It’s interesting times in the advertising industry. If ever the industry was having an identity crisis, it’s now. Digital specialists tend to think anyone who can’t write code is an idiot. And creatives who come from traditional agencies think digital folks don’t have ideas – only executions. So where’s the middle ground?
Leading digital shop Razorfish has done traditional paid broadcast – taking digital agencies full circle – all the way back to traditional. Traditional brand agencies with their separately structured digital divisions are facing revolt from the digital folks who tire of executing the brand division’s print and TV campaigns. Then there’s ground-breaking Transmedia, a process/philosophy that uses a narrative idea/structure to bridge campaign ideas across multiple platforms, and could possibly be the closest structure to what I believe is the ideal – and the most inclusive and collaborative structure: The Hybrid Agency.
Even the message has gone cockeyed – agencies are starting to embrace the idea of engagement – not just on social media platforms, but as a way of selling products across multiple platforms. And I say it’s about time. The one-way conversation – is it evolving or is it dead?
The Hybrid Agency
Ten years ago, when briefing ad campaigns, the account manager would take his or her creative brief to an art director and copywriter. They would brainstorm together, coming up with ideas to best solve the communications challenge set out in the brief. Today, it’s not that much different, except that there needs to be more seats at the table. The art director and copywriter are joined by either a broadcast or digital producer, a digital designer, social media writer, web developer, app developer and so on. If you take a closer look at who is sitting at the table, you will see a talented group of people with highly developed skill sets.
What’s The Idea?
So we have all these skill sets, but the one commonality that we all share is the need for an idea. Ideas are our stock in trade. Ideas are central to everything we do. Ideas can come from anywhere – and anyone. Yes, it’s imperative to have people who understand brand, overseeing and herding the group, but my point is that we need to rethink traditional processes to create the perfect hybrid.
Teams have to become integrated. Teams have to learn how to brainstorm together – we do group brainstorms – on big projects at CBC and have had terrific results, despite my initial skepticism around breaking with the traditional art director/copywriter format. Broadcast producers need to jump into digital with both feet if they are to survive. Traditional copywriters had better Facebook and Twitter and be Foursquare savvy because social media is still crying out for great campaign ideas that ENGAGE instead of straight selling. Art directors need to learn Flash and need to keep learing up the digital flagpole. Digital still needs great graphic design work, but print executions need to be tweaked to work within the confines of a digital wireframe … remember the “Golden Section” from art school? Egypt was rockin’ the web page long before the Internet was invented. Creatives without digital are not being hired. And Digitals without brand and marketing ideas will be doomed to become digital wrists.
True integration can only happen when there is respect for each unique skill set brought to the table – but the understanding has to be there around idea being at the core – not how it will execute – at least at first. Come up with a great idea and you’ll see hundreds of executions … not just one.
You can’t hold hard and fast to the old, but the new can’t disrespect the past. If we keep our eyes on the ball (the idea) the process will work itself out.