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Posts Tagged ‘Traditional’

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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Web-based news media attract many users through the ability to choose the topics that interest you, and the political perspective of those feeds.  All of which means you get your online news just the way you like it, without any opposing viewpoints or tedious articles on boring subjects.

Of course, now that changing consumption habits compel every major newspaper to simultaneously publish their articles online, traditional editors find themselves in a position similar to traditional ad agencies: proving their mettle in new media while arguing for the viability of their traditional product, in this case–newsprint.

Yesterday, as part of a series on the future of journalism, Charlie Rose interviewed a panel including Robert Thomson, Managing Editor of The Wall Street Journal.  He set online advocates’ tongues wagging by opining that , “Google devalues everything it touches. Google is great for Google but it’s terrible for content providers.”  Mr. Thomson’s issue stems from his contention that Google doesn’t consider the quality of the content around the ads it places, being far more concerned with quantity than quality.

One for you, Three for me

One for you, Three for me

Almost immediately, a hue and cry lit up the blogosphere as the acolytes of new media assembled like torch-wielding villagers, looking to burn Mr. Thomson’s effigy.  Their comments expressed histrionic outrage against this guardian of the past, featuring words like “dead trees,” “buggy whips,” and “30% margins.”  One respondent considered his attitude to be so quaint, he wondered “do you have a cat?”

Actually, that’s kind of funny, but still, this partisan posturing must stop if we are to move the medium forward.  Randall Rothenberg set a great example just days ago, calling for the better creativity this sector has long lacked, forfeiting it to pure technology.  Both sides have to stop taking their cues from the idiots of congress, stop pointing fingers across the aisle in kneejerk fashion, and begin looking for ways to connect and cooperate.  As I watch agencies like Tribal DDB staff up with traditional creatives, I can’t help but wonder which digital agency will be the first to earn heavy PR for the ‘man bites dog’ story they would exemplify if they were to acquire a traditional agency.  And you know it will happen.  Because that’s what’s called for with the needs today’s clients want filled: full spectrum, platform agnostic creativity that drives business and builds loyalty.  Cooperation is the key to convergence; working together, positively, for the greater good of our clients.  That’s a far cry from fingerpointing.

Besides, whenever you do that, you always get three more fingers, pointing back at you.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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whisper3Mediapost.com published something from a conference rather extravagantly titled “The Empirical Generalizations in Advertising.”  Wow.  Anyone who knows me knows I like my generalizations to be empirical, so I read it closely.

Amidst other findings, they published this from the Keller Fay Group regarding Word of Mouth advertising.  Citing interviews conducted since 2006, they concluded that over 20% of conversations included a reference to advertising.  Further, they suggest ad-influenced WOM is 20% more likely to include an active recommendation to buy or try the product.

As a traditionally trained advertising creative, I’m wearing a huge happy hat over that news.  Because in the perpetual motion experience that defines the best of modern advertising, a medium labeled as ‘traditional’ as television, still drives engagement.  It can still push out a message that starts conversations.  And changes minds.

Not on it’s own, not in a vacuum, and not at the expense of other engagement points…but still, good TV advertising works.  It relies on the power of creativity.  And it doesn’t stop with TV.  The trick is to insure that every touchpoint reinforces and advances one message.

Which, as any experienced ad practitioner knows, comes down to Advertising 101.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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The Winds Of Change Are Blowing

The Winds of Change Are A-Blowin'

That’s the challenge facing classic advertising agencies: we are generalists in a time of specialists.  More and more over the past three years, clients have turned to consultants and specialty agencies for strategy, insights, and creative ideas, undercutting what had been the traditional  province of advertising agencies.  And so now, we basically have three options to address this situation: 1. watch our portion of the marketing investment continue to shrink, 2. hire specialists in various non-traditional disciplines and broaden our agency offerings, and 3. reinvent what we do and how we do it, including staffing and compensation.

All three options are valid, but all three options also share one common theme: change.  It is necessary.  And coming.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Charlton Heston, Pre-NRA

Charlton Heston, 1971. Pre-NRA, Pre-Damned, Dirty Irrelevance.

At first blush, today’s post by Kendall Allen continues the faddish piling on of advertising agencies as out of touch and increasingly irrelevant.  But her piece contains more than a fair share of truth.  And ultimately, Kendall makes hopeful, positive statements about convergence and it’s availability to anyone tireless enough to “evolve during complicated times.”  

She makes a number of valid points concerning both how marketers from all disciplines can benefit from cooperation and the entrenched barriers to it.  More than anything, her characterization of the entitled attitude at ad agencies reflects the accumulated hubris returning like a tide toward traditional agency people who have long expected online and direct partners to follow our lead.  Because as we all know–or should know–traditional agencies can no longer assume that they drive the bus.  As marketing tactics grow increasingly driven by pull, engagement and experience, that attitude represents a dangerous assumption and a direct roadblock to true integration.  Ultimately, Kendall’s post is a call toward collaboration, across channels and platforms, all in service of cooperating to find solutions.

To be fair, she hardly takes any real sideswipes.  So maybe it’s not her.  Maybe it’s me.  Maybe as a longtime leader at a traditional agency, I’m a touch over sensitive on this topic.  After all, I’m looking to evolve, and most (but not all) of my traditional agency is actively trying to grow as well.  

But sometimes, the world changes and ‘experience’ becomes another name for ‘habit.’  The business evolves and you gotta figure out where exactly that cheese went.  Hmm…

And maybe, just maybe, all of us traditional agencies owe an overdue ‘mea culpa’ to our friends in the disciplines rising to the fore in today’s marketing world.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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