A lot of crowdsourced or co-created projects yield questionable results. But there seems to be a new formula that works pretty well. Short snippets of film edited into something wonderful by a talented curator/editor. We saw the first big example of this with Ridley Scott’s Life in a Day. And this week we see another great effort from Mont Blanc to celebrate its 190th anniversary.
To honor Nicolas Rieussac’s invention of the chronograph – he recorded time to a fifth of a second in 1821 – Mont Blanc has challenged image makers to capture beauty in a single second of a film. Participants choose their favorite 60, each of which becomes part of a short film and qualifies to be chosen as the single best one-second video by director Wim Wenders. Hard to imagine that one one-second film can be the best, but someone’s got to win.
There’s also an opportunity to craft your own playlist of other people’s videos and be recognized for your visual prowess even if you choose not to submit.
Is this a good idea? I think so for a host of reasons.
- It’s a perfectly relevant idea. The beauty of a second. What better way to call attention to the chronograph?
- It’s remarkable easy to enter. Simply upload a film from a computer or mobile device.
- The prize is great: a trip to Berlin and a new Mont Blanc chronograph.
- The finished films that feature the top 60 seconds become something you can send to your friends with appropriate bragging rights.
- Mont Blanc generates a piece of content they probably couldn’t create themselves.
- And finally, the participants become a bit of a media channel, sharing and passing the videos around the web.
- Best of all, when you take a look at the first film, it lives up to the idea that a single second is plenty long enough to convey beauty.
A month ago I crowdsourced questions here and on Twitter for the instructors at BDW’s Making Digital Work workshop.
We settled on five.
How do we get clients to embrace more innovative work?
What can we learn from software startups?
Do agencies have a role in social media?
How do we stop the talent drain?
What kind of people should we hire?
Here are the answers from my good friends and teachers Matt Howell, Gareth Kay, Kim Laama, Tim Malbon, Sheena Matheiken, Scott Prindle and John Winsor.I weigh in, too.
Some of my favorite soundbites:
Matt Howell on innovation: If we’re serious about selling more progressive work we have to get serious about investing in prototyping, showing how something works and how you’d interact with it.
Gareth Kay on social media: One of the biggest problems with social media is that people are too focused on the media part of social media instead of on the social part.
Sheena Matheiken on software inspiration: Developers in general, especially the creatively inclined ones, are such doers. They just create stuff. They don’t sit around and noodle. They make and prototype.
Tim Malbon on software inspiration: Try not to treat what you’re trying to make like a piece of traditional media. It doesn’t need to be designed massively up front. It can be cruder; it can be quicker.
John Winsor on retaining talent: Traditionally agencies are siloed. The creative department stands on a pedestal. The account people are there to serve them. Strategy is somewhere in between. But great ideas come from everywhere so you need to set up a system that accepts that great ideas come from everywhere.
Scott Prindle on hiring: The core quality is an entrepreneurial spirit. Someone who is passionate about the digital space, maybe someone who thought about being in start-up. They have to come into the into the agency and quickly generate ideas and move things forward.
One thing about all of these folks is that they’re willing to share. Ideas, advice, insights. Take a look and connect with them on Twitter. It will be worth it. Thanks for stopping by.
It was a year and a half ago when we (Mullen) launched The Next Great Generation. The idea was simple: practice a bit of crowdsourcing, experiment with online publishing, recruit young talent to the agency, create an opportunity for Gen-Y to speak its mind rather than be spoken for by all the marketers, planners and researchers who claimed to know about this generation.
We didn’t really know what we were doing, but what the hell. This was the new age of media. We didn’t have to have anything figured out. We could figure it out as we went along. Iterate. Pivot. (Pick your buzzword.)
In the beginning we thought we’d provide a window into the world of Millennials through which brands and marketers could peek and learn. We (Mullen) might get some credit, prove that we knew this generation, and maybe even snag a client or two. Fail. No young writer wanted to post a “let us tell you old folks about our generation” article in order that marketers could better figure out how to sell to or engage with 20-somethings.
Instead it turned out that the editors, writers and readers wanted to connect with each other. Share thoughts, observations and musings. Support one another’s efforts to get better at writing and developing content. And more importantly, try to build something that might have value and be enduring.
So we (Mullen) did what any smart grown-up ought to do. We got the hell out of the way. Alex Pearlman (she), a young editor right out college showed up and took over. She recruited editors, set up an editorial calendar, created theme weeks, evaluated writers and took the blog to a new level. Christine Peterson, a recent college grad employed as a social strategist at Mullen managed to find an extra 20 plus hours a week to become community manager — gathering and organizing the “crowd” of writers, suggesting articles, and injecting the project with a never ending supply of passion and enthusiasm.
Then, late last spring, the two of them decided it was time to expand. They contacted The Boston Globe, offered to show the newspaper the opportunity it was missing, and invited the editors to a presentation. And here’s where it got really good. My Gen-Y friends Alex and Christine polled Boston’s Millennials regarding their media habits. They shot and edited man-on-the-street interviews. They did an analysis of the kinds of relationships urban dailies and newsweeklies had with bloggers. And they put together a stand-up dog and pony show (without any help from anyone over 24 I might add) to take to Globe management, including its editor in chief Marty Baron. My favorite line from the presentation: “Our generation doesn’t want ‘the man’ telling us what’s news.” Mr. Baron is, of course, the man. But fortunately he didn’t seem to mind.
Fast forward a few months later. The contract with the Globe’s parent company The New York Times is done. TNGG lives on Boston.com. It will post hyper-local content for the city’s students, recent grads and 20-somethings, covering “what’s going on on-campus, in the clubs and pop-up galleries, in those boardrooms where flip-flops are allowed, and everything in between.”
If things work out, here’s what might happen. TNGG will have taken the first step in a new distribution model that might earn it a larger audience. A slew of young writers and journalists will gain visibility. Boston.com will demonstrate its progressiveness and win over a new generation of readers who might otherwise eschew a mainstream news channel. Alex and Christine will have set an example for young professionals everywhere. New TNGG boston.com editor Angela Stefano will have a really cool job. And I’ll be able to say I knew them all when.
Wish them luck. Become a reader of Boston.com/tngg. And share the links. They get paid based on traffic.
Here’s where we netted out. Thanks to the willing Nick Todd, who shoots and helps edit the videos we do at these sessions, we got eight of the 10 speakers on film answering all five of the questions below. Believe it or not, while many of the answers were consistent, few if any were overly redundant.
It might take a few weeks to get a finished video together, but my instinct tells me you’ll find it both interesting and insightful to hear answers from Matt Howell, Gareth Kay, Tim Malbon, Ben Malbon, John Winsor, Kim Laama, Sheena Matheiken and Scott Prindle when we do.
In the meantime, below are the final questions and a few of the answers.
How can agencies inspire clients to do more innovative work?
Answers ranged from setting up internal labs to experimenting more ourselves. That way we can vet new technologies and platforms and develop ideas that we know will work before taking them to clients. Scott Prindle suggested taking on the role of teacher, educating clients more frequently in what’s possible with all the software, social networks and digital toys coming at us. Others talked about the need to bring inexpensive ideas to the table in hopes of inspiring more experimentation. In short, spread excitement.
What lessons can agencies learn from software companies and start-ups?
As an industry, we no longer look to each other for ideas and inspiration. We draw on Silicon Valley, new social platforms, as well as companies like Google and Apple. If any answers stood out, they were these. Speed is your best friend. Stop perfecting the design of something and get to a Minimum Viable Product quickly by prototyping. Another equally compelling suggestion – stop organizing people around disciplines and put people together by team. It accelerates solving problems.
How can agencies stop the drain of talent to young startups and tech giants?
As we hire more creative technologists and developers, we’re competing with a much broader range of companies. Want to attract and retain people whose goals are to make things that matter? Give them more responsibility sooner. Consider a program like Google’s 20 percent time. Eliminate organizational hierarchy.
Do agencies have a role in executing a brand’s social media when authenticity, transparency and access are the key attributes for good social engagement?
This was the most controversial question. Some participants insisted outright that agencies should have no role. Social media and all the new platforms simply emphasize the diminished need for the middleman. Others vehemently disagreed, suggesting that if agencies master the art of conversation strategy and engagement that they should take the lead. Creativity matters even in the new space and agencies are better prepared to be inventive there than clients might be themselves.
What are the core talents you look for when hiring people who’ll drive change and implement contemporary digital work?
This might be the only real throwaway question, but the answers were still pretty good. Kim Laama wants familiarity with the entire digital landscape. I suggested curiosity and a T-shape. Tim Malbon wouldn’t consider anyone who didn’t have a real social presence. (If you haven’t already connected, interacted, shared and contributed on Twitter forget about working at Made by Many.) Ben Malbon, director of strategy at Google’s Creative Lab had my favorite answer. “I’m less interested in people who use technology and more interested in people who want to create it.”
Eventually we’ll have more thorough answers on film. In the meantime, thanks for joining in.
I’m taking questions. Starting tomorrow I spend three days with some of the smartest people I know at Boulder Digital Works where we’re conducting another Making Digital Work workshop.
This time around we have the usual suspects –Matt Howell of Arnold; Gareth Kay from Goodby; Tim Malbon who hails from Made by Many in the UK; Scott Prindle of Crispin; and Kim Laama who joins us from AKQA– but we have some newcomers, too, including Ben Malbon, BDW board member and director of strategy at Google Creative Lab; Sheena Matheiken, who founded the Uniform Project; and Will McGiness, creative chief at Venables Bells and Partners. Plus, back for his second visit, Daniel Stein, founder of EVB.
Virtually everyone of the presenters is either a company founder or c-level executive. And all of them have been creating, leading, or initiating digital work for a long time.
I thought it might be fun to crowdsource a set of questions we can ask everyone. For example:
What do you see as the next emerging digital or social trend?
What’s broken about the way your company does business?
Will Mesh-type businesses pose a challenge to traditional marketers?
Can ad agencies really learn how to build stuff?
What changes to you plan on making inside your organization over the next year?
What holds your company back from evolving as quickly as it should?
How do you inspire innovation?
If you have anything you’d like to ask us as a group leave your comments here. It might be fun to see if the answers we get back are consistent, different or even contradictory.
I’ll take the five or 10 most provocative or original questions posted here, on Twitter or on Google+ and try and solicit answers from all 10 individuals above. Who knows, you might learn something, or simply conclude that no one knows what’s going on.