Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Creativity in the Digital Space - Part 1

+ The other day the folks at @BHHLabs posted a tweet with a link to an article titled, Creativity in Digital Goes Way Beyond Advertising. It's something that I've been thinking about and have been blogging about on-and-off again.

Creativity in the digital space.

It's there...it's screaming to get out. There's no lack of talent. But what's the problem and why do people continue to discuss it?

1) Role of digital agencies
Often, it's the traditional agency that is coming up with the idea and then shipping it off to the digital agency to execute it in the "online" space. It's not about creating or evolving the offline idea to something that will be powerful and engaging in a different space...just use the same images and copy and "resize" it to a banner ad, website or social experience. Sadly (or thankfully), it's not always that easy for the creative to be effective.

Clients need to be on board and understand that if there is an idea in the traditional space, it might need to evolve to work in the digital space. Can interactivity be added to it? Does it work as a way to get people engaged? Involved? Is it relevant to them? Much more so than just pushing out a message "Hey we have this new thing"...how can you spin it, reverse it, and bring it to life in a way that makes sense for digital?

I've found it somewhat depressing to have clients in the past that have had the idea that digital creatives don't have big ideas. There's a perception that digital just means implementation of someone else's idea with pixels and css styling and Ruby on Rails. But if that's all your digital shop is doing...something is wrong. They should be pushing the ideas they get from the traditional side. They should be bringing you ideas that are big and just as powerful (if not more so) than some TV campaign or print ad.

2) Segmentation of "Creative"
As I mentioned in other posts, What comes first, creative or media? and The New Creative Team, creative is not just about the creative team. It's about different disciplines working together to bring each idea to be the best they can be.

It seems even within the creative department there is a heritage in the digital world of copywriters writing something, then just passing it over to designers to execute the design. Whatever happened to creative teams and a writer and designer (or AD) sitting down and brainstorming the concept behind the idea? Yes, even for a website, that does help to improve the quality and effectiveness of the work. The better integrated the different disciplines, the better the results you will achieve.

3) Too much choice, not enough strategy
With new digital tools and tactics coming out almost every day, there's a lot of choice in terms of how to execute an idea. Some people see a new tool and jump at the chance to use it, even if it's not really the right choice.

There needs to be a strategy for using the ever-growing list of tools we have available to us. What are you trying to achieve? What's the goal? Who are you reaching? All of these most basic questions should be addressed before deciding which tools are most appropriate for you to use...which leads me into the next point.

4) The tactic comes first
"We want to do something cool on Twitter." "Do you have a solid follower base there?" "Well, we have 200 followers but we also don't want to spend media dollars on this. You know, something viral. Our budget is $500."
Well, based on that I would suggest that perhaps this is not the best way to spend your money. Something "viral" with no fan base to push it out and no money to help promote what you are doing is probably not the best idea. But because someone has it in their head that this is the solution...you are stuck. How do you do something creative, and make it successful? You need to start with a sound strategy...then idea or concept and then go to your list of tactics.

The phrase "fish where the fish are" is something I've heard often when talking about using social media as a platform for a campaign over a microsite, but is that enough of a strategy? Does it make sense? You have a better chance of catching the fish if the bait you are using is appealing to what you are trying to catch.

5) Fear
Too many brands and, yes, even agencies, are afraid. They aren't ready to innovate...to do what has not yet been done before. Instead, they mimic--copying what other brands are doing and have done. Why? They fear failure. They fear the new...the unknown...the idea of being different. Yet, new creative ideas need this. They need to be unusual and difficult. Especially in the digital space where this includes creating something that did not exist prior to the campaign...building a backend that does something no one has done before...it's risky. And risk makes people afraid. But unless you embrace that fear or overcome it, you'll always be a me too when it comes to creativity.

Now, these are just a few of the issues that I see. More to come in Part 2.

Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know.

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