“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” ~Sir Winston Churchill, November 1942
So you will have heard Ben is leaving the BBH fold after six or so years, to take up the role of Director of Strategy, Google Creative Lab. Anyone who knows Ben knows this is exactly the kind of role he was built for: at the cutting edge, challenging-as-hell, massive in scope. It’s a huge job at one of the world’s most exciting companies – to say we’re extremely excited for him is a massive understatement. In fact, perhaps you’d expect us to say this – BBH do work with Google on a range of projects, after all – but the truth is Ben has developed an extraordinary relationship between Google and BBH, going back five years to our original assignment with Google (in which the very first slide of the presentation read: ‘We Don’t Want To Be Your Ad Agency’). We’re happy he’ll still be part of that team, albeit client-side from now on.
I’m sure there’ll be plenty of opportunities for all of us who know Ben to wax lyrical about his cyborgian ability to work harder and longer than most sentient beings on the planet; his obsessive playing of Kraftwerk and Prince (for decades on end); his incisive mind and brutally funny wit; his energy, talent and relentless dedication to creativity in all its forms; his ability to multi-task (I don’t know anyone else who can simultaneously email me a keynote deck for comments, send a link to yet another YouTube mashup, tweet his boundless joy at finally becoming the Mayor of Columbine, eat a sandwich – 1/2 chipotle roasted chicken, 1/2 flank steak w/ red onions – from the same establishment… all whilst talking to me on Skype) for Britain and NYC combined. However, this is my opportunity to say a few words briefly, so please bear with me for another sentence or two.
Ben is quite simply the best partner I’ve ever had the privilege to work with. We began BBH Labs back in 2008 with a half-baked business plan, a blind faith in one another and the desire to disrupt. For my part, I figured if you’re going to take a risk like set up a unit like Labs, then better do it with someone you like and respect. I knew I had a partner who’d be fearless, inquisitive and challenging; who’d push me and support me in the same breath.
Maybe the definition of a great partner is someone who helps you to be the best you can be. I could add, who does so without driving you insane. Truth is, we’ve had our moments. But in the main we’ve got through it and, I think, come out stronger.
Looking to the immediate future, Ben has a month or so before his time at BBH and Labs ends and his new role begins. I hope he’s going to relax, take a deep breath and enjoy himself. I’m sure we’ll know about it if he does. For anyone curious to know, I will continue to run Labs in London – and we’re fortunate insofar as BBH is packed with people around the world willing and able to get involved. More on this another day.
For now, we simply want to wish Ben the very best of luck at Google. They’re lucky to have him.