11th August 09
Posted in transformational change
At the end of May this year we got pretty excited and the debate got fairly heated about the launch of Agency Nil – the agency with the convention-busting business model that ‘will work for all it’s worth’. In other words, they’ll do the work and you pay them what you think you should. Unorthodox, audacious stuff whichever way you look at it, we were impressed.
Since launch they’ve been approached by both clients and talent and, inevitably, as they started work on live projects (including clients with food products and online services, not to mention a pitch for a large software company’s NPD launch), one of the toughest questions facing any agency arose: when were they going to find time to do the work brilliantly AND keep scouting for new business? Clearly a conventional solution wasn’t going to cut it at Agency Nil, which is when they came up with this ultra simple, ultra ‘on brand’ idea:
Catching up again with Agency Nil’s founders, they explained the concept a little more:
“If a person connects Agency Nil with a business that would be interested in our services and they become a client within a year, Agency Nil will give the person who refers them 10% of the first payment they receive (from $100 to $100,000 or more…). This person is called an Agency Nil Spotter. All it takes to become one is an email to Agency Nil introducing the potential client (with the client cc’d, of course). Then the Spotter’s referral is documented. When Agency Nil get paid, the Spotter gets paid. Simple.”
We love the idea of an agency experimenting with new business in this way. A smart move that painlessly exploits an era where networking and sharing useful information has never been easier. What’s more, it’s in keeping with the spirit of their launch which, as they put it at the time: “It’s a win/win. And that’s the kind of business we like to be in.” Agency Nil also draw attention to the fact they’re putting into practice a simple way for talented individuals to profit from their connections: “Isn’t it about time people started to get rewarded for the networks they’ve built?”
Of course this isn’t the first time an agency has used crowd sourcing to find prospective marketing clients. Who knows, will people really refer a hot prospect? How reliable will the connections be? Will it tend to be for small projects only, or will Agency Nil land a multi-million dollar account this way? They may hit some bumps in the road along the way, but to us this approach looks like a natural next step for them and a dead simple, innovative solution to an age old problem. So again, we say hats off to Agency Nil and good luck.
If you want to sign-up as an Agency Nil Spotter, send an email to Spotter@AgencyNil.com.
10th August 09
We’re super proud of our friends at BBH London who’ve produced something very special for Johnnie Walker. “The Man Who Walked Around the World” is a six-minute piece of storytelling that features Robert Carlyle walking through the Scottish Highlands. Carlyle tells the story of the brand’s birth, growth and development via some dazzling copywriting from BBH’s Justin Moore. This alone is an achievement – to keep the viewer listening intently for six-and-a-half minutes in a world where 140 characters constitutes ‘engagement’. Clearly Carlyle plays a huge role here as well.
What’s even more impressive, for us, is that this was all achieved in one take, with no editing done afterwards. Apparently there were 40 takes in total, and this was the last, completed at 8pm on the last day of the shoot. When you see how finely timed this is you’ll see why we’re in awe of the production.
There’s a great interview with the Director, Jamie Rafn, on the Shots site which goes into detail about how the piece was shot and some of the considerations that affected how it turned out. Definitely worth checking this out. Rafn took on a challenge many others thought impossible. As Mick Mahoney, BBH London Creative Director of the project told us:
“Every director we spoke to told us that it wasn’t possible to do what we wanted. That we would need concealed cuts and so on. Which would still have made a good film, but it’s the undertaking, the commitment, of doing it all in one take that makes it. Jamie Rafn was the only director who felt the same. Getting Robert Carlyle to do it then just took it up a gear. He has exactly the screen persona that we wanted. Tough, uncompromising, enigmatic.”
10th August 09
A potentially strong application of collaborative intelligence . . . with a twist.
(Un)classes starts with the premise that everyone has something to teach, and much to learn. But, pragmatically, few of us are going to sign into formal programs. Casual learning (as they frame this form of education) is aimed squarely at people who lead hectic lives but still want to satisfy their intellectual curiosity.
(Un)classes is thus in effect a marketplace for matching interests with passion, simply connecting people who’d otherwise have few ways of directly collaborating in this way. It’s deliberately informal, with few rules and none of the stuffiness that could surround what is in effect a ‘learning’ service.
(We’re also reminded of the campaign BBH New York helped create for one of BBH’s clients, NYC & Co, around using one’s skills, passions, and willingness to help address some of NYC’s most important issues: What’s Your Blank?)
The depth of the (Un)classes offering seems quite shallow at the moment, but as people sign up, and choice and quality deepen, it will be interesting to see whether the idea takes off. We wish them luck.
More details at: http://www.unclasses.org/about
3rd August 09
Author: Adam Glickman
Following our piece looking at journalism (a review of the transformational change at the Telegraph Media Group) and fiction (interview with Jeremy Ettinghausen, Digital Publisher at Penguin), our interest in the profound changes occurring in the publishing industry continues with this look at the opportunities in mobile.
We often talk about the future of mobile media and what it will all look like, but what about the future of the mobile media of the past? The notion of carrying around your reading as reams of inked paper might disappear, but the written word certainly won’t. So it seems a very natural progression for print publishers to move from paper to digital by simply reformatting for small screen mobile devices. But the considerations are vast. And more importantly, how much do people really want to use their phones as reading devices anyway?
We recently met a company called ScrollMotion, a New York-based iPhone app developer that is hard at work answering these questions. The company have been steadily creating a suite of new tools for traditional print media companies to better engage their readers via apps on mobile phones, and in the process, quietly making publishing deals with a wide range of top-notch publishers. Their growing client list is impressive and includes Conde Nast, Hearst, Time Inc., Tribune Company, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Simon & Schuster, Random House, and Wiley.
30th July 09
“There are always at least two ways to tell a story”
Launched last month under their Puffin label, We Make Stories is the latest in a long line of digital publishing innovations masterminded by Jeremy Ettinghausen (@jeremyet), Penguin’s Digital Publisher. This is the second piece we’ve done in recent months looking at the publishing industry as a whole. Back in May we wrote about the transformational change going on at TMG in the UK (also check out the ever brilliant Nieman Lab for a far deeper examination of journalism in this respect). Why are we so interested in what’s going on here? In short, we’re witnessing a radical re-shaping of an industry we believe we can learn a lot from. An industry which – aside from its sheer cultural importance in the first place – has been experimenting with new creative & organisational solutions for some time now.
The launch of the new service from Penguin was a good excuse to catch up with Jeremy and find out what he’s learned from this and other past projects, as well as ask him to share his thoughts on the future of digital publishing, the struggle to monetise content & services online, the impact of the web on storytelling and finally, what role he sees for brands in this space. So just a couple of meaty topics then…
14th July 09
For a good while now we’ve been hearing about the death of the big idea (put that phrase into Google and see what you get back), but before the coffin gets nailed down once and for all, I’d like to check for life signs. Not so that we can limp on, clinging to an old familiar industry cliché, but to make sure we’re not systematically talking ourselves into killing off something that still has the power to bring tangible and intangible value to the brands we serve. Read full post
9th July 09
How many marketing campaigns can you name that are properly innovative, laudable in their intent (cheap to produce & for a good cause), blindingly simple to interact with and delivered with laugh out loud wit? Here at Labs at any rate we reckoned we would be pushed to name one. Then along comes something that completely blows us away, the brilliant i.Saw and its sister product, Papercut.
We first heard about the whole idea when our friends from BBH Asia Pacific got in touch. Inspired by mountains of uncollected pages on the printers in the office, they’d developed a unique, downloadable sound effect application of a chainsaw, designed to drive home a straightforward message: printing unnecessarily = killing trees.
Peter Callaghan, CD on the project, explains the brilliantly simple idea: “Papercut is a simple reminder of where paper comes from. When you press ‘print’, you’ll hear the roar of a chain saw. It is not to make you stop printing, just print less, using only what you need. Reminding people that printers run on trees.”
The next step was to orchestrate a campaign to encourage people to download the app. The team given that task, Noel Yeo and Shawn Loo, explained they were intrigued by the idea of creating a product, rather than a classic viral. And with that, the i.Saw was born. An entirely spoof creation, the i.Saw is a USB-powered chainsaw (the answer to all your office needs, natch) complete with its own lovingly created product page.
‘Pre-ordering’ the i.Saw on the site initially generated a classic, automated email response thanking you for your order. Now a banner informs us that pre-ordering is closed, click here to find out why… which takes you to some brief copy revealing the spoof and offering you the entirely free, downloadable sound effect app. Genius. Read full post
8th July 09
Posted in design
Mulling over the various excellent posts springing up on why there isn’t more great work in the digital space it struck me that one area rarely discussed is the fundamentally different definitions of what constitutes “great”.
Traditional agencies are instinctively drawn to disruptive work-work that stops the consumer in their tracks and forces them to pay attention. Digital specialists on the other hand are focussed on a smooth and seamless user experience. Ideas that disrupt this experience risk increasing bounce rates from a site for designers working to the 10 second stay-or-go “rule” . This tension between disruption and usability is so profound it’s hardly surprising that we struggle to find a common understanding of what great looks like, much less deliver it.
Traditional agencies in the digital space (and indeed traditional digital agencies) are easily seduced by the power of Flash and the wonders of animation; we want attention and spectacle but what happens next? Why should the user stay, what are we asking them to do and where should they go next? The campaign microsite is perhaps the prime expression of this tendency-as Iain Tate puts it, impressively punchily, in Campaign:
“No one cares about your bloody microsite. In 2009 the flashy high production value microsite is finally starting to feel irrelevant. Sites that seem to do everything, but deliver nothing.”
3rd July 09
Wow, we’ve all become over-exposed to the hype around augmented reality, but we’re starting to see applications emerging which genuinely seem to add value and utility, rather than just make you go “cool!”
We spotted this simple, still slightly rough-looking, but potentially amazing app for the iPhone, which works off the phone’s video function. Currently only available for the London Underground, and for those lucky enough to have a 3GS, but follow-up apps across broader geographies and platforms can’t be far behind.
When you load the app, holding it flat, all 13 lines of the London underground are displayed in coloured arrows. By tilting the phone upwards, you will see the nearest stations: what direction they are in relation to your location, how many kilometres and miles away they are and what tube lines they are on. If you continue to tilt the phone upwards, you will see stations further away, as stacked icons.
Geo applications and brand experience-based applications seem to be emerging as two of the most interesting playgrounds for AR – we’ve certainly started putting our heads together on a couple of the brands we work with. Watch this space.
(For some existing BBH work that uses AR, see BBH Asia-Pacific’s work for WWF).
Thanks to Tim Bradshaw (@Tim) for bringing this to our attention this morning.