19th March 12
Thanks to everyone who came to our talk at SXSWi last week. For anyone interested, you can find our slides and our speech below (we talk fast, so there’s plenty of it!) and please check out #sxbattle on Twitter to follow the commentary on the day. As the hashtag suggests, we pitched the benefits of two alternate futures as a battle, along the way inviting the audience to vote for the one they thought most likely to become a reality. We had a lot of fun doing it, thanks again to everyone who joined us.
Let’s start by stating the obvious, a disclaimer if you will.
We’re not really here to talk about Skynet and Mad Max. They’re both works of fiction, each film set after an apocalyptic event. We thought about trying to re-title this talk – “how an apocalypse might affect your business…” but we settled for this disclaimer instead.
They’re just an analogy. One we’d like to use to tell a story. Everyone in this room is a storyteller, it’s what we do. We tell stories to effect results. Here, it’s fair to say, both films paint insanely dystopian, radically different visions of the future, yet they are also classic narratives. Control vs chaos. A totalitarian state vs total anarchy. A closed network vs an open network. Read full post
15th March 12
Posted in Uncategorized
Amidst all the passionate comment and debate about Homeless Hotspots, there’s also been some inaccurate information flying around – especially about payment of the participants in this program. Since this is such an important and sensitive issue, we want to be 100% clear on the facts.
How much were Homeless Hotspots participants paid?
This was NOT a daily amount of just $20 as has sometimes been reported.
Based on expert recommendations from our partner Front Steps, it was agreed at the outset that all participants in the Homeless Hotspots program would be guaranteed a minimum payment of $50 per day for a maximum of 5-6 hours’ work, an amount that exceeds Texas minimum wage. In addition, every single dollar donated to the program also goes to the participants, and supporters can continue to donate at homelesshotspots.org. The participants were paid a $20 cash stipend upfront for each day worked during the four-day program, but this was not their total pay. We haven’t yet calculated the totals as donations continue to come in, but we do know it will work out to be significantly more than $50 per day for each participant.
Did the program end early?
No, Homeless Hotspots was always intended to be a short pilot program that would run throughout the weekend of the SXSW Interactive Festival, beginning Friday, March 9 and ending on Monday, March 12. Even as heated debate built on Sunday night, it was the homeless volunteers themselves — with support from our partners at Front Steps — who insisted on seeing it through to the last day as an opportunity to set the record straight and share their personal perspectives on the program. As they took their passion and commitment to the streets, we were deeply inspired to see the program through its entirety, as planned.
Are there future plans for Homeless Hotspot? Will it be in other cities?
Not yet. We’ve been listening carefully to the widespread response to Homeless Hotspots, and taking this into consideration as we discuss the next phase of this program and what that could be. We have been approached by multiple, respected homeless advocacy groups that are looking to partner and discuss potential plans.
We remain committed to supporting this global issue and will continue applying creativity and innovation to potential solutions. There will be future BBH work and initiatives in this area, but we do not yet know precisely the nature or location of these, or with whom we will be partnering
How do the homeless participants and homeless advocates feel about this program?
We’re pleased that a passionate debate has ensued regarding the program, as it’s bringing to light a number of key issues relating to how homeless populations can benefit from employment and entrepreneurial services. Most importantly, this debate helps ensure these individuals do not remain invisible and ignored. The topics debated include: the importance of creating opportunities for self-expression in homeless employment activities; the role of practicality and principles; the name and wording of the Homeless Hotspots program and t-shirts – as well as great discussion on what (and who) should define ‘empowerment’ for the people who need it most. What’s been interesting to see is the role stereotypes play across all of these issues, one of the underlying themes we hoped to bring to the surface.
We also encourage everyone to read the perspectives of the homeless participants themselves:
The Wall Street Journal:
9th March 12
As our herd of black sheep makes its way to Austin from various BBH offices in anticipation of some great events, it’s the other experiences we’re discovering that are especially interesting. When we heard about a particular transmedia experience that the folks at Hide & Seek created, we asked the founder of the UK games design studio to tell us a bit more about it. As it happens, engaging in the experience and utilizing Homeless Hotspots go hand-in-hand, one of many unexpected uses for our charitable innovation experiment.
This year at SXSW, we launch Would Anyone Miss You, a new live game we’ve developed to ensure that festival goers have conversations they’ve never had before, with people they’ve never met before.
The game begins when a stranger, somewhere in Austin, presses a sheet of stickers into your hand. You’ll be asked to seek out people of special and particular kinds – Your Newest Friend, maybe, or someone Tall Dark and Handsome – and ask them a question. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll interact with the game online and receive a personal reward. For those that play all the way to the end, there’s something a bit special.
We’re doing this to support Carol Morley’s incredible documentary, Dreams Of A Life, which receives its US premiere at SXSW on Saturday 10 March. Nobody noticed when thirty-eight year old Joyce Vincent died in her bedsit above a shopping mall in North London in 2003. When her skeleton was discovered three years later, her heating and her television were still on. Newspaper reports offered few details of Joyce’s life – not even a photograph. Who was Joyce Vincent? And how could this happen to someone in our day and age – the so-called age of communication? Dreams of a Life is Carol Morley’s quest to discover who Joyce was and how she came to be so forgotten.
So what’s the connection between our game and Carol’s film? My hope is that there’s an emotional one. Transmedia projects tend to extend the storyworld of a film – the characters, the history – into new platforms. With our work on this project (we also created a purely digital experience to accompany the UK release) we’ve taken the emotional impact of Joyce’s story as the starting point. Partly this is because Carol’s film is such a coherent, fully formed whole, and partly it’s because we wanted to do something with the feelings that Joyce’s story evokes – to make use of them.
SXSW is a crowded marketplace of ideas, powered by entrepreneurial zeal and hot air. Dreams of A Life is a a film about urban lives, contemporary life, and how, like Joyce, we are all different things to different people. It’s our belief that, for all the buzz, festivals can be pretty lonely places sometimes. We hope that our game will provoke moments of connection and reflection, and that in those moments, you’ll want to seek out the film that inspired them.
6th March 12
Posted in Uncategorized
Three days to go until the geek world descends on Austin for SXSW Interactive which if the ‘super grid‘ is anything to go by, will be more overwhelming than anything that has gone before. With marketeers, developers and Googler’s pouring into Texas in unprecedented numbers, we can’t hope to give more than the briefest taste of what we’re looking forward to. Our mission, as in previous years, is to learn, to re-engage and to discover – Labs will be out in numbers speaking, interacting and seeking whatever edge SXSW has left to offer.
SXSW is a great opportunity to connect with likeminded friends from around the world and meet other likeminds previously only known on twitter, google+ or blog comment threads. We’re excited to see Amber Case keynote an event of this scale, looking forward seeing old friends consider intent and the social web and we’ll be be queuing in the corridors to make sure we get a front seat at a stellar curation panel featuring Percolate, Longform and Maria Popova.
The great thing about SXSW is that there is something for everyone – whether your appetite is for The New Aesthetic, architecture or even Nick Denton, you’re covered. The Panel Committee were strict on submissions from Labs this year, but we’re thrilled with what slipped through their net of rigour. We’d humbly suggest that Mad Max Vs Skynet: The Battle for the Future, presented by our very own Mel Exon and Google Creative Lab’s Tom Uglow, is a must see. Labs will also be represented in Austin with the launch of our on-the-ground project, Homeless Hotspots.
As for Austin nights, it’s hard to know what level of blagging skills or extreme patience will be necessary to crash the numerous SXSW parties this year. This nice survival guide from GSD&M gives plenty of good tips, while we’ve enjoyed nights out at the Fray Cafe in years gone by. Great nights have been spent chewing the fat at a table next to one of Austin’s plentiful taco vans, and if things get weird, you can always head for the hills.
So whatever your thing, you’ll find it in Austin and we’re looking forward to seeing you there. Let us know where you’ll be, what time to meet up at Lego Corner, what you’re looking forward to and, most importantly, where we can find the best breakfast burrito.
6th March 12
UPDATE & CLARIFICATIONS
There has been an enormous amount of coverage of this project, and unfortunately there has been a good deal of inaccuracies around the payment system and objectives of the program in general. Please follow this link that clarifies these points.
UPDATE: Obviously, there’s an insane amount of chatter about this, which although certainly villianizes us, in many ways is very good for the homeless people we’re trying to help: homelessness is actually a subject being discussed at SXSW and these people are no longer invisible. It’s unfortunate how much information being shared is incorrect (an unresearched story by ReadWriteWeb, which has now been updated is the epicenter of that misinformation). So, without being defensive (we welcome the educated critiques), we wanted to share a few key facts:
+ We are not selling anything. There is no brand involved. There is no commercial benefit whatsoever.
+ This is a test program that was always scheduled to end today (there’s no 2-week payment cycle)
+ Each of the Hotspot Managers keeps all of the money they earn. The more they sell their own access, the more they as individuals make (it’s not a collected pot to be shared unless people choose to donate generally).
+ Underheard in NY is NOT becoming a reality TV show. The confidential plans are much more akin to an interactive documentary. Regardless of what happens, it will stay true to the original idea: to give homeless people an unedited voice so people can understand their lives.
+ The biggest criticism (which we agree with actually) is that Street Newspapers allow for content creation by the homeless (we encourage those to research this a bit more as it certainly does not work exactly as you would assume). This is definitely a part of the vision of the program but alas we could not afford to create a custom log-in page because it’s through a device we didn’t make. However, we’d really like to see iterations of the program in which this media channel of hotspots is owned by the homeless organizations and used as a platform for them to create content. We are doing this because we believe in the model of street newspapers.
UPDATE 2: Thank you to everyone here for your comments, criticism, feedback and support. We can’t respond to every comment here, but we will be responding in the coming days.
Update 3: Another bit of information being reported inaccurately relates to the finances of the homeless individuals participating. To clarify: These volunteers were guaranteed make at least $50/day, for a maximum of 6 hours work. This amount equates to more than the Texas state minimum wage of $7.25/hr for the same number hours. Based on donations already received, we know their earnings will be higher than $50 for each of them – as was our intention. What’s been misunderstood is the break-out of money in cash per day vs. what’s received after the program ends. BBH provides a $20 cash ”stipend” to the volunteers each day regardless of their own sales. This is the cash amount that was handed to them each day while the program was live (it ended yesterday) and was advised specifically by our friends at Front Steps shelter, who are conscious of the responsibility that comes with handing cash to someone facing financial challenges daily, but who still needs to work toward a long-term solution for housing and employment. The additional money raised by each Hotspot Manager will be delivered via money order from the shelter where they have a program in place that helps the participants save about 2/3′s toward their employment and housing goals. Again, this has all been built based on input from the shelter and the participants’ case managers in a way that’s best for the participants.
UPDATE 4: This isn’t quite an update as it’s reflected in the post below, but we wanted to clarify the latest bit of misinformation. The program was not “canceled;” it was always intended as a 4 day program. In fact, as the debate heated, it was the homeless volunteers themselves who insisted on seeing through the last day as an opportunity to share their side of the story. Thus we saw the program through as planned. We’ll be reporting on success metrics shortly but can confirm our friends at Front Steps Shelter in Austin consider it a great success for themselves. Read their reactions at facebook.com/frontsteps (or any of the media coverage they’ve received globally), and please consider a donation to one of the Hotspot Managers as we wrap things up via homelesshotspots.org.
UPDATE 5 (April 30, 2012): We are working with StreetWise, the largest street paper in the US deal with numerous modernization issues, including many of those outlined in our post of learning points from this program. For more details, you can read the follow-up post.
****Original Pre-SXSW Post Below****
As always this time of year, we’re abuzz in anticipation of SXSW Interactive. Whether it’s talks we’re attending, or the talks we’re giving, SXSW is a consistent growth opportunity for the team. This year though, we’re also trying a bit of charitable innovation.
As you may know, we created Underheard in NY last year via our Barn intern program. The premise was simple: give homeless individuals a voice via Twitter. The program was so successful that you’ll be seeing an update on its unexpected future at some point soon.
Since then, we’ve stayed interested in the homeless issue. One particular aspect we find intriguing is Street Newspapers, which are print publications created and sold by homeless populations as a form of entrepreneurial employment. The model has proven successful enough to be adopted in cities spanning 30 countries. The issue however, is that like any print publication, these newspapers are under duress from the proliferation of digital media. How often do you see someone “buy” a paper, only to let the homeless individual keep it? This not only prevents the paper from serving as a tool for the individual to avoid begging, but it proves how little value people actually place on the publication itself. Yet the model isn’t inherently broken. It’s simply the output that’s archaic in the smartphone age.
So we decided to modernize it.
This year in Austin, as you wonder between locations murmuring to your coworker about how your connection sucks and you can’t download/stream/tweet/instagram/check-in, you’ll notice strategically positioned individuals wearing “Homeless Hotspot” t-shirts. These are homeless individuals in the Case Management program at Front Steps Shelter. They’re carrying MiFi devices. Introduce yourself, then log on to their 4G network via your phone or tablet for a quick high-quality connection. You pay what you want (ideally via the PayPal link on the site so we can track finances), and whatever you give goes directly to the person that just sold you access. We’re believers that providing a digital service will earn these individuals more money than a print commodity.
We’re using SXSW as our beta test. Hopefully you can help us optimize and validate this platform, which we hope to see adopted on a broader scale. Any and all support is appreciated (including donations from afar).
Visit homelesshotspots.org for more details.
2nd March 12
Author: Jason Gonsalves, Head of Strategy, BBH London
Our first ad for The Guardian broke on Wednesday night. It’s basically a product demo taken to epic proportions, re-telling and shedding new light on the classic story of the 3 Little Pigs. If you haven’t seen it already check it out and see what you think. Then below I’ve shared the thinking behind the work for anyone interested in hearing a little more.
Readers of this blog need little convincing of the merits of citizen journalism, crowd-sourcing and open platform collaboration. Nowadays eye witness accounts are shared instantly with the world through Twitter, whilst Google Alerts or new destinations like Gawker and Huffpo offer an alternative to traditional news brands. What’s more, we all know the broader Newspaper industry is struggling. Print circulations and revenues keep falling, and for most the business model simply isn’t working. Add to that mass criminality and corruption, and the long-term diagnosis looks terminal.
All this starts to beg the question, where does that leave a newspaper like The Guardian? It has to continue to be far more than simply an aggregator of opinion and comment. It’s an innovation business almost two centuries old, one looking to lead the global news agenda and set an example for how modern brands should behave.
Our brief was to help cut through preconceptions, engage new readers by bringing to life The Guardian’s remarkable transformation over the last 10 years from a left-wing, British newspaper to a global digital news hub.
This change has been driven by Alan Rusbridger, The Guardian’s editor and is built on a belief that in the modern world no single organisation can possibly claim to be sole arbiter of truth, with experts journalists working in isolation to pass down the day’s news to the masses. Instead, for The Guardian, modern news is a dynamic, participative and open dialogue in which the public and other news sources enrich and expand stories, inviting response and opinion. It’s open and mutual rather than closed and didactic. It’s iterative and alive rather than final and definitive. It’s multi-platform and digital first.
- Whilst most newspapers jealously guard the stories they are planning to cover, The Guardian now publish their news lists online daily, encouraging both public and experts to get in touch with their journalists if they feel the have something to contribute, advise on or just to have their say.
- When the MPs Expenses Scandal exploded, The Guardian swiftly built an app that enabled the public to get involved, sift through receipts and flag anything they decided was worthy of investigation.
- During Arab Spring, in addition to providing content from its journalists in the field, The Guardian invited Arab commentators to share their views and blog, in Arabic, on the Guardian’s platform.
- The Guardian’s open platform enables anyone to access data collected by the Guardian as well as providing a search tool so that users can search for government information from around the world. It also encourages readers to upload their own data visualisations or share their favourites.
Whilst The Guardian represents open news, it remains a brand with a point of view, with a role and purpose that is more, not less, important in today’s world. Rather than benefiting shareholders or a proprietor, the Guardian is owned by the Scott Trust which ensures that profits are reinvested to sustain journalism that is free from commercial or political interference. The trust, which was formed in 1936, and is named after CP Scott (Editor between 1872 and 1929) protects the Guardian’s commitment to a set of values that can be summarised as honesty, cleanness (today interpreted as integrity) courage, fairness and a sense of duty to reader and the community. Scott’s famous words “Comment is free, but facts are sacred” remind us of the importance of accuracy and truth in a world where information and opinion is ubiquitous. Relentless inquiry is the responsibility of organisations that want to set the news agenda, they must stop at nothing to get the bottom of the stories that matter. Nick Davies did just this – he was the Guardian journalist who spent 5 years finding and checking evidence and withstanding threats to uncover the truth behind the ’phone hacking at the News of the World.
If you couldn’t tell already, I’ll admit personally to being a huge fan. But I believe as digital innovators, creative pioneers, and champions of civil liberty and reform The Guardian is a rare and precious thing that deserves support. The story of the newspaper industry as we know is unlikely to conclude with a fairy-tale ending, but the Guardian is definitely painting an exciting vision of things to come.
Client Credits – The Guardian
David Pemsel, Marketing Consultant
Richard Furness, Head of Sales and Marketing, The Guardian
Anna Hayman, Marketing Manager, The Guardian
Media Buying Agency – PHD
Toby Nettle, Media Planner
Creative Agency – BBH
BBH Creative Director: David Kolbusz
BBH Creative Team: Matt Fitch & Mark Lewis
BBH Producer: Davud Karbassioun
BBH Production Assistant: Genevieve Sheppard
BBH Head of Strategy: Jason Gonsalves
BBH Team Director: Ngaio Pardon
BBH Team Manager: Alex Monger
BBH Team Assistant: Katie Burkes
BBH Creative Team (Print): Carl Broadhurst and Peter Reid
BBH Head of Art: Mark Reddy
BBH Designer: James Townsend
BBH Print Producer: Sally Green
BBH Creative Director: David Kolbusz
BBH Head of Strategy: Jason Gonsalves
BBH Team Director: Ngaio Pardon
BBH Team Manager: Alex Monger
BBH Team Assistant: Katie Burkes
Production Company – Rattling Stick
Director: Ringan Ledwidge
Producer: Chris Harrison
DoP: Franz Lustig
Editor/Editing House: Richard Orrick (Work post)
Post Production (Graphics + CGI effects): The Mill London
Sound Design: Will Cohen & Sam Brock
Music: Phil Kay (Woodwork Music)
14th February 12
Posted in Uncategorized
This morning, I had the privilege of co-presenting with Shaun Abrahamson, the CEO of Mutopo and active member of the Labs community. We’ve been discussing how companies inspire their customers to give them so much more than a purchase. Today, we presented the culmination of thinking* both Mutopo and BBH Labs have been doing about this topic. It covers what can reasonably be earned from customers (media can feel trivial in comparison), and what ambitious companies are offering in return across various social media platforms. Just to prove we really get it, we made our entire presentation a collection of examples and case studies. Now that’s earning value, isn’t it?
Click the image above to watch a video of the presentation. The slides can be found here.