Migration To Digital Not As Tough As The Oregon Trail, But Still Tough

Last Thursday in Seattle Tracy Wong, Chairman and Executive Creative Director of WONGDOODY took note of the “Chief Storyteller” title on my Bonehook business card. It piqued his curiosity because “story” is typically owned by the traditional shop on a client’s roster, and he sees me as a digital guy.
Wong wanted to know who else has successfully merged “story” with the digital chops needed to tell them. I said Crispin is pretty far ahead on this particular curve. But clearly, Crispin’s digital success is the exception, not the rule.
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It’s not the rule because a fundamental shift is well underway and every branch on the marketing communications tree is radically altered by it. Digital is fluid, whereas print, radio, TV and every other media is static. We’re used to making ads with a beginning and an end. But online, there’s no end. It’s a continuous, always-on experience.
Once again we return the maxim of our day: Brands are in the media business, and to fully function in this new realm the rigors of daily production must be met. The creative team that takes months to make a TV spot is not the right team for the digital job. Likewise, the engineers who make cool shit are headless horsemen, unless they have a content partner or in-house content practice.
Sean Duffy of The Duffy Agency, wrote recently on Talent Zoo about the need to get away from the copywriter/art director partnership, popular since the 1960s, and make the team bigger and more collaborative.

About five years ago my partners and I concluded that developments in the digital world (specifically social media, mobile media and the evolution of the Internet) would fundamentally change the advertising industry. So we began the process of adapting to those changes. The first thing we realized was that adapting would not simply be a matter of hiring a web designer and a few geeks. We had to go one step further and change the way we develop solutions for our clients. Processes that worked well for creating campaigns in traditional media were not producing the type of solutions we needed in the information age.
The first casualty of this restructuring was the creative team. I loathed to do it. I thought too many cooks would destroy creativity, but what I found was an exponential increase in creativity. Creativity was no longer confined to our pictures and images. Our campaign concepts began to routinely integrate innovative ideas across the entire marketing mix from media, product development, and distribution to sales, pricing, and PR.

Duffy goes on to describe the ideal team today as a quintet made of a copywriter, digital art director, web designer, social media architect and strategic planner. In my mind, the team can be made even simpler by putting a strategically-minded writer in the room with an amazing designer and a technologist/engineer. Duffy mentioned that an SEO specialist needs to make guest appearances. I think the same can be said for the analytics pro.
On that note, I asked David Shor, formerly a principal of Quillion (a WONGDOODY company) and now a partner at PLACEMENTSmedia what the secret to digital is, and how agencies can develop a sustainable digital practice.
Shor said it’s all about tracking and accountability, a.k.a. data, and that’s precisely what traditional agencies are fighting. He says traditional ad guys think the business isn’t fun anymore, but it’s all in how one sees the opportunity. “I can pull a few levers and generate 15,000 leads. It’s a lot of fun,” says Shor.
Aside from the emotional problems traditional practitioners have with testing several direct asks and modifying the campaign on the fly, they also don’t know how to make a profit from much of the digital work requested by a client. “Their overhead is so high, it’s difficult to make it work,” Shor says. Shor also claims clients sometimes have no idea about the true value digital brings. “Some have never opened Google Analytics before.”
“I want to understand more about the 90% who don’t convert,” says Shor and that’s why PLACEMENTmedia leads with analytics. “When you master data, you can sell anything.”
I might add that when you master data and find creative things to do with the results RIGHT NOW, you can sell anything, build the brand and entertain or inform everyone in the process.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.