hope of forming a strong kinship with the offices. It worked. So much of BBH (and I’d hope the world) is about the people you work with; it’s about getting to know them and how they’re a genius at everything.
(Internships start in January. Apply here.)
19th November 10
Author: Matthew Gladstone (@gladstonematt), Partner, BBH London
So it’s official, “Applications are the white goods of the 21st century” and sales of virtual goods have crossed the $2bn threshold in the US and iTunes has over a billion downloads.
But, as we all know, not everyone is enjoying the party – Thom Yorke has told young bands not to tie themselves to the sinking ship of music companies, Murdoch is trying out pay walls for his newspapers, and a US court has caused outcry by ruling that people who have bought discs of software don’t actually “own” them – they cannot sell them second hand on eBay.
I think the difference is a lot to do with packaging and branding. Or, to be precise, virtual packaging and branding. People who are getting it right are getting paid more than those who aren’t.
What packaging and branding do is to create a sense of property and ownership. And property and ownership are norms that tell us to value and pay for things. Which are big problems in the virtual economy.
So my provocation is this: “Virtual packaging” is one way to create that sense of ownership and property. Just as the pioneers of branding created commercial value when they put trade-marks onto commodities in the tangible world – branded them as “theirs” – we have to reinvent packaging and branding for the virtual world.
The most obvious examples of this are Apps (packaged, single-purpose, branded on the button, tangible with a finger, made unique to you through use) and, at the other extreme, music (downloaded via anonymous browser, no presence other than a line of text in a database, totally generic). And who is persuading people to pay more successfully?
I think that one day we will look back at the App v.2010 and laugh at its crudity. One day we will have virtual packaging as iconic as this:
But let’s go back to the beginning.
My first wake up call was overhearing the oft-debated morality of downloading music. Free file sharing? Fine. Normal. That’s how you get music. Why the question? But walking out of a store with a cd without paying for it? Shoplifting. Stealing. Wrong. Equally obvious.
So what’s the difference between download and CD? To the artist, none. But to the user, one was packaged – physical, shiny, found in a shop – the other, just a piece of anonymous data accessed through a browser.
Look at Murdoch vs. the App. No detailed data are available yet, but anecdotal reports say that iPad apps are performing disproportionately well vs. subscriptions accessed via browser. And Ben Hughes, global commercial director and deputy CEO of the Financial Times, says the iPad is a “game-changer” for the newspaper industry. It’s the app vs the generic packaging of the browser.
Which leaves our last example – the action against someone selling software discs on eBay. The Software and Information Industry Association (USA) is breaking our norms of ownership and property when it says “I own that physical thing you bought”. We all feel that physical things belong to the person who buys them.
So the App is really just a virtual box. iTunes or Amazon just a virtual shop (no shit). Things that have cleverly used the norms of ownership and property in the virtual space, to make us more likely to pay for them. Right now the virtual retailers seem to be way more sophisticated than the products they sell – but hopefully that will change.
So here are some starters on creating virtual packaging (some of these may seem uncannily obvious or familiar to the real world, but maybe that’s the point):
- visual identity which differentiates the object
- tangible, touchable
- a differentiated experience (sounds, colours, even haptic “textures”)
- adaptive to the owner – evolving into something distinctively personal to the owner
- hard to copy and transfer; the sense of a physical transfer, not a lossless virtual one
Perhaps it’s time music came in Apps. As we said earlier: branded on the button, tangible, with a memory of what I did last time, with an experience unique to each app or band. Perhaps it would even be like a gatefold of old, but on steroids. Now that’s something I’d pay for.
We’d like to know what you think. Who’s doing this well? Do you know anyone who works in the world of packaging who’d want to comment?
17th November 10
Every year Mary Meeker from Morgan Stanley amazes us with her State of the Web presentation, and this year is no exception. The presentation is immensely valuable to our profession because it highlights shifts in internet culture and identifies opportunities for businesses and marketers alike.
The most provoking part of the presentation is the Disruptive Innovation slide. PSFK had a great blurb on describing the importance of this theory:
Disruptive Innovation is what’s to blame for the success of smaller, nimbler but sometimes cheaper products or services that manage to disrupt the success or complacency of larger, traditional brand players. Think of Amazon’s continued growth and eventual ‘breaking’ of Barnes & Noble, or Netflix’s killing of Blockbuster. Meeker’s presentation lays out two ways in which this disruptive innovation can happen
The two ways that Disruptive Innovation can happen. The first is a Low-End Segment Strategy by offering a product or service at a very low cost and then move up market. The second is called a Non-Consumption Strategy which basically means true innovation where consumption didn’t exist prior to the product being available.
We have the presentation embedded here for your enjoyment. Please tell us what you found interesting? What worries you about this data? What excites you about this data?
12th November 10
Posted in coding
Just as it is very easy to have an opinion about art without knowing how to draw, it’s very, very simple to talk knowledgeably about ‘digital’ without knowing anything about coding – the logic underlying every website and digital product we’ve ever used, tweeted about and, often, criticised.
So as part of Internet Week Europe and with Google Creative Labs we held a Coding for Dummies workshop which was an opportunity for 40 or so people to learn at the feet of some true coding ninjas and take their first, shaky steps along the path of geek enlightenment.
The afternoon didn’t finish with the class able to recreate We Feel Fine or launch an alternative blogging platform. But what it did was give everyone the confidence to go and have a look at a webpage’s source code and the beginnings of understanding why things on the web look and behave the way they do. A bunch of people can now go and play with code, launch a page onto the internet, tweak it, break it and maybe even fix it again.
Below are @tomux’s slides and at the end of them we’ve added a few of the pages that some of the dummies-no-longer created. We enjoyed ourselves so much (and still have so much to learn!) that we hope to do this again some time – keep an eye on our twitter for details.
We know code-fu.
10th November 10
For years we’ve been talking about and developing communications for the shortening attention spans of consumers. We are bombarded with statistics about the average dwell time on a web page (43 seconds according to Comscore) or the lifespan of a tweet which, if it isn’t retweeted within 60minutes, will never be, according to Sysomos.
Today, we’re ascending the slopes of Mount Sinai, the computer ready in our pockets and the promised land of ubiquitous always-on connection is on the horizon. But before we get there maybe there is a place for long-form communications to occupy us at those times where we can devote our attention to a piece of content but cannot easily surf away when our attention wanders.
Certainly the uptake of instapaper and its integration into all sorts of web and mobile apps suggests that people are saving more articles to read later and longreads recent revamp makes it even simpler to get long form textual content onto your mobile device.
So is the decline of attention as inexorable as previously thought? As well as video we are both producing and consuming more text than ever and today’s devices allow comfortable on the go reading of long-form narrative.
Time to consider whether a digital communications strategy needs to allow for both a wide, shallow spread and a long, deep dive.
Long live attention.
3rd November 10
Posted in Events
We all know what a page is, and HTML, and a server – but did you ever want to code? Well, our afternoon of coding for beginners in London next week won’t make you into a ninja web developer, but it is a light-hearted, activity-led series of hour-long sessions for the most (and we mean ‘most’) inexperienced web wannabe.
Think of it as Blue Peter meets O’Reilly – by the end of the day you should have your own toilet-roll and sellotape webpage and a few new skills. You can come for any of the hour-long courses or for the whole afternoon. We’ll bring some experts (a couple of awesome Google engineers, along with BBH London’s Head of Technology, Jim Hunt and Head of Creative Technology, Jon Andrews). You’ll need to bring a laptop and some enthusiasm.
There’s limited availability, so please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
2nd November 10
We’ve written before about our straight-up admiration for Green Thing’s focus on using creativity to switch people away from thinking of green living as something we ought to do, to something we want to do.
This time around, they’ve applied their talents to t-shirts.
As the blurb says: “Saved is a new sustainable product and anti-waste campaign that takes unwanted or unloved T-shirts, washes them, hand-stitches ‘Saved’ lettering onto them, adds a Saved story (saved from bad taste, saved from disrepair, saved from neglect) and in doing so makes each T-shirt a bit more fashionable and a lot more desirable.”
Aside from the obligatory celebrity endorsement (stand up Marina and the Diamonds, Imogen Heap, VV Brown, Professor Green and Zandra Rhodes, who’ve all donated t-shirts) the thing we particularly like is the innovation and design Green Thing used at every stage of the Saved cycle. Including a “pay it forward”-style approach to delivery – already recycled, the packaging containing your t-shirt can be reused with a freepost label to send back one of your own old t-shirts to be Saved for somebody else.
But more importantly, buy one on their Facebook page here.
1st November 10
Posted in BBH Labs
“It is not the same to talk about bulls, as to be in the bull ring”
- Spanish proverb (HT @juzmcmuz)
We’ve mentioned before that we pick just 10 links we like the look of every week (provocative, challenging, useful and/or entertaining tend to be the order of the day) and send them to our friends at BBH around the world.
It’s heavily based on the @BBHLabs twitterstream across 7 days, but filleted, honed and whittled to a Top Ten for anyone who fancies a filter between them and the 24/7, 365 days a year drenching in data that is Twitter.
So here it is again. Feel free to pass on. As usual, ideas on making it more useful always welcome.
“140 chars is not a limit, it’s a shape” – exceptional interview with @discographies on Big Spaceship’s Think blog: http://bit.ly/bXzMkz
‘Ball Droppings’, a Chrome HTML5 experiment: http://bit.ly/9ua0s (via @timogeo @seth_weisfeld)
The history of mankind in a minute – a great stop-motion animation for BBC: http://bit.ly/aFhOUN (via @motionographer)
Super cool – Stamen Design’s 2 week long series of race data visualisations for W+K London’s Nike Grid is live: http://sta.mn/x3g
Not sure why this took so long. Augmented Reality app that lets users graffiti buildings. Interesting “steal” feature too: http://gizmo.do/bHdwRm
*Extraordinary* short ‘Nuit Blanche’ – if you’ve not seen this, think Brief Encounter + CGI – by Arev Manoukian: http://bit.ly/bEnTvw (via @finnbarrw)
NASA turns its attention to sustainability challenges right here on Earth, with its LAUNCH initiative: http://launch.org/ (via @jess3)
How Money Follows Attention, Eventually – Kevin Kelly on the commercial future of mediators who boost the signal: http://bit.ly/dfGfun
“The first step for each of us is to imagine fearlessly; to dream.” – big thinking from Ray Ozzie: http://bit.ly/a3RsM5 (via @Techcrunch)
And a bonus 11th, Power to the Pixel guest post on Labs: Powered by Pixels – on new storytelling: http://bit.ly/pttppost
1st November 10
Around here we like nothing more than creativity put to great use. Last Friday night, in a cinema in central London, St John Ambulance (a BBH London client) staged an event they hope the audience – and anyone watching the film of what took place – won’t forget for a while. The film you see here was edited at speed over the weekend. Below, we catch up with one of the CDs on the project and share our starters for ten on what perhaps we can take from it.
First up, inbetween edits, Adrian Rossi told us a bit about how the idea came about.
“People eat popcorn in cinema. One of the main reasons people, especially children, choke is from eating popcorn. So we thought how do we make people in a cinema audience (and beyond) question the importance of First Aid. To shake them out of that lethargy that “It won’t happen to me.” Or “Someone will know what to do.”
There were several parts to this. The first was writing and filming a commercial for popcorn that felt believeable as a real popcorn ad. Something that no one would even question. This meant trawling through bland commercial after bland commercial to get the feeling for the language, music and pacing. Even finding a unique popcorn name which felt real and which hadn’t been used before. This kept people in their ad comfort zone. These ads almost kind of wash over you in the cinema. Which is what happened when it played in the cinema, people carried on chatting, looking at their phones and of course eating popcorn.
After creating this idyllic ‘ad family’, we shatter it by having the little girl choke and the Mum – understandably – completely lose it. The actress who played the ‘Mum’ was amazing. She cried on cue so many times during the shoot itself, amazing to do it once – but to keep to carry on doing it – extraordinary. It was one of the most emotional shoots I or any of the crew had been involved with. Everyone was absolutely drained afterwards.
Like all good stories there had to be a third act. Here, we had an individual in the audience volunteer to help, then run down the cinema aisle and disappear behind the curtains at the side of the screen, before you see her appear in the film itself. Getting the timing and her eyeline (so it felt the two actresses were actually looking at each other and talking to each other) right as she made her way through several hundred people and onto the stage, then behind the curtain to reappear a beat later in the film… that was the nerve wrecking part. This hadn’t been done before. It worked perfectly, the actress, Joanna, nailed it. Even reducing one corner of the cinema audience to gasp and point.
For Joanna she was only half way through her performance – she had to reappear on the other side of the curtains just as her onscreen character leaves, after saving the little girl. This was the real feelgood moment – as she appeared, the entire audience broke into spontaneous applause. This wasn’t scripted, but it made for a genuinely uplifting end to the experience and worth all the effort everyone had put into it.
I believe in this idea and St John Ambulance so much that even though I left BBH 3 months ago I’ve taken holiday from my new agency, Glue, to do all the rehearsals and shoot the cinema event itself. And that goes for almost everyone involved in this project from the beginning – too many people to mention have believed in this and have given up their time and more to make this the best it could possibly be.
There was always that element of risk and nerves attached to doing a live performance as you can’t control entirely what might happen. In the end everyone went with it. Seeing a couple of people reduced to tears and the entire audience spontaneously clapping at the end makes you realise the power a message like this can carry. Strangely, people didn’t seem to be eating so much popcorn afterwards. . .’
What can we do now?
Not to put too finer a point on it, we can all be the difference. Here we’re celebrating the thinking behind this idea by sharing the film, as well as the accompanying campaign collateral (below). We hope you will too, either by sharing the link to the film which is up on the St John Ambulance site and/or YouTube.
We believe there are a few things to take away from all of this – some are age-old advertising truths, some a little more new-fangled. Please let us know what you think:
1. A clearly defined problem: St John Ambulance know there are 150,000 deaths every year in the UK that could be prevented if someone in the vicinity knew first aid.
2. A relentless focus: St John Ambulance could be about a lot of things, but they are focused on First Aid. They believe no-one should be out of reach of someone who can help in an emergency. Someone who can *be the difference*.
3. Imagination + commitment beat money: this idea is more proof, if proof were needed, that big impact doesn’t rely necessarily upon big budgets.
4. Coherency beats consistency: each component part of the campaign (print campaign, the cinema event, an iPhone app and a pocket-sized guide) adds layers of knowledge and usability. Different, connected platforms, not identikit, matching luggage.
5. Awareness is not enough. The St John Ambulance team want this film to be watched and shared, but most of all they want it to acted upon. The advertising doesn’t simply tell a dramatic story, it a) gives us basic and top line knowledge about what to do in an emergency and b) gives us somewhere to go – text SAVE to 82727 in the UK for a free pocket-sized guide to Essential First Aid, which covers five common conditions where straightforward first aid could be the difference between a life lost and a life saved:
And if the booklet’s not your thing, you can try the branded iPhone app (note: the app costs £2.39):
St John’s Ambulance: Scott Jacobson – Director of Marketing Communications & Fundraising
BBH Creative Directors: Alex Grieve and Adrian Rossi
BBH Producer: Olivia Chalk
BBH Asst Producer: Chris Watling
BBH Team Directors: Louise Addley, Nick Stringer
Director: Jeff Labbe
Producer: Gregory Cundiff, Gabi Kay
Production Company: Sonny London
Director of Photography: Daniel Bronks
Sound: Wave Studios, BBH Voodoo
Post Production: The Mill
Editor/Editing: Sam Gunn, The Whitehouse
Media Partners: DCM – Louise Trinder, Jill Cooper
Digital Cinema Media and the Cineworld Haymarket - Ash Chaudry
Special thanks also to the team behind the scenes: Emma Shepherd (PR Manager at St John Ambulance), Kevin Brown, Helen Kenny, Zak Razvi, Lucy Powell, Justin Abuzid, Christina Collins, Tracy Blyth, Andrew Southam, Romy Miller, JoJo Jenkins, Gemma Smith, Hannah Gibson and Paisley Wright.
29th October 10
Aside from the smart, engaged and talented colleagues here at BBH and likeminds the world over, at Labs we are lucky to be in close proximity (in the same office in fact) to the smart, engaged and forward-facing Power to the Pixel team. Their mission is to explore new ways of getting stories in front of increasingly fragmented audiences and support media producers wanting to make the sometimes difficult transition to digital and cross-media distribution.
Audiences no longer think in silos – the recent 2Screen evening demonstrated the power of creating compelling behaviour drivers and experiences across multiple platforms. Power to the Pixel’s recent centrepiece event, the Cross-Media Forum in London, brought together leading thinkers and pioneers from across the media industries who are instrumental in changing the way stories are conceived and are reaching audiences.
Below, PttP’s CEO Liz Rosenthal and COO Tishna Molla picks out some themes that are emerging from their work and, for anyone interested in new tools for storytellers, links to deeper thinking from the Pixel Report.
“The best storytelling devices are, and have always been, rooted in human behaviours and desires,” says Mike Monello, Founder of Campfire and Co-Creator of The Blair Witch Project. His keys to creating a successful story experience are;
- Communal experience
- Making it tangible
- Fostering discovery
- Making it personal
- Building a world larger than your characters
Story = brand
Whilst marketers have long been used to advertising products across multiple platforms, do they really understand how to keep audiences engaged? How do you begin to find your audience, let alone engage them? How do you decide which platforms to use to tell your story, let alone work out how to use them? Director Jon M Chu, is an expert in how to not only reach, but to sustain an audience. He conceived The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers (The LXD) – “a living, breathing comic book” – first and foremost as a brand, enabling connections with different audiences across multiple platforms.
Power lies with the audience
With the impact of new technologies has come a shift in authorship and access. Audiences have moved from passive viewer to active collaborator, stakeholder, co-creator, marketer, distributor, even financier. There’s a new breed of storyteller emerging, one that understands the new technologies, tools and services that are changing the way that stories are told, how and where audiences can interact with them and, as a result, the whole business of storytelling.
Lance Weiler (@lanceweiler), US filmmaker and story architect, grew his audience for Head Trauma - a fusion of feature film, live performance, mobile interaction, online gaming and remix – by allowing the audience to discover and expand elements of the story, moving them from one platform to the next in the process. Audience numbers grew in direct correlation to the number of access points made available to them.
Finnish director, Timo Vuorensola is an expert at collaborating and engaging with his audience throughout the development, production and distribution of his films. Crowd Controls is one great example of a tool that he uses to harness the power of the audience.
With technology advancing so rapidly, the possibilities for storytelling and audience interaction seem limitless or intimidating, depending on your point of view. No-one has all the answers anymore (if they ever did) which makes it essential now, more than ever, to share information and foster new networks, collaborations and partnerships. Which is what we do @powertothepixel.