I wonder how many creative teams in advertising agencies read this
column? Well, if any of you do happen to be reading this, please stick
with it because what I want to talk about concerns you.
The 'i' word. Don't worry, this isn't another diatribe about interactive
TV ads and how you can't afford to ignore them anymore. I'm sure you've
heard enough sermons from the preachers of the interactive TV dream. No,
I want to talk about something much more fundamental - ideas. Simple,
strong and effective ideas. Am I alone in thinking that there is a
dearth of such ideas in the brave new-media world?
Let's immediately draw a distinction between a 'look' and an 'idea'.
There are many examples of things in the digital domain that look
interesting from a design perspective, such as funky Flash interfaces
and sexy site architecture. But there are fewer examples of outstanding
creative ideas, the kind that help to get a brand noticed and ultimately
purchased. In this area, it's still the old-media world that leads the
It's no coincidence that two of the most popular viral e-mails of the
last year, for John West and Fox Sports, started life as TV ads. Both
are based on strong, simple ideas that translate easily into the online
It's true that there are restrictions of form and function that exist in
the digital environment.
But how long can these be used to mask the fact that the new-media
landscape still remains a rather creatively barren place?
The problem is less about technical issues and more about creative
There's no shortage of great designers. But where are the great idea
generators and content creators?
The answer is that a large number of them are sitting in advertising
agency creative departments. It's this relatively untapped resource that
could hold the key to the creativity that is currently missing.
No doubt many will argue that so-called 'traditional' creative teams
have little understanding of the intricacies of producing banners,
superstitials, virals and the like. But just as an art director and
copywriter work alongside a director or photographer when creating film
of pictures for ads, so they can work alongside a web designer or
programmer to bring their ideas to life online.
There is increasing evidence of such collaboration, as agencies dip
their toes deeper in the digital waters. But, until more creatives from
the mainstream work with their digital cousins, the new-media industry
will remain the poor creative relation.
So, if there are any agency creatives still reading this, go and get
your hands on one of the digital briefs that's bound to be lying on a
project manager's desk.
And remember, it all starts with an idea.