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    • Hello world: code and the future of creativity

      3rd September 13

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in coding, creativity

      This week we’re cross-posting some of the monthly tech columns we’ve written over the past year for Marketing magazine. In part so we keep a record of the topics that are vexing and/or getting us going here at Labs, but mainly because some of these topics keep resurfacing and seem worthy of on-going discussion. As always please let us know what you think in the comments below.

      First up, a piece published in March this year on code and creativity.

      ***

      Sample of Beatrix Potter's code, source: peterrabbit.com (yes, that's right)

      Sample of Beatrix Potter’s code, source: peterrabbit.com (yes, that’s right)

      A biography of Beatrix Potter published last century may not sound like it warrants a mention in a column about technology. Yet when a friend sent it to me recently I was surprised: as a child, Beatrix had conceived her own cipher or code for use in private journals that she wrote well into her late twenties. 200,000 words in total that were only successfully decoded two decades after her death. So why did she write in code? And why was there such baffled curiosity that a creative writer did this?

      The thoughts Beatrix encrypted were neither controversial nor particularly personal. The biographer speculates that she was a lonely, if intelligent child who sought refuge in her own imagination. Described as a peculiar act of creativity to escape an otherwise colourless childhood, if you will.

      Reading it, I was struck by how little fundamental attitudes to writing code have changed in decades. In our industry, as in others, there’s positive intent and considerable uptake of courses designed to teach the basics of programming languages, sure. But reading and writing code is still not a part of the fabric of life the same way learning a language, sport or an instrument is. Many still see code as intimidating, or the preserve of the solitary (male) computer science geek.

      Even as we grasp how code and the role of different languages are transforming marketing output and our ways of working, still too many of us step back from getting to grips with code directly and personally. That’s for newcomers to the industry, right?

      Yet it’s no more complicated than anything else we learn over the course of our lives and it’s part of the day job: we already know the Internet has been the biggest advertising sector in the UK for the past four years (IAB data) and that it will register double digit growth every year for the next four (PwC’s Global Media & Entertainment Outlook for EMEA, 2012-2016).

      So what now?

      Perhaps we don’t all itch to shape the way the web develops, but let’s embrace the fact that, at its simplest, code is how things get made on and for the web. Much as Beatrix Potter understood a century ago, code is creative. Of course there’s much to do here: if code in combination with its older siblings, art direction and copy, is to grow up faster, better, stronger it needs leadership at every level. We don’t all need to learn to code necessarily, but we do need to know what code can do.

      Time to get with the program, people.

      More on the topic:

      Google’s “Art, Copy & Code”

      A series of experiments launched at the start of the year designed to re-imagine advertising, reflecting the triumvirate now at the heart of commercial creativity.

      Code.org and their video ‘what most schools don’t teach’ featuring Zuckerberg, Gates and a host of other geekarati championing code. If I were Secretary of State for Education, I’d make it mandatory for all girls in secondary education to watch this.

      Decoded – http://decoded.co/. The original “learn to code in a day” training course. You may not emerge a fully fledged developer, but you do leave with a good grasp of the history and roles of different programming languages, plus an app you built yourself. Intelligently designed course, highly recommended.

      Dr Techniko

      Teaching kids the basics of code through a parent-child physical training session where the parent is the ‘robot’ and expected to respond to specific commands: “How to train your robot”. Every small child’s dream.

      And as a counter-point: Learning to Code is a Waste of Time (Forbes)

    • Keep it Simple, Stupid!

      9th August 13

      Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

      Posted in digital, UX

      Authors; Kimberley Gill, Creative, and Adam Powers, Head of User Experience

      BA1

      We live for our holidays, and yet sorting them out has become a self-service chore. So it didn’t feel right to just tell people that British Airways *do* holidays, we wanted to deliver on their brand promise to serve, by creating an experience that actually helps people to plan their perfect break.

      We talked about how holiday planning  begins with a picture in your head, and it’s these images that resonate emotionally – when people pick up a guide book they go straight for the photos pages. This made us think – wouldn’t it be good to make a tool that stimulates the senses and imagination, helping you plan your holidays with just your eyes?

      Coming up with the idea of choosing your holiday through pictures was relatively quick,  but the biggest challenge was executing it in a simple, functional and pleasing way. We explored a few options with different levels of interactivity. One involved asking people a series of visual questions, another was a sort of ‘paint by numbers’ –  but both these seemed to add an unnecessary layer onto a very simple idea. This exploration made us realise that we should use as few words as possible and make the most intuitive experience we possibly could.

      The tool simply needed to read image choices, then suggest bespoke holiday options to match. This felt like a new way to inspire and buy a holiday in itself. And that’s where the name came from: ‘Picture Your Holiday”.

      BA2

      The soul of the experience was always going to be in the animation and interaction – no amount of beautifully designed stills could bring it to life – so in order to ‘see’ this we had to prototype the build. Moving quickly to prototype gave us a number of advantages – it helped focus the team, which unearthed the key interaction challenges very early on. This proved to be cost effective and allowed us more time to really think hard about solutions.

      We were able to explore the tool across mobile and tablet simultaneously, adapting the development branch so that each was optimal but largely from the same code base. Which in turn meant the interactive six sheets at Westfield are essentially running the same version of the tool that works in your browser. Added effort early on made for a much more effective roll-out towards the end of the project.

      There was also a great sense of excitement at the point where we shared it with the client, they could see for themselves the simplicity and delight in the idea. We were then able to do real world guerrilla user testing with the prototype to get feedback and roll it into the iterative dev cycle. Several recurring key findings changed our approach, one of those being the labelling of buttons.

      As the prototype evolved into what would become the final tool, parallel activity to develop ‘campaign ideas’ were set aside. We realised that the product WAS the campaign and the concertina of beautiful images would become the key visual for all communications platforms.

      Behind the elegant interface is a data driven system for all device types. We created a spreadsheet of attributes for each destination and then assigned a value to each. It was then exported as a JSON file, means that the whole thing can still be updated easily, should BA wish to add new holiday destinations, by simply deploying a new file to the cloud.

      ba3

      The end result is something which feels elegant, inspiring and fun to use.

    • Why the ephemeral is here to stay

      7th August 13

      Posted by Jason Gonsalves

      Posted in Social, technology

      Snapchat's mascot Ghostface Chillah. He's a ghost.

      The many faces of Snapchat’s mascot Ghostface Chillah. He’s a ghost.

      It was a great man, Ferris Bueller to be precise, who once uttered the immortal words “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” So wise and so relevant it seemed to me, as I reflected upon the phenomenon that is Snapchat. Last month, less than 2 years after launch, Snapchat raised $60m in funding on the basis of a $800m valuation from prominent VC’s. Dennis Phelps of Institutional Venture Partners gushed emphatically “The funding round was “one of the most competitive financings we have been a part of in years”. Despite the fact that they are yet to make a single dollar from advertising or charging users.

      In many ways Snapchat embodies the very essence of the ephemeral but I couldn’t help wondering if it might be a signifier of a broader trend unfolding, something more fundamental and profound. As a generation of “digital natives” grow up and look to their future, and the whole world considers the repercussions of Edward Snowden’s revelations, it appears that we are collectively reappraising our engagement with the digital world. We grow increasingly aware of our ever deepening reliance on networked technologies, the blurring of public and private space, and the changing nature of our relationships with others, and we are beginning to explore new strategies to respond.

      The Snapchat story

      The genesis of Snapchat is shrouded in claim, counter-claim and litigation, and comes complete with its own Winklevoss Twin (singular sadly). In 2011 Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy took their Stamford University classmate Reggie Brown’s idea for a self-destructing messaging service and launched the app in September 2011 that year. Since launch the user base has grown at a staggering pace despite many detractors trying to write it off as a novelty app for creative sexters. Take one look at the numbers its obvious that there’s more to it than that. Snapchat users, particularly teenagers and college kids, now share over 150 million pictures every single day, more than four times Instagram’s daily shares.

      Unquestionably authoritative graph from Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends 2013

      Unquestionably authoritative graph from Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends 2013

      Building the Ephemeranet

      What’s particularly interesting is that Snapchat’s unique appeal comes from restricting, rather than enabling the intrinsic connectivity of the web. It lets people share experiences with friends, but it does so in a way that is time-bound and impermanent. Nothing you send is stored, and none is searchable. A generation of users who’ve grown up immersed in the social web are beginning to realise that their intimate experiences are not only available to their friends. They are also open to would-be employers, their parents, even that girl they may want to marry someday.  According to Evan Spiegel the increasing pressure on them to manage their idealized online identity has “taken all of the fun out of communicating”. In glorious contrast, the transient and ephemeral nature of Snapchat provides a more spontaneous, less controlled or contrived way of communicating. By simplifying a security process enough to the point that anybody can use it Snapchat has created a market for privacy protecting ephemeral communication, an opportunity investment money will help them exploit further.

      Potluck vs Performance anxiety

      In July Josh Miller and the team behind Branch launched their new platform Potluck. Potluck, though very different to Snapchat, bears comparison because it also provides users with an interesting alternative to the performance anxiety of mass social interaction.

      Potluck, not another social network, honest

      Potluck, not another social network, honest

      Potluck is essentially a link-sharing network built on top of a users’ social connections from Twitter, Facebook and Gmail. But unlike many of today’s social networks the focus is not on having users craft an online persona, but rather on the content being shared. Links shared on Potluck aren’t accompanied by people’s names or avatars, only the topic or name of the link, and the number of your friends who are talking about it. Instead of worrying about how popular your posts are, or how interesting you look because of what you share, you can focus on more genuine conversations around the subjects that really matter to you. The performance anxiety is gone, making it more accessible for everyone. As Miller explains “The whole reason we took the time to even focus on Potluck, is because we really do want to empower the people who are not having conversations to have conversations.”

      Free to browse anonymously

      If Edward Snowden and his revelations about the NSA’s PRISM programme have taught us anything (other than to beware of transit in Moscow airport) it is that our digital click-stream is an open book ready to be read by anyone with the computing power and inclination to sift through the meta-data.

      Psychedelic and highly informative Project Prism visual

      Psychedelic and highly informative Project Prism visual

      The involvement of Microsoft, Yahoo and Google in the US spying programme has given an unexpected boost to lesser know search rival DuckDuckGo whose search requests have almost doubled to over 3million a day in the last month alone. DuckDuckGo provides ‘private’ internet searches which means that it does not track users in the same way that the big listed above do. It does serve Google-like ads, but without the customisation.

      Paranoia proves good for business

      Paranoia proves good for business

      As founder Gabriel Weinberg explained, DuckDuckGo chose not to store search data because it reveals so much about us. Search data, he says, “is arguably the most personal data people are entering into anything. You’re typing in your problems, your desires. It’s not the same as things you post publicly on a social network.” Having decided that searching is intimately personal, he deduced, rather presciently that governments would want to get hold of search data. “I looked at the search fiascos such as the 2006 AOL data release, and decided that government requests were real and would be inevitable, and that search engines and content companies would be handing over that data [to government] in increasing amounts.”

      Whilst DuckDuckGo’s numbers are hardly going to keep Googlers up at night this trend is illustrative of the growing recognition of the need to take control of the public availability of our browsing histories. Whilst DuckDuckGo’s entire premise is predicated on anonymity, “Incognito browsing” is of course a standard feature in Chrome, and similar features have since been adopted by Firefox and IE. Providing anonymous browsing may seem like a counterintuitive move for Google given their business model, but by giving users control over their anonymity on the most sensitive sites these features are more likely to reduce cookie deletion rates, thereby increasing the ability to target ads, thereby increasing revenues.

      Military grade encryption from the App store

      For those wanting the next level of privacy look no further than Wickr, created by Nico Sell, security expert and long-time organiser of Hacker convention Defcon. Wickr is a serious security-focused app that uses “military-grade” encryption to send text, video, voice, and document files that can self-destruct after a given period of time.

      And why exactly do you need military grade encryption?

      And why exactly do you need military grade encryption?

      Hospitals and law enforcement have expressed interest in a similarly functioning Android app, Gryphn.  Encryption legend Phil Zimmerman, inventor of Pretty Good Privacy or PGP, an encryption system so powerful that its distribution was once classified as arms dealing by the US government, is also developing an exciting and powerful suite of communication apps through his company Silent Circle. They are not for “average” users, but they will provide massive improvements in security for business and serious individuals who are looking for it.

      So what does it all mean?

      “Life is once, forever and new all the time” Henri Cartier-Bresson

      The Web 2.0 evangelists proselytised the benefits of a new era where we are all publishers. The Social Web enabled us to harness not just the wisdom of the crowd but the wisdom of our friends. Every moment, every memory of our lives effortlessly shared through our ‘feeds’ creating a permanent, public, searchable and socially verified record of our lives. And why? Because we could. But sometimes “Because we could” isn’t reason enough. Without serendipity we grow stale and predictable. Without spontaneity we deny the authenticity of our human response. Without our privacy where is there space for intimacy or dissent?

      Once opened this Pandora’s box cannot simply be closed, nor would we want it to be. But there is an alternative.  Snapchat’s self-destructing pictures are fun, but they are more than that. They are fleeting glimpse of what we crave, the means to put us back in control. Providing us with a most important ability in this networked age, the means to disconnect.

       

       

       

    • Bring me fools and geniuses

      2nd August 13

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in People, strategy

      Author: Jim Carroll, Chairman, BBH London

      Like many people I was amused by Rory Sutherland’s recent piece in The Spectator, in which he suggested it might be a smart strategy for Agencies to recruit graduates with lower class degrees.

      Sutherland argues that there is no evidence that ‘recruits with first-class degrees turn into better employees than those with thirds’. Graduates with lower class degrees are in fact undervalued by the market and as a result they’re less expensive and more loyal.

      I thought I might contribute my own perspective to the debate and indeed my own trusty Recruitment Tool:

      Screen Shot 2013-08-02 at 17.29.16
      In my many years of working with Strategists, I have established that very smart people can reduce highly complex conundra into quite simple challenges. In this respect they have something in common with the less-than-intelligent, who see the world simply despite its many sophistications.
      I have also observed that those with moderate-to-medium levels of intelligence can perceive complexity in every aspect of every problem.

      This has led me to conclude that the only useful Strategists are fools or geniuses….

    • Arthur C. Clarke’s 3 Laws of Fresh News

      25th July 13

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in Social, technology

      Author: Ben Shaw, Strategist, BBH London

      Over 50 years ago, Arthur C. Clarke established three ‘laws’ of prediction through the writing of his essays. The genius of his foresight in his future-facing assertions is perhaps only now coming to be truly recognised, as an ever increasing number of technologies, products and experiences continue to astound us.

      Indeed, it is with a worrying pace how quickly we accept new technologies – today video chat is no longer a Star Trek exclusive and next year everyone will wonder where they were without their wearables. 5 years ago who would have thought Nike would be measuring every calorie you burn, Burberry would put you in the front row of their fashion show or Axe would be taking you to space?

      Here at BBH London we’ve delved into the detail of Clarke’s 3 Laws to expose some of the behind the scenes development of our latest digital project, Mentos Fresh News, the world’s first video news channel all about you:

      Law 1: “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.”

      Fresh News was the brainchild of one of our “distinguished but elderly scientists,” Pablo Marques – he knew the idea was possible and was almost certainly right. The only thing that Pablo said was impossible was actually making the project to the level of polish we wanted – producing a bespoke premium piece of content based on your Facebook behaviour that seamlessly stitches together multiple video edits & relevant scraped data with millions of potential combinations to create the experience of a personalised news channel. Pablo was wrong, we just needed to discover how to do it.

      Law 2: “The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.”

      Facebook personalised experiences have been produced before. We looked to the previous “possibles” of The Desperado’s Experience and Intel’s Museum of Me to see what we could learn and how we could create something new and groundbreaking. Previous experiences had scraped and displayed Facebook data – we wanted to add a layer of intelligence & polish on top that creates the illusion of an “impossible” news show. Here’s the background tech on how we did it:

      Screen Shot 2013-07-25 at 09.30.23 copy

      Law 3: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

      The wonder of Mentos Fresh News is in the ‘aha!’ magic moments – the moment you see yourself in an actual News program. You don’t see yourself as the produce of a number of behavioural rules. You don’t see the whirring of the machine. You don’t see any of the above happening. All you do is click a button and all you is see is you as the star of the show. All you see is the magic.

      I wouldn’t like to say if Arthur himself would have appreciated what we made enough to share it on his Facebook page, but hopefully he would appreciated the behavioural scientific discipline and technological craft behind the magic.

      Have a go for yourself at MentosFreshNews.com.

      Thanks to BBH London & Stink Digital for making it happen.

       

    • Things fall apart

      9th July 13

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in Brands

      AUTHOR: JIM CARROLL, CHAIRMAN, BBH LONDON

      W B Yeats

      W B Yeats

      ‘Turning and turning in the widening gyre
      The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
      Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
      Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.’

      The Second Coming – WB Yeats

      For as long as I can remember things have been falling apart. Fragmenting, segmenting, empowering. Devolving, diffusing, decoupling. Subdividing, subcontracting, subbranding. Ever more channels, audiences, tools and platforms. Ever more markets, stakeholders, structures and roles.

      I feel that for the entirety of my career we have been seeking coherence in an ever more fragmented world. Endeavouring to establish order in the disorder, to shape the sometimes shapeless, to find patterns in the mayhem of modern marketing.

      In my early days we were arguing for campaigns not executions, continuity not chaos. Fighting against ‘goldfish advertising’.

      Then as channels disbursed, as tasks multiplied, as Clients centralised, we advocated The Big Idea: the conceptual glue that held the brand together, that gave it a collective purpose. In time I also became a convert to the unifying power of the aesthetic, to the harmonising force of visual identity.

      Of course the quest for coherence sometimes felt like swimming against the tide. It came with a loss of spontaneity, at a cost to creative freedom, with the risk of regimentation. But I always felt that coherence was worth it. Because I believed in the active, authorial, unitary brand; in a brand that brought more to the table than a willingness to please; in a brand that meant something to everyone, not anything to anyone.

      I have occasionally wondered whether we were wrong. Perhaps we should concede that ultimately the centre really cannot hold. Perhaps in the age of the social web we should let go of the tiller, move with the tide, submit the brand to the ebb and flow of consumer needs and desires, whims and passions; liberate it from its corporate shackles to find its own articulation in the mouths of the crowd.

      But I think I’m quite a conservative bloke. I can’t relinquish my belief in the unitary brand, however fragmentary its experience. And curiously the social web, with all its wild diversity and anarchic soul, has also given hope to Coherents like me.

      Marshall McLuhan

      Marshall McLuhan

      ‘Today, after more than a century of electric technology, we have extended our central nervous system in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned.’

      Marshall McLuhan – Introduction to Understanding Media (1964)

      As a young Planner in the early ’90s I read Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media, a book written the year I was born. I wanted to learn about the thinking behind such legendary phrases as ‘the medium is the message’ and ‘the global village’. I discovered a whole lot more. It was an ambitious, lyrical, imaginative work. It was brilliantly passionate, fantastical, psychedelic.

      I was particularly struck by the image of man in the electronic age extending his central nervous system beyond the constraints of physical form to reach out across the world. Wow! It was pure science fiction, of course, but it was a beautiful thought. Some years later I realised McLuhan had been predicting the arrival of the Internet…

      The image of a world wide central nervous system has remained attractive to a lifelong believer in brand coherence. Because it’s an image that can be applied as much to brands as to people and things. It suggests that brands can embrace a glue more powerful than any corporate structure, conceptual definition or visual identity. Modern brands are finally capable of creating their own neural networks, their own central nervous systems.

      So of course we should be introducing connectivity to everything we do right now, right the way across the path to purchase. Of course we should all be designing brand ecosystems and ecologies with bold, bright enthusiasm. Because at last we can see the reality of neurally networked brands which are sensitive, responsive and feeling. Brands which learn, think and evolve. And above all brands which are coherent and whole.

      Perhaps the centre can hold after all.
    • On empathetic vs emphatic brand leadership

      8th July 13

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in Brands

      AUTHOR: MICHELLE GILSON, STRATEGIST, BBH LONDON

      I have always been a fan of observational comedy. Before I knew what Planning was. Before I even knew what I wanted to be. But reassuringly I once was told that good planners are like good comedians, in that they pick up on insightful human truths and deliver them in a captivating way. If I become the Peter Kay of Planning one day, I’ll die happy.

      I recently saw the comedienne Sarah Milligan’s tour broadcast on TV. She had a brilliant phrase which stuck with me. “In life people are either bumper cars or dodgems”. Of course they are the same thing. But the point she was making was some people prefer to navigate life, whilst others prefer to push from the front. Personally, I lean more to the former. But beyond that, it got me thinking about how I view brands.

      My whole life I’ve always been attracted to brands that set out to include me, as opposed to those that showed me the way. Growing up I was never taken with Nike ads, nor with Apple, nor Virgin. Instead I always warmed to brands like Dulux, Tesco, Ikea, Coca Cola and British Airways. The deliberately inclusive brands that made me feel welcome and at home.

      Our CEO Ben Fennell posted here recently asking ‘what kind of leader are you?’ His point was that the business world goes round thanks to quite different types of leadership. Are you a nurturer or a visionary, an operator or a warrior and so on? And the same is true, it strikes me, for brands that are leaders in their categories.

      Judging on how they behave and make me feel, I believe there are two classic categories of brand leader:  Empathetic vs Emphatic. The former want a dialogue and seek to communicate in a way that relates closely to their audiences’ lives. Emphatic leaders, by contrast, tend to enshrine their own vision and qualities. ‘Buy me and you’re saying something about who you are’, says the Emphatic brand. ‘Buy me because we understand who you are’, replies the Empathetic brand.

      Source: Michelle Gilson, BBH

      Of course I’m not saying one is better than the other. Both friends have benefits. While Empathetic leaders offer a caring, accepting and optimistic tone of voice, the empathic brands will ooze confidence, inspiration and authority. They can be useful, even a source of inspiration, in different ways:

      Source: Michelle Gilson, BBH

      And while empathetic leaders behave in a fun, inclusive way, emphatic leaders always feel dynamic, adventurous and unpredictable:

      chart3

      My Dad used to say “one man’s meat is another man’s poison” when it comes to picking a partner. But truthfully that analogy feels too extreme when applied to our relationships with brands (probably due to significantly reduced commitment when it comes to purchase and consumption).

      And yet I’d wager most of us do want both spicy and safe in our lives. And often we won’t look to one person to provide everything, we’ll pick and choose friends, family and a partner that offer different qualities. And, accordingly, even thought I’m an Empathetic brand lover at heart, I confess I shall probably get some glee next time I’m forced to wear my Nike’s to the gym, or light up my iPhone. And further more, may even attempt to bump some cars next time at the fair, rather than dodge them.

       

    • Logo Echo

      21st June 13

      Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

      Posted in design, personal

      I must have been around five or six when I at least subconsciously realised that my dad worked for ‘a brand’.

      Taxiing through Schipol yesterday I saw the iconic KLM logo everywhere and it was for the Dutch airline, with its consistently modern, clean, emblematic branding, that my dad worked.

      KLM_logo

      As children my sister and I saw plenty of that logo. On company Christmas cards and letterheads that lay around our home. On the multilayered paper tickets (always standby, always a nervy adventure) that took us away to places I now realise were exotic destinations in the 70s. And everywhere in the office at Heathrow, where we sometimes spent the day with Dad at work, in the dog days of the summer holidays.

      And so yesterday it struck me that my taste in design might hark back to those days, to that logo. The simple morse-like arrangement of cross, over four dots over long dash. The discreetly powerful, squatly confident KLM in Noa Light. An imprinting of intelligent, stylised, corporate identity leading to a fondness for deliberate, thoughtfully bland urbanity. An interest in unplaces. The appreciation of the aesthetics of the shipping container and transport logistics hubs. Digitally rendered fictional suburbia. Street view art.

      And taxiing through Schipol I thought about this. And this small thought, the memories, speak to the power of good design and branding and how a logo, assuredly deployed, can imprint itself on a person and shape them, years later, like a paternal hand from the past.

    • Once Upon A Time

      7th June 13

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in Books, technology

      Author: Nick Fell, Strategy Director

      2.Title screen

      Last week we launched the Storytime Hangout app for Google+. Built in collaboration with Penguin, it allows families to share the story of Three Billy Goats Gruff over a hangout, whether they’re at home or away from one and other. Not only that but everyone participating can become characters in the story with masks overlayed onto their faces.

      It’s early days but the app seems to have caught people’s imaginations and we’re excited about the potential to adapt further stories to be read in this way.

      The project was driven forward with unwavering determination by a team of people at BBH and Penguin. We’ve also had great support from the team at Google.

      We wanted to share with you our experiences of developing the app and highlight three things we’ve learned along the way.

      1. Proactive projects require a laser-focus

      We developed Storytime Hangout without an official brief. A small group of us at BBH had been discussing the massive potential of Google+ Hangouts to bring people closer together in some new and interesting ways. We were all passionate enough about the opportunity to spend some of our own time exploring ideas that would augment the experience of a Hangout even further. Storytime Hangout was the best idea of a long list. Proactively developing, building and launching an app in the spare moments in our days has been even more challenging than we expected. We’ve learned the hard way that to succeed means getting behind one idea early and be ruthless with the feature set.

      2. Insight before tech

      With such a wealth of technology at one’s disposal, it’s never been easier to create and launch an idea. The trap is to build something just because you can. What makes one experience more successful than another still comes down to an understanding of people; their hopes, dreams and behaviour. In our own experiences and in talking to other parents, it was clear that story time was one of the most enjoyable and important moments a parent can share with their children. The problem was that distance and other distractions often got in the way. It’s early days, but we’re hoping that a focus on problem-solving and not tech experimentation alone will encourage people to keep coming back to the app on Google+.

      3. Stick by your principles

      Technology is transforming publishing. Books are being bought and read in new ways and publishers have to adapt to how they market and distribute their intellectual property. Children’s literature is a particularly dynamic industry. Parents now have access to a wealth of content, apps and games to keep the kids entertained, much of which is freely available on the web. In adapting a children’s story for consumption online we wanted to ensure that we promoted the magic of storytelling. This informed our entire approach to developing the app. Words are central to the experience and we have tried to use technology in a way that augments, not distracts from, the reading of the book.

      1.character selection
      5.Screen27
      3.Screen5_6
    • Mary Meeker has her Internet crystal ball out again

      30th May 13

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in data

      Author: Adam Powers, Head of User Experience

       

      The always prescient KPCB analyst has published her state of the Internet Paper for 2013 and, as ever, it makes for a stimulating read.

       

      - whilst smartphone and tablet penetration is rampant, Mary suggests the future is all about, “…wearables, drivables, flyables and scannables.”. That last category includes the shocking revelation that QR codes are popular somewhere – 9 million scanned per month in China!

       

      - In fact China is the place to watch for innovation and developing trends. Mobile internet access and search have already surpassed desktop use in the land of Alibaba. (Whose business is now surpassing Amazon.) China also added 264m Internet users between 2008 and 2012, more than any other country.

       

      - Mobile is the platform of choice for content upload, and right now photos are the thing. A staggering 500m of them uploaded every day but expect video, sound and data to get in on the act very quickly.

       

      - the average smartphone user grabs their fondlebox upwards of 150 times per day. Significant for wearable tech opportunities but mouth-watering for mobile advertisers – Meeker identifies a $20 billion opportunity right there.

       

      Check out her slide share deck:


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