16th January 13
Posted in technology
This post was originally published as an article, ‘The Year Ahead For Technology‘, which appeared in Campaign magazine’s first edition of the year last week, 10.01.13.
We may have spent the past few years fretting and fetishising about the time we spend online vs offline, but here’s the good news: 2013 is going to be the year we relax a little. We’ll get over the novelty of social sharing online and just accept it, distracted instead by the utility and magic revealed when ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ worlds start to merge. The physical world becomes properly programmable. The physical web comes into its own.
If there has been a meta creative goal of technology over the past decade or so, I’d wager it is to create online experiences that inch closer to feeling viscerally real; to strive for a ‘real world standard’, if you will. Cast your mind back to Second Life ten years ago, all the way through to the interactive 3D graphics made possible by Web GL today and the steady advances in virtual reality gaming, now being applied to healthcare. Within multiple industries fuelled by technology, there’s a fascination with mirror worlds and visceral experiences. And disappointment when they don’t quite measure up to the hype (goodbye then, Second Life).
But what if we flip things for a moment: think about putting the web into the physical world, rather than trying to mimic the physical world online?There are a collection of reasons why the physical web’s time has come. Forget QR codes. Witness the leap Augmented Reality made with the announcement of Google’s heads up glasses, which justifiably caused a stir in 2012. Then add the emergence of the Internet of Things and Quantified Self into mainstream tech culture, as two sides to the same digital coin:
1. Quantified Self looks at the physical web through a human lens.
An expression coined by Kevin Kelly and Gary Wolf five years ago, it’s about self-tracking your performance – often via wearable, digital tools that collect and report how well you’re doing – with applications for health & fitness, finance, productivity, education, mobility and more.
2. The Internet of Things looks at the physical web through the lens of objects.
Coined by Kevin Ashton in 1999, it refers to connected sensors embedded in objects making them machine-readable and artificially intelligent – with giant consequences for everything from stock taking to security, architecture to art. A year ago Cisco calculated there were already more devices connected to the Internet than there are people on the planet.
And we’re seeing brands back up the promise of both, with self-tracking services like Fitbitand Nike’s Fuelband breaking into the mainstream, whilst IoT services are emerging, likeLockitron, which remotely locks or opens your front door (never worry about losing your keys again) and Growerbot, which uses sensors to monitor moisture, light and temperature in your garden and water when needed.
Solid broadband and smartphone penetration, super-fast mobile broadband, an expanding free WiFi network in the UK and the emergence of services like the ones above are together creating perfect conditions for the emergence of what might be called a ‘real world web’. Even Search is transforming, as Google puts it, to “things, not strings.” Their Knowledge Graph, introduced in May this year, aims “to understand real world entities and their relationships to one another” and already contains close to 600 million. “Search now understands that the Taj Mahal is a building, but also a music band, a casino and a bunch of restaurants.” Then there’s Apple’s Siri and now Google Now for Android; essentially predictive, personalised search on the move, although that barely does it justice.
The rise of the networked brand
What about brands in this context? All this powering up in technological terms and blurring between real & virtual worlds simply underlines why brands in any category need to grasp the value of operating in a network.
A few things worth considering now:
- If your physical product had a digital layer, what would it be?
- What physical, live or exclusive experience can you give to your network to share?
- Are you thinking about ‘views’ or subscribers? If you’re serious about content marketing to connected users, it’s the latter.
- As users flip between devices on the fly, they’ll expect a seamless experience: are you designing responsively?
What happens next?
Beyond this year, we will need common protocols enabled by an open web for this to work at scale. Businesses to watch in the meantime: Smartthings, Place Me (a “persistent ambient sensing” mobile app that collects all the sensory data imaginable) and Esri (formerly Geoloqi, a next gen location app). In short, our ‘phones will pick up so much real world, ambient data we won’t need to look further. To paraphrase Esri’s Amber Case: “Think what SMS did for telephones”…
Welcome to the Real World Web.
7th January 13
Posted in technology
Author: Saneel Radia, Head of Innovation, BBH New York and BBH Labs
The annual Consumer Electronics Show kicks off in Las Vegas today. The following is a piece written by Saneel for the Huffington Post on “What To Expect” this year. You can read other articles in the HuffPo series here . As always, follow @bbhlabs and @saneel for tweets from the showroom floor. You can also see last year’s recap on why marketers should be relieved based on what we saw.
I’ve been going to CES for a decade. As someone interested primarily in virtual (i.e., software-based) products and the role they can play for brand marketers, clearly I’m a glutton for punishment. After all, CES is a show about hardware, even if its lead brand has historically been the original software company, Microsoft. In fact, CES is not only a hardware show, but because of the copycat nature of consumer electronics, it’s a show about a particular type of hardware from year to year. Sometime between The Netbook Show, The E-reader Show and The TV show, I started losing faith in CES.
Yet I find myself headed back yet again, this time for The Tablet Hybrid show. Like a nerd voyeur, I’ll closely watch tablets breeding with phones in one booth, then breeding with laptops in another. And I have Samsung to thank for it.
You see, a year that proved tremendously successful for Samsung was a bittersweet one for other manufacturers. On the one hand, Samsung has proven that many users do want a device that fits somewhere between a smartphone and a tablet with its huge-for-a-phone (both in size and sales) Galaxy S3. This is on top of its successful Galaxy Note 2 sales. On the other hand, the industry buzzword of “convergence” is finally starting to rear its head. As devices have collided these last few years, manufacturers were pleasantly surprised to see new categories be created instead of just old categories be cannibalized. Just ask Apple. For years, Steve had people leaving Apple stores with iPhone, iPad and MacBook tucked under their arms. However, these new Tablet Hybrids from companies like Samsung fall into a gray area. These mixed breed devices are more clearly competing with their component parts, emerging from the lab as better alternatives to at least one of their parental units. Like some type of nature documentary, this is a case of offspring consuming parent.
I wonder if I’ll be able to sense the nervous anxiety this is creating amongst each of the manufacturers showing off their latest creatures on the carnival — oops, I mean “showroom” — floor.
While I am walking through this reminder of Darwinism, convincing myself yet again that this will be my last CES, I can only assume those people with the huge smiles on their faces are Google employees. You see, it’s Google’s Android Operating System that’s the real winner here. Android is running most of these mutant hybrids, which is incredible given Apple’s domination of the market as recently as 3 years ago. It’s especially intriguing this year, which marks the first show since Microsoft officially bowed out of the partnership with the organizers. That means Google is arguably the most important company in Vegas this CES (although Microsoft will certainly be making noise about Xbox, Surface and it’s shiny new Windows 8 Operating System).
So, it seems a software company will continue to reign supreme at this annual festival of hardware. I wonder what, if any, impact that will have on the show moving forward? After a decade of attendance, I can safely say that software is the lowlight of the event. There’s a sad monotony in playing with clunky interfaces while booth representatives explain why it’s great that whatever I’m tinkering with can’t possibly integrate with anything I already own. I guess working in a booth in which every device is made by your employer has a way of letting you see the bright side of one-stop shopping (with an employee discount).
But for the rest of us still dreaming of the walk-around-from-booth-to-booth-swiping-our-credit-cards-and-laughing-as-we-throw-the-latest-bit-of-not-yet-available-to-the-masses-technology-into-a-big-grab-bag-that-won’t-pose-any-TSA-issues-while-traveling-back-with-us-before-being-installed-instantly-and-without-reference-to-user-manuals-transforming-our-homes-into-scenes-from-sci-fi-movies-where-the-computers-eventually-turn-on-humans-who-for-some-reason-don’t-have-the-good-sense-to-welcome-our-new-electronic-overlords experience, I must say… it’s actually the lack of integration that’s most frustrating. It seems insane all my content and stuff can’t just go anywhere, anytime regardless of the logo on the back of the device. Microsoft never seemed to get it right, perhaps because they never truly embraced the cloud. I can only hope Google fares better.
If they do, I may just give up trying to give up on CES, and book next year’s ticket right from the showroom floor… on my new iPhone 5 of course.
21st December 12
Posted in BBH Labs
Since the days of yore , according to a tradition the origin of which has been long forgotten [Ben Malbon started it] we’ve used the last post of the year to look back over the previous 12 months of bloggery, not in a spirit of wistful nostalgia but in a spirit of enquiry. We look to see what our preoccupations were, what topics or technologies regularly bubbled to the the surface, what themes emerged from what has, like all the other years, been a hectic hurtle down the marketing superhighway.
This is also an opportunity for us to say thank you – for reading, for commenting, for debating, for sharing, for writing on our blog and letting us write on yours. This blog isn’t our personal journalling site – openness and transparency are key Labs’ tenets – and every contribution you all make adds value, helping all of us think harder and smarter. Gracias.
So below, in no particular order are the posts that to us seem to represent nodes of thinking or at the very least, nodes of writing activity. In an astonishing breach of protocol, this year we’re going to present them by theme – enjoy, comment, disagree and share, and see you in 2013.
Mel, Jeremy, Saneel, Tim and Griffin
The uproar regarding the changes to Instagram’s Terms of Service – and continued debate about how web services treat users and the content they upload – demonstrates that discussions about openness and control are only going to get more empassioned as more users are exposed to the fact that, if they’re not paying for a service, they are the product being sold. Openness has featured regularly in Labs posts, and we debated this subject with some vigour at SXSW in our SkyNet Vs Mad Max talk, co-authored with our friend Tom Uglow (at Google Creative Lab, Sydney). Clients are also appreciating that openness can be as much of an asset as a quality – The Guardian making it the key reason to believe in the award winning Three Little Pigs. And James Mitchell used this blog to consider ‘truthiness‘ in marketing, the tightrope joining reality and hyperbole that we walk whenever we try to tell a story about a brand. As James writes, balance is not always easy to maintain.
In the year that BBH turned 30 it’s perhaps not surprising that emphasising difference, subverting the norm and, yes, zagging, have been undercurrents on the blog. BBH Asia Pacific Chairman Chas Wrigley (together with Wieden & Kennedy’s Rob Campbell) offered a series of provocations and debunked some flawed notions in their ‘Everything we Know is Wrong‘ presentation – we were particularly struck with their observations on West knowing best. Then, in a series of posts entitled ‘Advertising is Dead: Long Live Advertising‘ Mel made a few predictions about where advertising might be headed over the next 8 years. Check back in 2020 to see how she did. Subversion also produced some startling work this year as highlighted in this smart piece of engagement thinking for Refuge, the domestic abuse charity. Expecting to see the latest installment of her hugely popular make-up video tutorial, Lauren Luke’s audience were instead shown advice on how to cover up the signs of domestic violence – massive impact created through subversion of expectation, a brave performance and a riveting piece of film.
Great to see experiments coming from around the globe this year. The BBH Barn team in Singapore tackled social media overload with their Social Rehab programme and kit while in New York the Labs team created While You Were Off, a service which kept track of the all important updates that you might miss during those darned inconvenient minutes or hours of Internet downtime. More seriously (and controversially), SXSW saw the launch of Homeless Hotspots, an experimental programme in partnership with a large Austin homeless shelter to see whether street newspaper vending could be updated to be more digitally focussed. After an admittedly rocky start it’s great to see how the issues that the experiment raised might lead to some transformative change as we follow our ongoing attempt to drive innovation for Street Newspapers across the globe.
It’s always a pleasure to get a note from BBH London Chairman Jim Carroll with a new draft post in it and in a particularly rich year for Jim’s elegant reflections it has been hard to shortlist a selection for this round-up. But if you don’t have time to go back and read them all here are a couple we particularly loved. In Laughing Together, Weeping Alone Jim suggests that we underestimate introverts at our peril – in a world that can’t stop talking (and sharing), perhaps its the unspoken, unshared feelings that are most true. In Swimming in the Shallow End Jim raises a toast to modest ambitions, incidental victories and frivolity – not every brand should aspire to sup with sages and kings. Lastly, in this farewell post, Labs’ strategist James Mitchell neatly articulated what for him (and many of us) BBH Labs offers - a place to wander, discover and build.
And so we end this round-up, with Robots. For us, as for Brad Pitt and Chanel No 5, it was inevitable. First announced in April, Robotify.me was finally birthed this month. We’ve learned a lot on the way – about process, about MVP, about delivering (yes, ‘shipping is everything’), about APIs, about facets of our social media activity that we were not aware of previously. We continue to learn from the excellent feedback we’re receiving and will continue to evolve Robotify.me in the new year. But if there’s one conclusion that we can draw from the experiment so far it is this: you can learn through listening, you can learn from sharing, you can learn from reading, but there’s no learning like the learning you get from doing.
See you all again in 2013.
17th December 12
Posted in Creativityforgood
Author: Alex Ball, Copywriter, BBH London
Today sees the launch of homeforxmas.org by BBH London. A Christmas initiative aimed at raising money for children’s charity Barnardo’s, helping fund their work with homeless young people.
The festive project, which runs for the next five days, invites the audience to donate as much as they can to Barnardo’s. In return, and as a show of appreciation, BBH will select an entrant’s home address each day and recreate their home in a snow globe using the latest 3D printing technology. This beautiful bespoke snow globe, complete with personalised engraving, will then be wrapped and boxed before finally being sent to the selected recipient.
Watch this film if you’d like to learn more:http://www.vimeo.com/55782359
13th December 12
As you hopefully recall from our last update, we’ve been working with StreetWise, the street paper of Chicago, to apply our learnings from Homeless Hotspots. StreetWise’s issues felt most appropriate to tackle not only because of the organization’s innovative mindset (see their recent launch of Neighbor Carts), but because solutions that work at scale in Chicago can likely work in most other cities. StreetWise is a member of both the North American Street Newspaper Association and the International Network of Street Papers, organizations that cover the majority of street papers across the world and ensure the best ideas at any single paper scale.
One of the first issues we’ve tackled together is digitizing the transaction. As of this week, people can use their mobile device to PayPal money to participating StreetWise vendors in a public beta. Similar to Homeless Hotspots, a visit to the vendor’s unique short URL will provide their personal story. This was a critical step in the process, as street newspapers play a much bigger role than employment for homeless individuals; they offer a chance for meaningful connection across socio-economic boundaries. Assuming a successful beta, the program will rollout across Chicago in January.
Street papers are the most valuable tool homeless populations currently have to step out of invisibility. We see the digitization of that process as a critical first step (as do a number of other street papers we’ve been talking to– they’re testing everything from QR codes to mobile issues). However, there’s a long way to go. It’s why our other ongoing project with StreetWise will involve piloting a more fundamental evolution of their offering. It’s a big undertaking, but hopefully it sets the stage for a new model, scalable across large cities around the world. The premise behind the idea is rooted in our learnings from Homeless Hotspots. As always, we’ll keep everyone posted on progress once the pilot has been completed.
We’d also like to give a special thanks to PayPal Labs. They’ve worked with us to create a custom offering to ensure mobile payments are seamless, secure, and free to the vendors to use. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with them.
As always, feel free to reach out with questions or comments. We don’t edit our blog comments unless they contain offensive language.
11th December 12
Author: Helen Lawrence, @helenium, BBH & BBH Labs Strategist
It almost goes without saying that BBH Labs like robots. Of course we like robots. The potential for what robots could do challenges our view of the future. What will they be capable of? Do they free us from the mundane or render us redundant? Is the uncanny valley somewhere we’d like to live?
At BBH Labs we’re interested in ‘artificial’ intelligence: how it starts, where it can go, what it means for us carbon-based lifeforms. Advances in sentience, emotion and learning within Artificial Intelligence draw on human data; as the internet collects more and more of ourselves the robots are finding it even easier to replicate our squishy selves. Even the little things – predictive text, Google Instant, EdgeRank – make us blink from time to time.
But, despite the possibility of Skynet becoming self-aware, we decided to have a little play with it.
BEEEEEP. BEEEEP. Robotify.me is here!
We’ve talked about it before, but just in case you missed it then the basic idea for Robotify.me is that by plugging in your social data and using it to create a robot you can learn a little more about how you portray yourself online.
It should uncover if you tend to lurk and not share, if you retweet rather than create, walk miles for a Slurpee or take more photos than a K-Pop fan. Your robot will change and evolve, so keep checking back and see how it’s doing. Don’t worry, it doesn’t need feeding. It’s no tamagotchi and it’s certainly not 1996.
This is the first iteration of Robotify.me, it’s a simple little service at the moment. It will continue to develop and evolve over the coming months. So there might be a few bugs lurking in there and this early beta version of it certainly is lacking any bells and whistles. We’re already looking into adding some more networks to plug in, as well as seeing what else we can get out of the platforms we’re using at the moment. A more comprehensive ‘Roboguide’ is also in the works.
One of the reasons for creating Robotify.me is to encourage a bit of self reflection and analysis, and perhaps to see if people form an attachment with their robot. We’d love to know your robot was what your were expecting or if it threw up something a little odd that you might not have known about yourself. We’ve found ourselves taking more photos, retweeting less, checking in more… all to see what our robots do.
What is the mechanical bird on your shoulder whispering into your ear?
This was an in-house BBH operation. Conceived by Labs, built with the BBH technology team in London, logo and site design by Zag. The beautiful robot illustrations are the handy work of Mick Marston, @futilevignette.
Particular props go out to:
Gabor Szalatnyai: @endofu: Creative Technologist
Marc Owens: @marcowens: Creative
Matt Bertocchi: @ux_matt: UX
Kate Sutherland: Producer
Mel Exon: @melex: Product Owner
Jeremy Ettinghausen: @jeremyet: Creative Director
Helen Lawrence: @helenium: Labs Strategist & Copywriter
Shea Warnes: @sheawarnes: Social Strategist
Luke Kidney: @creativekidney: Creative Technologist
Vicki Maggs: @maggsy: Digital Analyst
Abi Awomosu: @tekogram: Senior Digital Analyst
Richard Davies: @richardtid: Graphic Designer, Zag
Steve Wake: @stephenwake: Head Designer, Zag
Gary Hudson: @garyhudson: Graphic Designer, Zag
Henry Rowan-Robinson: Commercial Lawyer
Sarah Pollard: @pollardfaure: Communications Director
Simon Taylor: Producer
Isobel Barnes: @isobelbarnes: PR Manager
Mark Reddy: Head of Art
Sarah Pascoe: Head of Print
Pablo Marques: @pablo_marques: Creative Director
And of course, the Rebel Alliance: James Mitchell: @jamescmitchell
An honorable mention goes out to Liz Harper: @lizmarieharper: who has kept the Labs ship sailing while we tinkered with cogs and lasers.
And a massive thankyou to all the wonderful beta testers, whose help, advice and support has been invaluable to date.
Thanks to Contagious too, for their great write up of Robotify.me
10th December 12
Photo: Mary Meeker, KPCB
We at BBH Labs are big fans of Mary Meeker. Every year we like to republish her Internet Trends and this year is no exception. The report has changed throughout the years but the insight gets richer and more useful as time goes on. The report is just under 90 slides so for you slackers that don’t want to read the whole thing we have pulled out the information that we found most interesting for your data snacking pleasure:
- USA has the highest internet penetration with 78%, but that still means 22% of the population is not online
- In the US and UK, almost half of mobile subscribers are using smart phones at 48% and 45% respectively
- An impressive 29% of US adults own a tablet or eReader, up from 2% three years ago
- 48% of American kids want an iPad for Christmas this year, 36% want an iPad Mini
This year we wanted to highlight a few trends and view them through the lens of Advertising. Ask a few thought provoking questions and put our own spin on some. A few of these things are good for our industry and other things will be more challenging.
- In India, mobile internet usage has surpassed desktop internet usage. Mary Meeker’s team believes many countries will follow. As an industry we can acknowledge that desktop banner ads present a challenge to do great creative but when your space is limited to the size of mobile banner ads it becomes even more challenging.
- They see a movement from asset-heavy to asset-light lifestyles in space, time and money. As an industry this means that less products are being purchased but it should increase the quality of products brought to market. When the product is good, the advertising is even better.
- The average person spends 52 minutes per day in the car. As an industry we have relied on radio to reach this audience but as cars evolve in technology with touch screens, mobile and GPS navigation are we innovating to be be creative with this time and space? This medium seems ripe for innovation.
- The average person spends 3 hours per day in front of the television. As an industry we know that second screen adoption is growing at a tremendous rate, ad skipping is at an all time high, how do we change trends in advertising to combat other distractions to the ads we spend a majority of our time on?
7th December 12
This is the fourth and final post in a series based upon our submission to Wharton’s Advertising 2020 initiative. The structure we’re loosely following here: 8 years, 8 potential future opportunities, 8 things to do now.
#7 Big Data, Big Patterns
“No thought can perish” ~ Edgar Allan Poe
“There is no point in collecting and storing all this data if the algorithms are not able to find useful patterns and insights in the data,” says Mr. Kleinberg at Cornell. “But the software is scaling up to the task.” ~ New York Times, 09.09.12, ‘Tech’s new wave, driven by data’
According to Gartner earlier this year, the hype curve for Big Data reached ‘The Peak of Inflated Expectations’ (with an estimated 2-5 year gap before it reaches the ‘Plateau of Productivity’). The accuracy of that timeframe has been debated, perhaps fairly when we consider the exponential growth in speed and volume of data collection and analysis and the collapsing path to purchase that we’ve discussed already here.
In advertising, it seems only likely that algorithms will continue to do more of the commoditised, heavy lifting for brands and their users in terms of achieving reach, frequency and low level message optimisation. And, in monetisation terms, successful media owners will have recast themselves as data owners. To take just one example, The Weather Channel’s CEO, David Kenny, described to us how he sees the growing commercial role of data: Read full post