Did you lose your job? Worried you’re next on the chopping block? Or maybe you’re the person at the agency who might have to make the tough decisions. Well, before anyone starts freaking out, perhaps it’s time we all listened to the words of Captain Sullenberger. The more I hear, the more I think he might be talking directly at us.
“We are going in the Hudson.”
It is true. The advertising economy is not on the flight path we hoped it would take. Things are bleak and they might be for a while. But once we accept it, the bleakness no longer matters. It’s how we handle it that counts.
“I had this expectation that my career would be one in which I didn’t crash a plane.”
This was his answer to Katie Couric when she questioned why he was surprised rather than frightened when he realized he was going to have to land the plane in the Hudson. I doubt I’m alone when I say I never dreamed 2009 would find me writing brochures for bovine lactation retrieval systems.* Did of us really think there would be no speed bumps along the way? Sully’s crash landed him in place where he’s inspiring a nation and being honored by Presidents. Where will your crash land you?
“My entire life up to that moment was a preparation for handling that moment.”
Haven’t our lives been a preparation for this moment? Our job is to solve problems creatively. “Sell beef jerky to toothless vegetarians.” We’d have three print ads and a TV board to present within hours. Now it’s time to turn that force of creativity around on own lives. Write the strategy then come up with your creative solution.
“I headed to where the boats were in the water to facilitate rescue.”
In advertising terms this means placing yourself in the best position possible for the next step. Where’s that? Nobody knows. But I’m guessing it has less to do with a 60 second spot with a multi-million audio track and crushed blacks. I’m placing my bets (my time) on technology that creates a more honest, dynamic and relevant interaction between humans.
How do we prepare for this unknown future? My first piece of advice is to get on Twitter. My second piece of advice is to stop rolling your eyes and get on Twitter. There are a lot of smart people to learn from. And they’re giving it all away for ¬free –140 characters at a time. And if you’re not already, dig around on places like Digg and Technorati, too.
Next, learn everything you can about new technologies and then, this is the most important part, experiment with them. You have to engage in technology to learn how to make the most of it. Hold online events, start a blog, comment on others, create discussions, ask questions, partner with a tech pro and create new applications.
Finally, embrace those first words Capt. Sully spoke when he realized the situation at hand. Take control. The advertising industry will never be what it once was. It’s going to be what we make it. We get to rewrite the rules and create the media of the future. Brace for impact. We may end up standing in ankle-deep freezing water for a while, but someday I think we’ll all look back on this as the ride of our lives.
*Details changed to protect the innocent. Mostly me.
Before Jackson Pollack was an iPhone app, and only worked on your computer, people complained that you couldn’t save or print your masterpieces. This makes up for it, as you can preserve your creations as screensavers. Doodle away. Got anything else cool to share? Leave the links here.
And if she’s 78 years old and has never used a keyboard, she’ll ask “What do I do with this?” So she’ll need lessons. But then she’ll actually learn to use the darn thing, so the next thing you know you’ll find your email full of those Hallmark-like viral messages that 70-year-olds forward to each other — trust me they’re different than the stuff we all forward to each other — and you’ll have to read a few of them to show your appreciation but that will only be temporary because if the lessons are at the Apple store (just 99 bucks a year for a weekly private lesson) she’ll soon learn how to do other things, like organize the grandchildren’s photos in iPhoto. Of course she’ll then need a digital camera — add another couple of hundred to the thousand you already dished out — and a lesson or two on that thing but hey, it’s worth it to see your Mom getting all digital and everything because soon she’ll figure out the iChat feature and be able to video conference with the grandkids. Since they won’t always be that interested, she’ll explore other features. She’ll master Google and realize she can keep up with you even on those days you forget to call or email. Of course there is a risk she’ll find your Facebook page, decide to open an account and friend you, which could be a little troublesome because even if you aren’t posting pictures of yourself half dressed or partying do you really want your Mom commenting on your status? She might even show up on Twitter, too, and if your Mom were anything like my Mom she would probably RT everything you had to say or let everyone know how proud she was of you which could get just embarrassing enough that you might regret ever getting your Mom a Mac in the first place.
Then again, things could turn out the way they did for my Mom. She might be eternally grateful. Be stimulated and inspired by the new world she finds online. Connect with old friends she’d lost touch with. And become more connected to the outside world. Have you bought your Mom, or your Grandma, a Mac? What are you waiting for?
In the last six months, I’ve spent more time than ever before in the digital and social networking space. The experience has taught me a lot, not the least of which is how much creative opportunity exists here. Twitter, 12second.tv and other new platforms are creative gold mines waiting for prospectors.
Lee Clow once predicted, it’s only a matter of time before technology is in the hands of creative people. It’s a thought echoed by the Rhode Island School of Design’s new President John Maeda. He’s transforming that renowned institution in the belief that art, design and technology are all converging and that it’s art and design that will transform the 21st century. The time is getting close, if not already here. And if that’s the case then creative people everywhere need to embrace technology fearlessly. After all, we don’t want to leave the entire future to the technologists, do we? Here’s a few things I’ve learned worth sharing.
1. Traditional creative people don’t have a choice. You can either learn everything there is to know about digital or become a dinosaur.
2. Your next creative partner should be a tech guy, someone who writes code. That way you can actually make something (an application, a digital product, a new online service) other than an ad.
3. APIs are your friend. You don’t have to understand how they work but if you know what you can do with them you have a whole new canvas on which to create.
4. You’ll find out how much (or how little) you actually know if you commit to blogging. You’ll also find out first hand what it takes to connect in this space as both a marketer and a creative thinker.
5. Your readers will make you smarter, teaching you things, sharing ideas and disagreeing with you — good experiences for helping brands succeed out here, too.
6. Social media is not about how many people you reach, it’s about how many people you connect with and influence. Brands also need to learn this lesson.
7. Your creative equity isn’t in how much knowledge you can keep to yourself in hopes of having an advantage, it’s in how much of it you can share, and even give away.
8. You can’t understand the value or potential of plethora digital media by sitting through a Power Point presentation. You have to experience it yourself. Go. See. Conquer.
9. Creative skills are as easily applicable to developing iPhone apps, Twitter apps, and new digital services as they are to conceiving TV spots.
10.And finally, if you’re going to make a list, it should include 10 things.
What have you learned? Share your perspectives on how creative people can transform themselves to stay relevant and even thrive in the digital space.
This: people don’t simply watch events anymore, they participate, an undeniable fact made evident by the thousands of people on Twitter sharing thoughts, banter, criticism and praise for everything from Mickey’s hair, to Miley’s dress, to Aniston VS Jolie. They even discussed the awards.
The folks at Mullen put together a website that took the experience a step further. From http://redcarpet09.com/ twitterers could follow posts, isolate someone particularly clever to follow, participate in a series of polls, and even tweet without leaving the site.
It was miniature case study for how to play in the social media space. We weren’t selling anything. We didn’t ask anyone to become a client. We didn’t try to drive traffic to the agency site. We simply created an opportunity to do what I think every brand should be doing: listening/engaging/inspiring/attracting/mobilizing. Oh yes, we learned something in the process. Here it is if you’re interested.