Posts Tagged ‘talent’
5th February 13
Posted in collaboration
One of the most amazing things about the internet era is people coming together in unique and scalable combinations. Yet organizing crowds is much more difficult than most organizations imagine.
Few people know more about facilitating mass collaboration than Shaun Abrahamson, the CEO of Mutopo. When Shaun talks, we listen. In fact, sometimeswe even ride his coattails on the subject. Shaun recently co-authored a book called Crowdstorm. It was released yesterday, so we invited him to sit down for a Q&A.
You can purchase Crowdstorm here.
Q. Crowdsourcing is used as a label for an ever increasing universe. Where does crowdstorming fit in?
The best way to think about all the facets of crowdsourcing is in terms of what we’re asking participants to do. For example, in microwork, like mechanical turk, we’re asking people to do small things like, tell us if this is porn (to create content filters) or verify a business listing. In crowdfunding, like Kickstarter, we’re asking people for cash and influence (when they announce their support via the social webs). In collaborative consumption, like AirBnB, we’re often asking people to provide assets to be shared, and often their networks and reputation so that we may build trust.
In crowdstorming, we focus on actions that crowds can take in relation to ideas: finding ideas, finding people or organizations to come up with ideas, offering feedback and rating/ranking ideas. Crowdstorming can include ideas through a range of maturity, from the napkin stage through to early stage companies. While writing the book, we realized that some of the basic patterns were pretty old. They had been described by Alex Osborne (the “O” in BBDO) when he introduced the world to brainstorming just after WWII. Osborne was mostly concerned with small groups of people coming up with and evaluating ideas. We just see networked crowds where he saw folks in a conference room.
Q. So is crowdstorming a fancy name for idea contests?
I see contests as a subset of crowdstorming. Crowdstorming tends to fall into 3 broad buckets: search, collaborative, integrated. We think contests fall into the search bucket because they are mainly focused on searching for the best ideas (or candidates, partners, etc). Often the search process is desirable because we have something we can test. Think of XPrize or DARPA Grand Challenges – there are spaceships and robot cars that can compete to see who wins.
Other crowdstorms are more collaborative. This is often true when there aren’t prototypes to race through the desert or fire into space. The key is deciding as early as possible which concepts are worthy of additional time and investment. Following the 1-9-90 rule, think of this collaborative approach as benefiting from the 9 – the “editors” so to speak. Thus while the 1 may submit ideas, the 9 are engaged to provide feedback. And this feedback is used to refine and select ideas. LEGO Cuusoo is good example of a collaborative crowdstorm. It is not so much a contest, as it is a filter. People or teams pitch new LEGO product ideas. The Cuusoo community needs to give the idea 10,000 votes before an idea will be reviewed by the LEGO team. This is where LEGO Minecraft came from.
I use the word “community” quite deliberately here, because when you add feedback, you drastically increase the number of participants and interactions. And if you invite the same group back to pitch and evaluate multiple ideas, you see relationships form. Yes, you see a competitive dynamic, but also a lot more collaboration. And increasingly we see participants being rewarded for more than just their ideas. Just look at the payouts from Giffgaff, which cover a broad range of contribution types, like sales, support and unique participation in the idea processes.
Q. One of the most interesting themes in the book is how innovative organizations scale talent via non-employees. This is a major discussion topic amongst agencies and clients. What companies are doing this best that we can learn from?
I really think this is a question of what patterns you adopt and where in the process you look to outsiders. One of the best illustrations of this type of thinking comes from Quirky. They literally remapped the consumer product development process around where outside talent can provide the most value.
If we look at the process above, Quirky smartly and explicitly positions themselves as the support system for inventors. They know there are lots of difficult steps like industrial design, quality control and distribution negotiations that require their leadership and control. They can manage the risks and quality in these steps. But Quirky also figures out how to measure and reward participation in some specific roles where it knows the crowd can help. Interestingly, measurement and reward systems inside firms are starting to show similar elements – just take a look at Salesforce’s Work.com. I think as we get better at measurement, it will get easier to bring in outside talent to add value to any creative process.
In terms of the ad business, the process below shows Amazon’s approach to the production of filmed content at Amazon Studios. They are taking their expertise from ratings and reviews, and applying it to content development. And if you look at the role of crowdfunding in areas like film development, you can see another voting style. We tend to focus on the finance, but pre-selling also provides a strong indication of the potential of an idea.
Most of the crowdstorm processes we have discussed have focused on finding and evaluating ideas. This is useful, but we forget that behind the ideas are talented individuals. Startup accelerators like Techstars are running idea contests – this is how teams make it into their programs. But they are focused on the ideas as well as the talent. And they offer a different set of incentives to work together; unlike Quirky and Amazon, who own the resulting IP, accelerators just want a small share. They want the teams to take the ideas forward. Techstars recently teamed up with Nike+. Why? Yes, Nike needs developers for their Nike+ platform, but they need a different type of talent, too. In this case it’s talent that is willing to share risks. As a side benefit, Nike will be pitched loads of ideas, so they get to validate their own understanding of the space. And while they might give away ownership, they have tapped into talent that might never have considered working for Nike.
Q. Now a question every author should have to go on the record with…. Who’s your favorite Transformer?
I think I risk being redacted by not saying Optimus, right? But I always liked Wheeljack because he invented stuff, even it mostly didn’t work. But this wasn’t an obvious choice, so I poked around a bit and realized that his first incarnation was a Lancia Stratos Turbo. That car is the embodiment of taking risks and it mostly worked. And it still looks like it might turn into something else. So Wheeljack wins.
Special thanks to Shaun for sharing his thinking with us. If the above is of interest, consider downloading Crowdstorm here. (And thanks BBH Labs for already letting me come back and “guest blog”).
1st May 12
Author: Andy Ross, Account Manager, BBH NY
As the Winter 2012 Barn session came to a close with interns presenting digital platforms directly to UNICEF clients, something dawned upon us – we need to get the next round of the Barn rolling.
In short, the Barn is back. Please consider this your invite.
It goes like this: Two teams of three resourceful, slightly sleep-deprived interns compete against one another on a brief that belongs solely to them. They’ll also work on live projects within the walls of BBH and score some direct interaction with and mentorship from folks in nearly every department here, including BBH Labs.
The skills we’re looking for are varied, and none are mandatory – but guidelines might help. Do you know Final Cut Pro, PHP, C++? Ever heard of Open Source? Are you hyper-organized? Do you have a penchant for human behavior studies or a highly developed sense of smell that you have leveraged into a successful truffle company? Bottom line: we want people who can get things done.
Our role here is to empower you, not to ask you for coffee. That’s why previous Barn teams have managed to win everything from Lions to Pencils during their 10-week internship.
So you have it, the Barn’s hiring criteria are as follows: We want people who are good and nice. Apply at BBHBarn.com and follow @bbhbarn. Applications are due May 11th. We start June 4th, 2012. We cry that it’s over August 10th.
15th January 12
Posted in awesomenessAuthor: Eric Fernandez, Strategist, BBH New York
The Barn is back in New York, and we’re looking for a special new team of genius interns to fill our ranks. This isn’t your run of the mill ad internship, so we’re not looking for typical marketing resumes. We’re looking for resourceful MacGyver types who are curious about everything, comfortable doing stuff every day that they haven’t done before, and are natural wizards at technology. We want the kind of folks that can grasp a program like Final Cut Pro after watching a few how-to videos and a couple of hours of trial and error. Or, faced with the task of creating a web site, will google PHP programming, find some open source scripts and at least try to hack something together. When we say resourceful, we mean it. We’re looking for people that really geek out over their projects.
The Barn is designed to empower people like this. We aren’t going to stick you under a rug doing nothing but grunt work. We are going to put you on teams and give you the chance to do your own projects. Last year, Barn Interns won two Cannes Lions with a project that was featured on major news outlets across the country– and even made Twitter’s ten most remarkable tweets of the year. That type of success continues to be our ambition in this now global internship program.
Our brief is three words: “Do Good, Famously” and we’ll give you the funding and support you need to create a kick ass project that will change lives. We’ll also make sure you get the credit for it. We want our program to be a spring board for your career.
If selected, you will be one of six interns, split into two teams of three people. These teams will be set off against their 3-word brief with full access to BBH talent along the way. They’ll also be working on client business throughout, so it will be a very busy 10 weeks. Our goal is to make this an internship like no other in marketing. It’s more about you than about us. We just like having your energy and passion around the agency. And if it’s anything like previous sessions, we’ll probably learn a thing or two ourselves.
17th May 11
Posted in People
We recently ran a post asking if the junior talent in advertising are packaging themselves wrong. As we tend to do, we turned to a reader to help us answer that question after a number of very insightful comments on the post. In this case, we asked William Burks Spencer, who recently interviewed over 100 Creative Directors about what they look for in portfolios and compiled them into Breaking In, a book about creating a portfolio that will get you hired. For excerpts from the book, checkout the companion site.
Author: William Burks Spencer (@wspencer), Freelance Copywriter
Are students and juniors in advertising packaging themselves wrong? I think the answer is “most of the time, yes.” When I asked over 100 Creative Directors about what they look for in portfolios, on most topics there was a good diversity of opinion. But everyone agreed on one point: most books are pretty much the same.
Certainly a lot of it has to do with content–books all look the same because the advertising in them is the same. Often ads in student books lack strategic thinking. It is very obvious when someone jumped right into making ads without any thought as to what the business problem was, or how to solve it. Another common problem has to do with technology. Students often show executions across tons of different media including Facebook apps, iPhone apps, and more, without having a powerful idea at the core. They’re good at blowing out an idea, but not actually crafting it. But beyond just the ads, I think there is a problem and an opportunity here. Very few juniors venture outside of the normal format: 5-7 campaigns and a resume.
I think a solution can come from thinking about two things:
1. A portfolio tells a creative director “this is what I want to do”. That’s a very personal question and it gets to the heart of a student’s personality and passion. I think the reason a lot of books feel the same is that students haven’t thought about this question. They don’t have strong feelings about what they want to do so they let other people to figure it out for them. I’m not talking about “being an art director or writer”–that’s too broad. I’m talking about having a unique voice that comes through in your work. Or a strong point-of-view. Or specializing in one aspect of advertising that you love and demonstrating it. A lot of junior talent are trying to fit into what they think a creative should be, whereas Creative Directors are looking for people who know who they are.
2. A portfolio needs to make a point. It needs to make an impression on a Creative Director that stays with them. Matt Vescovo, an art director and artist, said in the book: “What’s really appropriate about the whole thing is that Creative Directors look at student books the way that consumers look at advertising.” Just as a good ad needs to leave you with a certain message or feeling, a good book should as well.
I think students need to combine these two goals and build a portfolio that demonstrates, in a memorable and original way, what kind of work they want to do.
If want to make Facebook apps and that’s what you’re good at, go for it. If you love crafting long-copy, show that. Make that your hook. It comes back to the idea of the T-shaped creative person that BBH and others use. Show what you’re good at and passionate about. And then show that you can do the other things that someone with the title you want would be expected to do. It seems like most students and juniors are afraid of planting the base of the T and the result is they end up just being an underscore.
I often tell students about a friend of mine whose student portfolio consisted of a 6-foot roll of paper. Unrolling it revealed a single campaign that he art directed 7 different ways. Think about the impact that has for a CD to see that layed out on the floor. It stands out because it is different and bold. It made the point that he’s a prolific, exacting art director who will work for as long as it takes to get it right. And he is. He works at Wieden+Kennedy in Portland.
In the book, Pat McKay, who is a freelance Creative Director in Seattle and worked at Wieden+Kennedy London with me, said that he thinks it is smart for a book to have an idea to it. Pat said he “would certainly look twice if a book came in with 100 sketches and they were all good ideas.” That book would say “I’m just going to have loads of ideas and that’s the one thing I want to leave in that person’s mind”.
Another way to package yourself differently is to get away from advertising completely. To show something else that shows your voice and personality. One of the other questions I asked everyone I interviewed was about showing this type of work–writing, art, hobbies, etc. Most Creative Directors I spoke to were interested in seeing it and it was usually those things that they could remember and talk about, years down the line.
Tony Davidson of Wieden+Kennedy London talked about a team who filmed themselves getting over a very low rail in different, often silly, ways to show that they solved problems differently. Dave Bell from KesselsKramer talked about someone who had a book called “Very, Very Short Stories” containing a hundred or more 3-line stories. Ted Royer of Droga5 talked about someone he hired who put a technical blueprint of Noah’s Ark in his book. Vince Engel of Engine Company 1 remembered someone who wrote absurd letters to companies and compiled them into a book. Those things all probably say more about a person than ads.
Your portfolio has to represent you for those precious few minutes with a Creative Director. The onus is on you to show that they can think differently than anyone else in the building. Why not make a statement? Be different. Take a stand. Demonstrate that you have the base of the T, whatever that might be. If you open the conversation, you will always have an opportunity to show that you have the broader skills at the top part of the T as well. It might feel risky, but the bigger risk is not taking one.
22nd April 11
Posted in People
We interview people all the time, even when we’re not hiring.
There’s no arguing that the quality of junior talent in our industry is exceptional. This is a group that’s taking a systematic approach to studying our craft, while balancing it with a pleasantly messy (as Global Planning Director, Heidi Hackemer, labeled it when screening candidates for the Barn program) mix of other interests that feed their insatiable curiosity.
Yet, there is an alarming trend about this talent. It has to do with packaging.
We look for T-shaped people when hiring. In other words, talent that’s got a specific area of awesomeness, but stretches into other areas in a highly collaborative way. This is distinct from being a hybrid talent, a label that most junior talent in our industry self-apply early into most of these conversations: “I’m a mix of strategy, creative, media and production.” True hybrid talent has more than one depth of expertise. That’s exceptionally hard (I know, I was a sub-par Media Director before being a sub-par Creative Director).
No doubt this crop of people is indeed a mix of expertise. In fact, it’s likely more true than of prior generations of ad talent. The question remains though, what arenas do they have or seek a depth of expertise in? In other words, what’s the base of the T?
No one wants to be put in a box, ourselves included. But, ultimately clients want to know what they’re buying, especially in a world of ever less familiar job titles. At BBH for example, it isn’t until clients see engagement planning as a discipline that they fully appreciate the value it brings to the table in today’s marketing landscape.
Which brings us to the punch line. The junior talent in this industry needs to remain buyable, even as they become messier and potentially more hybrid. So many talented young folks do a little bit of everything, but few are willing to commit to doing one particular thing quite well. In other words, those with the potential to truly be hybrid talent—deep skills in more than one vertical expertise—never manage to gain the depth to deliver on the promise such talent has.
Yet, it’s exactly that talent that I know every agency in the country would hand a job to right now if they were just more buyable. The question is simply, which one needs to change? The talent and how they package themselves? Or the agencies that struggle to explain their value to clients?