Everyone I speak to in the industry on the subject of digital media falls into three broad groups. The first is "trying to understand the digital revolution", attending as many seminars as possible, reading all the relevant magazines, (such as Contagious) and trying to understand what on Earth these new buzzwords such as "digi-sodes" and "mash-ups" mean. After all this, however, these people still have no clear understanding of what it's all about and, more importantly, how one gets involved.
The second group asks "the odd question because they feel they must", while waiting happily to see who makes the first move. As they get more familiar with areas such as web content, they see the budgets available and what is involved and return, happily, to the world of the 60-second commercial never to venture forth again. Of course, this is fine until the lion's share of the budgets has been allocated to digital marketing away from television, the 60-second commercial doesn't exist any more and it's too late.
The third party thinks they and their companies are "too set in their ways to start getting involved in any new media", thinking instead that the internet is a passing fad and will never catch on anyway (rather like e-mail...), particularly as there is no money in it at the moment. Happily, I have only come across a small number in this group.
I belong to the first group - genuinely excited about the limitless possibilities that are becoming available through technology to the marketers in reaching the consumer, but also panicking because I couldn't get my head around the whole thing; and once I did, how could we, as a post-production company, get involved?
When we first approached companies such as Profero, Poke and AKQA, we found a whole new way of looking at the world. These companies encourage a free flow of ideas from whatever source and for whatever media platform. They are not creatively restricted by only thinking about a 60-second TV commercial, they use whatever means to reach the intended target market.
The only hurdle, it seems, is to persuade their clients to be brave and take risks. We were also very surprised and encouraged at their response to our work and the way in which we create visual effects and so we started to look for ways to collaborate.
We set up our digital-content company, Disqo, earlier this year under the Golden Square umbrella in response to this and, in particular, to fill a growing need for moving content.
Instead of the traditional approach of one highly skilled operator working on a very sophisticated system, we have used teams of multi-skilled artists who move from Mac to camera to internet, whichever is best suited to the task at hand. Disqo is not, however, attempting to compete with the creative idea but complement it by using the different skillsets we have available at a facility house.
In this way, we have worked with a number of digital agencies on projects including Mazda, Mini, Sky and the Child Protection Agency. The best thing about this work has been the opportunities it has given us to take our work beyond the traditional boundaries and become more involved in the creative process.
What has become apparent is that the background and mindset of our "designers" and their creatives are exactly the same. They were born out of the same Mac with the same software tools in the 80s; the only difference is one went down the moving image route and the other, the graphic design path. The divide between the creative and VFX artist is disappearing, along with the labels that we formerly used to identify exactly what people did.
Technology, which is largely responsible for bringing this about, is also breaking down barriers to doing business in parts of the world that traditionally have been seen as very difficult or even impossible to break into. This is why we have decided that the time is right for Disqo to break new ground in China. But why did we choose China rather than one of the other new-world economies?
Creating something from nothing is no easy task, particularly in a new market. Profero, a digital marketing agency that we had worked with in the UK and which is also well established in China (and other major Asian markets), needed our expertise to raise the creative bar. It wanted to offer its clients moving content primarily in China but, with the potential to work together throughout Asia, it seemed too good an opportunity to pass up.
By working together in Shanghai, we will be in a unique position to take advantage of everything that is happening in this dynamic market.
When we went there recently to touch base with the advertising community, we found a place that was aptly described by more than one person as being like the Wild West in the days of the Goldrush: limitless opportunity to be successful, but also horrendous pitfalls waiting for the unwary. In Profero's Daryl Arnold and his team, with their experience of the Chinese market, we have the perfect partner.
Apart from the business to be done in China, having a foothold in a dynamic market is also a chance to experiment with new ways of working, adopting the free-thinking attitudes of digital agencies and harnessing technology to find out what works best. We can then bring that experience back to the UK to help us evolve Golden Square into the post-production company of the 21st century.