“I don’t have to know anything about technology because I know that whatever I think up there’s always someone who can build it.”
I’ve heard this statement, or a variation thereof, proffered by copywriters, art directors and creative directors. And it’s true. Chances are that no matter what you conceive – experience, installation, interactive film, video game, touch-screen, augmented reality – there is a team of developers somewhere who can bring it to life.
There’s just one problem. Without some knowledge of technology, social media, API’s, HTML5, LBS, etc. you probably won’t think up the very coolest of ideas.
The last time someone shared this sentiment with me I agreed, as I always do, but then asked a series of simple questions. Holding up as an example Google’s Arcade Fire video, Wilderness Downtown, I asked if he could have thought that up. I showed him Breakfast’s Instaprint and asked the same question. Ditto as I reminded him of Wieden and Kennedy’s Old Spice Twitter campaign, Garmin’s Garmin Connect and Mr. Youth’s spinoff action platform Crowdtap.
I don’t have to tell you what the answers were.
But if we believe that storytelling has changed, that agencies need to build things and create utility, yet that it still takes creativity to distinguish the best ideas from the also rans, then all writers, art directors and creative directors need at least a cursory knowledge of today’s digital technology and all that it enables.
Shit, they might even have to learn something about data, at least the personal kind that inspires the likes of Garmin Connect.
You don’t need to take a lesson in writing code. But you may want to make friends with the nerds and learn a little bit about what they can do before you bring them your next ad like object and ask them to make something digital out of it.
The advertising industry (traditional, digital, social, media) talks constantly about transformation and change. Usually that implies new skill sets, teams, processes and briefs. But Daniel Stein, CEO and founder of EVB, a small, but influential agency in San Francisco starts somewhere else, declaring that nothing determines an agency’s brand, not to mention its opportunities to create great work, as much as its clients.
While plenty of agencies will foam at the mouth over almost any opportunity to pitch a new piece of business, Daniel goes so far as to suggest that agencies should issue RFP’s to prospective clients and be even more selective about whom they’re willing to work for than typical clients are about choosing partners.
According to this CEO, clients are only worth having if they’re a source of learning and inspiration. Stein is lucky enough to have such clients, doing work for Facebook, Skittles and Nike, among others. He suggests the following guidelines.
- Choose clients that want innovative work
- Make sure you both have a shared vision of success
- Ask whether you can learn something from them, not simply vice versa
- Insist on working only with partners who’ll be a source of inspiration
- Assess whether they work as hard as you do
- Assure that you can make money
Finally, ask the ultimate question: “Will your new partner inhibit or enhance your brand?”
It’s often tough in an incredibly competitive industry and a still-soft economy to say no to any new source of revenue. But if the objective is long term growth, relevance in the digital age, and the pursuit of that over used T word, you might want to bite the bullet and heed Mr. Stein’s advice.
Who will be your next client?