Brexit, the rise of the robots and Sustainable Customer Value(s)

31 Jul

Brexit could accelerate the adoption of technology and, in turn, exacerbate unemployment. However, technology is also capable of creating equality, prosperity and a sustainable environment and value(s). First published in Campaign.

As headlines go, “Brexit leads to robot takeover” probably sounds like satire. It’s certainly up there with Brexit is “the opportunity to create a second Elizabethan Golden Age”. While both have been said in the last few days, I would like to argue that the first proclamation may actually be true.

In recessions companies are forced to make difficult choices to survive, with CAPEX and OPEX expenditure coming under ever-increasing pressure. One of the first places to look to cut costs is the wage bill. Previously the choice was off-shoring, finding a cheaper person to do the work, or the gig economy of zero hours contacts. Now as new regulation encrouches upon the fake ‘partner’ model of ‘Uberfication’, and living standards, safety and costs rise in emerging markets there is a new choice. This choice involves short-term investment, but provides long-term savings in wages, health insurance or breaks: it is the choice to adopt Machine Intelligence and automation.

Machine Intelligence, a term that encompasses Artificial IntelligenceMachine LearningNatural Language ProcessingPredictive APIs and Speech and Image Recognition, offers a potential beyond even the comparatively “basic” analytics and insight potential of Big Data.

But Machine Intelligence also means that anything with a decision tree involved can, and will be, automated. Flesh can be replaced with silicon.

While Brexit may have been partly driven by the resentment brought about by economic inequality, the recession it spawns will potentially speed-up the adoption and implementation of technologies which will accelerate unemployment. The impact of technology on jobs will far outweigh that of immigration.

Branko Milanovic’s famous “elephant graph” with China stripped out to show the impact on Western Middle Classes

Transformational technology often arrives in the form of toys, where people can play and familiarize themselves in a non-threatening way. Alternatively it targets our natural laziness and the tendency for easy-to-beat better every time. In this vein, iRobot’s Roomba vacuum cleaner has been around for so long that you can even buy one on discount next to the tills in a Robert Dyas store. While this labour saving device is not going to replace human cleaners immediately, high profile automation experiments are taking place that are more than just PR opportunities. Domino’s Pizza have produced robots that do local deliveries and Amazon are developing autonomous airborne delivery drones. These are massive companies set to make massive savings if they can strip out human costs and inefficiencies.

Universal threat

The threat to jobs is widespread, and not just to the lower paid areas of customer service or manual labour that have been traditionally impacted by technology changes. Previously “safe” professions like law are open for transformation when 160,000 parking tickets in New York and London can already be overturned by a simple chatbot lawyer.

If only 20% of marketers are trusted by their CEOs to drive growth in their business, and the average tenure of a CMO is less than 3 years, then marketing and advertising is ripe for machine disruption. Dr. Stephen Thaler claims that his Imagination Engine AI research will lead to the creation of “creativity machines” within 5 years, and we’ve already seen agencies burn out the PR-stunt of “hiring an AI creative director” while in the background machine learning is used to extract every last cent of programmatic value from media buys. The closer to the production-end of the spectrum, the more quickly it will happen.

In the world of banking and finance Citigroup predicted 1.8 million U.S. and European bank workers could lose their jobs within 10 years, as time-consuming tasks like trade capture and reporting are automated. When a bank like State Street can predict $550M in pre-tax net run-rate expense savings by the end of 2020 just through adopting digital technology then the investment case is compelling. These industry savings in human agency are being channeled into expanding Machine Intelligence’s ability to enable self-correcting, self-improvement and self-assessment. The opportunities offered by dynamic client service segmentation, contextual value targeting or A.I. correlation-based modeling, reporting and analysis have seen a huge investment in internal Fintech coder labs and external startups. But as the technology rises and replaces functions, the question is how will the “wetware” get along with the software? Machine Intelligence can already help with vetting banking clients, pricing assets, and hedging orders without human intervention, but even the personal relationship-driven deal-making of investment banking is ripe for takeover. It seems unlikely that we will see Gucci-suited bankers marching en-mass with the Occupy movement, but when they too are rendered surplus to the market’s needs then political motivations align.

It is hard to imagine wider society’s heart bleeding for advertisers and bankers, but what about the 3.5 million ordinary families supported by truckers in America alone?

The true battle for self-driving vehicles lies in enterprise and the billion tons of goods hauled every day, but at the moment this battle is being fought around the PEBSWAC (problem exists between steering wheel and chair) at the luxury end of the automotive market.

Uber is already ordering 100,000 self-driving Mercedes to replace its Uber drivers after they have, in turn, disrupted and replaced the taxi drivers. The hype is increasingly loud but tragically we have seen the first death associated with Tesla’s autopilot. The victim was a true advocate of the technology and Tesla has responded with its own statistics, claiming that with ‘1M auto deaths per year worldwide, approximately half a million people would have been saved if the Tesla autopilot was universally available’. The story of technology is punctuated with too many of these stories — few remember the first death from a Tram or his grave in a Croydon cemetery. While the true attribution of blame for the accident is still uncertain and the Rand corporation has pointed out serious flaws in self-driving car manufacturer calculations, in the correct-use cases, domains and circumstances machines ARE better than humans.

Machine Intelligence’s technologies cut across problem types (from classification and clustering to computer vision) and methods (from support-vector machines to deep-belief networks for learning). It offers the potential to discern not only the “truth” behind data, knowledge and behaviours at a scale, speed and accuracy that would be impossible to achieve without it, but also has the potential to reveal what Paul Saffo, renowned Technology Futurist and Consulting Professor at Stanford University, called the contradictions, inversions, oddities and coincidences that point the way to innovation and opportunity.

The benefits of Machine Intelligence in healthcare go beyond retrospective analysis and predictive models to influence diagnostic decision-making. IBM is currently partnering with the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center to enable patient-specific diagnostic test and treatment recommendations for types of cancer.

Many of IBM Cognitive Computer Watson’s features that led to its famous Jeopardy victory are also relevant to the healthcare domain, including its ability to incorporate huge volumes of unstructured text data (patients’ electronic health records, medical literature, and so on), respond to natural language queries, provide probabilistic reasoning to assist clinicians in making evidence-based decisions, and improve its performance through learning from use interaction.

But what happens to the people left behind or deliberately discarded in this tornado of progress?

Benevolent social and economic solutions for a post-employment society have been suggested, including universal income or a negative income tax that at least recognises the value, social status and purpose that work provides beyond just financial means.

It is hard to be positive at the moment. It is easy to think in dystopian terms. And it is far simpler to describe the loss of existing, familiar jobs than it is to imagine the industries and functions that have yet to be created. While the role of social media manager does not even count as a blip on history’s radar before being replaced by a chatbot, its very existence in the first place is testament to technology’s ability to create jobs as well as destroy them. The challenge is what these jobs will be, and how long will the lag be between the “creative destruction” of areas of employment and the creation of new industry?

Ethical responsibilities

As a society we can be trapped in a present that is buffeted by large corporations, uber-platforms and the “wind-tunnel” pressure for hyper-efficiency and optimisation.

But now if you work in technology you also work in ethics.

It doesn’t matter if you are working on a digital campaign, service design for a new mobile purchase system or the algorithm that determines whether a self-driving vehicle chooses to allow the death of its rich sole driver instead of a group of less well-off pedestrians.

We have a responsibility. We are not politicians; we need a plan.

Technology and data must be harnessed to build something better from the debris of yesterday’s shattered dream and prevent people from being buried under it, even if there is a false temptation to blame them.

People are angry. Who to blame?

For all the talk of the central value of big data in the modern world there is a real struggle to even place a value on it. The SAS Institute in 2013 found that the market value or future income of data could not be adequately determined, and instead accounting “tricks” like including non-economic benefits or risks had to be used to tell shareholders what the value really was for the knowledge that their companies held. Machine Intelligence will enable us to extract greater value from this “new oil” and may help us usher-in a new wave of “cognitive capitalism”.

Sustainable customer value can be created through pairing Machine Intelligence with human-centred innovation. The aim should be doing something useful for people individually and as a society. We can be mindful that our work ladders-up to the Sustainable Development Goals and social balanceeconomic prosperity and a healthy environment, rather than the short termism of “the dumbest idea in the world”, Maximised Shareholder Value (MSV). Instead of following Friedman we can look to Peter Drucker’s notion that “the purpose of business is to create and keep a customer”. If Drucker is right then it is also necessary for the long term health and future of business to sustain customers — not in the sense of chasing unrealistic loyalty but in the longer term sense of ensuring there is a sustainable pool of customers to be created and acquired. The notion of Sustainable Customer Value here is co-created. It is not a self-serving fig-leaf of Corporate Social Responsibility but it changes brand and business building into an inherent dialogue about values. It is about value and values. As Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever describes it:

“I envision a 21st century form of business where the everyday consumer is helping shape the social contract … It’s a business world that is moving from value-based transactions to values-based partnerships.”

Future transactions involve interlocking feedback loops — enabling consensual coordination of JTBD and actions

While it has been stated that “the vast majority of companies struggle to tie customer experience investments to business outcomes”, the private sector can already make proven contributions to well-being as well as commerce. Maximised Shareholder Value was a successful meme in business partly due to its relatively simple measurability but Machine Intelligence, sensors and network feedback would make calculating, measuring and acting upon shared value for customers and society at scale possible. Sustainable customer value(s) could be equally simple and measurable as MSV.

This is not to argue that technology is a panacea or offers an easy, technocratic Gordian knot solution to the Wicked Problems we face. We must be mindful of the unintended consequences of seeing challenges and solutions in isolation. The car was a technological advance that created great wealth and opened up the world to previously impossible connections, but it also led to choking pollution, the emergence of car-centric cities and Walmart-style highway commerce and communities that society is struggling to move beyond. Equally placing too much faith in spreadsheets may have created a “weapon of mass destruction” or prison of financial optimization where the job of management becomes one of managing numbers and ratios, not real flesh and blood businesses that create jobs and support communities.

The spreadsheet as prison — American Beauty

Brexit itself is a classic example of The Cobra Effect and Machine Intelligence and Sustainable Customer Value(s) should not be an opportunity for top-down design or a failure to acknowledge the emergent nature of the environment, society and economy. This is not about running off and neglecting our commercial responsibilities and purpose in the pursuit of often self-reassuring Brand PURPOSE.

Machine Intelligence for our better natures

In order to succeed we would need to resolve the paradox inherent in Stewart Brand’s mantra:

“On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.”

In our hyper-competitive knowledge or cognitive economy there is no incentive to share data. Companies horde and protect data. VCs and analysts place exponential valuations on the monetization of “people as data” as they “pay” for access to the latest free social platform or App. But instead of focusing on the next “collaborative economy” delivery App, could we develop a “collaborative cognitive economy” of Machine Intelligence and AI for the Common Good?

By developing a policy and infrastructure that provides for the connection of anonymized data-sets (anonymized in terms of corporations as well as citizens), the sensors powering automation and AI algorithms, we could ensure the full utilization of information beneath the surface of the economy. Essentially enshrine an AI-administered, new law of robotics that connects all Machine Intelligence beyond the manipulation of government and corporations; a law where the rules mean that entities can not only compete commercially but also ensures that the by-product is the creation of human-focused common good. It would be a world where the engines behind programmatic media are repurposed not just for bid optimisation but to create valuable personal experiences on an individual and societal level.

Progressive commuting: Algorithm anticipates train delays hrs before they occur

In this thought experiment Machine Learning could optimize bias out of the system and succeed within inherently chaotic systems given such a large training data-set and moonshot investment, with social balanceeconomic prosperity and a healthy environment the ultimate goal of collaborative nudges. It makes the final product of the internet and Machine Intelligence a benevolent (not bene-violent) ghost in the machine or All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace (the poem not the documentary) with encoded human compassion or consideration.

Crazy perhaps. But with the tax code and collection systems across the world already broken, it is no crazier than the European Commission’s idea to extend them to AIs as a realistic solution to the challenge of creating value that we can all benefit from, not just the machine and algorithm owners. By way of “proof of concept” Google is already using technology from DeepMind to achieve a 15% improvement in power usage efficiency. When you consider that Google used 4,402,836 MWh of electricity in 2014 (the average yearly consumption of about 366,903 US family homes), saving 15% is a huge commercial innovation as well as a sustainable innovation.

It might be easy to cry “there is no alternative (TINA)” to our current state, but the decline in Return on Net Assets and the ever-increasing gap between productivity and wages that has been happening since the late 1970s mean we need a solution to the break in late-stage capitalism: something that delivers more than just a decline in developed-economy incomes until they meet the emerging economies’ middle-class wages on the way down.

We can use brands and technology to connect positively to the people excluded from the metro-elite, the brexiters who could be left further behind, and break out of our industry bubble that lacks diversity in age, sex, race and especially class. Machine Intelligence can be the impetus in sustainable innovation rather than divergence, regression, implosion and human obsolescence. It can “expand the horizons of human creativity” and deliver Sustainable Customer Value(s).

Whatever we do for people, brands and businesses, we need to make it count.

What can brands count for and how can they deliver?

Beyond a beautiful tension: brand ideas and cultural conflict

1 Jul

An old JWT planning manual channeling the wisdom of Stephen King read once, “we believe that all insights spring from tension between or within ‘human truths’ (i.e. Maslovian needs that transcend cultural or geographic boundaries) and ‘cultural truths’ (i.e. motivations that differentiate).”

Tensions have always been at the heart of great communication and creativity whether that’s in a well crafted proposition like “Dirt is Good” or the tensions inherent in dialogic literature where “a plurality of independent and unmerged voices and consciousness, a genuine polyphony of fully valid voices” are not subject to the authoritative control of the author.

A tension is the grit around which you can build a great brand idea.

But now brand ideas are being challenge to do more. They must go beyond messaging and through the layers of the business and really count. Their impact on the world is expected to be more purposeful and meaningful, they are challenged to be, ultimately, cultural.

In a world of adblocking, ad-blindness, privacy fears and noise exhaustion being “part of culture” is an excellent choice that offers the potential for brands to be distinctive by giving people something of value they actually want to experience as well as helping them achieve the “Job to be done”.

The challenge is that “Culture”, like the other C-word “content”, has become a buzzword. It seems that for the last few years every brand and agency is talking about “creating culture” and how

“The best [ideas] make a poignant cultural point. Not a business problem, but cultural tension that you find. This one is a little meta and about advertising. If it’s great work, you can see exactly how it affects the culture,” Jason Marks, executive creative director of Partners + Napier in New York.

Diageo have even hired a “Head of Culture”.

Unfortunately everyone seems to have a different definition of culture.

An official OED definition of culture is “the ideas, customs & social behaviour of a particular people or society“. This sets a far more ambitious objective for any work. It means more than creating opportunities for associations, sponsorships or product placement, more than working with famous designers and artists to create fashionable packaging or a temporary PR-driven Pop-up or even hoping that an ad catchphrase will “Simples” it’s way into common parlance.

A desire to have culturally relevance and impact gives brands at first two choices: to co-opt or to co-create? Do you seek to “borrow”, support and nurture external cultural creators – be an advocate of them so that they and the people they inspire are advocates of you? Or do you take the harder road of identifying unmet cultural needs and working with communities to tackle them head on?

This difficult later approach may mean building and judging brand ideas and creative work not by traditional proposition, messaging or tracking KPIs but the “6 elements of news”.

Beyond tension to conflict

Perhaps if anyone can lay claim to operating at the fast coalface of culture it is journalists. At journalism school students learn to ask the four Ws (What, Where, When, Why) alongside finding sources but also develop the inherent ability to interrogate a story for its strength relative to the 6 elements of news: Timeliness, Proximity, Prominence, Consequence, Human Interest, and Conflict.

The last element, Conflict, brings us back to the tension at the heart of a great brand idea but also pushes us on to a new territory appropriate for a new post-digital world.

Traditionally brands love anyone and anything. A conservative, mainstream brand wouldn’t dream of picking a fight. A mass market brand is for everyone. But as the aphorism goes, if you design for everyone, you design for no one.

Ryanair famously built to maximum saliency in the budget airline space on conflict and customer masochism. Protein World’s 2015 tube poster campaign sparked 40,000 people who would never buy their product to sign a petition but in 4 days it also helped acquire 5,000 new customers and online notoriety that barely scrapped through to its Instagram-fitness-model heartlands.

These are obviously extreme examples but brand ideas like Dove, Sunlight or even Yorkie with its old “Not For Girls” ads, show that brands can be culturally relevant by standing against something – and it doesn’t have to be something obvious.

If you compare these brand ideas against the 6 elements of news they achieve a high score on at least 3 or more of the heuristics as well as being created with distribution baked in.

This inspired me to make a canvas and test it out to see if there might be a way to build “Cultural Value Propositions” or Brand Ideas. Lovingly “informed” by the Business Model Canvas, this framework challenges us to ask how we make brands count and to ask,

  • What value do we deliver to the individual or the community?
  • How do we add value not noise?
  • Which cultural needs are we satisfying?

Cultural_idea_canvas_poster.pdfCultural Ideas that count

It is open source so please have a go yourself and let me know if it works for you. While the canvas places all the heuristics on the same level I do think that ability to encompass Conflict could help a brand be truly distinctive in our brave new post-digital world.

If we are to create ideas and experiences that “create culture” then we should learn from outside our industry and one source is news and entertainment with their inherent feel for what creates human interest and culture.

In this way it is perhaps no surprise that the only work in the last few years that has truly effected culture, “the ideas, customs & social behaviour of a particular people or society“, is Channel 4’s Superhumans for the Paralympics…done by 4Creative, a creative agency within a broadcaster.


But maybe that’s an argument for another day.


5 forces for today’s digital business

22 Mar

5 forces for today's digital business

What can public sector IT learn from start-ups?

7 Jan
Public sector IT has been a notorious feature on the pages of Private Eye for many years with projects seemingly assigned to those large consultancies and outsourcers capable of completing the labyrinthine RFP documents rather than those capable of doing the work. The old joke was that projects were awarded based on the “thud test” where proposals were printed out and dropped from waist height with whoever’s made the loudest thud winning the lucrative business.
Martha Lane-Fox’s report about the future of UK digital government plus the repercussions of the very public collapse of the Obama sponsored healthcare exchange website in the U.S. showed policy makers the need for a fundamental change. Both of these events led to the race to bring a start-up mentality and faster, leaner ways of working into the public sector. They also opened procurement to the people capable of doing the work differently.
In the UK this resulted in the creation of GDS and its approach to Government as a platform. While there are different opinions about the financial impact of GDS it has been very influential culturally.
GDS has shown that the ways of working associated with start-ups can work within the monolithic structures of the public sector. This is not due to Agile or Lean or any other now almost dogmatic code of working or project management omertà. It is because, for the first time, the person at the “receiving end” of public services was recognised. Instead of “organisation-out” ways of developing endless requirements, GDS rooted their work in a “people-in” method of customer discovery.
This is the true lesson that public sector IT can learn from start ups: it is not about “user as victim” of bloated, unyielding systems but people with “Jobs to Be Done”. Public sector IT must respect people with needs who are part of an “Expectation Economy” and will judge experiences by comparing them to the latest mobile apps or social platform not the terrible previous iteration of a local government form.
The true start-up mentality respects the “end-user“(shudder) as a real person with functional, social and emotional jobs. It is based on judging success with small, quick experiments using analytic proof rather than big crash and burn launches with wash-up blame sessions. This mentality means introducing flexibility and the ability of systems to evolve as technology and people’s expectations change – often rapidly. Ultimately it is about putting people at the heart of IT, whether they are a mum looking to update her Tax disc or a doctor trying to update your medical records.

Technological Innovation as a Knowledge Creation Process

12 Jun


What if innovation is really just a knowledge creation process? A thought inspired by the SECI model of knowledge creation by Ikujiro Nonaka (1995).

To see if it could work I ran it backwards, now to run it forwards. Or if you’d like to do it for me you can have the PDF below. Let me know…


Why does video seem longer on different devices?

1 Feb

A General (Media) Theory of Relativity or video seems longer on different devices

If you’ve ever shown someone a “hilarious” video clip you’ve just watched, you may have felt that nagging sensation. The “seriously this is great, honest, the good bit is coming up, god this is dragging, I swear it was over by now last time” Effect.

That quick 30 second viral suddenly seems like a James Cameron epic (maybe with more plot and characterisation but still soooo long).

I’ve always referenced this weird effect when asked that immortal question during almost every briefing: “how long can this be?”

Maybe the context and the device being used should dictate length more than any 60/30/15 second rule or the “it can be as long as it is interesting” statement? While standing at a train station trying to download and watch a YouTube clip on your phone it is amazing how long 11 seconds of a cat attacking a potato can seem.

Anyway rather than explain my theory every time I put together a quick diagram lovingly ripped off from an obscure physics theory no one has ever heard of…

Brand Building in a Digital World

17 Oct

It was the JWT Grads open day today with lots of young, enthusiastic people running around the building and getting to sample the hospitality of the Comm. It’s all part of the 2013 JWT Grad Programme and entry is still open until 1st November. You can apply here.

Personally I’d have loved the opportunity to experience it all. This year’s Grads have also had the pleasure of training at Hyper Island and Google. They have also had the good or bad fortune to have a bald guy in a bad shirt talking to them about “Brand Building in a Digital World” as an Intro to digital planning and UX, an edited version of which is below.

It’s a quick run through of some ideas about digital, channels and experience but most of all it’s about what I’d like to say is the the nature of Brand building in a digital world: Manifesting the behaviour inherent in a brand idea to deliver a measurable, business building, marketing goal.

Not digital for digital’s sake or clicking around or wacky engagement for engagement’s sake.

This last word “Engagement” is a overused word. Everyone seems to have a different definition which makes it a difficult and debased term but if I was to define it I’d say…

Engagement is about “creating windows of enhanced attention to influence behaviour & motivations” in order to increase Brand Salience.

Brand Salience is building a brand’s propensity to be noticed or come to mind in buying situations by increasing the quantity & quality of memory structures buyers hold about brands and associated attributes.

Brand Salience is key to driving buyer choice & behaviour which is ultimately the real reason we should consider engagement as a tactic to increase the effectiveness of digital work.

Anyway if you can put up with that (it only lasts an hour) please give our Grad programme a go.

What is UX?

4 Sep

User Experience and considering the consumer’s entire journey and needs is a central part of digital planning. Here’s a short introduction to User Experience I did for JWT Planning Academy. It’s not exhaustive but it touches on a lot of things that cleverer people have said…

Creating a digital response – work that is good enough to share

27 Apr

The JWT Planning god, Stephen King once wrote “a good advertising idea has to be original enough to stimulate people and draw an intense response from them”.

I was thinking in this vein the other day about both the work we see produced in the industry these days and how we are increasingly asking ideas to behave, particularly online. In the spirit of sweeping generalisations I’d argue that the work produced divides into 3 categories: Good, Bad and Meh.

Good work is the stuff we all look at and wish we had done (or have done if you’re lucky), it has creative soul, creates an “intense response”, builds the brand and sells. It is rarer. We know it when we see it and should always aspire to it.

Bad work – we all know it when we see it. It lacks the love and the craft, it has the strategy (if there is one) showing through the seams and makes your toes curl up when you see it. But it does create a response. You do notice it and while you may not feel favourably about the creative, you are aware of what it is selling. It is also likely to be those ads the industry hates but the public remembers in a “we buy any comparing of your mum going to iceland via specsavers” way. There’s much more of it than Good work and it has a business effect even if we give it Turkey of the week.

Which leads to Meh work. Meh is the majority of the work we (don’t) see and hear on TV, in posters and online. It’s wallpaper, it’s ignored even though it’s probably been focus grouped to within an inch of its life and everyone got the KMA. There’s no response. It is everywhere and when we see it we just go “meh” and move on. I’d argue that if there is a choice between Meh and Bad choose bad, at least no one got killed making it and hopefully not much money was spent in the process.

It was this idea of intense response that made me think about digital work and how we want it to behave these days.

There is no such thing as a “Go virals on the interwebs” formula.

There’s no such thing as a brief for a “viral”.

But we do ask for our work to be shared more and more – it’s not just the confetti of Facebook Like and Tweet This buttons covering the web, it’s often part of the strategy or client brief. If we write “make it shareable” on a creative brief, it’s a bit like writing “make it good”. The answers is yes, of course, now what the hell do you mean by that?

Which led me to put together a diagram based on a collection of sources, theories and bits of research – which I tend to do if I’m trying to work something out. Generally involving circles.

If something is going to be good enough to share with the small numbers of people closest to us online – our friends, colleagues and family plus maybe that network of weak tie people who may notice us in their feeds – then first it has to create a response and then it needs to enable people to get a benefit or value out of sharing.

Stephen King talks about an “intense response” but one way of thinking about this is to consider it as a “physical response” – whether that is shivers going down your spin, your eyes opening wider, your mouth watering or that look on your face when you are surprised or realise something that should have been obvious.

But being good enough to cause a response is only the first step. There also needs to be a reason to share – whether that is selfish or altruistic – that encourages people to go to the effort of posting that link or writing 140 characters of witty commentary. No-one likes to be old hat so if there can be a sense of timeliness or being on the upward curve of popularity then this can contribute to the odds of the work being seen as “Good enough to share”. Then the work stands a chance.

If – and it is a big if – an idea can achieve this then our challenge as strategists and creatives is to address the mechanics of modern sharing. We need to make it easy to share by breaking the idea (or even in some cases the brand) into “atomic units” that can be experienced in different contexts by different audiences and communities.

At its simplest this process involves identify the themes, communities, sites and assets needed (from bespoke emailed pitches to animated gifs, short titles/description that tease and are detailed enough to be engaging but don’t give it all away, supercuts, image macros or behind the scenes photos) to encourage and make sharing easy, at its more complex it involves treating your brand or idea like an API. This relates to the increasingly common challenge we face as agencies with getting more value from our ideas and budgets – “skinning the pig” – but also meeting even more multichannel requirements.

A simple example is below. A few months back JWT made a film for the Male Cancer Awareness Charity called Rhian Touches Herself. We were very lucky in that some very talented people gave their time for a worthy cause (full story here). We were also lucky in that the idea caused a “physical response” (if you haven’t seen it I won’t say…), gave an excuse to Strengthen Bonds, got people to respond to each other and we managed to ride and reinforce an upward curve of popularity for a good cause for a period of time. There are probably better case studies out there but I’d argue it is good start.

Fancy dress street rugby for HSBC HK7s

20 Mar

Here’s a nice bit of smashing, crashing and general rugby mayhem played out across the streets of Hong Kong. By men dressed as toy soldiers, cowboys, disco kids, centurions, vikings etc etc. It also features Jason Robinson and George Gregan. And it’s for HSBC! HSBC 7s Fancy dress street rugby…