10 Reasons Why Digital is Better Than Advertising – Number 3

Maybe this won’t last forever. And of course lots of people got their fingers (and worse) burnt in the last .com fiasco. But because the cost of entry for digital stuff is low, and the technology is cheap (or rentable) it means that people are constantly looking for new ways to do new things, or better ways to do old things. And the scale of ideas can be smaller, it’s easy to start or evolve businesses using tools and services that are readily available online.

From what I’ve witnessed the structure of digital agencies tends to be more tolerant of these entrepreneurial tendencies. It’s not uncommon to find people running garage businesses, record labels, t-shirt companies, etc. I guess that’s partially a factor of scale. Small companies oddly seem to be able to cope with outside interests better. And partially it might be a factor of newness. Most digital agencies are <10 years old, so their founders can remember what it’s like to be young and motivated too.

Also many digital agencies were founded during a moment in time where stock options were everything. Microsoft receptionists were reportedly getting massive stock option payouts and everyone knew of someone who had just become a paper millionaire. Very few of them are actually millionaires anymore (paper or otherwise), but the spirit lives on.

A spirit of entrepreneurialism makes for an exciting environment to work in. One where transformative ideas, however stupid, are the thing that keeps everyone motivated.

Websites and Company Culture

I liked this article: Ryanair vs JetBlue – reflecting company culture – Articles – iQ Content. It sums up how a bunch of factors, some quite subtle, help to reinforce your views of a company on their website.

Haters Extreme

One of the best and most inspirational bloggers around, Kathy Sierra, has been rightly scared and upset by a bunch of vile stuff that’s been written about her online. She has an amazing blog and a network of incredibly strong supporters (judging by the 550 comments and counting). And it would be awful to see her stop blogging as a result of this.

I’m in no way making any excuses for any of what’s been written or suggested anywhere. But something that popped into my head as I was reading what the scumbags have been writing:

I’m glad I’m not Paris Hilton (or Britney)

If you think of the volume of abuse that these two ladies get online. Fake porn, real porn, death threats, games where the objective is for everyone to kill them, etc. etc. etc. It defies belief, morals and logic. But somehow it’s tolerated. Because they’re celebrities who have massive fame and fortune people (including the mainstream media) see them as fair game.

In a culture where we can all generate a level of fame (for most of us it will be nano-fame), does that mean that we need to be able to tolerate the same kind of hatred and backlashes that ‘proper’ famous people have to endure? Thinking about the previous posts about haters, I got some pico-haters, Russell got hit by some micro-haters, and poor Kathy’s ended up getting hit by some proper vile mega-haters. But I’m glad I’m not up there with Paris and her giga-hated celeb friends.

I’m not quite sure what to say about Kathy’s predicament. I just hope she starts blogging again and manages to find a way to put these horrors behind her (or behind bars if they’re serious!).

10 Reasons Why Digital is Better Than Advertising – Number 2

Number 2 - You can just do stuff

OK, you have to know some stuff to put things on the Internet, but not that much. Just look at the people in 80% of YouTube videos, do they look like they know how to do complicated computer stuff? Or use a VCR? Or open a tin? In spite of this the girl on the left and her friends have had over 12m views of their video clip.

Basically if you have an idea, good or bad, you can make it happen online. There’s not that many people who can stop you. You really can just do ‘interesting’ things – globalrichlist.com and cock-a-doodle.co.uk are 2 projects that we’ve done just for the hell of it (with a degree, however small, of social conscience).

Of course you can still do those things and not work in a digital agency, you could work anywhere. But imagine how much fun it would be to have that kind of creative freedom, every day, in your job.

10 Reasons Why Digital is Better Than Advertising – Number 1

1 - You don't have to do advertising

Digital agencies sometimes do advertising. But only a few of them call themselves ‘digital advertising agencies’. This means that we’re given permission to do lots of other things. If you work in advertising you are typically expected to do advertising. Clients come to you for advertising. They brief you to do advertising. And they expect advertising in return. The term advertising is loaded with baggage, heavy baggage that’s hard to get rid of.

The ad industry has been broken up and broken down so that direct response, in-store, brand identity and all those things are mostly handled by different people. ‘Digital advertising’ has historically been treated in the same way – it’s something that another bunch of people do.

We can see this changing all around us, as a new sort of re-integration is happening, a lot of it seemingly driven by the upsurge in digital focus and spending.

Advertising agencies are good at advertising, it’s what they do. Much better than most digital agencies and most digital advertising agencies too (if such a thing really exists). Arguably the skills you need to create digital advertising can easily be bought and seamlessly incorporated into ad agency process. Either by bringing the skills in-house or using digital production shops.

In this way the people and processes that produce big smart communications ideas can take over and squirt out great integrated / digital campaigns – just look at Crispin Porter – the no 1. ‘Digital Agency’ at Cannes last year. But of course, Cannes is all about advertising.

Personally I’m all too happy for Ad Agencies to get stuck in doing more advertising using more different kinds of channels. I’m just not convinced that the skills for producing great advertising are the same as the skills needed to do the kind of digital stuff that gets me excited.

So what am I talking about?

I think it’s my inner-inventor that loves the digital space. It’s not just about creating content, it’s about designing and building the platform that the content exists on too. As a crude example the opportunities afforded to us are like being able to invent how a TV works at the same time as shooting a film. Only the devices that are connected to the web are infinitely more powerful and more adaptable than a TV. Personally I think this mindset is quite different from a traditional communications mindset. Something we see all the time when we’re interviewing people.

And I’m not saying that advertising agencies haven’t done brilliant non-advertising things too, because of course they have, lots of them.

Number 2 coming soon…

10 Reasons Why Digital is Better Than Advertising

Photo borrowed from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/laurelfan/46008873/

I started writing this list of 10 things after I chaired a debate at the D&AD about ‘Consumers In Control’ which basically turned into a mass venting of frustrations from people working in both digital and traditional advertising. It’s obvious that there’s lots of conflicting opinions and lots of repressed anger.

Originally I’d written this as one big long monster post. But I think it works better as a series – it means that people can comment on each point individually and I can be attacked point-by-point rather than in one big monster onslaught. I do welcome any comments positive or negative, but this isn’t supposed to be deliberately inflammatory, honest.

I’m going to release them roughly one-a-day.

A couple of caveats, hopefully to pre-empt any real hatred that this might inspire:

Firstly. I’m going to have to put forward my definition of ‘digital’. As it stands digital is a bit of a duff word to describe what we do, as Richard says when he talks about ‘not getting digital’:

When they say ‘digital’ do they mean that they embrace digital means of communicating information? Funny but I am struggling to find some non-digital means of communication.

He’s absolutely right. Almost everything is digital which is why it’s so difficult to get this point across.

So let me clarify. The digital world I love is all about:

  • Interaction – 2-way or more.
  • Things that connect stuff together – whether it’s people talking to people, people talking to machines (so the machines can give them services or information in return), machines talking to other machines (in order to make the stuff they know more powerful).
  • Environments – in the olden days of online lots of people used to talk about online as if it was a bunch of spaces, hence the language or architects, sitemaps, chatrooms, etc.
  • Digitisation – taking things that can be turned into zeros and ones and pumping them down wires in ways that make them more interesting than they were before. Youtube did with video. Napster and podcasting have done with audio. Flickr and photos. Skype & Voice. Maps. Directories. And I don’t think anyone can miss the effect that the web has had on text.

Secondly, it’s worth stating this is all opinion. My opinion. Born out of my experiences. Really I should have called this “10 reasons why I’m happier working in a digital agency than an advertising agency, and who gives a shit what I think anyway”. But that’s hardly snappy is it?

    Oh well, here comes reason one…

    Fancy Working For Orange?

    Orange are on the lookout for a new Digital Manager.

    Obviously the best thing about the job is that you’ll get to work with Poke, and you’ll get to boss us around. And we have to be nice to you. But aside from that it’s a pretty cool role.

    It’s got all the things you’d look for in a client side job and a great team to work with. It’s based in Paddington.

    They’re looking for someone with:

    • 3-5 years in digital marketing
    • Demonstration of managing digital campaigns (and be able to show some cool stuff you’ve worked on)
    • Experience of media planning online (at a campaign level)
    • All the things associated with running jobs (project management, dealing with agencies, budget management, etc.)

    From where I sit this could be a really great opportunity. The team is relatively small and able to ‘get stuff done’. And now that they’re a fully converged mobile/broadband company there’s some pretty cool stuff coming up.

    If you want more information get in touch and I’ll hook you up…

    Your future could be bright ;-)