Fun with tech.
Jim Hunt writes:
Google Glass. It's a bit odd.
With everyone staring and pointing at the metal and plastic unibrow it's hard not to be self conscious. It being very orange probably didn't help. Not exactly inconspicuous. And it gets hot. Like mega hot if it's doing any sort of processing at all, which also runs the battery down in minutes. And it doesn't really do anything useful just now. And it's madly expensive.
But it's easy to get very excited about how its clunky star trek style, overheating and general lack of utility will disappear in future iterations leaving a slick, smart, and capable device with a number potential uses only limited only by the ingenuity of app creators.
Having tried Glass out I understand how incredible a tool it could be for situations where remote assistance is important. Glass included in a medical kit to enable a specialist to assist a doctor or untrained bystander in an emergency. Like an upside-down 'Mechanical Turk', the device providing smarts (from another person or artificial intelligence) leading a real person who brings the dexterity and understanding of the environment that's so hard to recreate in a robot. Telepresence is a powerful tool with many applications.
And wearing Glass for just a couple of hours I'm now also sure society will quickly become accustomed to devices like this, with understood rules on when it's appropriate to leave them in your pocket, even if just they make the average person initially uncomfortable today.
But trying Glass brought to mind these wider questions about wearables and portable computing that I found super interesting. I don't have answers, so if you've any thoughts please do comment below.
Remembering vs. what actually happened.
The first thing many people asked was if it was recording. Did you see this?
Your experience of an event as it happens and how you remember that same event are different. Really different. Dan Ariely put it well when he said "One of the ways time works in our favour is to help us forget or misremember the past in a way that makes us feel better about ourselves."
Sensors like Glass record everything exactly as it happened. But your memories are the main moments sequenced into a coherent little story. This story might not be quite true, events might not even be in the right order, stuff is missed out, and importance is weighted towards the strongest (happiest, most painful, most exhilarating) moment and how you were feeling at the end.
What happens to someone with fast, easy and 'always-on' access to what actually occurred in its entire unedited, unsympathetic detail? How often is your memory a more pleasing version of the real event? Would sticking with memory instead of the recorded reality leave you more or less happy in life?
Interacting with wearables.
Glass is bit of a contradiction. Very private with a screen only you can see. But Glass has the least private and subtle methods of control as it currently is.
"OK Glass". Everyone in the room knows what you're searching for. Reach up to your head, make twitches and winks or other obvious tics and your friends are bound to see. Using a touchscreen might seem antisocial but it wins hands down for keeping things private.
Iris tracking might make these interactions more private and robust, or some completely different way to interact with the device will solve this problem. But the current ones don't work well in public situations.
(I once had a lunch with one of the Google team that was developing voice recognition and automated speech. He was adamant that the reason people didn't use voice to control devices more was all down to it being imperfect. He suggested that if you made the algorithms accurate then everyone would use it. I didn't agree then, and still don't now. For me the lack of privacy when using voice as a control method is a major issue. But then I am rather shy.)
Flow - the mental state of being completely present and fully immersed in a task - is considered a strong contributor to creativity. I can't think of a better tool to bring yourself out of flow than a set of glasses pushing the latest social media update straight into your eyes.
"Nothing in life is as important as you think it is when you are thinking of it," wrote Daniel Kahneman in Thinking, Fast and Slow. An omnipresent screen is making you consider that information as it arises. With that always going on how can anyone correctly prioritise their focus?
Are devices like this are actually making us more productive in the most valuable way? Sure, it'll help if you've a long stream of little things you have to do. In this case the timely reminders can certainly be useful. But shouldn't computing be helping by doing these small tasks for us, rather than controlling our day to make sure they get done?
This would free all of us up to do what people still do best: creative and conceptual thought, and problem solving. Surely that should be the ambition of technology and innovation, rather than just a more complex way to keep yet another list.
It is customary round about now, when the kids start singing and the band begins to play, for Welcome to Optimism to reflect on the preceding 12 months. 2013 has been an extraordinary year for Wieden+Kennedy London and I’d like to thank our amazing people and brilliant clients for all we've been able to achieve together.
As those who know me will be aware, I’m a hard-bitten Scotsman with a heart of solid granite. I’m not given to sentimental displays of emotion. But as I sip my steaming tankard of festive Cravendale egg-nog (fortified with Southern Comfort) and nibble on a choice chunk of Tesco Finest stilton by the roaring fire in the Wieden Executive Lodge Spa Therapy Zone, I think back on all we have achieved in the last 12 months, and I feel something warm and sticky welling up inside me. Is it a glutinous mixture of stilton and egg-nog or could it be… a burgeoning feeling of festive gratitude and pride towards our people, clients and indeed all mankind?
For pastoral purposes, let's assume it’s the latter and let’s just remind ourselves of the year that was 2013. The goals we set ourselves for this year were all about ‘more’.
So, how did we do?
We certainly delivered on this: 88 new joiners in the last 12 months is an extraordinary influx of extra resource and talent across the board. We dramatically increaded our creative firepower, strategic smarts, tech capability and diversity. This also means that 40% of the agency is new. That’s brilliant in terms of capacity and energy, but it’s challenging in terms of making everyone feel part of the family and helping them adapt to the Wieden way. Particularly because even as new joiners start to settle in, we are continuing to grow and continuing to add new people to the team. So helping and supporting our people will be a key focus for next year.
We’ve done some bloody great work this year. And it was nice to see the recognition that this work received.
Shots magazine made us their agency of the year 2013. They said:
“Wieden+Kennedy has demonstrated once again how to create iconic work, irrespective of the category in which it plays. They don't just create great content, they seem to create new benchmarks - with freakish consistency."
W+K came top in the survey of "Ten Great Ad Agencies Of 2013" on Forbes, with over two thirds of those polled voting for us as their top agency.
“In a recent online survey among 1850 CMOs and other senior executives,Wieden+Kennedy emerged as the favorite ad agency.
W+K is looked upon as being head and shoulders above the rest of Madison Avenue. The agency, which creates advertising for Old Spice, Coke, ESPN, and Nike, was voted as the best all-around agency by a remarkable 66% of the respondents, almost the combined total of the next two runners-up.”
Here are a few of the accolades and awards accrued by our work this year:
Honda - Hands
“Flawless,” said Campaign, “Captivating… wonderful,” said Adweek. Best Ad of the Year said Shots.
#6 in YouTube’s top ten of the year
Three - Dance Pony Dance
“Funniest advert of the year,” said the Daily Mail.
Two golds at Cannes.
#3 in YouTube’s top ten of the year
Tesco - Love Every Mouthful
“What great advertising is all about… done with impeccable taste,” said Adscam.
Lurpak - Good proper food
“Visually astonishing, another sensory masterpiece,” said AdWeek.
Gold at Campaign Big Awards
Named ‘best press campaign of the year’ by Campaign in their 2013 Annual.
Lurpak – Weave Your Magic
“A masterpiece of craft and storytelling,” said AdWeek.
Silver at Cannes.
Stride – Gumulon
“This is totes AMAZEBALLS. Chew control is so much fun. Whoever made this is a genius!!” said a reviewer in the iTunes store (probably one of the W+K team under a pseudonym).
FWA Site of the Day winner.
We continued to try new things, including creating an online easter egg hunt for Tesco, an Instagram video campaign for Nike CR7, developing and designing a new milk shake brand (Gulp) for Arla, rebranding feminism in partnership with Elle magazine, making an actual magical Christmas chocolate coin factory that raises money for a local school, taking on much more social and community management work for our clients, and even creating a mobile game that you control by chewing with your mouth – does it get any more mental than that?
We certainly worked hard. And we produced a ton of stuff.
We didn't do many competitive pitches this year - we were too busy - but we grew dramatically with additional assignments from existing clients – a good indication that we’re doing an excellent job for them. Mondelez appointed us lead agency on the global Halls account without a pitch, Arla Foods awarded us their global account across a portfolio of dairy brands, and our Nike, Honda, Brown-Forman and Tesco business all grew this year. Plus - we started working with our neighbours at D&AD. And we have a couple of new business things on the go that should hopefully result in new relationships in the new year.
The plan was to make sure we work efficiently and effectively, to maximise the ‘inspiring’ and minimise the ‘tiring’. We made a lot of improvements behind the scenes: progress made but more to do next year.
It wasn’t all hard work. There was a lot of hard work, yes, but we also had some fun, and people tell me that they enjoy fun, so this is a good thing. We had a legendary founders’ day party, a brilliant Christmas bash, the drinks trolley, ice skating, go-karting, bake-offs, booze-ups, etc, etc. Mostly booze-ups, actually.
It's been a long year, we've worked hard, we’ve achieved a lot and, apparently, it’s nearly Christmas. Hopefully the UK economy won't collapse if we shut up shop for a few days over the festive period.
All the very best to you and yours.
Let the bells ring out for Christmas!
Recently, our marketing department went on a field trip south of the river (gasp!) to the Design Museum to immerse themselves in the wonderful, colourful world of Paul Smith at the "Hello, my name is Paul Smith" exhibition. Our PR Manager, Marta, writes:
I’ve always been fascinated by Paul Smith. As a designer, he has managed to carve himself a cheerful niche in the sober fashion and luxury goods market. His designs are instantly recognisable and British to the core, mixing vintage flourishes like elongated 1970s inspired collars with modern textiles and whimsical prints. As a businessman, Smith is very much present in his brand. Unlike a number of designers with their names on the door but little contact with the day-to-day running of their brand, he is known for being actively involved in everything his label does, from photographing collections to putting his stamp on collaborations with iconic brands like Mini, Leica and even HP sauce.
To me, Smith’s brand embodies optimism. From his iconic striped patterns to the cheeky flashes of eye-popping bright linings against otherwise subdued suiting fabrics, he knows how to inject a little humour and lightness into very wearable 'serious' clothes.
The exhibition is as much a personal archive of Smith’s life as a visual history of his brand. The whole thing starts with trip back in time to his label’s humble beginnings in 1970, when Smith opened his first (3 metre wide) shop in Nottingham, before taking visitors on a tour of Smith’s studio and workshop spaces and ending in a recreation of the experience of a Paul Smith fashion show.
The experience feels incredibly personal. From the hand-written notes and captions accompanying displays to Smith’s narration in the immersive, abstract screen-covered room symbolising the inside of his mind, it feels as though Smith himself is giving visitors a warm welcome into his secret world.
Walking around the exhibition, a few parallels between Paul Smith’s philosophy and our culture at W+K stood out to me. Again and again, Smith says “ideas can come from anywhere”. That’s the belief here as well. While we have creatives and account handlers, planners and PAs, everyone in the building is encouraged to contribute and bring their own skills and experience to the table. Nothing feels more exciting than meetings when everyone in the room is engaged and excited, whatever their role traditionally involves.
A love of individuality is also something Paul Smith and W+K seem to share. Smith says, “Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition". In fact, this belief is written on the walls. Like our offices, Smith’s studio is what some would call 'cluttered'. Sure, every vertical and horizontal surface may be completely covered by an accumulation of memorabilia, knicknacks and whatnots, but it feels authentic and personal in a way that a cold, over-designed minimalist space never could.
The exhibition is an inspiring place to spend an hour, with hundreds of details to get lost in. Leaving the museum, I couldn’t help but feel a little more optimistic and inspired to do some creative brainstorming of my own. I’ll confess that I visited twice last week, and chances are, the next time I need a jolt of inspiration, I’ll be heading across the Thames again.
The exhibition runs until 9th March 2014.
At the end of last week I came across two contrasting views of life and work. The first was on Ben Kay's ad-related blog If This Is A Blog Then What's Christmas. Ben wrote a post entitled "TO CARE, TO PRETEND YOU CARE, OR TO NOT CARE? THAT IS THE QUESTION…" It was prompted by this anonymous comment on his blog:
I no longer give a fuck. I have been in it a long time and they’ve won. We have lost. If you give a fuck you go mad. Just take the money, say “leverage” at meetings, write their stupid ads that make them happy and laugh at them behind their backs.
All I’d say, as Gandhi would, is ‘be the change you want to see in the world’.
But of course, if you don’t really want to see that change, carry on as you are. Nothing bad’s going to happen, except you could well get to the end of your life and reflect on what might have been in a way that makes you cry quite a lot in front of your grandkids.
I'm with Ben on this one, but the comments on his blog suggest that there are some bitter, disillusioned people working in advertising who just don't care. They don't like their job, they don't respect their clients and they're not proud of what they do. That was a profoundly depressing thought for a Friday afternoon.
But then on Friday evening I watched the documentary Jiro: Dreams Of Sushi.
This film is about 85-year old Jiro Ono, ranked as the world's best sushi chef. He runs a tiny ten-seat sushi counter in a Tokyo subway station and has devoted his life to the perfection of the craft of making and serving sushi. HIs restaurant is the only sushi restaurant in the world with three michelin stars and has an eight-month long reservation waiting list.
Jiro's approach to his work is one of total dedication to excellence and refusal to compromise.
"Once you decide on your occupation... you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. Yo must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That is the secret of success... and is the key to beging regarded honourably."
Jiro is an obsessive perfectionist who lives, breathes and, yes, dreams sushi. He left home as a small child and had no subsequent contact with his parents. His life has been devoted to his work in a way that has meant sacrifices in other areas. This is an extreme approach to mastering one's trade. But I found it inspiring to see how this level of commitment can raise something as apparently simple as sushi preparation (though that notion may be naivete on my part) to the level of a higher calling, and the accomplishment of a life's work worthy of great pride.
If that attitude of uncompromising excellence can be applied to sushi, then it can also be applied to whatever occupation you decide upon. Even advertising.
The film is beautiful and thought-provoking. It presents sushi preparation as an almost mystical ritual. Jiro descrbes himself as 'ecstatic' in his work and we get a sense of that as we watch his intense concentration. The way that he guides and encorages his sons and staff to apply the boss's standards to their own work reminds me of the best ECDs I've worked with. They can be exacting task-masters but they achieve extraordinary results. Interestingly, he is just as particular about his approach to servicing his clients. He does not pander to requests for frippery such as appetisers: he only does sushi. But he does care deeply about his customers' dining experience being perfect and treats them with the utmost respect. (Though I can imagine that for some diners it might be disconcerting to have him prepare the sushi directly in front of you and then watch you like a hawk as you eat it.)
The final words come from Jiro's son, who says this is what Jiro has taught him:
"Always try to look beyond and above yourself.
Always try to improve on yourself.
Always strive to elevate your craft."
The IPA asked me to write a few words for a piece on how we encourage creativity. It's been published here.
Here's what I wrote:
We’ve got all that wacky creative cultural stuff at Wieden+Kennedy. Yes, we have a padded cell meeting room, we have office baking competitions, wild parties, free booze on a trolley, in-office band performances and art exhibitions. We encourage and enable people to do volunteer work in our local community and send people as far afield as Rwanda to enable them to achieve things they never thought they could do. We have furniture made out of dodgem cars and junk stall finds. We have a Dude of the Month award that bestows a special ceremonial jacket upon the winner.
We have sing-songs, and pie-offs, and stitch and bitch sessions, and art outings, and portrait painting, and interactive window installations. We have creative bursaries to help everyone broaden their minds, we invite in all sorts of interesting visiting speakers and, yes, our reception is so filled with bric-a-brac it looks like a jumble sale and we have to keep turning away passers by who mistake our office for another Shoreditch vintage store. We even have the obligatory agency table football table somewhere under all the junk.
We have all of these things, but they don't happen by management design, they just evolve organically out of the environmental slime. They are the products of our culture, not the cause of it. Everyone knows we’re here to do the best work of our lives. That’s what W+K was founded to do. It’s our promise to our people and our clients. We have remained fiercely independent so that we can stay true to this principle. It’s what we are and it affects everything we do.
Interactive Strategist Sammy King wrote some words for our pals at Twitter. And here they are:
At the moment though it seems as though there seems to be a consensus that unless your brand or agency has a 24-7 social newsroom staffed by at least 40 people scouring the web, then you’re lagging way behind. I disagree. All it takes is a keen eye, a sense of restraint and where possible, a little forward planning.
We recently ran a campaign with mobile phone network @ThreeUK, aimed at celebrating the fact that it is a network built for the internet (it was the first with 3G – hence the name). We wanted to give a point of view on people’s internet usage, focusing on the silly content that they share every day. More specifically, on how important this stuff is in building and solidifying relationships. We wanted to create something that people would see and say, “I like this and I think you’ll like it too.”
Then this little guy came along.
In addition to the Dance Pony Dance film we created the Pony Mixer, a YouTube gadget that allowed people to remix the ad using one of eight different tracks – anything from Hip Hop to Bollywood. They could then send these on to their friends with a personalised message, creating a custom piece of content that was unique to them.
Hashtags become integral to TV campaigns
One of the key elements of the film, and one that turned out to be one of the most important, was including the hashtag on the end frame. It became integral to the campaign, linking all of the different elements together and bringing together the conversation. It allowed us to capitalise on the interest that the ad generated online. Our main goal was getting people to share the video and with this, 25% of all mentions of #DancePonyDance included a link to the ad.
We also saw that mentions of the hashtag, particularly at the start of the campaign, were intrinsically linked with appearing on TV.
Now, when I was talking about real-time marketing earlier I mentioned how we can try and react to the noise that we create ourselves. With #DancePonyDance we had thousands of people creating and sharing content which we wanted to reward. So we took some of our favourite Pony Mixes that people had made and hoisted them up on the TV – something we saw as a bit like a massive retweet. This was our way of being reactive. Perhaps not in the same way as the brands I mentioned earlier, but by planning ahead in order to try and achieve a similar effect.
Planning for real-time moments
‘Planning’ for real-time moments as well as reacting to them have always been on the agenda at W+K. Where joining a conversation that is relevant to your audience often prospers is that you are able to talk to them about something that they care about. Nine times out of ten, people couldn’t care less about what you have to say. So, talk to them about something that they are interested in.
Being reactive and commenting on culture can also help add context to your brand, or the story that you are trying to tell. For example, on Three, we are trying to say that we believe sharing silly stuff online is important, so if the opportunity arose to help contextualise this in a real-world example, it might be one that we decide to comment on.
The key word though in that last paragraph is ‘relevant’. The post-Super Bowl free-for-all has meant that lots of brands just seem to get stuck into whatever topic appears to be trending at the time. Pick those that mean something to your audience as well as those that you, as a brand, can have a point of view on.
Last week, The Sunday Times Style magazine asked us to contribute to an article. The subject matter? Britain's modern man.
A topic close to many of our hearts so, with a second thought, we jumped into action.
The article had been sparked by Diane Abbott's comments late last month about the crisis men face in today's society.
Here on Hanbury Street, we wanted to defend masculinity 2.0. To flag some of the pressures on today's male. To highlight the expectations on his shoulders.
Our Wieden's words of wisdom ran in today's edition so, for those of you who who didn't pick up a copy or who don't subscribe online, here's our little snippet.
And for those of you, man or woman, without sensational eyesight, here are our words in regular-sized type:
"Grit and wit. Fit. Good with I.T."
Today's men wobble the same exhilarating, exhausting cultural tightrope trod by their mothers, the plate-spinning 1990s superwomen who had it all. Modern masculinity seems to mean being damn brilliant at everything. All the time. Serenely. The pressure to earn a crust may well be shared, but ditto housework and childcare. He must also ooze style, run ultramarathons, text back promptly, marinate, marvel at Strictly, open jars, crack funnies, know cool music, smell good, work tech devices, pick up his socks and, if necessary, chop wood. Let's hear it for modern man. Never has more been expected.
Calling all modern men: if after reading this piece, which was effortlessly penned by Beth Bentley, you identify with our thoughts, then we salute you.
And, if you're wondering who personifies this modern man for all seasons, well isn't it obvious?
Summer’s finally here! Hurrahs all round. But work continues apace. As I've got further involved with various projects, something about the ad industry continues to be of interest - the amount of interaction everyone has with each other. Maybe it doesn't seem unusual, but it's particularly striking for me, coming from a background where it’s quite normal to spend weeks talking to nobody but yourself and the odd librarian.
Thinking/creating appears to be hugely collaborative in advertising. Creatives seem to work mostly in pairs. They talk to each other all the time to figure out whether things feel right or not. Then there are the reviews, the constant refinement and tinkering to get things just right. As I said last week, everyone gets involved. Then a client presentation - more refinement and tinkering, tweaking and so on. It doesn’t leave a huge amount of room for ego, and it means that the work itself comes first.
I reckon it suits the nature of the business. The more input from people around you, the broader the appeal. And if you can’t easily explain your point of view to your colleagues, how would a mass market get what you’re saying? To me, there’s something cool in the way an industry, centered on connectivity and relationship-building, reflects what they do in the way they think.
(Thoughts courtesy of Planning Placement newbie James.)
Currently, I’m involved with two different campaigns that have started more or less the same time. This means I can see two different approaches to the way a project is set up, how the creative brief is developed and presented, to the kind of territories (the sorts of things we want to talk about) that are discussed, to the business aims, to the degree of brand-work involved, and so on. It's really interesting stuff.
One key thing, for me at least, is a chance to see how planning in different ways works across the agency, not in some abstract fashion but in a real meeting-to-meeting, review-to-review sense. Which is especially good for figuring out my own approach to planning.
It’s early days yet, but as far as I can tell it’s certainly not a case of ‘write the brief and then that’s it.’ Of course, the planner gets stuck in in writing the brief. But it's also clear to me that they continue to play an active role in helping shape (tailor, refine, nudge) the creative process as it goes along. I don’t know any better - but I suspect that this is something particular to Wiedens.
(Thoughts courtesy of Planning Placement newbie James.)