high performance creativity

The Man That Didn’t Blink

Author, Jim Carroll, Chairman BBH London
First published in Advertising Week Europe supplement

Egon Schiele- Portrait of Albert Paris von Gutersloh
I knew a man who never blinked. It was quite discomfiting. I’d not considered blinking that important until confronted with its absence. This chap just seemed a bit odd, a little lacking in emotion. Was he perhaps an android? When talking to him I couldn’t avoid the impression that he was unnaturally certain of his own opinions. And that that blind certainty was what I was finding unattractive. I realised that, whilst I like the self-assured, absolute certainty can be troubling, alienating, disturbing.

I guess that’s why I’ve always responded better to leaders who, though boundlessly confident, exhibit a sensitivity to risk and doubt, a consciousness of paths not taken. I’m rarely convinced by absolute conviction.

For similar reasons I feel certainty in advertising has always been fool’s gold. Claude Hopkins wrote Advertising Science back in the 1920s. And science has given us analytical tools and techniques that have dramatically enhanced our understanding of consumers and our ability to communicate effectively. But, however much we may wish it, science has never given us certainty.

I recently attended a stage adaptation of the great Henry Fonda movie, 12 Angry Men. At its heart it’s a celebration of reasonable doubt, and an indictment of the unreasonable certainty that so many people carry around with them. I was struck by the idea that reasonable doubt is a force for good in society. Because life is an ongoing navigation of trade-offs, dilemmas and contrary preferences. Life isn’t about certainty.

In our business I’ve seen how, many a time and oft’, the quest for unreasonable certainty has actually fostered doubt and indecision. The pursuit of total proof can close windows of opportunity and analysis paralysis can inhibit bold leaps forward.

Recently we have all been redesigning the marketing model. We have embraced the vision of a customer engagement system that is more connected, more targeted, more knowing and less wasteful. Something that learns, creates, adapts and distributes in real time. But we should not imagine that any new model will deliver unreasonable certainty. All models need ideas to animate them. And the best ideas occur at the intersection of logic and magic, at the meeting point of rationality and emotion.

What is exciting about the modern age of marketing is the opportunity it affords us to explore this happy interaction between art and science. At BBH we’ve been talking a lot about High Performance Creativity. We believe that technology enables a more intimate relationship between creativity and performance, and that that intimacy will generate better, more effective work. We believe that data should not just be big; it should be strategically insightful and creatively inspiring. We believe that performance measures should not be backward looking proofs, but live, forward-facing guides. We believe that, while High Performance Creativity cannot promise certainty, it can deliver incredible potency.

I’m reasonably certain about this.

High-Performance Creativity: A new framework for Creative Businesses

[slideshare id=35100709&doc=bbhlabsspot-140525125924-phpapp02]

A few weeks ago, I was in sunny (but chilly) Aarhus to speak at the SPOT interactive conference.

There are a couple things you need to know about Aarhus:

1. It’s the second biggest city in Denmark after the capital, Copenhagen;

2. The airport is 45km away from the town centre and a taxi will cost you £70, so take the shuttle bus, especially if you’re travelling on the Labs budget.

I was there to talk about BBH’s answer to the challenges and opportunities that creative businesses face today. The tensions between creativity and commerce, and the question of the monetization of creative outputs in the digital economy, had been recurrent throughout the day, since SPOT started out as a music conference, and a lot of the participants (including RECHO app developers, who launched their app at the conference) were connected to the music business, which has obviously had to spend the last two decades revolutionizing its value model.

Have a flick through the presentation if you fancy. Or read the ten points below for the gist of the keynote.

1. BBH was founded on the belief that growth needs space, and space needs difference, and creativity is the best tool at creating difference. Far from seeing creativity and commerce as opposites, we have a fundamental faith in the ability of brilliant creativity to deliver business results.

2. Conveniently, the IPA has actually proven through correlating Gunn report awards (a good proxy for quality of creativity) with ROI data, that creativity multiplies the effect of marketing investment by a number included between 7 (historically) and 12 (more recently).

3. Increasing connectedness of users, platforms, objects, channels, brands, devices, life, and generally everything, means that creativity needs to adapt both its inputs and outputs in order to continue to deliver commercial success.

4. We call this new type of creativity, High Performance Creativity.

5. High Performance Creativity is:

–       Rooted both in genuine user and business insight;

–       Fuelled by real time, real world data;

–       Connecting all of a brand or property’s touch points into a consistent ecosystem that it itself connected to culture, to deliver at scale.

6. High Performance Creativity generates a new breed of creative ideas. Here are four examples.

7. Data-led ideas:

The New York Times reported that Netflix, which has 27 million subscribers in the US, found the idea for their version in House of Cards by running the numbers. The combination of the high popularity and engagement rates of David Fincher films, Kevin Spacey films, and the British version of “House of Cards” suggested that commissioning the series would be a very good bet on original programming.

In the BBH world, a team led by Creative Technologists has recently created a digital Audi billboard in Waterloo station which runs on real-time, station-related data. Check out the video inserted in the slide.

8. Network ideas: Sometimes the best strategy to triumph is to partner with the obvious competition. When your customers don’t care about what you make any more, think of what they do care about, and go befriend it.

A good (and befittingly, Danish) example of this is part of the spectacular Lego recovery story. Upon realizing that kids were more interested in blockbuster film and video games than they were in small stackable bricks, they initiated a whole new collection of franchises, and in one swift move turned themselves into a successful cross-platform entertainment brand, driving growth through innovation in gaming and film partnerships such as Harry Potter and Dark Knight. More recently, this strategy has taken the form of a long-term partnership with the Cartoon Network.

Working with our friends at Refuge, we were faced with the issue that domestic violence is an issue young women don’t want to talk about. So we found a way into their conversations by associating ourselves with a property they did want to talk about (make up and beauty) through celebrity blogger Lauren Luke.

9. Shoppable ideas: The idea that the various steps alongside the consumer journey from awareness to purchase are separate in time and mindset is eroding in the digital age, since all phases are increasingly connected. In the new world, those steps have become layers of a single ecosystem.

Founder Nicola Massenet describes Net A Porter as a fashion magazine that sells, rather than an ecommerce property. Quality creative content delivered by top fashion journalists and photographers, one click away from purchase: that’s inspiration and conversion wrapped into one. A winning strategy that has gone full circle this year with the launch of Porter Magazine.

At BBH, we have recently created a product for British Airways which similarly combines inspiration and delight through content, with optimized e-commerce. Picture Your Holiday is an intuitive holiday planning tool which allows for both dreaming up and buying your next trip away.

10. Triple Win Ideas: A lot of success stories in the world of digital products and services, come from unlocking a group of users or a type of use for the product, that wasn’t part of the original plan. So it’s always worth asking yourself who else your idea could be a win for.

Dog-sharing services such as Tailster put dog owners in need of a sitter, with dog lovers who don’t have their own pet. Dog owners get a cheaper rate on a dog walker or sitter, and dog lovers get an hour with a dog.

BBH Zag recently partnered with OMG Plc to create the world’s first intelligent, wearable camera.

The partner company had created a medical product designed to help those with memory loss. We set out to help them create a mass consumer product with cutting edge tech credentials. Positioned as a life streaming and social photography tool, Autographer launched in the spring.

 

More to come shortly on High Performance Creativity; in the meantime let us know what you think.

Thanks go to Mette Marcussen from Shareplay  for inviting me, Paul Tyler from Handling Ideas for moderating the day, as well as all the other speakers for their inspiring points of view.