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Us vs. Them February 5, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in digital strategy.
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I had the pleasure (genuinely, I’m not being sarcastic) of bumping into the Creative Director of a very successful DM arm of a big global ad agency on Friday. She was having going away drinks, moving from one office to the country’s HQ. As I congratulated her on the move she happily told me that she would be over-seeing digital as well in her new posting; it was all I could do not to grab the nearest steak knife and swing it unwaveringly into a forearm – mine or someone else’s, I didn’t really care.

Let’s get this straight, and let’s not be shy about it: traditional ad folk (I’m talking above and below the line people) do not, as a general rule, get digital. It requires a different way of thinking. You cannot serve up a message to be consumed just as you created it. That completely misses the point. I had the same argument with film people when I worked in video games; you can’t just transpose a narrative into a digital setting, you must consider interactivity! Otherwise you simply take the piss out of the entire fucking thing. There’s a whole other notion here about why people who are only thinking about creating traditional messages are soon to be gone, but I’ll leave that stuff to Hugh Macleod.

The unfortunate flip side of this is digital people can be their own worst enemies. Aware they do not get asked for any meaningful level of input, they often wind up not sharing their best ideas because they assume they either won’t be listened to or the ideas will be stolen (even though that’s more likely to be done by their own creative director than the traditional media folk). This creates a gruesome us vs. them mentality where nobody wins, accounts are lost, traditional media say the digital shops are hard to work with, and the digi guys say nobody listens to them. I spent long enough at a house claiming to be integrated to make me never want to work at a traditional “agency” ever again. I saw a great quote over the Christmas break by a Sydney suit saying she hated the stereotype that advertising was filled with wankers from the 80’s. She may be right, but what she doesn’t say is a whole new bunch of wankers came along to replace them.

In among this are some guiding lights, eager to learn and doing great work already. One person I had the pleasure of working with is Chantelle Warren who is now at M&C Saatchi in Melbourne. If this woman’s C.V. ever comes across your desk, find out how many zeroes she needs then add another just for good measure; she will reward you in spades.

Unfortunately, she was a rarity. Equally unfortunate is that as digital practitioners we preach openness, sing the praises of the Creative Commons, yet we’re not often willing to put those things into play when it means sacrificing our egos a little bit. This business of Marketing 2.0, to quote Jerry MacGuire, “is an up at dawn, pride-swalling siege that I will never fully tell you about.” The value as I am coming to see it, is in giving the ideas away. The reality is if people don’t conceive an idea in the first place, they won’t know what to do with it when you’re not in the room anyway. That may sound as vindictive as not sharing ideas in the first place, but at least then the clients stick around, happy with the quality of work and eager for more.

Some things will remain more effective for the time being. Demos 35 years and older are largely still well-reached by radio, even better by TV. Marketers need to realise though that people not yet 30 (this includes myself) do not reliably consume media in any of the traditional ways they’ve been able to reach us on, and the digital equivalent of stuffing your DM piece in my inbox or forcing me to watch tedious ads will lose you business.

And that’s the way it should be.



1. The Next Creative Revolution « Wide Open Spaces - April 22, 2008

[…] on the “Ain’t digital great?!?” side of the bridge. On the back of my post about the divide in “integrated” agency offerings and Iain Tait’s 10 Reasons Why Digital is Better Than Advertising, it is well worth your time […]

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