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    • Part 4: Advertising is Dead, Long Live Advertising

      7th December 12

      This is the fourth and final post in a series based upon our submission to Wharton’s Advertising 2020 initiative. The structure we’re loosely following here: 8 years, 8 potential future opportunities, 8 things to do now.

      Previous instalments in the series are available here: Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3.

      ***

      #7 Big Data, Big Patterns

      “No thought can perish” ~ Edgar Allan Poe

      “There is no point in collecting and storing all this data if the algorithms are not able to find useful patterns and insights in the data,” says Mr. Kleinberg at Cornell. “But the software is scaling up to the task.” ~ New York Times, 09.09.12, ‘Tech’s new wave, driven by data’

      According to Gartner earlier this year, the hype curve for Big Data reached ‘The Peak of Inflated Expectations’ (with an estimated 2-5 year gap before it reaches the ‘Plateau of Productivity’). The accuracy of that timeframe has been debated, perhaps fairly when we consider the exponential growth in speed and volume of data collection and analysis and the collapsing path to purchase that we’ve discussed already here.

      In advertising, it seems only likely that algorithms will continue to do more of the commoditised, heavy lifting for brands and their users in terms of achieving reach, frequency and low level message optimisation. And, in monetisation terms, successful media owners will have recast themselves as data owners. To take just one example, The Weather Channel’s CEO, David Kenny, described to us how he sees the growing commercial role of data: Read full post

    • Part 3: Advertising is Dead, Long Live Advertising

      6th December 12

      This is the third post in a series based upon our submission to Wharton’s Advertising 2020 initiative. The structure we’re loosely following here: 8 years, 8 potential future opportunities, 8 things to do now.

      Previous instalments in the series are available here: Part 1 and Part 2.

      The final instalment will follow tomorrow.

      ***

      #5 Content Marketing: brands as content owners & partners

      By 2020, the difference in value between access to basic information (demands to be free) versus knowledge (“okay, that’s valuable, I may pay for it”) will have been worked through. Mainstream audiences won’t respect old media owner boundaries. A younger audience today already feel that way:

      “It is not our fault that their business has ceased to make sense in its traditional form…”

      “One more thing: we do not want to pay for our memories. The films that remind us of our childhood, the music that accompanied us ten years ago: in the external memory network these are simply memories. Remembering them, exchanging them, and developing them is to us something as natural as the memory of ‘Casablanca’ is to you. We find online the films that we watched as children and we show them to our children, just as you told us the story about the Little Red Riding Hood or Goldilocks. Can you imagine that someone could accuse you of breaking the law in this way? We cannot, either.”

      “We, the web kids”, Piotr Czerski, writing in 2012

      When information flows freely, traditional ‘middlemen’ relationships get disrupted, even collapse. Will this lead to the eventual or partial disintermediation of the media owner? Sure, some traditional media owners will make a full digital transition to expert curators, aggregators and creators in their fields of entertainment (music, games, film etc), information and news. Elsewhere, social platforms are connecting owners of great content to their own audiences, allowing their content to be found, searched, shared and watched together easily. Even in 2012, as Brian Norgard at Chill puts it, “Social is emerging as a starting distribution point for content.” Assuming this happens to some degree, it follows that aside from paid-for advertising, more and more successful brands will have:

      a) formed partnerships with content owners directly, and/or
      b) become bona fide content owners themselves.

      With (a), the opportunity is to face the issue together. Brands play a legitimate role, funding the distribution of valuable knowledge or content to savvy audiences who know their attention is valuable too. Think partner, not sponsor. It’s a transparent, transactional relationship with 3 parties: the end user gets high value content and experiences for free or subsidised; the brand earns awareness, earned word of mouth and even purchase in return; the producer gets funding, reach and publicity:

      The 3-Party Market (Chris Anderson, "Free" 2009) adapted by BBH Labs here

      With (b), brands act as publishers and content owners in their own right, distributing their own content via their own networks, building their own audience databases… rinse and repeat. What content can a brand credibly create that people will want to seek out, share and make their own? Already, brands like Red Bull, Ford, Coke et al are pouring budget into content, eschewing traditional bought media and distributing instead via seeding, PR and the social web. It’s an all or nothing strategy, your content needs to be nothing short of extraordinary. By way of example, DC Shoes’ 9 minute epic featuring Ken Block treating San Francisco as his personal gymkhana playground. It has 27m 35m views and counting. Read full post

    • Part 2: Advertising is Dead, Long Live Advertising

      6th December 12

      This is the second post in a series based upon our submission to Wharton’s Advertising 2020 initiative. The first, introductory post in the series was published yesterday, here. The structure we’re loosely following: 8 years, 8 potential future opportunities, 8 things to do now.

      Subsequent instalments to follow over the next day or so.

      ***

      #2 Everything is Connected: The Rise of the Networked Brand

      “The dynamic of our society, and our new economy, will increasingly obey the logic of networks..We are connecting everything to everything.”
      ~ Kevin Kelly, New Rules for the New Economy

      A little context as we imagine it: by 2020 the media environment will be fueled by speed-of-light broadband and unparalleled connection. The Internet of Things already exceeds in size our planet’s human population and will number 50 billion by 2020, as Cisco has it: devices, buildings, clothing, even people – all machine-readable, perpetually transmitting and receiving data, universally authenticated. Very few people will care about distinctions like ‘online’ versus ‘offline’; we won’t fetishise IRL. Forget QR codes, if your product could have an interactive communication layer added seamlessly to it, what would it do or say?

      The once clearly defined physical experiences of TV, Internet and gaming will continue to blur. By 2020, we will still want to use large screens for shared viewing, MMO gaming and epic, time-sensitive broadcast events, but that’s about it. We won’t bother talking about ‘connected’ TV or Internet TV, that particular war will be over: all devices will be Internet-enabled and capable of showing HD content. We’ll care about context and content (the relevance, cost and quality of the experience), not which cable or cloud it’s streaming from.

      In 2012, mainstream TV struggles to integrate web content seamlessly.

      In this context, a couple of things seem inevitable in terms of how the advertising model might be disrupted: Read full post

    • Advertising is Dead, Long Live Advertising.

      5th December 12

      Earlier this year we were asked by Wharton to contribute to their initiative “Advertising 2020” (a book and a companion online platform to be published), part of their Future of Advertising Program. They asked for answers to two questions:

      1. What could / should advertising look like in 2020?
      2. What do we need to do now for this future?

      This is an extended version of our contribution to the initiative, which we’ve broken into a series of posts. Today’s Part 1 is an introduction looking at the cultural context and our first thoughts on the implications for advertising. Subsequent instalments to follow over the next couple of days.

      “Life is just a premonition of a flashback.” ~ Nick Gill, after Steven Wright

      At BBH we don’t much like making predictions. Fundamental human motivations don’t change and actual behaviours change a hell of lot slower than we’d like to think: mankind may be programmed to progress for better or worse, but “behavior is just motivation filtered through opportunity”, as Clay Shirky so neatly puts it.

      Nonetheless, sitting here in 2012, it seems unimaginable that technology and media will do anything but continue to evolve at pace, nor does it seem likely that the dominant influence of those two industries over advertising will falter. So, deliberately, we’ve sought out and included as part of our submission a few words of advice from people working at the cutting edge coal-face of those industries. Read full post

    • Everybody Technology

      4th December 12

      Authors: Mareka Carter and Kimberley Gill, Creatives, BBH London

      YouTube Preview Image

      When we look into our mystic crystal balls of the future, who knows what we’ll be using technology-wise? Well, we could just shrug our shoulders and wait to see, or we could roll our sleeves up and get involved on the front line of development.

      The charity Royal London Society for the Blind has a dream about the future of tech and they came to us to see if we’d help them promote it.

      It’s a concept called Everybody Technology, a dream that tech companies, developers and users all collaborate to create and design with everyone in mind, creating 100% inclusive technology.

      To make concrete RLSB’s vision, we enlisted the help of the person who we felt would best deliver and represent both the disabled and able bodied – the great physicist Professor Stephen Hawking.

      His words are a rallying call to developmental arms, being ‘spoken’ by men, women and children, from different cultures, backgrounds and abilities. It encourages joining the Everybody Technology group, to create a network of developers and users to drive a revolution in thinking forwards

      The iPhone and iPad are certainly the modern day shining examples of this revolution, technology that each and every one can use, in very different ways. But it began way back in 1880 – with two Italian lovers. A blind woman, who couldn’t write to her partner had to dictate her sweet nothings to someone else aloud. Not very private – so to overcome the adversity, her husband invented the typewriter for her. Which developed into the keyboard this very post was tapped out on…

      RLSB see a future where more technology originating for specific needs enters the mainstream, and vice versa, enabling everybody to live fantastic lives to our full potential. That’s a future we quite fancy living in.

      If you agree and you’d like to get involved in Everybody Technology, then share our film or sign up to the group here.

    • Craft, the Journalist and the Agency Strategist

      23rd November 12

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in storytelling, strategy

      The Guardian’s Editor, Alan Rusbridger, came into BBH earlier this year and spoke to a group of us about what it takes to deliver open journalism. In particular he described how one of his most awarded journalists, Nick Davies, operates day-to-day. He shared three or four articles Davies had written recently, breaking down the anatomy of each story in meticulous detail. And it properly sank in that “open journalism” doesn’t just mean simply laying the news bare, unfiltered, checked or analysed, nor does it mean opening up a new fire hose of information in the hope someone will make sense of it.

      Perhaps the clue is in the phrase “Open Journalism”. As they say at The Guardian, “Comment is free, but facts are sacred”. The Guardian staff are information omnivores, analysts, fact checkers and storytellers. And, as Rusbridger put it to us, there are 3 characteristics that define ‘craft’ in journalism. Very few journalists master all three (Nick Davies is perhaps a rare example), but here they are:

      1. A relish or hunger to find out new intelligence
      2. The intellectual ability to see patterns in that data; see the big picture and understand the facts
      3. An ability to write beautifully

      It sounded strikingly similar to what makes a truly great Strategist in an agency. Three things a Strategist usefully might aim for, either way.

      Good weekends, all.

    • I Will Not Follow

      31st October 12

      Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

      Posted in Brands, strategy

      Author: Jim Carroll, Chairman, BBH London


      In 1983 Celtic troubadours The Waterboys released a song called “I Will Not Follow”. I’m pretty sure it was a response to U2′s anthemic “I Will Follow”. Answer songs have a rather mixed history (though I’m grateful to the category for providing us with Roxanne Shante and Althea & Donna…), and I suspect “I Will Not Follow” was not The Waterboys’ finest moment  Nonetheless, I admired their courage in taking on the emerging Titans of Rock. And I loved the sentiment. The determination not to go with the flow, not to follow the masses, not to get lost in the crowd. A passionate rejection of passivity. A celebration of the power of negative thinking.

      When I was in my last year at College, thoughts turned to possible careers. It was the late ’80s and , in the wake of the Big Bang, there was a magnetic pull towards the Big Job in The City. It was natural, obvious, exciting. The dark satanic thrills .. I recall my decision not to apply for a City role felt more significant to me than any subsequent active career choice.

      I used to interview young graduates looking for a job. I found that their CVs were curiously similar. When asked what they’d achieved in life, they’d say they’d travelled to Asia, captained the hockey team, and they liked skiing and reading. But when one asked what the candidate had chosen not to do, more singular answers were forthcoming.

      Some of our most important decisions are the paths we choose not to take,the roads we refuse to travel. Our lives can often be best understood by mapping the things we didn’t do, the words we didn’t say. Perhaps we should more often consider a brand’s unspoken truth, quiet regret. Because in its silence and inaction may reside its strength and identity.

      ‘If you gave me a pound for all the moments I’ve missed,
      And I took dancing lessons for all the girls I should’ve kissed.
      I’d be a millionaire, I’d be Fred Astaire’
      ABC – “Valentine’s Day”

      My first job after College was as a Qualitative Researcher. ‘Brand elasticity’ projects were very much in vogue. Could this everyday family margarine perhaps be a cheese, or a biscuit, or a ready meal or a jam? With a sip of Chardonnay and a nod of assent, my respondents would consistently give the green light to a whole host of reckless innovations and insane brand extensions. And over the years the song has remained the same, even if the lyrics have changed. Could my brand be an experience, a portal, a membership club? Could it be a hotel, a hub, a content provider? Could it release a clothing line with rugged check shirts, boxer shorts and rain resistant outerwear? Isn’t my brand more a lifestyle choice than a yellow fat?

      Curiously perhaps, research respondents find it easy to endorse our grandest aspirations. But then it’s not their money and maybe they’re just being polite. Sometimes it seems we need to be better at defining the limits of our ambition, at identifying the red line, the point beyond which we will not go. Sometimes we need to demonstrate more restraint, more discipline, more negativity.

      Many Clients are instinctively suspicious of the negative perspective. Surely it betrays a lack of confidence, enthusiasm, ambition? In order to sustain consistency they develop processes and platforms, models and matrices, funnels and formats. But best demonstrated practice is often worst demonstrated imagination. Over the years negative thinking has inspired truly exceptional communication by the likes of Dunlop, Audi, Marmite, Volvo, Stella and Guinness. What would a world be like without this brand? Who are its enemies? What is its weakness? Whenever one is confronted by the bland, boring or undifferentiated, it’s always helpful to reach for a liberating ‘not’.

      Of course in the age of the social web possibilities seem infinite. We want campaigns to be all embracing, 360º, holistic. We want to tick off platforms like some bizarre game of I Spy. We want all the colours in all the sizes. Yet I wonder if the democratisation of knowledge and opinion creates a kind of accelerated conformity: the Consensus of Crowds. Surely brand behaviour on the web would benefit from a little more negative thinking? Perhaps more discipline and self denial? Maybe we need to see more of the brand that likes to say ‘no’, the brand that will not follow…

      Every morning I face the horrors of commuting as I change Tube at Kings Cross. Crowded, crushed, compressed. Downbeat, dour, depressed. In order to get onto my teeming southbound train into the centre of town, I walk along the less cluttered northbound platform. Periodically empty northbound trains stop and then recommence their journey out to the quiet leafy suburbs. I’ve always promised myself that one day I’ll jump on one of those empty northbound trains, make my way to the end of the line, find a caff and settle down to The Guardian, bacon, eggs, tea and toast. One day…

    • Mean Brands

      14th October 12

      Posted by timnolan

      Posted in Brands, social media

      Additional credits: Angela Sun, James Francis, Mark Aronson and Julian Cole

      When people talk about brands being more human online, it somehow always concludes with something along the lines of “be honest, be transparent, be good, be nice”. While all these traits are great, we are overlooking one pretty huge issue: humans are not nice online.

      First, there’s trolling. In academic terms, Lee Sproull (PhD Professor Emerita at NYU’s Stern School of Business) said it best. He coined the term “flame wars” to describe how we act online: there is “an escalation of critical comments, and an increase in the frequency with which people would respond with short negative comments.” There’s no denying that people are mean online. Look at our own industry blogs like Agency Spy; we all know the comments there are just plain mean.

      Sure, trolling is usually done in anonymity, but people are still mean when their identities are revealed. According to a recent article from the WSJ, “most of us present an enhanced image of ourselves on Facebook. This positive image – and the encouragement we get in the form of “likes” – boosts our self-esteem. And when we have an inflated sense of self, we tend to exhibit poor self-control.” Is Facebook is turning us into The Plastics from Mean Girls?

      Some of us don’t partake in the mean behavior, but we are all entertained by it. A few of the biggest blogs rose to fame thanks to their snarky commentary. Think Perez Hilton, Suri’s Burn Book and People of Walmart. The internet is vast enough to show the full range of the human experience — including all the gritty, unsavory bits. The internet has also helped normalize these gritty, unsavory bits. We can now air out our guilty pleasures in plain daylight.

      So are brands really being more human online by employing CRM Twitter strategies (think Best Buy Twelpforce) and CSR Social Media Campaigns (think Pepsi Refresh)?

      While we’re not suggesting that brands should act as online bullies and ditch the nice work they do online, we do think there is space for brands to be more “human” online — brands should not homogenize online. We kicked around a few ideas on how to be mean online, and here are our thoughts. The list isn’t exhaustive by any means, but it should get your creative juices flowing.

      1. Brand v. Consumer
      People are mean to brands. Why can’t brands be mean to people?
      There are some people who will never be your customer (i.e. health nut probably will never eat at Jack in the Box). So when one of these people says something mean about your brand, give them a taste of their own medicine. For example, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, a small chain of movie theaters that has a strict policy against people who talk and text during a movie, posted a voicemail from a disgruntled customer who was kicked out of a theater on YouTube. As a result, they received almost 3 million views and a bunch of love and support.

      This is a pretty polarizing tactic. But for certain brands, the people who love your brand will love your brand even more when your brand doesn’t back down. The tension between the fans and foes can also strengthen brand love and increase brand advocacy.

      2. Brand v. Brand
      Frenemies exist. Should brands instigate cross-category rivalries in social media?
      A social media conversation between two obvious brands would be a bit predictable (see the Twitter exchange between Coke and Pepsi here). The intuitive rivalry for Old Spice would be one with Axe or even Dove for Men. However, Old Spice keeps us on our feet by creating dialogue with Taco Bell.

      This is incredibly smart because the Taco Bell demographic aligns well with the Old Spice target — dudes/ bros. Taco Bell has 265K followers on Twitter and Old Spice has 221K. Though there might be overlap in their fan/follower-base, conversation between the brands helps each gain more relevant followers (biologists call this cross-pollination). For brands with little followings, creating rivalries with highly social brands can help beef up its number of followers, fans and likes.

      3. Brand v. Organizations
      Haters gon’ hate. What can you do about it?
      For brands with the mean gene, good organizations might tattletell. Gossip Girl’s OMFG print ads offended parents everywhere. So much so, the Parents Television Council took enough action to get the OMFG campaign taken down. A season after the campaign was pulled, the CW chose to use quotes from the protesters to advertise the show.

      Though this was not a digital example, social media can be a great mechanism for a rapid response, content strategy. If this was online content, the CW could have quickly replaced its banners and other online assets with the revised versions fuelling the fire. The ads would have created even more noise and buzz for the show.

      The basic premise behind a mean brand strategy is to lean into existing online behaviors to build brand allegiance. It takes a lot to break through in the digital space. Perhaps, the benefits of implementing a mean online strategy is worth the risks. It’s a little like life; “the only way to have everyone like you is to avoid taking a controversial stance on anything… You won’t stand out to anyone and you won’t offend anyone. In business, a dull existence means a weak brand” (source: Fast Company 2012).

    • Social Coding: Git with it.

      3rd October 12

      It is quite obvious that we here at Labs are huge fans of both the open source community, and idea of social-coding platforms. It would go without saying that being fans of such a community is not enough, one would argue that we should not only be an observer, but also a participant. That being said, we looked at a few of the internal projects and experiments we have worked on and felt that at this point we should share bit of code with the rest of the Internet.

      What began as an exploration in Processing quickly became a prototype and finally a solid bit of code that is a complete application. We called it The GIF-A-MATRON, and it is a processing application that interprets the brightness of the webcam’s image and translates it to dots that scale based on that image creating abstract interpretation. In the background the application detects a vistor’s motion and secretly captures three frames, two seconds apart and creates an animated GIF. The GIF is then send via PHP to a destination tumblr site for all to see.

      Once we showed it around to a few folks, people instantly liked it. The next logical step was to release it as source for others to build upon, and interpret into what ever they see fit. It’s primary function is something like a animated gif generating photo booth, but we are interested to see where it goes from here. Feel free to grab the source from our Github page. If you do add a twist, let us know, we would love to see what you do with it.

    • The Things You Need versus The Things You Love

      25th September 12

      Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

      Posted in Sustainability

      Authors: Kimberley Gill and Mareka Carter, Creatives, BBH London

      Do we really, really, want those Louboutin shoes? Can’t we live without that hand printed wallpaper? Maybe we can all take a little step back from what we think we want or need, and consider the realities of other peoples lives. Pinterest struck us as being the perfect place to highlight the contrast between its regular users’ lives and those who have far less, giving us a bit of a reality check.

      YouTube Preview Image

      Our charity partner AMREF’s focus this year is maternal health – in particular young girls in rural Tanzania who are becoming mothers as young as 11 years old, due to traditions and lack of sexual health education. So Pinterest is our chosen platform to give a young mother a voice to express herself and the realities of her life.

      Our search for a girl who would become AMREF’s voice for the project started back in April. The AMREF team over in Tanzania put forward Sihiba Yusufu, a girl who had become pregnant at the age of 11. Now 13, Sihiba is trying to bring up her baby and look after herself. She feels strongly about what happened to her and doesn’t want it to happen to any more young girls.

      What seems like a really simple and quick project has actually been a little while in the making, for the important reason that we wanted this project to be as genuine as possible. The Pinterest account has to be from Sihiba herself, and not by AMREF on her behalf. There have been many challenges along the way – the iPhone got stuck in customs, helping Sihiba learn to use Pinterest, working out the logistics of keeping the phone charged in rural Tanzania. And of course making Sihiba’s safety a priority – so she has the support of an AMREF peer educator during the project.

      Sihiba’s Pinterest profile can be found here: Please follow her and her boards, comment on and share her images and her film, to stand up for African mothers and help create social value from pinning. Let’s use social media to show what people need, rather than what they desire.

      You can also donate to support AMREF’s important work here.

      Children with Children is a @BBHBarn project by Mareka Carter, Kimberley GillMichael Nagy & James Briggs, with thanks of course to Pinterest.

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