CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/CREATIVE INDIFFERENCE TO NEW MEDIA; Why do creatives fear the interactive challenge?

Michele Martin finds that creative hotshots are shy of the interactive medium

Michele Martin finds that creative hotshots are shy of the interactive


Agencies are not usually slow to collect freebies, but virtually every

shop in London recently missed the chance to claim pounds 1,650 of

perfectly targeted media for each of its clients. The reason for the

lack of interest? Possibly the fact that only interactive ads were


Offered earlier this year by the Internet entertainment site, Firefly,

the exercise was meant to encourage trial of the new medium. But Saul

Klein, vice-president, marketing, of Firefly’s software developer,

Agents, Inc, reveals: ‘I was really disappointed with response from the

UK. Ogilvy and Mather and Lowe Howard-Spink were the only agencies who

did anything while we got loads of US ads from companies like Apple,

IBM, Kellogg’s and Duracell.’

News of the response came in the week that Martin Sorrell, the chief

executive of the WPP group, told the Digital Future conference that

creative departments were leaving too much new-media thinking to

technical boffins (Campaign, 26 April).

Sorrell’s observations dovetail with Klein’s by singling out creative

departments for criticism. Klein’s snubbed offer was specifically sent

to creative directors for consideration. Correspondingly, Sorrell says:

‘Ideas need to come from new-media experts and creatives working

together, but unfortunately there are very few creatives who appreciate

the importance of new media just now.’

The fact that creative departments are letting the side down when it

comes to interactive advertising perhaps would not have mattered just

six months ago. Even then new-media departments were still being

launched to take the pressure of the learning curve off other


Proof that this period of transition is coming to a close comes from

industry reaction to Sorrell’s speech. Mark Dickinson, new-media

development director of Lowes, says: ‘I agree with Martin. New media

doesn’t just belong in the new-media department.’ Klein adds: ‘Martin’s

spot on. The quality of new media won’t improve until creatives get


Sorrell’s speech struck a chord because creating interactive ads is a

new discipline that needs the collective brains of an agency. As Sorrell

says: ‘No-one has yet found an adequate revenue model for Internet

advertising. That’s what we are trying to develop and that’s why it is

so important for creatives to get involved.’

In addition, agencies that shunt projects into ghettos stand to lose one

of their major selling points against standalone specialists - the

ability to integrate interactive into a communications strategy.

But getting creatives involved in this broad process is another matter.

Shrouded in technical jargon for too long, new media is in desperate

need of a sexy champion. ‘It would be great for the Finks and Hegartys

to get involved to really kick-start interest,’ Klein says. In response,

many established creatives insist they do not have the time to get

involved. Tim Delaney, creative director of Leagas Delaney, who has

supervised the creation of a Website for Adidas, says: ‘I intend doing

one in future when I get out from underneath all this stuff.’

In general the list of creative ‘reasons not to’ reads like a tally of

Deadly Sins. Laziness is certainly a factor. So is pride. Trevor

Beattie, the creative director of TBWA, points out: ‘No-one wants to be

first because whatever they do probably won’t be very good. The first of

anything is never very good.’ The agency is currently finishing its

first new-media projects, for Miller and Nissan.

Delaney adds: ‘There’s not an award for this type of stuff and if

there’s no Pencil, people think it’s a waste of time.’

However, there are ways of enticing creatives to participate. Putting

them within reach of new media in their working lives is one way, argues

Charlie Dobres, Lowes’ new-media client services director, who also

believes such proximity makes formal training unnecessary: ‘Creatives

need access to the Net and you’d be surprised how many don’t have it.

For a while learning can be quite time intensive, but it gets easier.’

Learning by osmosis certainly worked for John Parkin who, at 28, started

working on new media from scratch a couple of years ago and has since,

with Dominic Beardsworth, created the Tango Website at Howell Henry

Chaldecott Lury. Parkin agrees that the most important thing is to

immerse yourself in the Net. ‘You need to get to know its culture, how

people use chat groups and the concept of home pages,’ he says.

After that, it is essential that a creative has access to in-house

expertise to help with logistical problems. As most agencies now boast a

standalone unit, an entire department or at least an individual

dedicated to new media, facilities are not usually the issue. Fear is.

Klein contends that it is a phobia that must be overcome, pointing out

that no ad is made without some technical support. But the most

persuasive argument for the average fearful creative comes from Parkin,

who turns on its head the idea that knowledge is power: ‘It’s quite

important that you don’t know about the technical side of things,

because if you did, it might limit your ideas.’

Armed with the reassurance that ignorance is bliss, it may be time for

creatives everywhere to see what they can come up with - especially

since Klein is willing to throw down the gauntlet again. ‘It’s a no-lose

offer,’ he claims. And there aren’t many of those around nowadays.


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