Author: Heidi Hackemer (@uberblond), Strategy Director, BBH NYC
Well, here we go again.
This past summer we tried a little intern experiment at BBH New York called the Barn (and actually wrote our very first post about the idea here).
The Barn is all about trying new ways of working and finding new solutions to old problems. We bring in six interns, put them in teams and give them a problem to solve. A tough problem. A problem that requires moxy and guts. Last summer it was “Here’s $1000, make something famous” and the funny thing is, through a great idea, lots of work and some wicked use of the web, one team actually did.
The upshot is that we had a great summer and in the true spirit of beta and chaos, we learned a lot. So we’re going to do it again. Want to apply? You can do it here.
In the meantime, we asked one of our Barn’ers from last summer, Daniel Edmundson, to outline what the Barn was all about and what he learned. His rather astute thoughts are below:
The following Barnisms, we believe, provide a valid offering of the Barn experience. As the industry moves toward a more hybrid model in mentality, specialty and creative sheen (see: Voltron), individuals with little to no experience in the ad world can contribute some pretty weird and crazy ideas while embracing the truths of technology, brands and businesses.
Here’s what we gleaned:
People are smart and all, but it’s nothing if you’re not nice.
Folks at BBH go by this axiom, and it can at first be daunting to accept. There is an innate inferiority to the intern experience, and it’s not easy to shake. But the Barn was built on the idea of integration within the agency–not just integration by discipline and interest, but by collaboration and lending new thoughts.
For us, it was as basic a learning as knowing it’s cool to pitch your early ideas to one of the creative teams, or discuss ongoing strategy with top planners. It was about access to smarts, and being comfortable saying, “I need your brain.”
Be clear. Very, very clear.
At a time when our social lives are as open and transparent as a storefront window, our communications, we learned, must follow suit. When members of the media or the ad community challenged the social relevancy and sincerity of the projects we were executing, we were immediately honest about our motivations and our associations to BBH. Not only did it help us to move forward to better develop the idea, it got the subject out early and placed the focus back on what was important.
Feed feed feed.
When consumers commit to a brand or platform, they formulate expectations.And with the brevity and ubiquity of stuff today, those expectations need to be forthright and on schedule—they must live and operate as their character does.
We learned that, especially when making a chronological or episodic product (say, 30 dates/30 days or a constant cookie delivery), content must deliver on that promise. The market, particularly online, is one big ocean of fishes and underwater activity—there are sharks that are hungry for new feed all the time. It’s important to keep them full.
Build dynamics from those around you.
Little was more important than realizing the crazy importance of working in a team. Put together at the start of 10 weeks with complete strangers, we had to recognize strengths early, put egos aside and move very quickly to process ideas.
Most importantly, it was designing a system with the insurmountable intelligence that we had on hand to make things happen.
Become a community manager.
Whether it was living in the online space or in the physical, both teams had to pay careful attention to what was being voiced and how to respond. As we developed each project monitoring feedback and reacting quickly became paramount—even more so, understanding how particular channels consumed and reacted to the bits of information informed our output as we moved along.
Understand and do timely collaboration.
Make it messy. Curate timelines for concepts to enter in and out, and bring everybody in. Collaboration should be like a big party, with everyone invited and all ideas honorable. The Barn is an incubator for collaboration—but it needs to be controlled and relevant to real-world happenings and interactions, or else it could be DOA.
Speak many languages, and carry a big idea.
Everyone in the Barn came from disparate backgrounds and it was very easy to simplify being very good at one thing. Whether it was coding, filming or writing copy, it was imperative that we leaned on other efficiencies to make each project work. The idea ran faster, operated better and was more agile with the distribution of skills and resources.
You must be curious, and you must ask why (or why not). This goes both for the culture within the wooden walls of the Barn, as well as outside in the fields and world-at-large. Be all, WTF about the workings of things, the lives of people and the wherewithal of ideas. Well-traveled—physically and mentally.
It’s like championing @kanyewest, AND questioning if the @John_Hegarty Twitter handle was a genuine or a fraud.
Beta can save your life, and your livelihood.
As many in the ad world can attest, it’s simply our nature to constantly massage, tinker with and hold close the ideas that are meant for the world. Getting them out into the real world early and often (half-dressed and really ugly, even) can pay off and help to shape the route towards the road ahead.
Make friends, be human.
While brands and businesses are trying so hard to be all the more human (and their agencies doing some of the handholding and small talking along the way), we forget too often that we, too, should do the same. Many in the Barn joined the soccer team, celebrated camaraderie with fellow black sheep and spent quality time with our mentors, all in the hope of forming a strong kinship with the offices. It worked. So much of BBH (and I’d hope the world) is about the people you work with; it’s about getting to know them and how they’re a genius at everything.
(Internships start in January. Apply here.)