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  • Posts Tagged ‘innovation’

    • Media Innovation: Lessons from the The Silk Road.

      26th September 13

      bbhlabs_silkroad

      One of the more innovative corners of the Web, is a dark and somewhat unscrupulous place. That does not mean that it cannot contain a wealth of innovative thinking, once you scratch the surface.

      Since it’s launch in 2011, The SIlk Road has pushed the value of bitcoins (the digital currency underpinning its operation.) by over 200 fold, to today’s worth which is over $100 USD. Since the rise of the Internet, no other online marketplace can boast so high a demand, that it lifts a digital currency to become the world’s most valuable. Aside from its huge product demand, there are a number of innovations on The Silk Road that will likely be adopted by the rest of online retailers in the coming years.

      US Senator Chuck Schumer summed up the site nicely as “the most brazen attempt to peddle drugs online that we have ever seen… by light-years.” He demanded that the website be shut down in 2011, but the Drug Enforcement Administration has yet to find a way to do so.

      To an outsider, how such a site still exists may not make sense: the buyer and seller are anonymous, they sell illegal drugs, and do so with an online currency. However, the mechanics to make this work so seamlessly are in fact, light years ahead of their time.

      The transaction process on The Silk Road is one of the most innovative systems on the Internet today and the population’s trust in the economy allows for an extremely simple system.

      Here is the user experience of a transaction:
      A buyer decides to make a purchase, they notify the seller of the quantity and their bitcoins are transferred from their wallet to The Silk Road. Their bitcoins are then held with The Silk Road, which acts as an escrow agent for the transaction. The bitcoins are only released to the seller after the buyer has received the product and leaves a review on the seller’s page.

      This very simple mechanic of mandating product reviews is an extremely smart step when dealing with a black market because the market becomes more intelligent with every single transaction. This mandate naturally lessens the risk of scammers and builds the trust in the market that it requires to operate. Quite simply, The sellers with the better products get the best reviews and buyers shop with more confidence.

      Online retailers like Etsy, Airbnb and Craigslist could benefit from implementing The Silk Road’s review-dependent transaction system. A major barrier for small vendors is garnering enough trust, which usually takes years and several purchases to gain. Although notorious for it’s drug-trafficking, beneath the pavement of the Silk Road lie a number of amazing innovations. happening in this surreal environment that we can all learn from.

    • Exploring The Edges: On Innovation In Agencies

      28th April 11

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in business models

      Last weekend @malbonnington posed a deceptively simple question: Do We Really Need Chief Innovation Officers in Ad Agencies? He cited four people with related titles, including our own @saneel who holds the title Director of Innovation at BBH NY. I was reminded of Ed Cotton’s posts which asked a similar question about the role of agency labs. In both cases, the comment threads are as enlightening as the posts – don’t take our word for it, go check them out, including Ben’s own excellent response here. Below I’ve pulled out and built upon our contribution to the debate in both cases. Consistently aided and abetted, prodded and provoked by others far smarter than us since we set up Labs in 2008 (you know who you are, the likes of @edwardboches, @benkunz, @timogeo, @malbonster, @patsmc, @willsh, @caseorganic, @irowan, @danlight, @shaunabe, and @tomux are just a flavour), this post has ended up being a distillation of what we’ve learned so far about this topic.

      Image by Eistean, via Flickr

      I suspect innovation, or more specifically, how we deliver it, is a topic that’ll continue to cause debate in any creative industry worth its salt, for the simple reason that innovation isn’t an ‘add-on to what we all do, it is the decades-old bedrock of our existence: asking audiences to see their world in new ways, seeking new routes to communicate, shining a light on invention. We may embrace co-creation and recombinant culture, but our industry still worships at the altar of originality. Who of us doesn’t want to do ground-breaking stuff? Inevitably, it follows that the very idea of “innovation transcending functional expertise“ can feel like a total anathema.

      Certainly, my immediate response to the questions about Chief Innovation Officers and agency labs is pretty simple: in most cases, I wouldn’t appoint someone to the job.

      I say this for three reasons:

      a. Few agencies aspire to operate close enough to the “bleeding edge” to justify the cost.
      b. As others have commented in the past, the hiring of a CIO all too often represents an abdication of a management team’s responsibility to lead change.
      c. It’s a tight rope walk of a job. Incredibly easy to slip off.

      And yet…for the people with the appetite to try it, here are a couple of thoughts on why, when and how we *might* make it work:

      1. Start by picking your company carefully.

      Oddly, it’s at the extreme ends of the spectrum of corporate health that this role may be most useful: at the hellish end where a company is wallowing in a stagnant backwater, the short term appointment a CIO could help signal a fresh agenda. At the opposite end, when an agency has grown too big to sit around one table yet retains a forward-looking culture, a CIO can play a powerful, much more strategic role. More on this below.

      2. Demonstrate the value of exploring the ‘edges’.

      Make sure everyone around you (that’s the whole agency, not just management) are on board with the commercial and creative advantage your role can bring. Summarised, the task is to explore and exploit the opportunities at the “edges” of your business, as described in a related FT.com article from earlier this year:

      “Edges could involve new product introductions, expansion into new markets, or the launch of entirely new business propositions…the edges of companies are generally more open to change and the adoption of new technologies, because they face more unmet needs and fewer established routines. The people who are attracted to edges tend to be less risk-averse, as well….Longer term, edge initiatives have the potential to become the new core of the enterprise.”

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    • Agencies making digital products should co-create with customers

      22nd February 11

      Posted by Saneel Radia

      Posted in collaboration


      20 Jay Street, home to Miami Ad School (photo credit: dumbonyc)

      I recently spoke to Miami Ad School students in Brooklyn via Steve Peck, one of the creatives at BBH New York, who teaches a class on Digital Product Development. There’s been a clear shift toward digital product development at agencies in recent years and it seems to be the work we respect most of one another if award shows are any indication (and I’m not sure they are).

      However, what I find most intriguing about the future of product development at agencies is the intersection with collaboration. I continue to believe that serving as a scaffolding for customers to engage with brands beyond transactions is a huge opportunity for agencies, and that we’ve only scratched the surface thus far. If agencies want to develop digital products (even when they are simply extensions or features of the analog products created by our clients) and customers want to co-create with brands, the opportunity is compounded. After all, creating digital things is what most collaboration tools at large are built to do. Looking at things from this perspective makes the future of agencies seem bright, especially when one witnesses first hand what students like those at Miami Ad School are capable of.

      Below is a copy of my presentation (special thanks to Brian Moore, a Media Designer here at BBH that helped design it, and whose transitions are unfortunately lost via slideshare).

    • The answer to this Quora? No.

      10th January 11

      Posted by Saneel Radia

      Posted in Rants

      The question-and-answer site Quora is a big deal. It has some powerful supporters, with early content posted by a diverse group of digerati from Steve Case to Robert Scoble. It’s the talk of the media (see Google Trend of the word Quora).  There are weekly articles on how Quora will be bigger than Twitter.

      So, I guess it was inevitable that I’d hate it. To clarify, it’s not that I don’t like Quora. It’s that I hate it and want it wiped off the face of the earth. In a missionary effort to reach those few that are yet to form an opinion on this site equivalent of an Uwe Boll movie, I offer the following 3 reasons to resist boarding this bandwagon.

      It’s spam.

      This site diabolically infects those with the largest spam potential. I guess when a site is launched by the former head of Facebook Connect, it’s inevitable. By launching after Facebook established critical mass and Twitter became a big deal, Quora made a splash in the saturated question-and-answer site category. So, giving people the opportunity to be in the spotlight with their answer to an already-answered question is an ingenious way to drive audience and usage by appealing to ego. And I don’t even mind ego-stroking. I just don’t want to be repeatedly spammed across my various feeds as people whose content I otherwise love and trust fall victim to name-in-lights syndrome. Then again, if I could convince people I invented tape, it might be worth it….

      There are dozens of Quoras about what Quora is.

      OK, so maybe #Twitter was a trending topic on Twitter the first 6 months. But those conversations were focused primarily on usage and innovation with the platform. The Quora self-referential conversations are literally people scratching their heads looking for value. There’s no better sign that the emperor has no clothes people. But until we admit it, we’ll just keep tweeting how awesome he looks in that special toga (author’s note: this has nothing to do with how awesome I think the hashtag #emperorsclothes would be, promise).

      Quora is attempting to differentiate itself via answer quality.

      This is defended through its use of Facebook Connect (real people!) and an interest graph (curated topics!). Here’s the thing about quality: it’s inversely related to scale on the web. Generally, users or an algorithm are required to remove the noise. Last I looked, countless services already do this. They go by ticker symbols like GOOG, have David Fincher movies made about them, or add a new user every second (most of whom request a professional recommendation after a single meeting together).

      So, let’s sit this Quora thing out. We were able to resist Google Wave and Ping. Let’s make it three in a row that we tried and let pass quietly. This isn’t to say I don’t respect the effort or experimentation of any company trying something new (Google & Apple are incredible at innovation investment). In Quora’s case, I just think if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it via my newsfeed.

      Now world, if you’re not on board, pretty please give me a heads-up that I’m taking on a lost cause.

      Then I can start a new Quora-related Quora: “How can I get a job at Quora?”

      {Update: I’ve agreed to write a follow-up post to either eat my words or discuss what I got right after some, ahem, encouragement from readers. So keep an eye out!}

      {Update #2: We asked Leslie Barry to elaborate on his comment below and he’s posted a rebuttal, explaining the unique value of Quora I’ve neglected in the post above.}

    • Crowdsourcing Clients – Where Agency Nil Went Next

      11th August 09

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in transformational change

      At the end of May this year we got pretty excited and the debate got fairly heated about the launch of Agency Nil – the agency with the convention-busting business model that ‘will work for all it’s worth’. In other words, they’ll do the work and you pay them what you think you should.  Unorthodox, audacious stuff whichever way you look at it, we were impressed.

      Since launch they’ve been approached by both clients and talent and, inevitably, as they started work on live projects (including clients with food products and online services, not to mention a pitch for a large software company’s NPD launch), one of the toughest questions facing any agency arose: when were they going to find time to do the work brilliantly AND keep scouting for new business? Clearly a conventional solution wasn’t going to cut it at Agency Nil, which is when they came up with this ultra simple, ultra ‘on brand’ idea:

      Agency Nil announces their Spotter Program

      Agency Nil announces their Spotter Program

      Catching up again with Agency Nil’s founders, they explained the concept a little more:

      “If a person connects Agency Nil with a business that would be interested in our services and they become a client within a year, Agency Nil will give the person who refers them 10% of the first payment they receive (from $100 to $100,000 or more…).  This person is called an Agency Nil Spotter.  All it takes to become one is an email to Agency Nil introducing the potential client (with the client cc’d, of course). Then the Spotter’s referral is documented.  When Agency Nil get paid, the Spotter gets paid. Simple.”

      We love the idea of an agency experimenting with new business in this way.  A smart move that painlessly exploits an era where networking and sharing useful information has never been easier.  What’s more, it’s in keeping with the spirit of their launch which, as they put it at the time: “It’s a win/win.  And that’s the kind of business we like to be in.” Agency Nil also draw attention to the fact they’re putting into practice a simple way for talented individuals to profit from their connections: “Isn’t it about time people started to get rewarded for the networks they’ve built?”

      Of course this isn’t the first time an agency has used crowd sourcing to find prospective marketing clients.  Who knows, will people really refer a hot prospect?  How reliable will the connections be?  Will it tend to be for small projects only, or will Agency Nil land a multi-million dollar account this way?  They may hit some bumps in the road along the way, but to us this approach looks like a natural next step for them and a dead simple, innovative solution to an age old problem. So again, we say hats off to Agency Nil and good luck.

      If you want to sign-up as an Agency Nil Spotter, send an email to Spotter@AgencyNil.com.

    • The Next Chapter in Interactive Storytelling: interview with Jeremy Ettinghausen

      30th July 09

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in creativity, interactive

      “There are always at least two ways to tell a story”
      Mohsin Hamid

      Launched last month under their Puffin label, We Make Stories is the latest in a long line of digital publishing innovations masterminded by Jeremy Ettinghausen (@jeremyet), Penguin’s Digital Publisher.  This is the second piece we’ve done in recent months looking at the publishing industry as a whole.  Back in May we wrote about the transformational change going on at TMG in the UK (also check out the ever brilliant Nieman Lab for a far deeper examination of journalism in this respect).  Why are we so interested in what’s going on here? In short, we’re witnessing a radical re-shaping of an industry we believe we can learn a lot from. An industry which – aside from its sheer cultural importance in the first place – has been experimenting with new creative & organisational solutions for some time now.

      The launch of the new service from Penguin was a good excuse to catch up with Jeremy and find out what he’s learned from this and other past projects, as well as ask him to share his thoughts on the future of digital publishing, the struggle to monetise content & services online, the impact of the web on storytelling and finally, what role he sees for brands in this space.  So just a couple of meaty topics then…

      We Make Stories homepage

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    • “The advent of broadband ripped our squawking heads from the sand”

      22nd May 09

      Within about 5 minutes of arriving at the Telegraph Media Group offices last week, those unvarnished words – first uttered back in 2007 by TMG’s now editor-in-chief, Will Lewis – had been recounted to us, setting the tone for the rest of the afternoon.  A bit of a surprise.  This after all was the home of the Daily Telegraph, the UK’s biggest broadsheet, famously the ‘paper of the shires’ and historically the bastion of the Conservative party, right?  Well yes and no.  Invited in by Nancy Cruickshank, TMG’s recently appointed Executive Director of Digital Development, a group of us from BBH and BBH Labs were about to hear how the paper had undergone a complete operational and cultural transformation over the past few years: moving from a print production-led organisation to one intent upon embracing an integrated, multi-format, audience-focused future.

      Before we go much further, it’s worth saying what this isn’t about: it’s not another essay on the accelerating declines in the newspaper industry’s circulation figures and ad revenues, as much as these may form the backdrop, even the driving need behind the changes at TMG. Instead, the starting point here is the premise that adland still needs media and media needs adland, no question.  And, equally importantly, all of us need to find forward-looking ways to accelerate our own response to the change going on around us. Listening to what they had to say, the relevance for any commercial creative business hit home hard. Here then is an unapologetically positive attempt to capture the implications of what we heard: what can we learn from one media brand’s story?

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