Media: Double Standards - 'From geek to chic is the real digital revolution'

The heads of two of the UK's top digital agencies discuss improving creative standards, accountability and how the industry has reclaimed its credibility.

CHARLIE DOBRES, chief executive, i-level

- Why is digital becoming so much more important on media schedules?

Digital ought to be more important on schedules and consumer power is the purist reason for this as there are now 26 million consumers regularly using the web. Perhaps more realistically, it is that offline advertising isn't doing so well, while online is performing strongly. It's therefore business-critical for clients to pressurise their agencies to put spend into online.

- Where do you think the growth in the industry will come from?

From many different areas. It will take money from direct marketing, TV and print - there's not one single answer. The ROI mantra has been strong for years and online is a compelling medium in this area, so there will be switches to it from every direction.

- What do you think of the standard of creativity in the digital industry and how could it be improved?

The standard is improving. However, there needs to be a step change away from production techniques to creativity. We need to get back to basics and to a consumer understanding rather than relying on technical media. There are some beacon agencies, such as glue and Dare, but there's still a distance to go.

- What is the most innovative digital campaign you have worked on?

It was a mobile phone, not an online campaign, actually. It was a COI Communications campaign about firework safety for children and we got children's heroes (such as contestants from Big Brother, footballers and pop stars) to send text messages warning them about playing with fireworks. It was innovative as it effectively used children's medium of choice to get them to listen to a message from the Government.

- How accurate is the system that measures the number of people consuming digital advertising?

The system that sees how people respond to digital ads is incredibly effective and we can track response right through to sales. We can also monitor awareness of digital advertising through systems such as Dynamic Logic, which are a country mile ahead of TV and press tracking.

- What's your biggest personal aim this year?

For Southend United to win the LDV Vans Trophy final and gain automatic promotion from League Two.

- What's your favourite website?

BBC.co.uk - I use it for everything: news, sport, weather ...

- What was your last online purchase?

Some ethnic shelves from the OKA catalogue. I buy loads on the web - all my groceries come from there.

- Do you get sick of the geeky stereotype around all things online?

I'd contend that there isn't this stereotype any more and that online has moved from a geeky image to a smart, sexy one. The web has people's attention in a different way from how it did a few years ago. The people who do think it's geeky are total Philistines, so they don't bother me.

MARTIN BROOKS, chief executive, Agency Republic

- Why is digital becoming so much more important on media schedules?

Every advertiser is looking for effective and efficient ways to connect their brands with the right audience. And when valuable audiences are watching less TV and 40 per cent have broadband, digital is where the people with spending money are. If you want something (eg. your dream car/holiday/gadget), do you wait for the ad to turn up on TV or do you go online and spend ten minutes actively engaging with it?

- Where do you think the growth in the industry will come from?

Everywhere. There'll be natural growth from those sectors that have already invested proper money in digital (telcos, financial services, travel). Sectors such as FMCG will invest more as they find it easier to target online. The web's ubiquity now means that everyone in business needs an online strategy. And that's just the web. There's also 3G, interactive TV, digital outdoor, gaming and WiFi.

- What do you think of the standard of creativity in the digital industry and how could it be improved?

Digital creativity across the wider landscape is incredible - the standard of ideas and execution in gaming and animated movies such as The Incredibles is astounding. I think there's a lot of snobbery in ad circles, largely because there's a lot of banner-dross on the web. The standard would improve with more time, better creative production budgets and more clients briefing their agencies rather than asking the digital shop to repurpose a TV execution.

- What is the most innovative digital campaign you have worked on?

In terms of long-term innovation, I'd like to think our work with O2 has led the mobile industry for three years now. The fact everything we do seems to get copied by the competition must be a sign we're doing something right.

- How accurate is the system that measures the number of people consuming digital advertising?

Unlike traditional media, there is no single industry-wide measurement system; what you have is a huge array of highly sophisticated, highly accurate tools. The only hole is the lack of data most media owners have about their audiences. Success has been measured by clicks, so they haven't needed to invest in detailed customer insights as they can rely on delivering results.

- What's your biggest personal aim this year?

To give and receive as much love as possible.

- What's your favourite website?

If this were Desert Island Websites, I'd get BBC News, Amazon and Tesco for free, so my sites a choix would be: babynamewizard.com/namevoyager/lnv0105.html (favourite interface); b3ta.co.uk (favourite wrongness); ihateryanair.com (favourite hactivism); theyrule.net (favourite conspiracy theories); mooch.info (favourite info portal).

- What was your last online purchase?

A 13ft sailing dinghy. £200 on eBay - now that's a bargain!

- Do you get sick of the geeky stereotype around all things online?

It goes over my head. Undoubtedly, today's most fashionable haircut is the skullet (bald on top, long and fish-shaped at the back); it's the ultimate in geek chic, the hairstyle of the nerd gods.

Become a member of Campaign from just £45 a quarter

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to campaignlive.co.uk ,plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a member

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an Alert Now

Partner content

Share

1 Why creative people have lost their way

What better way to kick off the inaugural issue of Campaign's monthly print offering than with another think piece on the current failings of our industry, written by an embittered, pretentious creative who misses "the way things used to be"...

Share

1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).