Campaign Promotion: The picture - digital

Great creative work is noticed, liked, discussed, makes us laugh, or cry, can be spoofed and sometimes even gets us to buy stuff. But what is becoming increasingly clear in digital advertising is that being traditionally "creative" and encouraging that water-cooler moment is less important.

If you look back over the past year or so to all the online campaigns that have succeeded in the various industry awards, you should notice one thing: they are all placing a premium on talking quietly. More importanly, they are talking quietly, and politely, to the audience they want to. Of course, this doesn't make the task any less challenging, or the end result any less impactful, but reaching the masses is a far lower priority. In fact, talking to a few, successfully, can be a far harder task than talking to everyone.

Play's recent Foster's work "ride the scuba" probably won't be seen by many women, because its target audience was 18- to 24-year-old males. Poke's "balloonacy" campaign for Orange - the first balloon race across the internet - may not have been played by millions, but its high levels of consumer engagement guaranteed the Orange brand was built effectively among a core, interested group. Today's great campaigns are all driven by agencies striving to talk quietly, with focus and a relevant message.

The mistake sometimes made with online is that it is crafted and measured using the same criteria as other media, because these are the criteria we knew already. In truth, the experience you have surfing the net is a million miles away from kicking back and watching TV or reading a piece of DM. It goes without saying that each individual channel is an important touchpoint within our daily media consumption - in fact, we have proven with Thinkbox that consumers are likely to spend time on the internet and watching TV in tandem. These kinds of factors add additional pressures on advertising cutting through - but what's important for us in digital is to establish a one-to-one dialogue with consumers. You don't need to shout when you have a one-to-one, just invite them to talk to you, listen and keep the conversation going.

So don't assume the only great campaigns in online are the ones you've already seen. The most powerful are targeted, those that quietly entertain and can establish a relationship between consumer and brand. Ask an online creative whether he or she cares if their best campaigns aren't discussed down the pub with friends. They probably won't - what they care about most is that their creative works with the right audience.

- The Big Awards presentation and dinner will take place on Wednesday 22 October 2008 at Grosvenor House, Park Lane, London. Book now at www.campaignbigawards.com or call Steven Lewis on +44 (0)20 8267 4042.