Media Perspective: Out with the old and in with the new, but what are the rules?

The problem with all this new-media gubbins is not knowing where to start.

You get a lovely brief from the client - an open book, properly media-neutral, this is the audience, that is the objective, we don't mind if you do an event or a website or a whatever, just come up with some brilliant ideas - and you really haven't got the first clue where to begin.

The problem came home to me the other day when I sat with a really junior creative team who were struggling on a big, vague client problem/opportunity and were paralysed by the expanse of white paper in front of them.

And it occurred to me that, even as recently as five years ago, this merry band would have had a little starter for ten. They'd have drawn a rectangle on the page, stuck a logo in the bottom right-hand corner and begun working out what else to put in there.

They would have been doing something recognisable, something with rules, something they understood: because they were doing an ad.

And the beautiful thing about an ad was: it had con-straints. There are things you can do, and things you can't. An ad tends to be a particular size, a particular shape and to last a particular amount of time. Because you know what one looks like you can recognise a good one. And you know where to start.

There are no such liberating constraints in the exciting new world of newish media. You can do anything you like.

Text. Images. Video. Sound. Interactivity. In any order or combination. Short or long, global or local, silly or sad. And it's not just a problem for ad people, it's a problem all over the net.

Everywhere you look, content-makers are pushing at the edges of their various forms, looking for new constraints. YouTube and Vimeo are flooded with videos that are about twice as long as you can be bothered to watch - because they can be.

It's like the splodging out of music you got when music escaped vinyl and headed for the CD format for the first time: suddenly, bands got extraordinarily self-indulgent and lost all quality control, because they suddenly had an extra hour they could fill.

We're used to sitcoms lasting between 22 and 27 minutes, ads lasting some multiple of 30 seconds, news being about the size of a newspaper.

But none of these things needs to be true any more and we're left with the liberation of being able to do anything and the terror of not knowing what to do.

That, I suppose, is one of the joys of an old media vehicle like this column. I can waffle on as much as I like, but go over my 460 words and I get cut off right in the middle of my ...


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