Jun 14, 2007

It's Different Out There

Meanwhile over at Linked In, Mat (not Matt, mind you) Zucker, an interactive CD, uses the new "Answers" feature to ask the perfectly valid question of why so much internet advertising sucks. (I think the PC word he used was "mediocre" but we all know what he really meant.)

And while a few people correctly identified the main reason (internet creative generally sucks because too much of it is created by former actors, PR people, journalists, DM writers and the like who are just passing time while they write the Great American Novel/Screenplay. In other words, no one who's got much of a vested interest in making sure it's great... though that is thankfully changing.)

I'll even give credence to the secondary reason mentioned: since much banner advertising is subject to testing and rewritten to increase click-through, creativity is not really a priority there.

But reading through the responses, I was shocked to see that a number of people were blaming the bad writing solely on general advertising people who had the temerity to try writing for the web. Because, they claimed, they only knew how to write "linear" copy that involves a "one-way conversation" (All quotes are real.) One knucklehead even claimed that while ad writers were the internet's ruination, people who write TV shows and movies were ideally suited for writing for the web. Because everybody knows that crafting an episode of "Suddenly, Susan" or "Everybody Loves Raymond" makes one ideally suited to create banners and websites.


More troubling though, was the tonality of the aforementioned responses, which all focused on the fact that the web was a different medium than TV or print and thus needed a different skill set. And this was all stated in a somber tone AS IF THE FUCKING IDIOT WHO WAS WRITING IT WAS THE FIRST ONE TO EVER THINK OF THIS.

I mean the web is a different medium than TV. Go figure.

And the fact that it is a different medium might require a different approach. Go figure again.

At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old man, this is the thing that kills me about the Web Squad. They constantly proclaim the obvious as their latest brilliant insight. As if no one had ever heard of customer service before they started demanding that companies respond to bloggers who dis their products online and calling it "joining the conversation."

Take this from my favorite Web Squad whipping boy, New Media Jaffe's site. NMJ is contemplating switching to Mac and invites his readers to come up and spend the afternoon with him teaching him about Macs in exchange for a free lunch.
Kind of like asking your friends to help you move in exchange for free beer and pizza.
Only one of the knuckleheads on there actually responds, with no sarcasm:
I think your idea to have someone familiarize you with Mac and offer them lunch and a spot on the 'cast is genius.
Genius? As if NMJ was the first one in the world to offer his friends lunch in exchange for some sort of help.

Oy. When they roll, they sure roll big.

PS: Before you all get your Star Wars boxers in a twist, in the past year or so there's been a lot of progress on the internet advertising front. Both in terms of getting good people to work there, paying equitable salaries and the type of work that's being done. There's also a lot more real integration of disciplines. But I don't think you're who Mat-with-one-t, was talking about.


Anonymous said...

agree that there is a serious case of The Emperor's new clothes in effect with regard to digital. All sorts of new media chancers and bullshitters with no track record of ever doing anything (cough, strawberry frog) now feel free to hold forth and pontificate like stoned hippies.

but really they're just filling a void left by the trad ad agencies. so it's hard to blame them really.

Anonymous said...

Toad - you've been licking your own slime a bit too much with this post (or was that an obvious statement that I just took credit for again)

Let me just say 2 things:
1) I am not a "new media" guy
2) If BDA creatives just focused on doing their jobs properly, we wouldn't be having this conversation

Anonymous said...

"New Media" just has such a nice ring to it though, sort of like "New Wave"

And while you're generally pretty much on the level, some of the people in your world tend to be a bit over the top.

Not sure what sort of job BDA creatives aren't focused on doing: do you think they muck around with interactive copy too much?

Anonymous said...

Toad: You're right, most web stuff (not just ads) sucks, but I don't have the magic answer as to why. I think it has to do with the fact that things built for client purposes (versus consumer purposes) are generally less successful with consumers. Go figure...no rocket science there.

I think it's interesting, though, to look at what type of creatives would make for the best/most successful interactive work.

IMO, I think broadcast creatives are experts in making interruptive ads as minimally irritating and as entertaining as possible--which makes them ideal for creating the best banner ads. It's interruptive-to-interruptive.

When you get into who the best creatives are for creating websites, it's a bigger question. What kind of website?

You don't need a great literary or fine arts background to create a search portal. But if you're creating a destination entertainment site, I guess writing for TV shows and movies would make for a great background.

In my vision for the future, I see interactive creatives working more to find the right talent for a project than trying to become masters of nothing who crank out sub-par copy and design for a million different types of sites.

Anonymous said...

having worked in both TV and online the biggest difference i encounter is that creating a TV spot is like creating bright shiny objects that just get attention and are momentarily entertaining in some way. because the one thing you know about TV is that you have the audience right there.

whereas online is a lot more holistic. you're creating an experience. something that will hopefully be a destination in and of itself. something that has real value. so you have to think more like a programmer ( a network TV programmer, ironically). it takes deeper thinking and factoring a lot more things. which syncs up with your last point bender, i think.

i could write a great TV spot by end of day today, for example. i'd need a lot more time to come up with a great interweb idea.

Craig... said...

Hi. I am now reader #5. And having gone through a few of your postings, you Toad are exactly the kind of guy I need to keep in touch with...to remind me that those of us who have jumped on this internet/interactive thing piss people off. And I'm sympathetic to your plight; the industry is changing...a lot...and it's just not all that much fun for everybody.

But that's not what I want to talk about. I just want to say, you guys are incredibly busy shitting all over web creative, which is fine and often well deserved. But what is crazy is, to quote our host, "the tonality of the aforementioned responses." Sure, most web advertising sucks. But so does MOST ALL advertising. C'mon guys! Spend a little time surfing your TV channels instead of the web; it's an advertising wasteland. And that's not to mention all the other media channels where creativity and originality occur as regularly as four-leaf covers. The fact is, you will only see great advertising (read: "entertaining") if you DO go to Cannes or you DON'T go to the Superbowl. So let's get down off our high horses about the quality of the work. (And let's also keep in mind that traditional ad guys have 50 years of creative work to plagiarize and paraphrase; internet creatives are inventing it as they go along.)

And another thing: looking at web banners to find great creative on the web, is like searching through your mail for great advertising. The "creative" people in interactive aren't doing banners. In fact, they're not doing advertising. They are putting together marketing campaigns on the web that engage, entertain, inform, and most important (for all the TV creatives in the crowd) they SELL the brand. At the same time, they're figuring out how to work in video games and social networks and whatever else comes along this week. They're solving communications and marketing problems in whole new playing fields. That's where the real "creatives" are.

Whew! I enjoyed that.

Alan Wolk said...

"They are putting together marketing campaigns on the web that engage, entertain, inform, and most important (for all the TV creatives in the crowd) they SELL the brand."

Can you provide a link to one of these? It might help clarify what you're talking about. Most ad campaigns claim to do all of the above, regardless of medium.

"they're figuring out how to work in video games and social networks and whatever else comes along this week"

But if you're paying them bupkes, chances are they're not figuring it out very well. Or with much charm and imagination. The people who can do that are putting together web sites for people who'll actually pay them what they're worth.

Beyond that, advertising on social sites is an iffy proposition. People see through it and generally don't want to be bothered by advertisers while socializing, no matter how cleverly done.

Anonymous said...

i know we all work in advertising and the interwebs is the new dominant medium etc...etc.

but does anyone else feel that perhaps the reason online is so hard to crack is that advertising (brand promotion) doesn't really belong there? that we're all desperately trying to make it work but it never will on the scale we need it to.

let's face it, people only begrudgingly tolerated advertising on tv. and the internet doesn't "need" advertising in the way that TV very much did to exist. plus i struggle to think of any online brand advertising that's influenced me in real life. google text ads, yes. virals, no. got a laugh from a few but that's it.

maybe advertising -- online and offline -- like the record industry, will be another casualty of the internet. maybe we've served our purpose and now we're done. but don't yet know it.

Alan Wolk said...

Anonymous The Latter: I do think you have a very valid point.

Part of it is that banner advertising was sold as the ultimate in direct response, when in fact it's equivalent to a highway billboard- something you notice on your way to doing something else. I'm not going to stop checking the weather to go buy a raincoat online. Even if it is supposed to rain.

The other part of that is that so much of what's being created for brand sites is useless and/or available elsewhere on the web. That's why the running site RGA created for Nike was so brilliant: it provided runners with something useful that they couldn't get elsewhere on the web. But, to your point, it felt much more like RGA had invented a really smart product rather than that they'd come up with a really clever piece of advertising.

As I mentioned above, the stuff in blogs and on social media sites just feels intrusive and wrong. I'm talking to my friends, I don't care what Apple or Pepsi has to say. In fact, it's kind of creepy that they're monitoring me. I don't really buy into the whole idea of brands having a "conversation" with customers. It's too reliant on customers wanting to converse back, which I think is rarely the case. I have enough trouble conversing with the people I actually want to talk to. Why would I then spend time talking to a brand?

Now (to get even more long-winded) the flip of that is that as bandwidth increases, so will the use of video. In emails and on sites. A 100% on-demand TV system will need commercials and that sort of content will be repurposed elsewhere.

So maybe they will need to keep us hacks around a bit longer. Or at least until the tadpoles are out of college ;)