Have you ever wondered what would happen if the digital world suddenly jumped out of our screens and became physical? If you could "like" street art or watch the unread mail count ticking over on a letterbox? Enter Real Life Notifications, a new art project by W+K creative Artur, which translates the iconography of notifications from popular social platforms into the real world.
Artur and a few of his friends got together and posted notification icons around town – from Gmail to Instagram and from front doors to street art, the simple idea cleverly blurs the line between our digital lives and our physical ones.
Artur tells us a bit more about the inspiration for the idea:
"This idea came to me one day when I was looking at ROA’s Street Art in East London and I wondered what was happening with it on social media? How many people took a picture and shared it on Instagram? I shared the idea with a couple of friends and we decided to make it happen and push it further to other digital platforms and have some fun."
Look out for some notifications when you're out and about in Shroreditch, and keep an eye on the Tumblr page for more: www.reallifenotifications.tumblr.com. You can even share photos of them on your social channels and get notifications about your notifications. Meta!
Oh look, it's our office! Yikes, looks like it's time to tackle those LinkedIn requests...
Every year, we celebrate the day two guys dived head first into the world of independent advertising, asking themselves "what's the worst that could happen?" That day was April 1st 1982, the day Wieden+Kennedy was founded. Was it a coincidence the agency was started on April Fool's Day? Who knows. But what we do know is that our annual Founders' Day celebrations are a chance for the whole agency to get away from the office, be together, get inspired and be creative.
Our organising committee meets under the cover of darkness (the padded cell) and schemes up an event to remember. This year, all we were told in advance was: don't wear a skirt and bring wellies. So no kilts for Mr Christie then.
After a couple of hours in a bus with our hooded guides, we found ourselves on Osea Island in Essex.
It's only reachable for a few hours a day when the tide is out, and the island's history includes and World War I military base and a treatment facility. This was our home for 36 hours. This year's theme was 'W+Kult', because from the outside, well... here's what original W+Kult leader Dan Wieden, beamed in from Portland on the day, had to say to us:
And so we zipped up our Kult-issued boiler suits, and after a spot of wellie-clad yoga on the beach, got stuck into the brief: form a cult.
These were our spiritual guides on the day:
Who made us eat worms:
And put on masks:
And compose our own mantras:
After a (not so) gruelling day of creativity, fun and games, the whole thing culminates in a party. This year, we celebrated with with a hog roast and fire dancers.
A big thank you to our W+K Founders' Day organising crew: Paulo Salomao, Laura McGauran, Mike Waywell, Ronny Harmes, Nicola Yurman, Laura Barker and Lara Wahab, and to Wonderland Events, for putting so much work into giving us all a day to remember. We bow down to you all.
Check out photos of our Kults after the jump.
This morning, we announced that as of September, Iain Tait (most recently ECD of Google Creative Lab and previously global ECD of W+K) will be joining us in London as ECD. One of our current ECDs, Kim, is stepping down, but he's staying on in a senior creative role so we're pleased to say we're not losing him, we're just squeezing another bright mind into Hanbury Street. Iain will be partnering with Tony, our ECD, and completing the management team with MD Neil when he joins. In the meantime, Tony, Kim and Neil will continue in their roles.
Over the past twenty-nine years Kim and I have tried hard to do the wrong thing.
The thing that people question: “Why would we do that?” Maybe it’s because we felt the places we were at were too formulaic. ‘Irreverence’ is a word that many of you will have heard us use. And in a funny way, looking back, our previous roles have been to fuck things up.
Then, thirteen and a half years ago, Dan offered us a job at the totally fucked up Wieden+Kennedy London. For the first time in our careers together, we had to be the sensible ones. Going back to the basics, gaining trust of clients, hiring people that could actually write ads, making the work better, removing the large string underpants from our reception and not being the ones to fuck things up.
As the nearly sunken ship gradually floated back to the surface and started to function properly, we slowly began to mess with things again: a garden shed for an office, a horse’s head as an agency mascot and re-introducing folks that you wouldn’t normally find in advertising. The first ‘Run London’ campaign that put us firmly back on the map was initiated by a running friend that wasn’t working in our office. Honda, one of our big successes that people often talk about, was won by not working in a traditional linear way: walls of non-advertising ideas that got turned into a book because at the time, on the bank holiday weekend before the pitch, we had nothing else. You see, Kim and I have always thought that you never really get anywhere new if you don’t keep on ‘walking in stupid’. It’s a large part of the reason why we have stayed here for so long. This company’s independence is more valuable now than ever in a world of mergers. It gives us the opportunity to fuck with things and to embrace ‘failing harder’. And trust me, Kim and I have failed big time during our time here. Indeed it’s been a large part of our success.
So my friends, Kim and I have been chatting for over a year now about how we could really fuck things up here again. We want to challenge W+K London and change it for the better, because if you don’t change, you die. The technological revolution has disrupted the creative industries, some for the better and some for the worse. Which form advertising takes in the future is up for grabs. Google have been stealing many of our best folks. No longer my friends, say Kim and I. It’s time to fight back. Change or die.
With this in mind, Kim has decided to step down from his ECD responsibilities in order to continue to disrupt this ship in a positive way. Before you press the panic button, Kim is not leaving. His new role has yet to be decided by him, but I know it will still all be about making the work better somehow and continuing to fuck things up. He is doing this to help us question what the agency might be in the future, to get to different solutions quicker. And the good news is, the person who is taking over his ECD role is a friend of ours. He is an amazing talent that understands our culture and has been responsible for some amazing work. Yes, Google are losing one of their key players. Iain Tait is returning to the fold. He has a different skill set from me, and we intend to make the most of that.
The tide is turning my friends. Strap ten large speedboat engines to the ship and hold on tight. Nobody knows where this may lead us but we’ve got a funny feeling this is going to be one hell of a ride.
We’ve grown rapidly over the last 18 months, going from around 100 to nearly 200 full-time staff, plus freelancers, friends, temps and trainees. To manage this growth we need to reorganise a bit. This allows us to share out some of the responsibility for making the madness manageable and to recognise the contribution made by some of our senior people.
So, we have a couple of promotions to announce.
Helen Foulder is promoted from Head of Account Handling to Deputy MD. Helen has been with us for six years, and has done brilliant work running our Three and Lurpak accounts. She has also built one of the best account handling departments in London. She’ll be stepping up to become Neil's right-hand woman, taking on some of his management responsibilities and applying her brilliant combination of strategic smarts, people skills and unflagging enthusiasm to the agency as a whole. Specifically she will be responsible for ensuring the excellence of delivery of our work and service across our clients.
Andrew Kay, currently Group Account Director on our Mondelez and Coca-Cola business, is promoted to take over Helen’s former role as Head of Account Handling. Andy has also been with Wieden+Kennedy for 6 years, some of that here at the London office, and a couple of years over in Amsterdam. Andy is always cheerful and calm under pressure, a trusted advisor to clients and a tireless worker who is always supporting, cajoling and pushing his teams to do more and better. He will build on Helen’s excellent work running account handling, taking responsibility for all aspects of resourcing, training, development, and performance of our account handlers.
Alongside his new responsibilities Andy will continue with his current responsibilities heading up the Fuze, Stride and Halls accounts at a senior level. Neil, Tony and Kim will continue in their current roles.
We despatched a crack team of creatively oriented W+Kers – art director Karen Jane (aka KJ), talent manager Ashley (aka Shack-Attack), and head of studio and design, Maya (/\/\/\\//\) – over to Dublin last week to check out the OFFSET design conference. Here's a roundup and some highlights from KJ:
Last weekend Maya, Ashley and I were lucky enough to escape London and attend the Offset conference in Dublin, Ireland. Offset – which is held over 3 days – is a showcase of talks and interviews from a selection of acclaimed Irish and International designers, animators, illustrators, artists, photographers and advertising folk. The 2014 event saw 24 speakers take the stage and share their thoughts on working process, inspiration and influences.
Housed in the relatively new Bord Gais theatre, the conference was smaller than I imagined it would be, but in a really good way - an intimate affair with a friendly feel rather than a vast sprawling event.
Over the weekend we saw 18 x 1-hour talks, of which almost all yielded fruit of some kind or another. Here are just five of the highlights:
Marina Willer from Pentagram talked about embracing theories of 'out of control', which she applies to her practise of creating flexible identity systems with her team. She praised being 'not practical' in the expression of design and colour, her influences from her homeland of Brazil and how her children's view on the world was always refreshing and imaginative. Favourite quote from one of her twins: "Is is dark inside me?"
Jessica Walsh praised the benefits of creative play, following your gut, and getting off the computer to make stuff. And how this free working process can feed back into your daily practise and client work. She used examples of her impressive self-initiated typographic works, and numerous naked photoshoots from the Sagmeister & Walsh studio, alongside client pieces that were highly influenced by their play-infused processes.
Last week saw our Hanbury Street offices taken over by kids. In partnership with Enabling Enterprise, we hosted a challenge day for a select group of 20 Pupil Premium students from Stamford Hill primary school aged between 7 and 10.
Over the course of a day, we attempted to give these kids a taste of what it’s like to work in the creative industry. Split into teams and paired with volunteers from WK who acted as their mentors, we set a challenge to design the perfect office space, inspired by a tour of our offices. At the end of the day, the kids presented their work back to a panel of WK judges, like a baby version of Dragon’s Den. Our panel featured our very own office manager Ronny, ECD Tony D, art buyer Laura, and creatives Katie, Laurie and Toby.
After much deliberation and some tear-jerkingly cute presentations, which included talks of dinosaurs and time machines, the winners were The Kool Kajad Kids (Kajad being an amalgam of the first letters of each of the group members’ names; K=Kyran, A=Ajja, J=Jean-Baptiste, A=Arad, D=David). Presenting with impressive charisma and confidence, their vision included a giant fish tank spanning across an entire wall, containing whales of course, and a castle/fjord entitled ‘Jean-Baptiste’s Design Studio’. They even used 3D effects on their poster, incorporating collage techniques to bring to life various French landmarks including a miniature obelisk and The Eiffel Tower. Thinking big but also within reason and in Ronny's words “presenting ideas that we could actually build,” they were the stand-out team.
Watch this space for some more exciting events to come as part of WK’s Doing Good Initiative. In the meantime, check out the pictures from the big day.
A few months ago, W+K account director Hanne packed her bags and waved goodbye to her everyday Shoreditch surroundings to try something completely new - putting her skills to use with an NGO in Uganda for a few weeks, as part of the TIE programme.
Hanne has penned a story for The Guardian about her time there, and it's up on their site now. Read the whole piece over on The Guardian or right here on this very blog.
In October I found myself in an unexpected place: rural Uganda. I am normally at an adverting agency in Shoreditch called Wieden + Kennedy.
The opportunity to go to Uganda arose at work. You could apply do a placement with an NGO, through a programme called the International Exchange (TIE). TIE pairs the expertise of communications professionals with the needs of non-profit/NGOs to create sustainable change – contributing skills that these organisations need but rarely have the resources to pay for.
To be considered you needed to articulate your motivations. It felt like the right time in my career to take a risk and, on a personal level, I wanted to gain a different perspective on what I do, on the world and on myself.
Before I was fortunate enough to get picked, I knew that I wanted to go to Africa. It felt like the furthest removed from normal life and I knew it would challenge some of my preconceptions about the continent.
I looked into a few Africa-based projects, but The Kasiisi Projectstood out for its focus and what it wanted from me. They work to improve the poor educational opportunities available to children in the areas surrounding the Kibale National Forest – east Africa's largest primate habitat. Through a range of educational programmes in local schools, the project supports the community as well as instilling in it an understanding of the importance of its natural environment. The project helps children stay in school, opening up opportunities for them beyond subsistence farming.
Hanne Haugen with the members of the Kasiisi Project. Photograph: Hanne Haugen
Close to 100% of The Kasiisi Project's funding is from abroad but its long-term ambition is to become self-sustainable, with income-generating initiatives to support the school programmes they run. My brief was to create a business and communications strategy to this end.
The assignment was in and of itself a meaty challenge. I'm involved in strategy in my role at work, but rarely tasked to do it on my own. Add to that a foreign culture, a complex issue and board of directors comprised of local academics, who had to vet and agree to anything I proposed. There was a lot to contend with.
Some of the biggest contrasts to my life back home were practical. Power and internet connections were, if not quite luxuries, then unreliable at best. Particularly during the rainy season power-outages were frequent. The heavy rain also meant that the roads – and I use the term loosely – were so bad that a journey of a few miles could easily take hours. I learned to work around, even embrace this. There's something wonderful about letting life happen and not try to control it all.
Professionally, what felt like the biggest revelation was the change in my perception of the advertising industry and the skills I've developed as a result of being a part of it.
I've always enjoyed working in advertising and taken pride in what I do, but to some extent I've been guilty of seeing the industry as a bubble, divorced from the real world. Most people are inherently distrustful of ' "big business'", and ofsee advertising agencies as their henchmen. There are also misconceptions around what an agency actually does – as the general public only see the output of a long process, involving months, sometimes years, of insights work, big strategic and creative debates, problem-solving, hard work, sweat and tears.
What I saw through my TIE placement is that the skills we develop from this process are hugely beneficial for an NGO. Budget and resource constraints require innovative approaches to solving problems. Complex problems require the ability to understand underlying issues, finding the pertinent insight and drilling down to a workable solution. And the crux of what we do – making sure a message is clearly articulated and heard by the right people – will have a big impact on an organisation's development, which in turn drives social change.
Advertising's ability to help affect social change may become more explicit as time passes. The more people who benefit from an experience such as TIE, the more likely this is to happen.
By Hanne Haugen, account director, W+K London.
Our planner, Georgia Challis, has just returned from a trip to Canada for the annual 'Ads Worth Spreading' event at the TED 2014 conference, where she was representing our Honda 'Hands' spot. She fills us in on what she saw, did and ate out there:
As we mentioned last week on this very blog, our Honda ‘Hands’ spot was named one of TED’s ‘Ads worth spreading’. The prize was a trip out to the TED mothership - or at least to the Whistler sister of the BIG TED Vancouver extravaganza.
[Georgia living the Canadian dream]
It was a pretty incredible, pretty full on couple of days. A LOT of stuff to take in.
The Vancouver conference itself is live streamed over hundreds of megascreens in several different conference halls, all lit like blue and red hued laser domes and scattered with the modern conference’s seating of choice – bean bags, recliners, the occasional sofa… and a couple of beds from which you could watch talks beamed on to the ceiling (for when the bean bags got a bit tiresome).
So, from my LED lit bean bag, a few of my highlights from the week’s sessions:
Ed Yong: a mind bending introduction to the manipulative world of parasites. Proper sci fi sounding stuff, except it it’s not only NOT fiction (just sci then), it’s pretty common stuff out there in the big, nasty natural world. It turns out nature’s a bit of a fucker. From the wasp that turns its caterpillar host into a “head-banging zombie bodyguard defending the offspring of the creature that killed it” to the virus toxoplama gondii, a virus which can live in most mammals but can only reproduce in cats. Hosts to the virus, rats and mice, become inexplicably drawn towards cats –the virus compels them to get eaten in order to reproduce . About one third of humans carry it with no observable side effects but I reckon it explains a LOT of the internet.
David Epstein: Over the last century we’ve gotten faster, jumped higher and thrown further. In 1954, Sir Roger Bannister became the first man in the world to run the mile under four minutes, and last year 1,314 runners did that. But it turns out we haven’t miraculously evolved over an improbably short timeframe. Most of it is down to better technology (thank you Nike), a better understanding of specialised body types and a bit of mind over matter. Oh, and the bum. The bum hasn’t actually changed but it IS what makes humans so well placed for athletics, the not-so-hidden power that lets us run upright.
Randall Munroe: The former NASA roboticist turned cartoonist took us through the ‘simple’ calculation he made to estimate the physical size Google’s data would represent if it was all held on punch cards (the whole of New England, to a depth of 6 kilometers), plus Google’s encoded punch card response.
Amputee and bionic limb designer Hugh Herr gave us a glimpse of the future of bionics, from prosthetic limbs that are controlled by the nerve endings of the limb they attach to, to exoskeletons that remove the pressure on the joints of able-bodied runners. The ultimate ‘can do’ philosopher, he argued that “there is no such thing as a disabled person, no such thing as a broken person, just broken technology and an inadequate environment”. His talk ended with a dance performance from a dancer who lost a leg in the Boston Marathon terror attack. “It took 3.5 seconds to destroy her leg, it took us 200 days to build it back”. Even the four cynics in the audience were moved.
Rob Knight: Turns out microbes are a pretty big deal. We share 99.9% of our DNA with the next guy, but microbes? Apparently only about 10% of our microbes are similar to anyone else. You can link a computer mouse to a user just by their microbe profile. Microbes on our skin are the things that determine how appetising we are to mosquitos, microbes in the gut determine whether painkillers are toxic to our liver, microbes transplanted from the guts of obese mice into the guts of svelte mice make svelte mice decidedly less svelte.
And then there was Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden - beamed in from the Russian hinterlands and encased in a robot screen. Definitely a bit of an “I was there” moment for the crowd, not a redundant smartphone in the house.
And some stuff that you can’t watch from home:
1. Never before have I encountered quite so many functional foods. Water that smells of berries, chocolate flavoured quinoa and spirulina bars, freeze dried seaweed (NOT as “strangely addictive” as the pack suggests), almonds flavoured with cranberry. Pretty much nothing in its original form.
2. The general vibe is not unlike how I’d imagine the first heady ‘getting to know you’ days of some sort of freshers fair for the unusually gifted.
4. GINORMOUS name tabards. All the better to meet you with. It is genuinely nice to step out of the European ‘too cool for school’ ad world into one where people from the American Mid West to Bangladesh will happily walk up with no introduction and tell you how much they love, love, love your ad, before insisting on a selfie.
5. TED has tech hitches just like the rest of us. The next time you’re about to roll your eyes at a conference call gone haywire, just know that even when it’s the NSA in front of an auditorium filled to the rafters with everyone from the inventor of the internet to the queen of the romcom, that shit happens to everyone.
6. TED speakers have hitches just like the rest of us. Yup. They get edited out in the final videos, but I witnessed superstar DJ’s and brain meltingly clever physicists stalling up there on that stage. A glimmer of hope for the rest of us.
OK, thanks for all your effort this morning. The office looks much better indeedy.
Prize for best team/table goes to the ‘3’ team in the Sherlock Holmes room. Hoorah!
Prize for best individual goes to Chloe who has been annoying the TV dept for three weeks now and sent about 80 boxes into storage.
And finally the shittest team/table, who barely lifted a finger because they are just too important to tidy or they look like they had only just stumbled in from the pub about two minutes ago goes to the ‘Nike’ team. The little bit of tidying was actually done by me. If you ever get invited to one of their houses for dinner, don’t go. I bet their houses are proper filth.