Advertising. It’s everywhere. We take it for granted: on the roadside, on TV, on the Web, in newspapers. Google built its empire on it; TV channels use it to exist. It’s about getting noticed, about getting your message across, about selling your product. It has become an art and a science; artists look to it for inspiration and great adverts have become legend, works of art in their own right.

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The Wonderland ad, the latest in a line of ads created for BDS by BDS Digital.

This year’s Cannes Lions festival (, celebrating all things design and creative, demonstrated that the printed advert is part of much bigger picture that includes Web, film, VR, AR, branding, packaging… in fact, it seems, everything. Our reality is being managed by the way design directs us to see or as artist Ori Gersht said at this year’s festival, “Images are not something that inform us about the world; images are constantly creating the world”. However, the problem designers face is getting noticed in a world where we, the consumers, expect freshness, innovation, originality even entertainment from our advertising.

Creating adverts for BDS, the BDS Digital team face an extra issue. BDS’s data-focused business is invisible; data is not something you can touch, taste, see, feel or smell. Milind Kamkolkar of design company Novartis expressed it at Cannes, “People don’t trust data they can’t touch or see”. Over the years the BDS Digital team have come up with ingenious solutions. The brief is not only to bring BDS data into the real world but also to communicate that BDS data is best.

“The job is to make a complex combination of elements seem simple and direct,” says John Hudson who is concept originator for much of BDS’s marketing material. “Firstly, you have to show not tell and a big part of showing is through quality. A quality advert in terms of production standards and attention to detail implies quality down the line.”

The latest in a long line of creatively daring ads from BDS takes a literary theme that uses a surreal context to imply diverse elements pertaining to the product. BDS’s reputation is built on metadata on books, so the Lewis Carroll context fits well but it also allows for the exploration and juxtaposition of elements presented as clues. Moreover, this is more than the world of Alice, there’s a cosmic element to the journey and the world around it is bright and attractive.

“John came up with the concept of a journey through BDS metadata and presented me with a mock up, roughly brought together,” says Lesley Whyte, Managing Director of BDS who heads up the marketing arm of the company. “I liked it because it reflected many things the company believes to be true about its products in a very visual way. Of course, it not only makes one think about books but also about the recent film, an area that BDS data also covers.”

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Three ads, left to right: Darwin, The Chaotic Library and Around the World in 80 Clicks

Metadata on books, films, music and games has a complex array of data standards and for audiences such as libraries, one of BDS’s principle clients, BDS wishes to convey adherence to these standards which sets it apart from its competitors. An earlier advert couched this information in the context of a traditional library record card while conveying the message that we all need to adapt to survive.

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While another ad took a more humorous approach, invoking a library without BDS metadata.

And yet another series explores cartoon narrative, expressed through famous literary works or characters such as Sherlock Holmes or, as above, right, Jules Verne’s Phileas Fogg.

Making such adverts is a creative journey in itself as BDS designer Hazel Harper testifies. “Ideas come to me from John when they are formed but there is still plenty of opportunity to be inventive. For, example with the Alice advert I saw the opportunity to add clues such as the Queen of Hearts playing card. John liked this and it grew. Each clue is like an element of the data BDS produces, building to a complete picture and an adventure.”

The play between media and advert is an important element for a company producing metadata on entertainment releases. A recent advert promoting BDS’s flagship product BDSLive took the opportunity to promote the remarkable back-catalogue BDS possesses and the ability for users of BDS data to plan ahead with regard to purchases.

While The Life of Pi demonstrated the extended content across diverse media that BDS offers while subtly telling the story of metadata itself.

“Metadata is a series of symbols that reflect the world around us and I had the opportunity to tell that story across this four-page promotional leaflet. We start with the stars around us, that’s the real world, the universe, and this is reflected in the sea in the middle two pages. In the sea the universe is compressed into a flattened series of symbols – the reflection. On the back page we have a sand dune, millions of grains of sand, each like a star, and this is placed alongside the famous William Blake quote that ties the message together. Everything remained within the realm of the media BDS addresses, quality is referenced everywhere and we get our message across, even down to the granularity that BDS data has built into it,” comments John.

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The four page leaflet created to demonstrate BDS metadata.

“Images compress space and time to create a new reality. This informs our beliefs and changes our behaviour” said Ori Gershtm at Cannes. Put another way, a good advert sells.

Of all BDS’s adverts perhaps the favourite of the team is what they call the jelly fish ad.

“It is still one of the best we have produced – well, in fact, there were two. It is simple and serene, ethereal even. When you can’t explain why something works but it works all the same… I like that.”

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