Just in case it gets lost in the comments. I thought it was worth blogging the fact that Tony Davidson left a comment in response to my ranting the other day. Thanks. It’s always nice when a monologue turns into a dialogue. Stops you feeling like a nutter talking to yourself.
Anyway, Tony used an interesting word in his comment: frustration.
I think that word totally nailed it for me. As I said in my response, I’m not frustrated by anyone or anything. I’m just frustrated that I see bad things happening in the industry. I see destructive competition taking place, territorial protectionism is becoming widespread and paranoia and mistrust is starting to damage product and creativity.
Damn, that sounds quite apocalyptic! It’s not as bad as all that, mostly. But I can see it creeping into play on both sides. Resentful digital agencies are getting scared that big players with big wallets are moving in on their turf, and tallented people in above the line agencies are getting bored of being told that their time is up.
I’d love to see more real open honest collaboration taking place, where ideas are the heroes and awesome end-product is the thing that everyone is striving for, together. So I’m going to try to stop being so frustrated and start doing something about it. No idea what, but I’m sure it’ll come to me one day…
I got into a bit of a rant about it. You’ll find it’s easy to bait anyone who works in digital in this way. In fact there’s probably a good sport in there somewhere. It’d be interesting to go blog-baiting and see just how much noise and repressed angst you could stir up.
Simon left a comment about how lots of digital agencies will end up as production houses, and you know what, he’s probably right. If you look at the US, you’ll see that there’s plenty of them around. And they do great online advertising. Really great online advertising.
But I’ve slept on it now and I’ve mellowed a bit. I don’t really mind what people think about the role of digital agencies. If we do good stuff and prove ourselves we’ll survive. And if we do really good stuff we’ll carve out our own special niche in the world. A ‘them vs. us’ argument is a silly thing to get bothered about. The debate about how the digital industry is going to pan out is as pointless as the never ending Mac vs. PC debate.
Ultimately it’s up to you, as a client, or as a computer purchaser to make your choice. You’ll end up with a different product or experience depending on your choice. I know it’s not a binary decision, there’s a whole load of ‘grey’ agencies in the middle who are in the middle, but focussing on that will ruin my analogy.
Anyway, whether you’re choosing a new computer or an agency to give you a bit of digital magic, you’ll either make the choice from the heart or from the head. Sometimes your choice will be based on empirical product evidence, othertimes it’ll be based on less tangible factors.
And no! I’m not trying to suggest that digital agencies are like Macs, that would just be spoiling for a fight.
The above image is blatantly stolen from the excellent DigitalAgency blog. But short of retyping the whole thing I couldn’t think of any other way of doing it.
It’s from the D&AD Student Annual, written by Tony Davidson (Creative Director at Wieden + Kennedy London) and it starts off well. It’s positive and upbeat, and the sentiments behind it are all bang on. But I read it a second time, and a third time (by the fourth read I started to feel like an oddball so I stopped).
The first 1/2 of it I couldn’t agree with more. It’s all pretty much fact. Fact that the most recent Ofcom report backs up almost to the letter. And it’s not just ‘our industry’ that’s running scared. The telecoms industries, broadcast media, publishing (books, films , music, videogames), and many others besides are trying to decide whether this is the most exciting thing that ever happened, or the thing that’s going to kill them.
However, halfway through it starts to make me a bit angry. Maybe I’m just touchy and I’m not reading it right.
But to suggest that it’s only now that ‘ideas’ people are getting involved with digital sounds really arrogant and is blatantly incorrect. If there was nothing good online why are there so many people there now. They’ve not been holding off for a bunch of ideas people to come and create good content.
The underlying (and slightly sinister) message is that because we all use computers now, we should all be able to create effective and interesting digital things. Which doesn’t work for me at all. It’s like saying that an agency like Poke should be able to come up with great TV ideas because we sometimes watch television. (We can’t and don’t by the way).
And yes, we are looking at a similar set of creative qualities. But there are more of these qualities than there were before. And I do sincerely believe that there are ‘digital people’, not people who speak in zeros and ones. But people who get it. People who live, play and create in this new world.
I guess the big question for all of us is where ‘digital creativity’ comes from. And how the organisations who deliver this creativity should be structured (or not). Is it the role of traditional agencies as we know them? Where ‘creatives’ generate ideas that are fed to craftspeople who produce stuff to fill media spaces (whatever shape or size they might be)? I think there’s a bit of that going on right now. But it’s the part of the industry that spends its days talking about advertising formats and the latest cyber-lions.
Personally that’s not what excites me. I’m excited by the notion of broad integrated teams working together to explore creativity across the board. Creativity in ideas, technology, craft, copy, interaction and experience (as well as stuff that we don’t even know about yet). If you look at where the real pockets of digital innovation are happening, they’re in the companies and organisations that are employing rapid development methodologies, with tight teams of extreme talent working towards common goals that they all passionately believe in.
These people aren’t just developing bits of communication, they’re developing new products, new businesses, new companies and new industries. They’re creating new ways for people to communicate and consume. They’re building software that can fundamentally change peoples’ lives.
That’s the kind of creativity that makes me want to go to work in the morning.