What we’ve been up to this week: 26 August

With no Olympics to keep us entertained/distracted this week its felt rather quiet in the office, that is until the Paralympics kicks off in less than two weeks! While we wait for the next gold medals to start coming in for TeamGB, here’s a taste of what we got up to this week.

Down on the farm with Pinterest

On Tuesday, H+K's Candace Kuss, Claire Holden and Laura Byrne took a field trip out to the Farmhouse for the first ever Pinstitute conference in the UK. This invite-only event from Pinterest featured a range of influential speakers including Gail Gallie talking about the UN’s Global Goals and extreme adventurer Alastair Humphreys. Pinterest executives revealed some important platform updates and highlighted that over 50% of users are now outside the USA. Creative and Brand Strategy lead, Alastair Cotterill — who is also a Technology Speculator guest star — shared some key design and art direction tips to make brand content stand out. In true cross-platform fashion, in addition to polishing up their Pinterest boards, our team posted a few pastoral pictures you can enjoy on our Instagram. Hashtag = #ilovemyjob

To Walthamstow! Riding the first Night Tube with London’s selfie mayor

Last Friday our resident television star/account executive Max Bruges took to the underground to experience the first of London's Night Tubes. Here’s his account of the inaugural service:

‘The Barack Effect’ is an overused troupe in British politics, liberally applied to any mildly photogenic politician that doesn’t fit ‘pale, stale and/or male’ Westminster stereotype. But when Sadiq Kahn arrived at Brixton station on Friday night, it was hard to argue that the effect was misapplied. Gathering first with his small team of bag carriers in a side street, the new London mayor paused at the zebra crossing opposite the tube entrance, before walking calmly and quickly into the maw. Almost instantly he was mobbed: first by the flashbulbs of the press, then by a second wave of Londoners desperate for a selfie.  “We factored this in to the timetable,” one handler said, “the selfie time.”

Not that he could afford to be late: the Night Tube is arguably Sadiq’s first ‘legacy act’, a headline moment rounding off his first one hundred days as the city’s new mayor. Even if the wheels were set in motion by his blond predecessor (and promptly gummed up by unions and strikes), it’s Sadiq that will be remembered as the mayor that opened up a new timezone for Londoners to colonise.

Quite who will travel on the Night Tube is something that wasn’t really answered on its maiden voyage. By the time we actually squeezed onto the tube itself, it was a motley crew. I was wedged between a Financial Times correspondent, a former councillor, and the leader of the local Guardian Angels (a vigilante group first started in Seventies New York, though don’t let them hear you say ‘vigilante’). Not exactly the crowd one would expect every Friday night.  After much bellowing by the station manager to get the doors shut, Sadiq himself squawked over the intercom: “This is your mayor speaking, and welcome to the first ever Night Tube. To Walthamstow!” There was cheering, a slight shudder, and then away. History being made, one awkward, cramped carriage at a time. 

It’s easy to dismiss the Night Tube as a measure that’ll just benefit late-night revellers too snooty to use the night bus, but that’s missing the bigger picture. Sadiq’s real success will be in making the Night Tube – with all its drunkards and shiftworkers and lost tourists – a working embodiment of his wider message, the message that ‘London Is Open’. Subtle branding, with the shining globe echoing the iconic Underground roundel, is letting the message of openness seep into the fabric of the city’s transport network; gentle reminders that London is not going to pull up the draw-bridge at time. At a time when attitudes of parochialism and isolationism are becoming normalised, and fearmongering of ‘Fifth Columns’ and ‘sleeper agents’ is growing, a licence to stay out late and have fun is the perfect counterpoint.  Selfies and Night Tube alone do not a revolution make, but they’re part of it.

Robert Isherwood

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search