13th July 10
I joined a group of tutors and producers, half with film/transmedia projects in development, half not, from around the world for the latter half of their week away in Wales.
By way of introduction, Power to the Pixel are an organisation dedicated to supporting film and the wider media in its transition to a digital age. Ben and I are both lucky to be on their Advisory board.
My brief was to shed some light on brands and cross-platform/transmedia storytelling, which, if I am honest, initially felt a little awkward. Brands and agencies may be embracing cross-platform creativity and integration per se, but true transmedia… not so much. The likes of Campfire with their Frenzied Waters work for the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week last year, Audi Art of the Heist and – back in the day – Beta 7 for Sega; as well as Ivan Askwith at Big Spaceship (who was generous and interested enough to chew the fat with me late one evening) are two, honourable exceptions.
With this in mind, my presentation focused primarily on what brands and their agencies are learning about integration, interaction and new partnerships in the hypersocial environment we find ourselves in. I also attempted to explain why brands may be reticent about taking a step further into building deep, immersive, narrative worlds. Along the way, telling the story of a (failed) BBH Labs joint venture and what we took from it… and finally, ending with a proposal.
“BIG BANG BIG BOOM: an unscientific point of view on the beginning & evolution of life … & how it could probably end.”
7th July 10
Everything about this is excellent. And it just gets bigger & better . . .
6th July 10
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“Do what we can, summer will have its flies:
if we walk in the woods, we must feed mosquitoes:
if we go a-fishing, we must expect a wet coat.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
I was lucky enough to meet Jeff Scher this weekend, a ridiculously talented & leftfield painter, animator and experimental film maker from DUMBO, in Brooklyn. Jeff’s works are in MoMA, and have been screened at film festivals around the world. He also teaches at the School of Visual Arts and at N.Y.U. Tisch School of the Arts. I knew we were going to get on when – within 10 seconds of meeting, literally – he was walking me through his top 10 photography apps for the iPhone. I had no idea my collection of apps was so conservative. (One ‘app’ consisted entirely of wobbling the iPhone violently during the shot, creating a weird kind of trippy effect as the camera’s software corrects for the distortion – try it; it’s cool how the iPhone tries to make sense of it).
A selection of his films, “The Best of Times,” was just published as an iPhone and iPad app.
Anyway, take a look at this, below. It’s beautiful, emotive and perfectly captures the magic of my favourite time of year: summer. More details about the film, in Jeff’s own words (as originally published in the NYT) are below the film on the NYT site. (click to play). Music is by Shay Lynch.
Take a look at all Jeff’s work – http://fezfilms.net/
This is one of my favourites of his previous films, ‘L’eau Life’.
And if you’re into it and want to find out more about Jeff, here’s a 5 minute documentary piece on YouTube.
2nd July 10
Yesterday I was invited along to Curious 01 in London. Any event with ‘curious’ in the title sounds like it might be interesting and this was. Curated by Paul Bay, a group of good & nice people turned up, including John Grant, Neil Perkin, Jon Bains, Alex Bedoya from Hyper Island and many more. Whilst the session covered a number of topics, the conversation centred around the question: what should a brand team look like in future? A subject close to our hearts here at Labs, see related posts here and here. Paul also decided to spice things up by asking a couple of us to ‘bring a provocation’… hard to resist.
There were a ton of good ideas (others) and some a little more loony (mine). For what it’s worth I’m sharing my provocation here because, as always, we’re interested in hearing what others think. A round-up of the rest of the day will be shared soon.
In a nutshell, my provocation began with the question: if clients only pay for the things they can’t do themselves, what does that mean when we work in a real-time, social web world?
11th June 10
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9th June 10
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This week is Internet Week in New York.
On Tuesday, Boulder Digital Works (I’m lucky enough to be on the Advisory Board there) hosted an evening at the Art Director’s Club called ‘Evolve!’ at which they launched their neat new website (created by Modernista!) – take a look at: http://bdw.colorado.edu/, it’s very cool. There were a number of short presentations from some BDW board members, including Scott Witt (just recently moved to a new role as Creative Director at Apple), Shane Steele (just recently moved to be be VP Global B2B Marketing at Yahoo!) & Scott Prindle, Technical Director at CPB in Boulder. I tagged along and got my ten minute slot.
I thought I’d use it to highlight why we need places like Boulder Digital Works in the first place. In short, to produce a new breed of hybrid creative; what we call ‘T-shaped people’ – awesome in (at least) one area, plus highly collaborative and at least literate in many other things. So blending both the right skills and the right attitude. Far too often the latter – an appetite for all things open and collaborative, a readiness to leave ego at the door - is sacrificed at the expense (frequently, the *great* expense) of simply importing people with new skills.
In addition to sketching out why these hybrid people are so important in creating new forms of creative product, I briefly touch upon the importance of the agency implementing the right kind of ’operating system’ (the processes, values and culture within a company) if the fancy new ’software’ is going to run smoothly. If the operating system is outdated, even the most impressive software is redundant. I show, in one slide, an overview of how BBH in New York is approaching the re-engineering of it’s OS.
Would love to know what you think, and what your experiences are of finding, working with, managing and retaining T-shaped people. The future surely belongs to them.
For best viewing view on slideshare (this link takes you right there), where you can see embedded film & speaker notes; I have added the latter into the first comment there.
9th June 10
The thing we like most about Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends presentation is it’s just packed with data. The charts are sometimes *too* intense, in fact, carrying too much data. But it’s always revealing, and usually inspiring. Because it’s fact, not fiction.
Slide 7 is especially impactful. I was born on the left hand side of the chart, probably around when there were 5 million computing-capable units globally. On the right, just ten years from today, the forecast is for 10 billion+ units. Extraordinary.View more presentations from CM Summit: Marketing in Real Time.
9th June 10
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As many of you know, I’m involved with a mass collaboration effort (more on collaboration vs. crowd sourcing here) to rethink the portable / disposable coffee drinking experience. You see, the vast majority of to-go coffee cups aren’t recyclable, and it turns out we really like our coffee. Tens of billions of energy-inefficient cups end up in landfills every year. This post isn’t about the issue, but if you’re interested, please visit thebetacup.com (there’s still time to vote, rate, and improve upon on the ideas submitted, which is critical to identifying a solution).
This post is about 3 key lessons I’ve learned regarding the engagement of crowds over the course of this process.
1. Money is … well, money.
Money is a wonderful incentive. We heard from a number of people solely motivated by cash. It broadened the audience beyond the group that would have turned up only for the purpose of environmental altruism. However, when money’s at stake, the group is broader, but less collaborative. Some people would accuse others of stealing their ideas; others would respond within minutes to a new idea posted claiming it was too similar to something they’d submitted. I’ve been a part of a number of efforts like this now and money has always been a core incentive. But tying it to a cause illustrated how it can actually work against collaboration on occasion. Specifically, it undermined the bucket brigade reward system we hoped would occur through our community management.
I’m not saying money always has a negative impact, but understanding its limitations is critical in retrospect. It was great for the first part of the process (number of ideas, effort put into submissions, pass-along), but it was potentially detrimental to the second half (refining unpopular but high potential ideas, collaboration across related ideas, gaming of the system).
2. Employ a boring governing body.
Our friend @faris has regularly made the comment that crowds aren’t inherently wise regardless of book titles that have infiltrated innovations culture, which I couldn’t agree with more. In fact, as someone who has tried to wrangle a crowd on multiple occasions, I’ve always assumed there was a dangerous herd mentality I had to police against. In the case of Betacup, I was determined to not let the crowd’s opinion keep me from reading every single submission as a jury member. However, the crowd actually did an incredible job bubbling up the best / freshest / most effective ideas. Startlingly so, in fact. However, the few times I deviated in opinion from the crowd’s most influential members were on ideas that were, well, boring.
Crowds tend to collectively take a “wow me” approach (explains the current state of news media, no?). That works really well at encouraging new types of thought on an ongoing issue like this one, but it actually does some ideas a disservice. Some simple, boring ideas were actually very effective at solving parts of this complex issue (for example, a collection bin shaped like a tube to reduce the probability that other junk or recyclables would be placed in it). Yet these boring ideas were ignored, generating few views, comments, or ratings. My lesson here was of the importance of bringing in a governing group that has a bias of their own, in the other direction. People who value simplicity and boring effectiveness. That combination can yield powerful results to solve problems.
3. Don’t prescribe formats.
We made a bold choice when deciding what form Betacup submissions should take: any. It was why the highly flexible and open Jovoto platform worked beautifully for the type of problem-solving we needed. The coffee cup issue sounds like a design one on the surface: invent a design that’s recyclable but still fits in a cup holder, is cheap, can handle heat, and feels natural on the lips. But it’s actually quite layered. This problem is as much about human behavior and access to manufacturing and disposal resources as it is about engineering. By opening up the submission format, Betacup became accessible to people of all disciplines. When the problem is as ubiquitous yet unknown as disposable cups, it’s critical we have experts from diverse fields weigh in. Without it, we wouldn’t have had any intersectional innovation, and this problem demands it.
What’s impressive about crowds when they’re given opportunities like this is that individuals don’t introduce themselves as engineers, or designers, or marketers. They just solve a problem. And when you look at what they accomplished, you know different disciplines had to be involved, but the lines are too blurry to see where or how.
As I look back on the submission and collaboration process, I think we got a lot of things right, and certainly some things wrong. The lessons above were the most valuable for me as someone interested in such things. They may apply to a very specific collaboration environment: problem solving & innovation (not necessarily design or creative services), but they’ve changed the way I think about crowds. Now I just hope the 300+ ideas change the way we collectively think about our coffee habits.
To see, rate and comment on the submissions, visit the contest page. To follow our journey toward a solution, follow @thebetacup.