Oct 7, 2007

Career Advice

I'm always amazed by the number of creatives I know who tell me that they "really ought to get around to doing some digital work" in the same tone and manner they use when they say they "really ought to get around to losing some weight."

I kind of want to shake them and say "if you're over 30 and all you have in your book is print and TV-- if you have a "book" instead of a website-- the future, my friend, is not looking very bright indeed."

Now making the leap isn't easy for general creatives, especially for art directors. But it's something you've got to do if you want to keep working in this business. And you've got to learn it for real too, really get it. So many people try and fake it and wind up sounding even more foolish, as they bring up technology that was last relevant during the Clinton administration.

It's not that digital is the be all and end all. But we're moving towards it, not away from it. In other words guys, it ain't going away.

Limited time only, act now, and all that.


Lunar BBDO said...

What exactly do you think we should know?

I always hear conflicting advice about where the technology meets the idea. Is digital just the same as non-digital, except you have to know where you can put your ideas or is there a special digital 'thing' that we ought to know that is different from the creation of ideas? Here we create online advertising but we don't have the technological knowhow to put it up, but then we don't really know how to stick up a billboard either.

I guess I'm asking whether you think it's about the medium, or something more than that.

Alan Wolk said...

@Lunar: The medium is definitely important in digital. But it's more about having an understanding of how it all works-- the process.

Remember how when you first started doing TV, you had no idea what all the shorthand meant- an ECU, the difference betweeen x/frames per second and y/frames per second. Or how the producer, the editor and the director all fit in to the equation. Ditto post-effects, which came with its own set of equally confusing lingo that everyone seemed to get but you.

Well digital is the same deal. Lots of lingo and techniques that you kind of need to know or else you'll be viewed as a poseur. Imagine being in charge of a TV spot and now knowing what a "dolley shot" was. (There's a part of me thinking you call it something else in UK and that you're reading this going "WTF is a 'dolley shot'")

An awareness of how things come together- who does what in the process is necessary too.

That sort of thing.

Ideas are still paramount but you can't do an idea justice unless you know how to execute it in the best way possible.

Good news is, like all things ad-related, it's not rocket science.

Anonymous said...

couldn't agree more. the only way to learn is to get your hands digitally dirty. initially i was spooked because i'm the least technical person in the world. then i figured out that i didn't have a clue (or any interest in) how the movie cameras worked. or how the avid worked. and it didn't matter.

one thing i've learned, and i don't hear a lot about in creative cirlces, is that digital work is about audience creation. if no one sees it, it doesn't really matter.
TV hands the audience to you. digital doesn't.

so it's a good idea to be up on the latest stuff going on at google/youtube etc.

loebster said...

Well put, toad. I'm living it now.

The best advice I can give reluctant old-media creatives is: painful as it may feel, take every opportunity to pass up another TV spot or outdoor board or print campaign in favor of an integrated online opportunity. The only way to learn this stuff is through immersion, and there's a lot to learn.

Right now I'm watching colleagues fight over the dwindling number of TV assignments like wolf tribes over an undersize deer rib. But over in digital the smorgasboard is huge. And growing. And exciting.

Creatively, it's like the wild west. Clients feel free to take risks. And testing? It's tested when it goes live; you know within a day if it's working.

And it all merges back together in the end. Storytelling is just as important online as it is offline. Sometimes there's even video involved. Sometimes the budgets are bigger, because there's less paid media.

I'm rambling. But it's only because I've finally seen the light.

Anonymous said...

Lunar, I think you're wrong about the billboard.

Just as you'll never get thin by just reading those healthy cookbooks and watching fitness videos, you'll never get digital until you get your hands dirty. If you're an Art Director who has worked in print, ask yourself if - in a bind - you could whip up a flysheet for your son's baseball team, lay it out, shoot the shot, take it to kinkos, get it printed, hand it out. Or can make a short promo for them with a video camera and iMovie.

Then apply the same theory to your son's baseball team's website. A little hands on knowledge goes a heck of a long way.

Anonymous said...

Would you give the "reverse" advice to all-digital folks? As you know, I'm on the marketing side (not an agency exec) but what I'm telling a lot of my colleagues...that are only focused on digital/social media/interactive...is to get a better grasp of the basics and the big picture (which includes traditional/direct/interactive components). Just curious.

Anonymous said...

McKinsey just came out with a report that said that a significant amount of marketing execs see digital marketing as being more effective than traditional marketing. They feel that their companies will be making significant investments in the digitial arena over the next few years and one of the reasons there has been a delay is that their agencies didn't have the expertise.

Now it would seem to me that if there is a lack of knowledge and expertise in general, and dollars are nevertheless headed in a certain direction, then it's best to get that expertise and knowledge NOW ahead of the future investments. This is one party you don't want to show up late for.

Alan Wolk said...

Wise words from Loebster and TSR, two much-awarded creatives who are wise enough to see the writing on the wall. And Jonathan is providing the actual stats for those who need them.

@CK: In the early days of digital there were plenty of creatives who had no idea what had come before, who lacked a sense of history and were convinced that all the old rules had gone out the window.
These days, interactive attracts a more well-rounded group, lots of ad school grads who are as familiar with a print ad as they are with a widget.
But not all of them and there are still plenty who could do to open their minds to the bigger picture.

That holds doubly true for the marketing types who have ralled around the 2.0 flag and can't imagine the value of a TV spot or print ad, forgetting that this is still how the vast majority of people get their information and their advertising.

Anonymous said...

“That holds doubly true for the...still how the vast majority of people get their information and their advertising.”

Too true. Outside NYC, Boston, Chicago, etc., not every brand gets the interweb and what it can do, let alone how and why their customers use it.

Agencies that bridge both traditional and non-traditional worlds will be the ones who make the biggest difference with brands.

Still, it will always be about ideas first, regardless of whether you’re doing a print ad, viral or microsite.

If your concept sucks, so will your real ‘fake’ blog you put up the day before the product launches.