Much of the creative stuff being done in the world of interactive marketing and advertising doesn’t exactly make your jaw drop. It may be good, but it’s rarely outstanding.
Not my words, as it happens, but those of Mike Nutley, Marketing Week media columnist and, more importantly in this context, editor-in-chief of New Media Age.
There are various theories as to why this should be the case, but one ranking high is that the world of brands and the agencies serving it is congenitally incapable of exploiting the true creative possibilities of the internet. The best stuff comes from elsewhere. Last year’s grand prix winner of the Cannes Cyber Lions, Nike , for example – though highly engaging and innovative – is barely advertising at all, in any conventional sense.
Let’s qualify that thought a little. Despite the immediacy and personalised nature of digital communication, creative success is much more elusive and convoluted than a conventional television ad. It rarely depends upon the stunning and immediate impact of a single image or idea. Instead, work of great complexity is often involved, which takes time to develop and, due to its innovative nature, frequently brings with it high risk of failure.
Brand managers, by and large, have neither the time nor appetite for that kind of painstaking risk. Eighteen months to two years in a job may be long enough to make a small, spectacular change before moving on – for example, changing the advertising campaign. But it is barely long enough to build up a social community network around your brand, still less to extract value from it. And even if the appetite exists, the hierarchical brand management structure probably precludes its gratification.
So why not do the time-honoured thing in brand communications: wait for someone else to come up with the idea, then pinch it and replicate it? Because, as Nutley explains, the highly socialised world of web 2.0 knows a con when it sees one. It puts a high premium on innovative ideas but, equally, can come down very hard on what it regards as fraudulent repetition. The blogosphere will soon see to that.
Self-evidently, agencies are handicapped by having to operate within the constraints of risk-averse client culture. But additionally they often have their own set of maladapted preconceptions. These derive from the fact that much of their senior management, not least in the creative department, have been moulded in the age of television push-media. Television advertising will not cease to be a crucial brand communications tool any time soon – particularly in building brand awareness. But its approach to creative breakthrough is emphatically not that required by the internet.