What We’re Reading – Summer Special

As a refugee from the genteel world of publishing, it’s been a pleasant surprise to realise that my colleagues are actually a seriously literary bunch, with a varied taste in books of all shapes and sizes. So here’s this month’s BBH reading pics, featuring narco-thrillers, classic fiction, philosophy, social commentary and, to kick off, the superest of superheroes.

Amazing Spider-Man #19.1, Written by Gerry Conway, Illustrated by Carlo Barberi, Reviewed by Matt Fitch, Creative


In this issue, Spider-Man finds himself caught between a cabal of super criminals known as the ‘Circus of Crime’ who are back and deadlier than ever.

To be honest, it’s not a great issue. There have been some great Spider-Man storylines recently (Death of Peter Parker, Spider-Verse) but it seems like for now we’re coasting through generic-ville while we wait for the next big plot turn.

But I don’t mind. I love Spider-Man. Always have, always will. He’s the superhero for the people, a timeless everyman who faces as many battles in his humdrum day-to-day life as he does in his crime-fighting moments.

Everybody, from teenagers, to students, to young professionals, to Dads (of which I have been all at one time or another) can relate to the trials and tribulations of Peter Parker.

Despite the fact that they’re now a mainstream, billion dollar industry, some people still maintain that comics are for kids. Spider-man proves they’re not.

Matt’s love of Spider-Man and comics in general have inspired him and his creative partner Mark Lewis to create their own comic, Frogman, which lovingly riffs on the whole comic book genre. The latest issue, Frogman 3: The Death of Frogman, is currently funding on Kickstarter, and you can read issue #1 for free here.

The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, by John Le Carré, reviewed by Sacha Ward, Head of Copy

It’s 1962 and Alex Leamas, a British spy in Berlin, is rapidly going to seed. But before he can come in from the Cold, he must frame and expose a high-ranking, deadly East German operative. Even if, after a career of deception, it means surrendering what little morality he has left.

Le Carré’s plot is as dark and devious as the times it was written in. More than 50 years later, it remains relevant – questioning the morality of intelligence gathering methods and whether a righteous end can justify any means.

The Cartel, by Don Winslow, reviewed by Jeremy Ettinghausen, Innovation Director


It felt a strange coincidence to be finishing this fictionalised account of the Drug Wars and their effect on Mexico as Joaquin ‘el Chapo’ Guzman was walking out of his high security jail cell through a mile long tunnel. But then again, fact is often stranger than fiction in a country where corruption, violence and collusion between criminals, law enforcement and government are all endemic, ever-present and devastating in their effect on ‘civilian’ Mexicans.

A sequel to the fantastic Power of the Dog, The Cartel can be read and even enjoyed as a bang-up-to-date narco-thriller. But as it would belittle the scope and gravitas of The Wire to describe it as a ‘police drama’, so The Cartel is, by way of Winslow’s research, empathy and ambition, far more than an unputdownable thriller. It’s powerful, brutal and illuminating – and well worth reading.

On The Shortness of Life, by Seneca, reviewed by Samantha Choo, Strategist
I’ve discussed this book with many, and the one thing that keeps coming up is how amazing it is that something written over 2,000 years ago is still so relevant today. In this essay, Seneca challenges the notion that life is short – it only seems short to us plebs because we waste so much of it. Life, he posits, is long if you know how to use it. This is not to say that we should bury ourselves in our work and become superhumans (or inhuman, depending on how you look at it), doing everything for everyone all the time – busyness is in fact the greatest distraction from living. We mindlessly and mechanically go through the motions, present ourselves at our obligations (work, family, society) while being absent from ourselves, mistaking the doing for the being. A must-read for anyone finding themselves empty day after day.


The Circle, by Dave Eggers, reviewed by Stephen Pirrie, Social Strategy Director


Dave Eggers’ The Circle is now a couple of years old – a lifetime in tech – but with each passing month, it becomes more like reality. Set in the near-future, Eggers introduces us to the world’s most dominant tech company The Circle. The Circle releases products that feel unnervingly realistic – not far off what Google or Facebook would release – the ability to search anyone’s past history (back to their colonial roots) or tiny connected cameras that can document everything from what’s going on in your home to personal interactions.

Eggers’ near-future is far from an obvious state-dictated dystopia which makes it all the more unsettling and unnerving – we already let this technology into our homes, willingly. The Circle raises profound questions we should all be asking of social media, personal data and privacy. Readers (myself included) may write it off claiming that we wouldn’t let an invasion of our privacy go so far – until you open the latest Photos app from Google, search for a “car” or “beach” and wonder how the devil Google knows what’s in your photos. More technology like this exists, the key holders simply haven’t turned it on yet.

How to Build a Girl, by Caitlin Moran, reviewed by Charlie Dodd, Producer

It is shocking only by its ability to say the things that are absolutely true that I would like to be able to say without feeling shocked. I found myself hiding the pages I read on the tube this morning in case a man read these secrets of a 17 year old girl when the whole point of the book (and the basis of liberal modern woman) is that these things shouldn’t be matters for embarrassment. Most confusing and liberating. Not high literature but highly important reflections of woman and girlhood.

Far From the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy, reviewed by Selina Strasburger, Account Manager


I 100% admit to reading this book because I saw the movie poster on the underground. I read Tess of the D’Urbervilles ages ago and did not enjoy it … at all. She made me angry, he made me angry, everyone in the book made me angry, and it was all just so tragic. After that I decided to avoid Hardy as I didn’t think I could take the emotional trauma. However, I’m glad to report that Far from the Madding Crowd didn’t leave me a total mess. It stars a feisty young woman named Bathsheba and three very different men who are all after her affection. The book has all the drama and all the unfortunate happenstance that Hardy loves, but manages to maintain a thread of hope and humour throughout it. Well worth a read.


Digital Digest, Asia Pacific – February edition

We’ve enjoyed our friend Carol Ong’s digital digest out of BBH China for a good while now and it feels long overdue to share it. She has kindly agreed to cross-publish a monthly round-up of the best digital and technology stories coming out of China and Asia Pacific that she gathers at her blog. More on some broader implications to follow next month. For now, the February edition.

Author: Carol Ong, Associate Creative Director, BBH China (@cbongga)

Hi everyone,

I started a Digital Digest email group last year to curate some cool stuff I find in the digital space, particularly in China and Asia. A personal project originally intended for colleagues and clients, it got good feedback, and when other people asked to be in the mailing list…. I decided to post the newer Digital Digest to a more public space, on my personal blog (warning, lots of baby pictures!).

Mel also asked me to do a “Best of Digital Digest” on a monthly basis for BBH Labs. So here it is for this month. Happy Chinese New Year!

Just tap this link to go directly to the Digital Digests.

A peek into what the Chinease technology industry is like

Last year, upcoming Chinese mobile XiaoMi made the global tech geeks sit up and notice when Android star Hugo Barra joined them. He made a presentation in Paris on the amazing potential of China. Such as: disposable income triples in the last 8 years. 122+ billionaires and lots of them in the their 40s and 50s. Ecommerce, mcommerce, mobile social media and China’s version of Pay Pal are much bigger and better than their US counterparts.

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Have you tried hailing cabs in China and none would stop even if they’re all empty? Taxi booking apps exploded in 2013. People started “bidding” for cabs, by guaranteeing tips. The biggest ones, Kuaide and Didi, are backed by Alibaba and Tencent respectively.  In 2014, you can now use WeChat to book, bid, and pay Didi!

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With the rise of mobile came the rise of GIFs. But it’s so hard to search for the right GIFs, isn’t it? Not anymore. Enter frame Giphy (pronounced as Jiffy). It’s the search engine for GIFs. Try it, search “puppies”. You’re welcome.
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Very good tips for online films and TVCs.

Wechat evolves faster than a newborn baby! I believe this is the Chinese social platform with the most potential to become global (not Sina Weibo). Wechat’s reached 270million active users last November 2013, and 600 registered users. It’s the new marketing favorite and the uses seems endless. Here are some interesting ways brands used Wechat.

See all public Digital Digests:

That’s all folks! See you next month!


An invitation to party for #Good

Author: Nicolas Jayr (@nicolasjayr), Team Manager, BBH London

Screen Shot 2013-09-30 at 21.45.10

BBH & Wieden+Kennedy are joining forces to organise a fundraising party in the name of #GOOD to support the T.I.E. initiatives which I will lead in Brazil with Grupo Ruas e Pracas and Hanne Haugen (Account Director @WK) will lead in Uganda with The Kasiisi Project.

Both of us thought it would be a great idea to unite our efforts and put up a night of music and entertainment to raise awareness of our projects and celebrate with everyone who will have contributed to the fundraising efforts.
Venue and date as follows:

Friday 11 October, 6PM to 12PM, Corbet Place, E1 6QR, Shoreditch.

There will be music, dancing, DJs from both BBH and WK sides and a fantastic live act in the name of the Danish artist, MØ (check her out here).

Most importantly, your presence will help support the work that Hanne and I will be doing for organisations that affect real social change.

Tickets are £10 per head. 100% of that will go to Grupo Ruas e Pracas and The Kasiisi Project, my and Hanne’s respect and Hanne’s respective projects.

To buy your ticket, simply check out and click on the green ‘Donate’ button on the top left of the screen. Last minute tickets will also be available on the door on a first come first served basis!

Social Media Week panel ‘Who owns this sh#t anyway’

Author: Sarah Watson, Chief Strategy Officer BBH NY @Sarahmwatson

We had lots of fun last week preparing for my NY Social Media Week panel ‘Who owns this sh#t anyway’. View the archived live-stream here.

The panel gathered individuals from digital, PR, creative and client organisations to discuss the inside scoop on how social media is actually being handled. For me, it was a great moment to take stock with BBH buddies old and new to think about how really, in our heart of hearts, our particular skills and values can help our clients’ brands in this area.

For starters, it was easy to observe how incredibly inefficient the whole system is at the moment. Clients routinely find themselves with 12 different Facebook/Twitter pages, run by different people, doing different things. Agencies which could be fruitfully collaborating are pitted against one another (by design or by default) in an exhausting land-grab. There are pockets of customer service, pockets of CRM, and pockets of brand engagement; often, each with a different client, budget and objectives.

The concerns of my co-panellists were those of industrial-strength Social Media; they had to listen like their lives depended on it – because they did. They had to be in constant command of everything going on out in the community and constantly responding proportionately.

We creative agencies have had our fingers burned in the past by vaingloriously striding out into this fray and getting it wrong. Others have too, for that matter, but our hubris (alas) probably marks us out. So, we have re-shaped ourselves incorporating brilliant people who will make sure we don’t do this again.

But, really, the big gaping hole which emerged is that no one is approaching this entire thing brand first. The ever changing list of new social channels that spring up and flourish, each with its own set of values, behaviors and tone must be understood and used appropriately – but these are simply new lenses through which to view a brand. The more lenses, the more rich and nuanced an understanding of the brand is required.

What makes us creative agencies different is that we look inside first (great phrase, Sam Jesse). We don’t work in red-hot real-time response mode; we might do sometimes, but its not our fundamental default mode. Our centre of gravity lies with caring neurotically about a brand’s mortal soul. Our units of measurement are ultimately the muscularity of the overall brand and how we can flex it to our clients’ advantage when required.

So – what did the panel conclude re: who, indeed ‘owns this sh#t’? My personal shot was that the role for creative agencies is as the ‘priest hood of the mortal soul of the brand’. In our rush to barricade the land-grab we mustn’t forget that we need to think even more deeply about the powerful, differentiated brand stuff which is going to be so much more exposed than ever before. We also need to take the total holistic view which helps shape the overall ‘flow’ (thank you Jason G) of a brand’s body language and what it means for our coms plan.

In short, look to your mortal (brand) souls; there are nasty algorithms out there, bored consumers and social media overload; if you don’t know truly who you are and why you’re relevant –  you’re going straight to social media hell.

Breaking A Sweat For Japan

Image credit: Dom Grant & Zak Razvi (@zakrazzle)

From 12pm GMT today, BBH’s global run/row/cycle-a-thon goes LIVE, streaming from all six BBH offices simultaneously for 24 hours straight. You can watch it happen via the webcams on the site. Please show your support by donating here, tweet #bbh4japan or leave a message for everyone breaking a sweat here. All donations, no matter how small, will help the charity we’ve chosen to support,, deliver emergency temporary housing, warmth and dignity to Japanese families who have lost everything after the devastating earthquake and tsunami.

A whole host of people around the world in BBH offices got this up and running.. you know who you are. We also caught up with Dom Grant and Zak Razvi at BBH London who designed the art work to promote the event:

“We wanted to create a powerful image that worked on more than just one level. Using the iconic design of the Japanese flag, we replaced the red circle with a textured heart graphic. We then used the shape of Japan as a crack to depict a broken heart. We hope the image encapsulates our love and respect for the people of Japan.” Please give generously. A big thank you for your support, from everyone here and at

******AN UPDATE, 21.04.11******

As of this morning, we’re happy to report a whopping £27, 110 has been raised! Thank you to EVERYONE who donated and supported the effort.

Here are some shots from Japan sent to us by Shelterbox today:

Google Chrome – Behind The Scenes

We’re super proud of the new work we’ve just created for Google in Europe, for the Chrome browser. If you haven’t seen it, take a look below. Hope you enjoy it.


We took Google’s ingenuity & innovation as inspiration in developing the idea for seven short films (& an intro), demonstrating the benefits of Google Chrome. Every creation is built by hand, filmed in camera, with no special effects added.  Even the music where Jacqui, the harpist, is playing is live on set. As it should always be with Google, the product is the hero. We celebrate the Chrome product, but we hope in a “Googley” way.

The films work as a longer single film of around 4 minutes, where the 8 films are merged together. We’ve designed annotations into the experience on YouTube; these are effectively hyperlinks to other films embedded into the film itself – like roll-over hotspots with links behind them. We hope this makes YouTube even more interactive. The transition device between films (the ‘notice board’) is based on annotations.

The project was especially fun from a collaboration point of view. BBH New York, BBH London & the team at Glue London worked super closely together with the Google team on the development of the strategy, creative and media. The Director was Aaron Duffy and the production company were 1st Avenue Machine in New York.

Here’s a peek into the production process where you can see a little of the intensity and excitement that results when you gather a bunch of geeks, designers, artists and a harpist together in a small studio. The knitted props were actually knitted by the Director, pretty much there and then.


A lot of people worked very hard during an intense but awesome process. The Google clients (based in London) were very much part of our team too. It was fun. I hope that shows.

Here are a few photographs we took on set.