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    • How Do Agencies Move Upstream?

      7th September 10

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in business models, strategy

      Author: Griffin Farley, Strategy Director, BBH New York

      Image Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

      I have returned from the promise land, a place of myth and fable among ad agencies. We have many names for this place but I tend to call it… upstream.

      It’s a question we as an industry often ask ourselves: “How can we get more upstream in our client’s business?” and this isn’t an uncommon theme here on the Labs blog (if you’re interested in reading some related material, check out Ben’s post So What Exactly Might Adaptive Brand Marketing Be? and Mel’s Marketing Mashup).

      We’re just wrapping up a consulting project with a client where we had the opportunity to work more upstream than agencies typically work. We were asked to help a client develop an investor presentation that would allow them to raise funds to hire an ad agency. Before I get into that story I wanted to take a step back and share how agencies move upstream and what steps need to come first.

      1. Moving from Execution to Strategy:

      Having a dedicated strategic planning department is the first step. This isn’t as easy as it sounds for all agencies. Many agencies in smaller ad markets want to hire planners but struggle to find them. As an industry we have done a poor job training and cultivating young planners over the last 10 years, which I believe is the reason we have a shortage of Senior Planners in the States today.

      The question inevitably comes up… Can we cross-train somebody to be our planner? I have worked with many strategic account managers and the biggest difference between an account manager and an account planner is the time planners get to think about strategy. It’s hard to be conceptual and strategic when your time is filled with other aspects of agency business like hounding the client to sign production estimates.

      Being strategic by itself isn’t enough to hold your own as a planner. Schools like VCU and Miami Ad School help with this transition. They provide the fundamentals of research, moderation and creative inspiration. Some of the best cross-trained planners that I have met include Pam Scott who worked at Goodby years ago, and Laura Scobie who currently works at Fallon.

      2. Moving from Strategy to R&D:

      In the agency world we are told that meeting with the ad agency should be your clients best meeting of the week. However many brand managers might say meeting with the R&D folk makes the best meeting of the week. Some industries are more prone to employing brand managers that get excited about R&D than others. In my experience these categories include Toys, Consumer Package Goods, Casual Dining Restaurants and Technology to name a few.

      Sometimes strategic and creative time is best spent thinking of new product or service innovations for clients. Ad agencies have developed amazing innovations for clients, and I think the best example of this is the Happy Meal for McDonalds. Just this week I heard CP+B is testing a new product for Kraft Mac and Cheese for the Grill.

      3. Moving from R&D to Venture Capital:

      Like I mentioned at the beginning, BBH Zag is helping a technology start-up develop an investor presentation. The goal of presentation is to raise a large sum of money that will allow them to hire an agency, be first to mass market and own this developing category.

      Rarely do agencies get a chance to work this far upstream with a brand because the resource and time risk is too great. However, if agencies want to live in a world where ideas rule, there is no other place like venture capital. Understanding how to pitch an idea in 30 minutes or less, understanding what investors have to see and correctly size the marketplace for new market categories are unusual assignments for most agencies.

      MIT has a program that teaches students how to pitch venture capitalists and if you do some searching on YouTube you’ll find videos that get students excited about the program like this one:

      These are just a few thoughts. We don’t have all the solutions and would like to hear what you think: Do agencies belong upstream? Have we earned the right to be more than a vendor… to be a true client partner? Are we professional enough to make commercial recommendations? Do we demonstrate daily a habitual, deep-rooted interest in their business? Are there other ways for agencies to find themselves upstream?

    • Story is More Powerful Than The Brand; Best Story Wins (Tom Peters)

      7th September 10

      Posted by Ben Malbon

      Posted in Brands, storytelling

      Interesting short clip of Tom Peters talking about the importance of storytelling for brands. In fact, for Peters, storytelling isn’t just important, it can be more powerful than the brand itself.

    • The rise of ‘Event Outdoor’ continues – brilliant projection show in Kharkov, Ukraine

      30th August 10

      Posted by Ben Malbon

      Posted in Uncategorized

      Hot on the heels of the Target installation at NYC’s Standard Hotel a few weeks ago, it seems ‘event outdoor’ is just becoming more interesting by the day. This is phenomenal. My Russian isn’t fantastic (Mel – can you help please?), but no narration seems that necessary. It’s an old idea done in a particularly crisp & stunning way. I especially like the ‘dog walking along the precipice’ moment around two minutes into the film.

      If anyone knows whether this show was on behalf of a brand (it doesn’t look like it), or anything else about it, please enlighten us in the comments underneath the film. Thanks.

      (The original film we posted has been removed from YouTube – this one below is not quite as well-filmed but gives you the idea).

      Thanks to John Hagel (@jhagel) for the tip off.

    • The End of The Beginning – Ben’s move to Google Creative Lab

      27th August 10

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in Uncategorized

      “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
      ~Sir Winston Churchill, November 1942

      So you will have heard Ben is leaving the BBH fold after six or so years, to take up the role of Director of Strategy, Google Creative Lab. Anyone who knows Ben knows this is exactly the kind of role he was built for: at the cutting edge, challenging-as-hell, massive in scope. It’s a huge job at one of the world’s most exciting companies – to say we’re extremely excited for him is a massive understatement. In fact, perhaps you’d expect us to say this – BBH do work with Google on a range of projects, after all – but the truth is Ben has developed an extraordinary relationship between Google and BBH, going back five years to our original assignment with Google (in which the very first slide of the presentation read: ‘We Don’t Want To Be Your Ad Agency’). We’re happy he’ll still be part of that team, albeit client-side from now on.

      I’m sure there’ll be plenty of opportunities for all of us who know Ben to wax lyrical about his cyborgian ability to work harder and longer than most sentient beings on the planet; his obsessive playing of Kraftwerk and Prince (for decades on end); his incisive mind and brutally funny wit; his energy, talent and relentless dedication to creativity in all its forms; his ability to multi-task (I don’t know anyone else who can simultaneously email me a keynote deck for comments, send a link to yet another YouTube mashup, tweet his boundless joy at finally becoming the Mayor of Columbine, eat a sandwich – 1/2 chipotle roasted chicken, 1/2 flank steak w/ red onions – from the same establishment… all whilst talking to me on Skype) for Britain and NYC combined. However, this is my opportunity to say a few words briefly, so please bear with me for another sentence or two.

      Ben is quite simply the best partner I’ve ever had the privilege to work with. We began BBH Labs back in 2008 with a half-baked business plan, a blind faith in one another and the desire to disrupt. For my part, I figured if you’re going to take a risk like set up a unit like Labs, then better do it with someone you like and respect. I knew I had a partner who’d be fearless, inquisitive and challenging; who’d push me and support me in the same breath.

      Maybe the definition of a great partner is someone who helps you to be the best you can be. I could add, who does so without driving you insane.  Truth is, we’ve had our moments. But in the main we’ve got through it and, I think, come out stronger.

      Looking to the immediate future, Ben has a month or so before his time at BBH and Labs ends and his new role begins. I hope he’s going to relax, take a deep breath and enjoy himself. I’m sure we’ll know about it if he does. For anyone curious to know, I will continue to run Labs in London – and we’re fortunate insofar as BBH is packed with people around the world willing and able to get involved. More on this another day.

      For now, we simply want to wish Ben the very best of luck at Google. They’re lucky to have him.

      Mel

    • Creatives, Know When to Ask for Help

      25th August 10

      Posted by Ben Malbon

      Posted in creativity, technology

      Author: Kevin Roddy, Chief Creative Officer, BBH New York (follow at @tweetrod)

      Originally posted on Ad Age, August 23 2010 (link: http://j.mp/crf6Io)

      I have a theory about why some “traditional” agencies aren’t evolving as quickly, or effectively, as they need to: because their creative directors aren’t admitting that they’re stupid.

      Now, hang on a minute. Before you take a four-iron to my knee caps, let me explain what I mean. In my pre-creative-director career as a copywriter (you know, back when ads were written in Triceratops blood on cave walls) I never had to worry about writing for a small thing we now call the internet. Back then, an “integrated campaign” meant it had TV, print and radio. The definition of “interactive” was doing a print ad that required someone to turn the page. My colleagues and I never had to think of any solution beyond it.

      The path to becoming a creative director in those days was to be really good at developing work in those media, the theory being, the better you were at doing it, the better you would be at directing it.

      Today? Not so much. As someone who’s now responsible for directing creative people doing things I never even dreamed of in my copywriting days, I don’t consider myself solely equipped to make every kind of idea better. How could I? I’ve never done many of them myself.

      Sure, I can tell someone how to make a TV spot or a print ad better. I’ve done a ton of them. And, I think, I’m pretty good at them. But when it comes to creativity today — a new world that encompasses everything from iAds to augmented reality — it’s a whole different ballgame.

      I’m not alone. I’d venture to say there’s a whole industry of CDs out there who have the same difficulty as I do single-handedly creative directing today’s ideas. Some have even confided in me as much.

      So where does that leave creative leaders like me? Here are a few options:

      1. Ignore the new ideas. Hey, if we can’t make them better then let’s just dismiss them altogether!
      2. We can ask for new ideas, even demand them, but because we honestly don’t know how to improve many of them, we can just let them move forward in their “first-draft” state.
      3. We can admit that we don’t know enough about how to make technologically complex creative ideas better and ask for help.

      Hopefully, we’ll all be brave enough to pick option No. 3. Creative directors need to admit a weakness in our own ability to creative direct today and ask for help. Take down the walls and ask other people for suggestions about how to make the work better. Heresy, I know. (You’ll have to turn in your creative director secret decoder ring and conveniently forget the creative director secret handshake.) But the danger of pretending like you know how to do it all means great creative opportunities could pass through you agency without a chance of exposing themselves. I believe we’ll be more effective in our jobs if we get help revamping our creative departments to deliver the complex kinds of creative products clients require to engage consumers today.

      Note, I’m not suggesting you get others to do it for you. I’m simply saying get help. As creative directors it is still, ultimately, our responsibility. We are, like it or not, better qualified to judge and direct great creative work, of any kind, than anybody else.

      And if and when the “I need help” movement takes hold, I promise creative directors will look really damn smart (actually being smart, however, is a different story…hell, we’re creative directors not planners).

    • Beautiful Film of The Day – Giant Stinson Beach Bubbles (Canon 550D)

      24th August 10

      Posted by Ben Malbon

      Posted in awesomeness

      Posted by: Seth Weisfeld, Digital Creative Director, BBH New York (follow him at @seth_weisfeld)

      As the summer begins to fade in our minds on a rainy day like this, its all too easy to forget the simple joys of a day at the beach. This film is a lovely reminder and shot and scored very beautifully. Enjoy.

      Be sure to watch in HD, full screen. Even more stunning.

    • 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.

    • Analogue//Digital – Target’s Light Show Spectacular, Standard Hotel NYC, August 2010

      22nd August 10

      Posted by Ben Malbon

      Posted in Uncategorized

      (Image courtesy of Mother website)

      This is an extraordinary piece of work. Enormous kudos to Mother NYC for pulling off what must have seemed like a extraordinary idea on paper but a monumentally tricky idea to execute (think: no rehearsals, no back-up).

      Last week in NYC Mother NYC teamed up with Target to create this great installation at the Standard Hotel in NYC. Over 170 rooms were used, synced with LED lights, performers and a host of other action going on at ground level.

      It’s bold, surprising and certainly contains more than a nod to the type of visual effects more usually experienced in digital formats. But executed as 100% analogue.

      From Mother’s site:

      What do you call 20 sensory-overloaded minutes fashioned out of 60+ dancers, an original visual program created by Daft Punk’s light designers, a new pop symphony from one-half of N.A.S.A. and 170 rooms of New York’s Standard Hotel? You could start with “Spectacular,” but even that seems limiting. This one-time-only show for Target’s original fashion lines is just about the coolest and most unique event Mother’s ever produced!

      Enjoy the film (the visual treats really begin 40 seconds from the start).

      It reminds us of this video, by Etienne De Crecy, one of our favourites here at BBH Labs, but done on a monumental scale.

      Etienne De Crecy Live 2007 Transmusicales de Rennes from Clement bournat on Vimeo.

    • The Planner Survey 2010

      18th August 10

      Posted by Ben Malbon

      Posted in People, strategy

      Heather LeFevre has just published her annual survey of planners and strategists. It’s most definitely worth a read. And not just if you regard yourself as a planner or strategist.
      Of course, we’re particularly honored to see BBH named joint top as one of two agencies with the ‘strongest planning group’ (& congratulations to W&K).
      View more documents from Heather LeFevre.
      From Heather’s blog:
      The moment at least some of us have been waiting for! The results have been tabulated, analyzed and even designed this year. I’ve posted them on both SlideShare and Scribd so you can download them from whichever you prefer. All of my commentary is in the report, but please comment here after you’ve had a chance to read it. Would love to know what you think.
    • Media’s Various Roles Beyond Planning & Buying

      17th August 10

      Posted by Saneel Radia

      Posted in Uncategorized

      For some reason, the dominant conversation around media’s ongoing evolution concerns its fragmentation. Yes. Ok, it’s fragmented. What isn’t discussed enough is that the critical impact of said fragmentation is directly tied to brand behavior, not the difficulty of reaching and engaging audiences. How a brand behaves is now intrinsically linked to media environments. In fact, separating the content from the channel is becoming an impossible (and irrelevant) task. Think about music. Is music the same as it’s always been, just now distributed in “digital form”? Anyone following the evolution of music knows that music has fundamentally changed as a result of digital distribution. Not just the music industry; music itself. The impact of how it’s consumed (isolated from the context of an album, in varied interpretations and in environments not dedicated to “listening”) has literally changed what artists create. We’re just beginning to see the same thing with literature as a result of e-books. The content is impacted by the channel.  It’s why Twittering isn’t “micro-blogging.” It’s Twittering. The content is different because of the channel.

      As a result, we’ve been spending a lot of time at BBH New York recently rethinking the role of media across the organization. Specifically, we’ve been formalizing processes and deliverables enhancing its function as a fully embedded creative & strategic discipline. Media at BBH consists of the overlapping practices of Media Planning/Buying, Engagement Planning and Media Design*.  This happens because the role of media as an expertise is exceptionally broad.

      In fact, we view media as much as an input as an output. The following four roles of media require a specific mix of skills we try to develop, and create accountability around.  We’ve illustrated each by work we didn’t create, but have tremendous respect for as an agency.

      Read full post

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