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10 Reasons Why There’s Not More Great Work in the Interactive Space

8th April 09

(NOTE: This post is an attempt to capture some of the emerging themes resulting from an earlier and original post on the subject – see http://bit.ly/iZf7 for original post . . . probably worth going there first if you’ve landed here and want to contribute)

Some great, insightful and provocative replies to the earlier question around the perceived paucity of great work in interactive.

First off, I found it fascinating that – to date at least – no one’s responded with a great list of knockout creative, or, in fact, with any knockout creative. This would suggest that there is indeed a problem and that it’s not just perception. Please correct me if I’m wrong here. I’m reassured that various folks who ‘know their shit’ have commented here, and I’m certain they would have picked out the gems had I missed them in my haste to make the point.

Second, what we have emerging is a really very useful list of factors that, together, explain why we’re not yet seeing consistently great work, and in particular strong enduring campaigns, in the interactive space. Factors cited by contributors will be familiar to many, and include the following, which are reported not as fact but as supposition, at least at this stage:

1. SPEED – Our lack of speed in responding to the changing landscape, a blight suffered by agencies of both old & new skools, digital & analogue, hampers creative innovation.

2. ENDURANCE – We suffer a particular weakness at creating . . . (more)

. . . work that endures over time – what Bud Caddell captures well as ‘long is the untapped market’.

3. VALUE – There endures a disparity in budget allocation between offline & online worlds, suggestive of a pervasive disparity in value in clients’ eyes, perhaps.

4. EFFECTIVENESS – The online mix is inevitably ‘optimized’, resulting in the replacement of brand building content for ‘hard sell’ work that ‘really delivers’ (Griffin Farley nails this powerfully in his response, suggesting that we currently encourage clients to look at media through the wrong lens).

5. PASSION – Interactivity can certainly make an ordinary brand more useful or more relevant, but truly great interactive ideas still tend to come from brands that people care about already (Tom Morton, as ever, sums this up infinitely better than I could).

6. LINEARITY – Involvement of the specialist digital agencies occurs too late for them to show what they can really do; they provide a microwave meal-style service rather than the full Cordon Bleu of which they are capable; they manage rather than soar.

7. BELATEDNESS – Even when the right people are cast together (the geeks, the strategists & the creatives) it’s often too late for that fertile collision to produce the magic that should be possible.

8. NOT INVENTED HERE – We’re frequently seduced by the temptation to want to invent from scratch rather than borrow (&, critically, credit) with pride.

9. NARRATIVE – There’s currently much less of a culture of developing narrative or storytelling on the web (possibly linked to numerous points, above, including one made by Rory Sutherland about the instant disposability – & thus perceived low value – of much interactive work). I look enviously at the output of Campfire and other such agencies in this respect.

10. RISK – We’re crap at taking risks, partly because there’s no facility for doing so (& I liked Gareth Kay’s point about the CDP studio in youjizz the basement where people could flex their muscles and stretch the boundaries), but partly because many of us think we’re already taking risks, or being ‘new skool’ just meddling in digital. We’re not.

Hmmm. So what now. While many of these factors remain out of our immediate control or require significant re-tooling of our ‘factories’ (client budgets & pressures, archaic processes, the dreaded ‘optimization’ of media plans at the last second, the fact that people are more likely to be moved by atheletes or music than by fabric conditioner or banks), actually so much is easily within our remit to change. Now.

As Sir Winston Churchill noted, with Churchillian economy, ‘attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference’.

Around half of these factors seem – at first glance – to be matters more of approach than of structure. Creating an environment for experimentation, giving away credit (or at the very least ensuring it’s shared with those who deserve it), encouraging early and respectful collaboration . . . these might surely be actioned today? What’s stopping us?

Some of the more structural issues – around the value of interactive, linear process, cumbersome execution of that process – present more of a headache, but remain ENTIRELY within our control. The one area I feel I particularly disagree with contributors on is in instances where the client is blamed for something. I’m not absolving certain clients from responsibility for poor interactive work, but I am clearing them of the responsibility for changing the situation. It’s down to the folks who runs the businesses which are dysfunctional to change those businesses. That’s us, by the way.

So moving forward I’d really like to hear about solutions to some of these issues. It has to be the most exciting time to be doing what we’re doing since Mad Men. We’re only going to be doing this – if we’re lucky – for a few handfuls of years. So my mantra is fight for change today, not tomorrow. And don’t even think about complaining if you’re not also actively engaged in changing.

Would really value your thoughts on accelerating transformation.

One comment on “10 Reasons Why There’s Not More Great Work in the Interactive Space”

  1. avatar Rodney Tanner Said

    “too often there’s a gap between technical knowledge and geeky creativity on one hand, and marketing know-how and strategic savviness on the other. Too often half the smart people – the digital artists, geeks & information designers for example – aren’t talking or spending enough time with the other smart people.” As Experience Architects, this is the BIG challenge for Planners.

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