We were once working for a TV channel and asked the head of programming what his dream commission would be. He said (without a moment's hesitation, it was clearly something he'd been thinking about for ages): Top Gear For Dogs.
Once we'd worked out that he didn't mean a version of Top Gear that dogs could enjoy, we understood his genius. Dogs are popular, a programme that did for dogs what Top Gear does for cars should be immensely popular (it's a mark of how hard TV can be that this hasn't been cracked yet. This was a few years back; clearly, this guy has been requesting this in most of the meetings he's been in for the past five or ten years).
I was reminded of this the other day by a friend who pointed out how well-evolved the language of commissioning "old media" creativity is. Watch a TV commissioner or editor at work and you see someone dealing with very familiar tools and ideas. They know what a successful idea is supposed to look like, they know what'll work at 8pm on a Thursday, or whether a thought needs 400 words or 4,000. And that understanding is shared up and down their creative supply chain. The whole business gets it - the commissioning and the commissioned.
New media doesn't have that yet. There are some bits of common understanding: a microsite, a banner campaign, but the essence of most new media activity is doing something new. That's where you get the news value, the competitive edge, the leading-edge users and the most interesting partners. And this stuff is inherently hard to talk about.
There are no familiar forms, no prototypical examples you can point at - every sell is a long-winded explanation going all the way back to first principles.
This might explain why new media development for brands is so lumpy: you get no versions of a particular genre and then you get loads all at once. It's not just bandwagon-jumping, it's because an example arrives that everyone can point at. I was talking to someone who's been making geo-located games for five years or more. And every project they've had has involved a long, long selling process - trying to get the concept over in the first place.
Now, however, people are flocking to them demanding geo-located games. Why? It's because of Foursquare. Suddenly, everyone has an example they can point to - something that gets them over all that explanation and gives them a sense of what their particular version might look like. So, even now, someone must be working on Foursquare For Dogs. Which would, of course, be genius.