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Posts Tagged ‘Gaming’

“Traditional agencies are dead.  Blah, blah, blah…”  Yeah, I get it.  But just like yesterday’s tired cliche of the misinformed: “Big Agencies are dead”, I don’t buy this notion either, because upon review, I can’t name a single ‘traditional’ agency.  These days, everyone plays in the digital space, everyone has some experience with online or event or email platforms.  So anyone who hires organizations to develop ideas for them shouldn’t be surprised when those organizations think beyond TV, radio and print.tradition1

And yet that attitude persists.  Clients have been so deeply schooled in the need for specialists that the concept that anyone might imagine outside their own particular box seems remarkable, even revolutionary.

This makes no sense.  Sure, we often engage specialty partners at our agency, and I’m usually very glad for their expertise and experience.  But as someone who dreams things up for a living, I have a problem with “agencies” that restrict themselves to tightly-defined boundaries like “digital” or “multi-cultural.”  At one time in our industry history, they were definitely necessary to drive change, but these days, convergence renders these sorts of agency delineations as increasingly dated.  A digital production house?  Sure, but a digital agency?  Why would a client want to hire a craftsman with just one wrench in their toolbox?  The leading digital agencies continue to staff up with traditionally-trained creatives to meet clients’ needs for TV and other ‘traditional’ media.  Today, any organization that delivers ideas can’t legitimately claim to think solely in one channel.   If so, then they limit their creativity to specific formats that serve their specialty instead of their brands.  

The conceit that only a viral agency can make viral videos is patently absurd: our “Ballgirl” film for Gatorade was last Summer’s biggest viral hit.  The conceit that content must come from a separate agency makes no sense: we created a seven episode online series that followed the US Soccer Women’s team on their successful quest for the Gold last year.  We developed games for clients big and small, we built video and flash based rich media banners, Facebook apps, MySpace programs, and Super Bowl events.  When we turn for production help from outside vendors, they are the same vendors outsourced by specialist firms.

A bubbling human imagination obeys no borders or limitations as it dreams up new possibilities.  If there still are any “traditional” agencies in America, they face imminent extinction.

That said, every evolving agency dealing with convergence and working to establish their reputation in new areas has one looming responsibility: selling themselves.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Today felt markedly different at the agency.  We have something of a hot streak going lately, selling big ideas and innovative programs, particularly to clients that once resisted them.  For the first time in quite a while, the department is stretched very, very thin with people juggling assignments and deadlines.  A large portion of our creatives will work this weekend to keep up with the demand.  Better still, this work encompasses gaming, rich media banners, television, content, events, social media, radio, wild postings, couponing and probably another half dozen platforms that escape me now. 

"Unknown Caller" U2  No Line On the Horizon

"Unknown Caller" U2, No Line On the Horizon

But even as this sudden burst of reinvention elated me, it made me wonder: what changed?  What spurred this flurry of creative innovation?

And then it hit me: since losing the Pepsi brands, almost everyone that joined Element 79 when we bought a small digital company named Tractiv has left.  And that’s made all the difference.

Please don’t misunderstand me; I don’t say this because those people were awful—–hardly.  To this day, I miss some of them terribly.  But that failed experience proved that buying digital specialists and expecting them to drive integration works about as well as hiring a surgical team and expecting them to run a wellness program. Much like surgeons love operating, digital specialists love doing digital work.  They couldn’t drive integration because they weren’t motivated by integration.  So they kept a separate name, separate e-mails and a separate unit within the agency.  In hindsight, the signs were obvious: just buying a digital company didn’t work for us.  I doubt it works for other agencies either.

That said, some of our best creatives today do boast strong digital backgrounds, even deep expertise.  And one extremely valuable team leader even remains from that original acquisition.  But none of these creatives are merely digital people.  They all think in convergence and so they represent the next evolution; not determined by their background, but rather inspired by it to become something totally new.

Platform agnostic, these converged creatives mingle and work easily with their traditionally-trained creative counterparts, encouraging them to evolve as well.  Because just as hewing to digital work limits a creative, clinging to traditional media stunts creative growth just as severely.  But by focusing on ideas not platforms, each expands the other’s imagination and occasionally invents entirely new combinations.  To me, that represents the bleeding edge of creativity—forging new, never before tried ideas through the clever melding of various disciplines.

No, digital creatives are not the future.

And traditional creatives certainly aren’t the future.

Converged creatives represent the future of advertising.  Creatives who use their free will to choose a new path for a changing industry.

And I am lucky to work with more and more of them every day.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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For the cover story of the current issue of Adweek, Janet Stillson interviewed a number of CMO’s regarding what they want most from their agency and media partners.  Anyone familiar with this type of article can guess the CMO’s broad stroke responses: a heightened call for that reliable industry workhorse, innovation, and complaints of how it seems scarce as hen’s teeth.

Frankly, that should come as no surprise, particularly given the actions taken by two CMO’s featured in the article, who were both specifically looking to spur innovation.

Laura Klauberg, VP of marketing at Unilever, told how for the 2009 upfront, she had MindShare brief their media partners on Unilever’s key branding initiatives, to clearly identify both their messages and desired consumers.  She believed this knowledge would spur better thinking, but thus far, she admits the results have been mixed.

Christine Kubisztal, media strategy manager for Walgreen’s, went the opposite way; she left her agency partners out of the game entirely and went directly to the media sellers.  Her thinking?  “It’s tougher when there’s a middleman.  I’m tired of trying to get them to go to media sellers and bring stuff forward.”

Creativity Has More Uses Than Duct Tape

Creativity Has More Uses Than Duct Tape

Interestingly—despite citing the need to have their agency partners step outside their comfort zone–neither CMO considered doing that themselves by involving their brand’s creative teams.  Instead, they approached programming or media sales organizations hoping to find big ideas, despite the fact that neither employs dedicated creative staff.  No wonder their results were ‘mixed’—how can you expect creative innovation from professionals who have honed their skills in other areas?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to bring in the people you charge with creating and extending your brand idea platform and have them collaborate with your media partners?  That way you’d start with both left brain and right brain talent and have a far greater likelihood of developing media innovation.  In fact, the more you consider the exponential changes affecting our industry, the more evident it becomes that everyone needs to ‘step outside the comfort zone.’

You want creativity?  Hire a creative.

You want creativity in any specific discipline?  Pair that creative with a specialized expert.

Creativity is not a skillset; it’s an approach to problem solving.  Yes, advertising creatives learn to develop thirty second television ads, but they could just as easily learn to imagine interesting cross promotions or engaging multi-media programs or even new media platforms altogether.

When I consider the gaming, social networking, syndicated videos and web development that we produce at Element 79, a very real truth emerges:

we are only a traditional agency to traditional clients.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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