First Saul Klein. Then Richard Hall - and now Russell Davies. What
is the lure of US new-media agencies, and why are they taking so many of
our good people?
hen new media really was ’new’, no agency worth its last speech about
integration was going to stand by and watch as another part of the brand
communications budget went to another specialist. Interactive
departments were hastily set up.
A lack of genuine senior management enthusiasm, however, forced agency
specialists to do the work without the resource that’s normally
allocated to a mature discipline. When client budgets failed to appear
at the same speed as the hype, red ink forced departments to close down
and frustrated executives.
So, while in the UK only a handful of clients and agencies are genuinely
benefiting from their activity, in the US it’s a different story. In the
digital Madison Avenue, new media is a grown-up discipline with serious
investment, serious agencies and, best of all, serious clients. So
anyone serious about new media can build a career.
The key to the question is the number 20. The US has 20 times the Web
users, 20 times the sites with million-dollar building budgets, 20 times
the Web advertising revenues, 20 times the companies that take the Web
seriously and 20 times the amount of locally produced quality content.
UK interactive folk can therefore have 20 times as much fun, write their
work in 20 times fewer words and don’t cost 20 times as much as the top
The lure of US new-media agencies is the same as the lure in many
industries: glamour, originality and large salaries. The opportunity to
spend some time in a company that may be on the cutting edge often seems
a good alternative to another winter in the UK. The UK historically
produces incredibly creative people and then is unable to build the
businesses that inspire them to remain in this country. This affects
science and medicine, so it’s hardly surprising that it affects
new-media companies. On the other hand, there seem to be a fair few of
’their’ new-media people coming here, so maybe it’s not that bad.
Having had the opportunity to work on a Web project in the US, I’ve no
doubt that consumer acceptance and usage of new media is two years ahead
of Europe. As a consequence, clients are more prepared to invest in the
medium - with both time and money. But the market is still very immature
whatever side of the pond you’re on and, particularly on the Web, very
little outstanding creativity is being displayed.
I know I’m biased, but I think in general our advertising is superior
and I believe that the UK can and will produce better interactive work
too - the games market hopefully is a sign of both our software and
When people go to work in the States, they’re not really leaving -
they’re just going on an extended all-expenses paid adventure of a
lifetime. Of course, a lot stay. However, most come back all the better
for the experience but missing ’the way we do it over here’. They go to
the States because they can live in 4,000 square feet loft apartments in
TriBeCa and SoHo.
They go there because people such as Bill Gates, and Steven Spielberg
live there. They go there because everything feels bigger and more
Michaelides and Bednash