9th August 12
This piece was originally published in Creative Circle’s 2012 Annual last month. It’s packed full of advice from the great and the good, with special mention to our own John Hegarty and also to Ben Kay on how to write an advertising blog. You can buy a copy of the annual in magazine form here.
Author: Nick Gill, Executive Creative Director, BBH London
‘Creative’. I’ve never really come to terms with this word. The very notion that some people are defined as creative, whether by trade or persuasion, I still find strange. Even if I wasn’t creative the last thing I’d do is admit to it.
When I was at school I never thought of myself as a creative person. Just someone who could draw and paint quite well. And these basic skills would be my ticket out of obscurity.
But growing up I soon realised that for all my talent I was never going to be an artist. It wasn’t that I wasn’t good enough. I just wasn’t made that way.
Because someone had tuned my brain to solving problems. Give me a blank sheet of paper and I’d break out in a cold sweat. Ask me to draw a picture that included a giraffe, a lawn mower and a magic carpet and I’d enjoy working out how to cunningly weave these three seemingly disparate objects into one satisfying image.
I went to art college in Manchester. I stood in the graphic design studio on day one, waiting for a tutor to read out my name. But it never happened. This is because they had me down for another course. One entitled ‘Design for communication media’. ‘What’s that when it’s at home?’ I enquired. ‘Advertising’ came the reply. And that’s how I got into this business. I fell into it. Like a drunk tripping over a chair leg and landing in the arms of Charlize Theron. I am one lucky bastard.
Because advertising is a great career. And ‘creative’ is a truly wonderful way to go through life. To make money out of your imagination is as exciting as it is scary.
What have I learned from my time in the business? Here are a few things that might help. Read full post
19th July 12
Authors: Fran Hazeldine, Head of Strategy and Pelle Sjoenell, Executive Creative Director, BBH LA
A few weeks ago we asked Planners and Creatives from a range of agency backgrounds to fill out a short survey about the Planner / Creative relationship.
As promised, we’ve got some results to share. If you like your slides with added innuendo, our Planningness presentation is available here. But it’s quite minimalist and really needs the voice over, so we’ve summarized the main findings below.
A few notes on the sample
The 324 respondents were a mixture of self-selecting BBH Labs readers, people from our extended professional networks and anyone else we could persuade to take part. So there are probably all sorts of research effects that mean you shouldn’t take any of the results as hard fact – more food for thought and discussion.
What do we know about the survey respondents? Not surprisingly, we had more Planners than Creatives. And the Creatives tended to be more experienced and male. There was also a heavy North American and European skew across the board.
But despite collecting a mass of demographic info, the results we’re sharing are not split out by gender, age or region. We tried cutting the data along these lines, but any variation was remarkably unremarkable. So instead we’ve focused on the simple comparison between Planners and Creatives, which turned up some much juicier stats. Read full post
18th July 12
Posted in storytelling
Author: James Mitchell, Strategist, BBH London & BBH Labs
The girl, Nina , is dressed for a meeting. “I’ve only got two business plans left,” she states matter-of-factly. She places two objects on the table in front of me: a condom, and a pouch of pills. “I would be very grateful if you could decide.”
I hesitate, and the girl’s mask of professionalism falters. “These are my only options, so could you choose…please..?”
In that moment, I realise that my choice is her choice, and her choice is the choice of a hundred young people across London.
At an IPA event on Tuesday, Saatchi’s Head of Planning Richard Huntingdon commented that “beyond all else, what we do is empathy.” It’s true – the comms we create should be an act of empathy towards our audience. When the problem is just right, empathy itself can be the answer. Complicated issues of debate – particularly around things like social justice, where the topic is one we don’t like to discuss – can lose people in the discussion. When the most important measure of success is understanding, the quickest route to the head is through the heart, as empathy. Parents know this. When they try to convince children of the wrongness of a situation, the phrase you’ll most often hear is: “well, how would you like it if…?”
When we feel anger or distrust towards someone we’re often told to walk a mile in their shoes. As humans, we’re actually very good at playing roles and seeing things from another person’s point of view – if we get the right prompts. But executionally, it’s a fine balance. You have to manage the audience’s experience positively enough to draw them into a character, and only then can you subject that character to their (often harrowing) fate. Finally, the immersive experience must offer the ‘immersed’ some sense of redemption, the sense that there’s something to be done to give this character a better future than their present. Only then can the audience leave not just with understanding, but with the desire to act.
One of the most profound cases of alienation that divides “us and them” is shocking because it’s so everyday – homelessness. Centrepoint Parliament know this all too well. They campaign to raise awareness of youth welfare, but it’s easy for the messages to get lost in the debate. We all remember the point and counterpoint that swirled around the London riots last August. Whose responsibility was it – the kids’? The media’s? Blackberry’s? British society was about to give up the youth for lost and no amount of rational discourse would overcome those images in the press of a burning M&S, a looted Tesco, a burnt-out car.
Centrepoint Parliament needed a way to viscerally cut through it all – and over six months, we worked with them to find it. The answer came directly from recordings of the youth hostel itself. No rhetoric, hyperbole or ‘advertising’ could match a simple recreation of the truth – this was Nine Rooms, an experiential theatre piece devised by its own members, with help from BBH. You are placed directly into the worst scenes of a young homeless person’s life – the loneliness, the idleness, and the dilemmas.
My choice made, I hand the item to Nina. Her expression flickers with pain but all she says is a polite “thank you for your time.” She collects her notes and walks out, leaving me alone with the untaken choice, and a sense of gratitude that I’ll never have to make this kind of decision for myself.
They are scenes that we all have suspected are happening to ‘someone, somewhere’, and internally written off as the facts of life. To be forced to go through them – to wear the shoes – drags them out of the realm of statistics in the head, and into a the form of a nuanced human experience in the heart. To read the impact Nine Rooms had on people is both affecting and uplifting. It’s clear that the power of the performance has made this a brief well answered:
“Powerful and emotive. So well done to get in touch with the reality of homelessness. Portrayed in a way which allows the audience to feel what the characters feel.”
“Moving and very effective – being so close and personal made it a hard journey.”
“Powerful stuff. Is this really going on in London? We all get so tied up in our lives that we don’t know what’s really going on. Thank you for the experience.”
There were tough strategic choices to be made, too – we reasoned that delivering a powerful experience for the few was better than a message that would get tuned out by the many – as long as those few were so impacted that they would pass it on. The sense of shock and outrage we got from our comments book shows that it’s worked. And as we said above, immersive theatre at its best doesn’t just affect people, it moves them to take action – in this case, signing the petition to restore careers advice services so that no young person has to make Nina’s choice.
From ‘events’ like Secret Cinema to political projects (Coney’s Early Days Of A Better Nation) and even new twists on horror, both secular (Hotel Medea) and sanctimonious (see the rise in the US Evangelical concept of the scare-you-straight “Hell House”), immersive theatre has come into its own as a way of heightening reality for a media-skeptic generation. Even traditional media becomes that much more powerful when technology lets us step into the scene (see the experiential touches of our own work for Missing People). Whilst at its most shallow, ‘experience’ is a play for PR-able creativity, at its best, it’s a dose of empathy that’s truly transformative.
Ask the residents of Nine Rooms.
You don’t have to have been through the rooms to take action – sign Centrepoint Parliament’s petition here.
5th July 12
Last month Google asked me along to their Creative Sandbox in Cannes to give a ‘lightning talk’ about ‘something I was particularly interested in’. Luckily, they gave me just 15 minutes to speak or we would have been there all day in the baking heat.. Thank you to everyone who came along and asked lots of questions afterwards – here, for what it’s worth, is a record of what got discussed.
I’d like to talk about 2-3 things here, loosely connected by a theme around how and why we should keep contributing to, using and building the open web:
1. The Guardian, the UK newspaper (a client of BBH London) and their ‘open journalism’ positioning.
2. A project we’re developing at BBH Labs called Robotify.me.
3. A postscript on how we like to work here and what “open and constant learning” means in practice.
2nd July 12
Posted in online video
Want to find out how to get a great look under even the most trying of conditions? Let YouTube celebrity and makeup artist Lauren Luke show you how in this helpful tutorial:
If that wasn’t quite what you were expecting, you’ll know what Lauren’s many followers and their friends will be experiencing over the coming days, as a result of our partnership with Lauren and domestic abuse charity Refuge. It’s a very different approach for a charity, but it’s one that we think is vital to help them adapt to a very different type of audience, and a different type of public conversation.
The world is noisy. Everyone has something to say. But there are some things people just don’t want to talk about. And in a media landscape catering to our individual needs, people don’t have to talk or hear about things they don’t want to.
People don’t want to talk about domestic abuse.
MORE THAN JUST AN AWARENESS ISSUE
When society doesn’t talk about the big important problems, particularly the ones that may cause fear or discomfort, a vacuum of knowledge inevitably forms, quickly filled with misinformation.
People think that everyone “gets” what domestic abuse is. They’re wrong. Research shows that more than half of teenage girls aged 13-18 have experienced sexual violence at the hands of a partner – and considered it normal. 40% of teenage girls would consider giving a boyfriend a second chance if he hit them. A third believe that cheating justifies the use of violence.
By not loudly and continuously reinforcing that domestic abuse is a problem, society sends a message that it isn’t serious. By ignoring the issue, it is normalised, and creates a generation of potential victims.
In a very real sense, silence kills. Two women in the UK die at the hands of an abusive partner or ex-partner every week. Talking saves lives.
That’s why Refuge’s call to action is “speak up, save a life”. But speaking to teenage girls requires a different type of speaking up: one tailored to a fragmented media landscape, a group focussed on entertainment rather than weightier issues, and a subject that discourages discussion.
A CASE FOR SUBVERSION
A traditional disruptive approach wasn’t going to work. But we knew our audience wouldn’t come to use through choice. Our response has been to create a piece of communication directly tailored to the way that teen girls consume and communicate information. That encourages them to become part of the conversation on their terms. Not disruption of their experience, so much as a subversion of it.
We knew we’d have to sneak our message into an existing channel that our audience were already interested in in a way that created maximum impact. Considering the role of subversion of expectation in viral spread – viral activity often takes the form of practical joking – we realised that the more that we could increase that sense of contrast between expectation and content, the higher the likelihood of spread.
And we wanted to make sharing and commentary the call to action, because sharing is how teens conduct public debate. It allows them to make a stand without exposing their own opinions and be part of something with a low risk of emotional or social damage. Viral behaviour is their version of the town square, the salon or the pub.
In effect, we were creating a practical joke with a purpose that couldn’t have been more serious: shocking people out of their complacency around domestic abuse, and allowing them to take a stand against it on their terms.
What we needed to do was find a Trojan horse who would carry our message to young women. That was where Lauren Luke came in.
Lauren’s relationship with her audience is paramount; every content decision and direction she makes is with her subscribers in mind. Her enthusiasm for the cause and participation in shocking her fans is, in short, the kind of unstinting bravery needed to tackle domestic violence as a subject.
The film itself has been deliberately designed to maximise the shock of the contrast between the context and content: particularly Lauren’s chirpy demeanour contrasting with her appearance. But this wasn’t about forcing a scripted film into a social channel. We provided a general framework and direction for Lauren and allowed her the space and time to make the film her own: a challenge she rose to brilliantly.
We then wanted to make sure the content was framed in a way that maximised the stunt aspect: the copy that appears alongside the film wherever it is shared is intended to draw people in without ever giving an indication of the content.
Finally, our call to action is the most simple and natural one that our audience know: share. And by sharing, speak out.
Copywriter: Jack Smedley
Art Director: George Hackforth
Art Director: Stephen Noble
Film directed by: Wesley Hawes and Gary McCreadie
Creative Director: Pablo Marques
Strategists: Claire Coady & Simon Robertson
26th June 12
Great brands have long understood that providing customers with enjoyable, differentiated user experiences is critical to winning their loyalty. Walk in to a Waitrose supermarket or Kohl’s store and there’s no comparison to a Tesco or a kmart from the layout of aisles, to the attitude of the staff to the products they do and don’t stock.
‘Screen’ UX offers brands a whole range of new opportunities to really deliver on their promises and strengthen their customer relationships. But too often this is a missed opportunity, we end up with experiences that are good but not great. They work, they conform to best practice rules & standards but if you take away the logo they are indistinguishable from each other.
Wind tunnel web design?
The screen shots above are from a recent Zag audit of the Personal Finance Manager (PFM) market but the point applies to plenty of other categories. Jim Carroll has spoken passionately here about the Wind Tunnel Marketing but are we also in danger of entering the age of Wind Tunnel Web/UI design?
We believe that the most effective way to avoid this situation is to put brand at the heart of UX, to use it as the north star to guide the myriad of interactions and touchpoints that brands create for their customers.
Of course this is easy to say, much harder to do. Here are 6 ingredients that we find help foster a successful fusion of brand and UX, based on projects we’ve worked on and projects we wish we’d worked on. It’s certainly not comprehensive, more intended as a conversation starter – we’d really like to hear about other ingredients that people find useful here.
#1 A proper understanding of your audience
This is obvious but too often people pay lip service to this area. You really need to know the needs, interactions and emotions that colour their experience of your brand and your category. And even more importantly is to have genuine empathy for them as PEOPLE not consumer/users. He’s not a 25-44 year old ABC1, he’s a proud dad who works to hard and reads to his kids too quickly on Thursday nights so he can go out with the boys and so on...
#2 A proper understanding of your brand’s purpose
Again obvious. But again too often this is more about platitudes than purpose. For this to work you need to have really asked the tough questions of the brand in question. Why is it really there? What is its role really?
Nike’s purpose is one of the best I’ve seen for this sort of thing. It’s inspirational, it’s directional and it’s very very stretching. Nike will never complete this mission but they are creating a lot of amazing products while they’re trying. The CEO Mark Parker was instrumental in pushing this mission through eleven years ago. It’s hard to see the previous one (‘to be the number sports & fitness company in the world’) being much use as a guiding principle for UX…
#3 Appreciate that the rules of branding have changed
When we say ‘brand’ we don’t mean a didactic set of messages, rules and templates to roll out over every touch-point. We mean a coherent set of guiding principles to help designers make the right decisions about what to say and what to do. Adaptable rather than monolithic. Otherwise the whole exercise will do more harm than good.
#4 Run a collaborative multi-discipline process
Every project has a different set of skillsets but one thing we’ve found always leads to better results is to keep it open and collaborative from the outset. So we make sure our graphic/digital designers are challenging (or even writing!) the business/brand strategy on any project from a very early stage. This helps avoiding the platitude/purpose issue touched upon early. If the brand strategy isn’t speaking to the people charged with bringing it to life then it’s probably pointless.
If you’ve got the above ingredients in place then you should be in a really good place to try and achieve something special, to make the brand thinking tangible and improve it:
#5 Create signature interactions
Flipboard is there to be beaten as an example of brand and UX. A clear vision to be a ‘Social Magazine’ that fuses the beauty and ease of the print magazine experience with the power of social media. The signature interaction of the gentle ‘flip’ movement. And it’s in the name!
Wonga’s ‘money sliders’ are another powerful example. They exemplify ‘straight talking money’ and a more down to earth approach to finance every time you to interact with them.
#6 Surprise people (in a useful way)
Everyone knows the situation. You’ve finally reached the end of a critical project phase. You are sending the authoritative, definitive email to all the stakeholders to wrap everything up, accompanied by the pdf of the amazing work…and then you send the email without the attachment and have to send another going “ahem’ here’s the attachment”. Except when I [Steve] was in the process of executing this understandable error Gmail stopped me.
You can be sure that anyone who’s experienced that bit of help will tell a lot of people and be more loyal to the brand in the future.
To us this is the benchmark in terms of moments of surprise and delight. Here is a brand using ‘screen’ UX to build relationships with their customers in as powerful a way as Waitrose are using their store experiences.
What are the equivalent moments for the brands you work on?
If you enjoyed this post then we should acknowledge the influence of inestimable @adamtvpowers, BBH London’s Head of UX.
19th June 12
Author: Ross Berthinussen, Strategy Director, BBH London
At 11 o’clock this morning, we premiered the launch ad for our new Olympic campaign for British Airways on Facebook. At 7.35pm GMT this evening, it will be broadcast to the UK, just before kick off in England’s critical, final group game in the Euros.
The campaign is a rallying cry for Britain to stay at home during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to support the national team. Just this once, when its country needs it most, when the Olympic Games comes to London, Britain’s national airline is telling Britain not to fly.
Even with its tongue in cheek tone, it’s a bold move. I thought I’d share some of the thinking behind the campaign and some things we’ve learned along the way.
We’ve had a turbulent journey with BA over the last six and a half years. We’ve been with them through the PR disaster of T5, fog, volcanic ash, the recession and industrial disputes. But right now, confidence is high. They have new leadership, they’re financially solid after the merger with American and they’re reinvesting in the customer.
Our communication has had a job to do to help restore this confidence – to rebuild pride inside the organisation and the emotional connection the nation has with its flag carrier.
In September last year, the airline recommitted to “To Fly. To Serve”, a motto that has lived in the organisation for over fifty years, with a campaign that celebrated the people who live their lives by this ethos. We followed this fast with a campaign in February that heroed the BA team who were ready to welcome the world to London for the Olympics.
Our body language over this time has been critical. To instil confidence we had to act with confidence. We bought big TV spots, press insertions and outdoor sites. We had the confidence to lighten up. We featured an orangutan and racing baggage in our ads. This summer billboards across London will rally Britain, “Don’t Fly. Support Team GB”.
Build in reward
We hope people are going to lean into this idea: we’ve got a series of high profile TV spots this week to build conversation; with the British Olympic Association’s backing we’ve persuaded members of Team GB and Paralympics GB to share the ad – so a lot of people will hear about it first from the athletes; and hopefully the nature of the idea will spark interest and debate.
So we wanted to build reward in for those who want to get a bit closer.
We’ve created a customisable version of the TV ad online in which you can enter your postcode and, using the Google Streetview API, watch a version of the film with the plane taking a detour down your street. To premiere the ad this morning, BA’s facebook community were asked to first enter their postcode to receive a personalised version of the film.
We’ve made a documentary with Michael Johnson, Sir Clive Woodward, Denise Williams and Shelly Woods, that explores the difference it makes for sports people to compete on home soil with a nation behind them.
The ad itself has scenes that reward multiple viewing – like the old lady onboard who checks the time on her watch as she passes Big Ben.
And we might have made a short film that suggests there might have actually been a plane driving through Richmond Park – whilst making a nod to the Fenton viral.
Do vs. say
We obsess a lot at BBH about getting to different kinds of ideas. Asking what can we do, rather than what can we say, seemed a good place to start here. The creative brief for this idea was, “what can we do to show our support for Team GB?”
Have a point of view, start a conversation
We got to the idea of telling Britain not to fly early. It became grounded when we listened to an ex Olympian talk about the concept of the home advantage. This gave the brand a point of view on the Games and the guts of our campaign. All our activity invites you to join in with #homeadvantage.
Get everyone onboard
There are over 40,000 people working at BA. There was a chance that they might not like us telling people not to fly. We needed them to understand that this was the ultimate expression of our support for Team GB, that it would help build the brand and that people wouldn’t take us too literally. So BA have been running a huge internal programme to get them onside and share the thinking behind the campaign.
We’re telling people not to fly but we still need to sell flights. Whilst we can’t be seen to promote travel over the Games we can offer money off flights and holidays to get away afterwards – this idea actually came from our client in the meeting when we first shared the idea.
Be generous (and dodge the tornado)
You have two fears developing a campaign as an Olympic sponsor. One, that you will appear cynical, simply piggybacking on the event for your own gain. Two, that you will be swept up in the tornado of other sponsors (and hi-jackers) vying for people’s attention and time. Brands trying to claim that they are also faster, higher, stronger. Or showcasing athletes using their products.
This campaign builds on a series of things BA have been doing over the last few years to support Team GB and Paralympics GB, including flying the team and its equipment around the world, which has built credibility in this space. We hope that this Olympics, by zagging when everyone zigs, by having the courage to admit that the fortune of the British team is more important than buying our product, we will not only dodge the tornado but be seen as genuinely contributing to the performance of the British Team.
We couldn’t have got here without a brilliant relationship with a very brave client, a talented BBH team and the support of a tight team of agency and production partners including Zenith Optimedia, IMG, Cake, 12th Floor, Partizan, Framestore, Stitch, Angell Sound, Black Sheep Music, Google and Paul Zak at Burnham Niker.
(And, it goes without saying, if you’re British and reading this, please consider staying at home and supporting Team GB and Paralympics GB during the Games. Your support could be the difference between silver and gold).