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  • We love Google Goggles

    14th December 09

    Posted by Ben Malbon

    Posted in awesomeness

    YouTube Preview Image

    Google Goggles is a new ‘visual search’ app for Android phones. Instead of using words, take a picture of an object with your camera phone: Google then attempt to recognize the object, and return relevant search results. Goggles also provides information about businesses near you by displaying their names directly in the camera preview.

    As Google make clear, this is far from perfect yet, but it’s still getting us thinking about how we might use this kind of technology for clients.

    Wonder when it will work with social networks? And wonder when it’s out on iPhone?

    screen-shot-2009-12-14-at-43503-pmMore detail on Goggles on Google’s site, here.

    (Full disclosure: Google is a client of BBH)

  • Mobile in India – Jumping Ahead to the Future

    30th November 09

    Posted by Ben Malbon

    Posted in business models, mobile

    Jointly authored by Anjali Ramachandran (Made By Many, London), Chandrashekhar L (BBH India), & Ben Malbon (BBH Labs).

    Source: Flickr, Dipanker Dutta (cc) http://j.mp/5eiDFA

    Source: Flickr, Dipanker Dutta (cc) http://j.mp/5eiDFA

    Brands in India are still struggling with advertising on the internet, even as mobile services steadily explore new territory.

    Both mobile and the internet comprise what is popularly known as ‘digital’, yet unlike in Western markets such as the UK or the US, the former is much more powerful and prevalent than the latter. The reason for this is primarily the drop in the cost of mobile usage over recent years, versus the increasing cost of broadband usage. As this blogger says:

    “What the Indian telcos should do is adopt a model that was instrumental in driving mobile usage in India. Drop the price points so that even the average person (living on Rs. 100 per day), would find Internet usage compelling, useful, and not frustrating. If they were to adopt a mass usage policy and not price their broadband products based on margins, I believe that in 5 years, India could have at least 100 million broadband users (via DSL, cable modem, Mobile 3G, wiMax, etc.).”

    The mobile industry in India is witnessing rapid changes, with voice and messaging charges dropping drastically. Tata Docomo started the concept of “pay per second” not too long ago, which was replicated within a fortnight by all other major players like Vodafone, Reliance and Airtel. Less than a week ago, Reliance (the largest CDMA player) introduced the option of choosing between 1 paise per sms (a measly 0.02 cents) or 1 rupee for unlimited SMS per day (2 cents per day).

    The interesting paradox is that while basic call and text charges have dropped to unbelievably low prices, GPRS costs have yet to come down. Therefore, the trend suggests that the evolved value-added services (VAS) will definitely grow at a much lower pace, as those costs aren’t coming down as steeply: accessing services on the phone still costs a lot in India, even though phone tariffs are amongst the lowest in the world.

    As more and more people in the country jump on the mobile phone bandwagon, from small villages to large metros, innovation is growing apace. Consider, for example, the new business deal between DirecPay, a bank-neutral payment aggregator service from Times of Money (part of the Times Group, India’s largest media conglomerate) and PayMate, a wireless transactions company. The deal will provide an extended mobile payment facility to merchants who sign up, and with the current rate of penetration of the mobile device in the country at 35% (the number of GSM users alone is at 335.5 million currently), it is likely to bring even more consumers into the considered set of e-commerce users, as Avijit Nanda, the President of Times of Money says.

    Mobile phones in India are also extremely powerful social and commercial tools. Nokia handsets are the instruments of choice of the majority of the population in the country (the company owns about 65% of the market share).

    Where educational iPhone apps are less than 1000 in number (737 in November 2008) and certainly not as popular as gaming and entertainment apps in the Western world, in South Asia, Nokia has understood the market and is investing in Mera Nokia, a tool that provides farmers with useful crop-related information, Nokia Life, which offers agriculture, education and entertainment service apps specifically targeted at the market in smaller urban and rural areas, Nokia Tej, a mobile order management system, and Nokia Point and Find, a context-aware service that recognizes objects through barcodes and GPS. (Nokia has embarked on the last two as part of the Progress Project, in partnership with Lonely Planet). Airtel (another popular Indian mobile operator) and Thomson Reuters also offer services similar to Mera Nokia.

    Source: Flickr, Kiwanja (cc) http://j.mp/7RNCLV

    Source: Flickr, Kiwanja (cc) http://j.mp/7RNCLV

    If the market offers a completely different set of challenges, the only way to counter them is to understand how to leverage the instrument that is clearly succeeding. We imagine something along the lines of the Blyk model would work well here: where advertisers subsidize the cost of mobile usage via targeted advertisements. It may even be possible to build a two-tiered offering like Spotify has for it’s Premium and regular (free) offerings. What Hugo Barra, a Product Manager at Google says is particularly resonant in this respect:

    “People will not want to pay for services that they can get for free, and the services will be free because there is a massive opportunity for advertisers to come onto the mobile platform. This is still untapped. Thanks to the proliferation of location information, specific advertising, and I mean non-intrusive advertising can easily come onto the mobile.”

    Another opportunity that can be tapped into is the growth of social networks in the country. India is now only behind the US in Twitter usage, and it is 5th in the world in Facebook usage. An interesting model would be to explore a hybrid that combines the extensive usage of mobiles and social networking.

    The big players are already realizing the opportunities for promoting social networking services. For instance, Aircel Telecom launched the biggest advertising burst in the telecom category (before Tata Docomo) by showcasing Facebook on mobile while Airtel has launched a campaign of 4 TVCs promoting the use of Twitter. Here is some of the creative from those two campaigns:

    YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image

    According to a 2009 Trendspotting report, online ad spend is only 3% of the total ad spend in India, compared to 8-20% in developed markets.  But advertisers are evolving in their use of the online medium by going beyond banner and keyword advertising to creating campaigns that leverage social networks and connectivity, while the use of the mobile phone for advertising is still very rudimentary (mostly used for text-based promotional offers). The increasing use of the internet and especially social networks on the mobile would automatically mean that the online advertising approach gets extended to the small mobile screen as well: 63 million Indians already access internet on mobile as compared to 45 million on the PC (Source: IRS and TRAI estimates).

    What’s fascinating – and perhaps instructive – for those involved with making sense of all this in Western markets such as Europe and North America, is how telcos and marketers in India seem to simply be jumping over some of the phases and issues the typical North American marketer might face. Despite the fact that in many ways the technologies at their disposal are less sophisticated than in Western markets, they seem further ahead in terms of mobile utility, mobile commerce & micro-payments, and in many cases more adventurous as far as advertiser-funded mobile platforms are concerned.

    We have much to learn.

  • “Information Wants To Be Free” – The Razorfish FEED report

    17th November 09

    Posted by Mel Exon

    Posted in Uncategorized

    picture-111

    Last week saw the publication of FEED 2009 and an accompanying Ad Age article by its primary author, Garrick Schmitt.

    The third year of this annual, US-based report, the 2009 edition makes a bit of a departure, with the emphasis squarely on brands and the degree to which digital brand experiences shape & drive purchase.  It’s received a mix of high praise and some criticism. We’ve found the report itself and the reactions to it thought-provoking stuff, so caught up with Garrick who kindly agreed to mull over a few questions with us. Here’s a run-through of what particularly caught our attention.

    Read full post

  • The PhoneBook – The future of interactive storytelling?

    16th November 09

    Posted by Ben Malbon

    Posted in mobile, storytelling

    This is so brilliantly simple, and hints at a very interesting emerging platform both for conventional storytelling (in this case, reading with kids) but also for new opportunities where print meets interactivity anywhere.

    YouTube Preview Image

    This is a mock-up, clearly, but @Schatz & I been trying to work out what technology would allow the iPhone (say) to know when the page was turned; this would ensure a more immersive & richer experience.

    Two thoughts come to mind:

    One, use headphones controls to hack some kind of next page function from the next track control.

    Two, shake and turn (bit random with kids in charge)

    Any other ideas?

    More details here: http://www.mobileart.jp/phonebook.html

    Thanks to Alex Rainert – @arainert – for the original link on his excellent blog: http://www.everydayux.com/

  • Music Retail: The Rise of Digital

    13th November 09

    Posted by Ben Malbon

    Posted in data, music

    This is a good summary of some of the key shifts in music retail (although US-only data).

    But what’s also really interesting is that it’s coming from a financial services company: mint.com

    mint.com’s service – already brilliant on the web, and on a very strong iPhone app, now seems to be extending into data visualization and cultural commentary.

    MusicRetail_R7_Mint

  • Why “Elect The Jury” is a great idea, but doesn’t go far enough. Yet.

    6th November 09

    Posted by Ben Malbon

    Posted in creativity

    We’re full of respect for the way co-Chairs of the ANDYs, Michael Lebowitz and Ty Montague are shaking things up with their “Elect The Jury” platform for the election of 2010 ANDYs judges. Involving the industry in collaboratively determining who should judge what is ‘great work’ is a more democratic and more interesting way to put together a broad-ranging panel of top notch creative people. It’s also an opportunity for the industry to create a jury that doesn’t just judge and reward the past, but in some way tries to sketch out a vision of where this thing we loosely call ‘creativity’ is going.

    screen-shot-2009-11-06-at-55229-pm

    I’ve caught up with both Ty and Michael over the last few days to ask them how it’s going, what they’re learning, and what’s next (though what follows is my view, not theirs, necessarily).

    The first thing to note, and to celebrate, is that as an experiment, it’s clearly already been a success.

    They’ve pissed some people off; always a sign that you’re doing something right.

    They’ve curated a brilliant list of some truly phenomenal people across an extensive spread of creative industries, art and culture; this seems pioneering.

    They’ve provided a platform for debate about the role of technology in creativity, the role (or not) of big ideas, and the role and value (or not) of awards shows; about time that happened.

    But we also need to look at what’s happened as a result . . . where we’ve ended up, with less than 10 days to go.

    We’ve ended up with a fairly conventional – dare I say it, expected – list of the top 25 jurors. It is a list that glitters with talent, experience and in many cases, legends. It has some unconventional entries, which is great (Shepard Fairey, Marc Jacobs). It has some super worthy judges who might not normally find their way on to the shortlist (Vivian Rosenthal of Tronic). But the remainder of the shortlist seems to be the ECDs from the top large agencies, mostly in the the US.

    Below ‘the cut’ (at least currently – voting doesn’t end for a few days yet) are some phenomenal people who both define and in many ways embody an emerging sense of what creativity is, or perhaps even more, might become. I’ll list a few of my personal heroes here. These are people who excite me when they talk about ideas. These are people I’d collectively describe as hacking creativity, media, interactive art, or culture. They are at the forefront of trying to mutate formats, channels or content into new forms. They are not all in creative departments, but they are in some way creative people.

    Kevin Slavin of area / code; John Winsor, latterly of CPB, now of Victors & Spoils; Faris Yakob of McCann NY; Noah Brier of Barbarian; Benjamin Palmer of Barbarian; Mike Monello of Campfire; Yugo Nakamura of Yugop; Clay Shirky, author of “Here Comes Everybody”; Hashem Bajwa of Droga.

    Let’s be blunt about something. They are possibly not the people to go to for craft skills in art direction, film or typography (to name but three); craft skills that are still critically important in so many ways to creating magically good content. But they are the kinds of people who might create new crafts altogether. And that’s why they’re interesting &, I’d argue, relevant.

    I believe that alongside the Legends of Creativity who already populate the ANDYs shortlist (many of whom are also clearly completely at home blending technology with creativity), we need more people like this judging and guiding creativity.

    So here’s my suggestion.

    Let’s try and persuade Michael and Ty to take the great list of creative talent they’ve carefully curated and stage a *Second Round* of their experiment. Before they have to finally appoint the jury.

    Let’s try and persuade them to create empty categories. To take the entire 150+ curated list and ask the people in the industry to help allocate judges to categories. Once judges are in categories, then people can vote up their favorites so that we end up with a crowdsourced final list who go on to to be jury members.

    And this time people can only vote once for their top 5. Just like real politics.

    We might end up with a broader definition of creativity, and some helpful pointers to the future.

    What do you think?

  • Micro mobility – I want to break free

    6th November 09

    Posted by Ben Malbon

    Posted in mobile, technology

    (Posted by Richard Schatzberger, Director of Creative Technology, BBH New York)

    We spend a lot of time thinking about how now you can do things when you step away from the confines of your desk — tweeting in the supermarket, replying to email on the escalator. But what about when you are sitting in one of those comfy sofa’s or ergonomic Steel Case chairs? How does mobility come into play when you are in a fixed location?

    3435945997_7e2407e64c_b

    I recently started using Apple’s Magic Mouse and have found myself leaning back in my chair and just using the touch functions to navigate. It’s an oddly liberating feeling to move your hand and mouse away from the desk and still be in control.

    I have also spent the week with the Motorola Droid and by far my favorite feature is the dock that sits on my bedside table. I am no longer fumbling for my iPhone to check the weather in the morning to decide what to wear before I get up. I can now retreat back under the covers for a few extra minutes of sleep as, right there in my peripheral view, I can see that it’s “56 degrees and cloudy”.

    And, right now I am sitting with my headphones on as I write this, but I would much prefer to be untethered and have a sound laser wrap the sound around my space rather than having a device wrapped around my head–allowing me to move slightly to hear the conversation rather than removing an object from my body.

    Mobile phones have untethered us from objects plugged into walls and wires so we can run jump and call at the same time, but we do live and work in a society where people sit in single locations for large amounts of time. I like to think of the new technology as a way to enable 7.1 Dolby Surround… for everything. Surround screens, surround data, surround interaction.

    Micro mobility requires design for all our senses and subtle changes in the environment, rather than distinct I/O control giving people a new type of freedom in the locations they spend most of their time.

    If you could unhook or liberate one thing that is sitting close to you right now, what would it be?

  • If you want a conversation, say something interesting

    4th November 09

    Posted by Patricia McDonald

    Posted in Brands, social media

    Lots of smart people have made compelling arguments recently for the shift from campaign to conversation thinking. We were particularly taken with this post  by Kenneth Weiss courtesy of Rick Liebling at Eyecube which clearly and neatly maps the differences between the two approaches and we very much enjoyed this RGA film talking about the importance of long term brand platforms.

    Campaigns versus conversations Infographic by Kenneth J Weiss

    Campaigns versus conversations Infographic by Kenneth J Weiss

    We’re big fans of conversation thinking. The danger, however, is that we believe we can simply shine a spotlight on the conversation, abandon the campaign and leave consumers to it. It’s dangerous for a number of reasons:

    1. They may not be saying very much at all. Writing about launching “Brands in Public” Seth Godin observes “If your brand has any traction at all people are talking about you”. That’s partially true of course, but only partially. If you’re say a bread brand, a detergent brand or a toilet paper brand they may not be saying a lot.  As Oscar Wilde so memorably put it “The only thing worse than been talked about is not being talked about”. Or is it…
    2. In the absence of something positive to respond to, the conversation may be dominated by customer service issues or by mischief making. The Skittles experiment is a case in point where without a conversation starter from the brand the conversation is effectively high-jacked. Indeed many brand owners’ reaction to the Brands in Public initiative seems to indicate that simply letting the conversation run without interesting brand stimulus and curation is problematic for any number of brands.
    3. Our brands become the guy with no opinion-the one who responds to every question with “I don’t know, what do you think?”
    Skittles' Twitter Homepage Experiment

    Skittles' Twitter Homepage Experiment

    Read full post

  • Mary Meeker’s Economy & Internet Trends Presentation 2009

    21st October 09

    Posted by Ben Malbon

    Posted in data, interactive

    I first came across this last year, and found it to be one of the best written and most insightful papers of the year.

    At first glance this year’s presentation, posted yesterday (20th Oct) looks equally essential reading. See what you think.

    Mary Meeker’s Internet Presentation 2009

  • So what exactly might ‘Adaptive Brand Marketing’ be?

    16th October 09

    (Jointly authored with Greg Andersen, our MD in BBH New York)

    The imminent publication of Forrester’s new report on the challenges facing clients – “Adaptive Brand Marketing: Rethinking Your Approach to Branding in the Digital Age” is a welcome turning of the spotlight toward client organizations. Without question agencies of all sizes, shapes and persuasions need to get their collective acts together and transform into leaner, more agile, more creative, & more technology- and data-fuelled businesses. The best in the business are no doubt all plotting how they can come out of this recession leaner, meaner, quicker, better.

    But that’s kind of pointless unless clients adapt too.

    We’ve not got hold of the report yet; we’re looking forward to getting stuck in, and are intrigued by the ‘new 4 Ps’ presented in the report: permission, proximity, perception, participation (AdAge covered some more of the detail in this piece from last week). But the idea of adaptive brand marketing is something we’ve been kicking around for a while at BBH.

    We believe marketing communications are already being forced to become increasingly agile; particularly for more youth-oriented brands. In such a fast paced and dynamic media environment, relevance is increasingly determined in the moment. Recency matters. Audience and attention are fleeting. Fame spikes … even for the famous. For brands to achieve and maintain fame in this context, it’s our view that communications for certain types of brands must make a dramatic shift from highly polished epic launches to a continuous and diverse stream of messaging and content designed to ride hyper-current cultural trends, consumer attitudes and competitive maneuvering. The performance of this diverse activity continuously monitored and optimized like a portfolio of stocks … kill the under-performers and reinvest in the ones showing returns. However, this ‘continuous beta’ mentality is a big leap from 18-month planning cycles and dogmatic, rigid testing protocols, despite its more real-time and real-world feedback.

    Just as this is culturally challenging for many agencies, so it will prove for marketing organizations. As marketing becomes more technology-powered, with learning more real-time, it will be critical to identify who is responsible for leading within marketing organizations … and more importantly, who is empowered to make decisions on the fly. Committee decision making and hierarchical organizational structures, for all their perceived benefits, won’t hold up to the strain of an accelerated process.

    So in advance of the full report, here are some of our starters for ten (or seven, actually) on how client structures, skill sets and approaches might adapt to deliver ‘adaptive branding’. We’re learning as we’re going, and as usual we’d value your input, opinions, builds or disagreements.

    We’d particularly like to hear about clients that are exploring new ways of engaging agencies, and new forms of leaner, faster, more iterative & curatorial process. Again, there’s much we can learn from these pioneers.

    1. Consumer intelligence at the center

    We wholeheartedly agree with Forrester’s points around a more prominent role for research. We all have an increasing number of highly sophisticated, real-time and granular measurement tools at our disposal, especially in interactive environments. Adopting an agile approach to using this data becomes more significant; if one can measure everything, one must decide what really matters to avoid drowning or becoming paralyzed. Less, but better measurement, enabling more responsive data-powered marketing, should be the ambition (what Tim @ Made By Many called ‘Agile Measurement‘). These observations suggest an elevated role for the insight & research functions that can quickly distribute and integrate learning in real time.

    2. Marketing as a catalyst for change within the broader company

    This points to a potentially larger opportunity. It’s not just the marketing organization that needs to reorient itself given the now normal digital age, but the company itself should consider how it reorients itself around its marketing organization. In most progressive companies, it is the marketing function that has most quickly and deeply engaged with the new interactive toolkit. This expertise can play a role well beyond the traditional confines of marketing communications. For example, a proper understanding of social media tools and the proper employment of resulting insights could impact everything from new product/service innovation to customer service to crisis management.

    What some, such as Dachis, are calling ‘social business design‘ is a significant opportunity in which marketing teams could play a leading role in driving efficiencies and creating new models internally. Marketing as a revenue source and a genuine competitive advantage, not just a cost. If marketers want a seat back at the big boys’ table, this is one potential way of getting it.

    3. The networked organization

    The structural definitions of, and relationships between, agencies and marketing organizations must change if companies are to ensure access to the very highest quality and leading-edge partners delivering at speed. With the emergence of what Forrester call “the federated organization” (we prefer ‘networked’) Global brand leaders and directors need to be able to cast elite teams of people (talent that spans several departments, companies or geographies) to get best results and avoid capacity bottlenecks.

    This places special emphasis on an evolved role for ‘lead agency’ partners, both providing the conventionally critical services around quality control and coordination, but also performing a new casting director role for marketing directors; knowing whom to bring into a project, and when, and then managing that engagement. Further, client organizations must foster a culture of generosity and collaboration both within their organizations and across multi-agency teams to get the most out of them. Just as dogs and owners look alike, so do clients and the culture of their agency roster (but let’s stop right there with that analogy).

    4. Brand leaders as curators

    Without question, global brand leaders do need to become more responsible for evolving marketing assets and them adapting to local markets (in many cases this is already happening, for example with some of the Unilever brands with whom BBH works). However, we believe this evolved role needs to go well beyond adaptation and coordination. We envisage an increasing role for both client and agency organizations as not just creators of content, but as curators as well. In a world awash in content, time can be saved by smart curation and the hacking of existing properties. Not everything needs to be conceived of, crafted and produced from the ground up every time. This is particularly important as brands move beyond the development of the traditional ‘campaign’ and start evolving more ongoing platforms that need growing, managing, sustaining and refreshing.

    5. Reframing investment timelines

    With campaigns evolving into programs and platforms, the annual planning & budgeting framework currently used to allocate monies needs revamping. This is clearly challenging, but if some marketing activity is designed to build long-term enduring platforms and other marketing is to be more opportunistic, then it seems sensible to begin to think about marketing investment in a parallel fashion. We agree that a more active and fluid approach to marketing investment is the correct approach, but this places even greater emphasis on agile and, as much as possible, live measurement.

    6. To fail is to learn

    We think client organizations need to find new comfort in failure and place increased value in learning as long as both happen for real, and in close to real time. Embracing more of a continuous beta mentality means getting communications into market more quickly and less expensively … with early real learning as the result. This beta learning can help redirect the program while it’s still being developed instead of after its finished. A marketer can spend 10 months of theoretical testing in artificial environments and a highly polished, highly researched program still has a chance of failure, or in many cases creates no real impact one way or another. What good is the post-program audit? The budget is gone and the market has moved on.

    YouTube Preview Image

    7. The time is now

    Historically, recessions have proven to be crucibles of change. The current recession is already turning out to be rather more of a complete reset for the industry than a temporary dip in revenues. Structurally, the smartest agencies and agency groups have been quietly plotting not only their future size, but also rebuilding their capabilities, simplifying their processes and gently retooling their skillsets. The smartest marketing organizations must ensure they are doing the same.

    So who’s doing this well?

    No doubt the Forrester report will be full of strong cases of where this is already happening. We look forward to that.

    But we’re after your examples of clients re-inventing process, resourcing models, cultures in the pursuit of better work, produced more efficiently. Whilst it’s perhaps easier to highlight examples of where this *isn’t* happening, let’s try and stay focused on things we can learn from.

    Let us know.

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