Everyone seems to be raving about the Club Internet advert (above). Apparently it’s a new dawn of creativity online, going so far beyond what is possible on the normal or expanding banner advertising formats.
Well it’s certainly an interesting thing to watch. If you got the spare 25 minutes it takes to load, then the effect (of the actors in a l-rec style ad falling out of the ad format and continuing their fight on the page) is funny and entertaining. And it’s well executed by the agency that did it. It is also, however essentially a TV advert on the interweb. The idea is clearly about a webpage that turns into a battleground, but this ad would work better on the TV without the load time and lag, and without the need to look like the page works when actually its a big picture. Doing the ad on TV would also allow for a voiceover to explain what the advert is FOR. Since the offer (broadband for 30 euromarks) is otherwise completely lost as the page itself is background and is destroyed in the duel.
Much of this comes back to a lot longer-running debate, and what promises to be an ongoing and hotly contested fight about who’s best to do digital advertising (digital people or advertising people), and slightly more involved, where does the marketing stop and the business process start in such a connected environment.
All of these debates are posing difficult practical questions for clients and sending many traditional agencies into a bit of a spin. Well documented was BBH’s response when it won the pan European Axe work (it’s all about the creative idea). And we’ve seen it go the other way too. AQKA win Yell’s above the line account and Agency.com got Ikea’s. Once again, “it’s all about creative ideas” but with a bit more of the user-journey thinking built in.
This is the quote from John O’Keeffe – executive creative director of BBH London – which also formed the heart of a Campaign article
“A couple of years ago, we might have been at a disadvantage in a pitch like this, simply for lack of having the digital craft skills in-house. We now have that capability: whereupon this, and any other digital pitch for that matter, comes down to the same question that decides any such process: who has the best idea?”
As someone who has worked in this setting, I understand a little bit of what sits behind the headlines, and the functional problems that can exist trying to actually get these projects to work. Stories abound of the fairly disasterous digital audi work BBH has just completed and the departure of their head of digital production after only three months. There go those ‘craft skills’, which one has to assume were at least in part being borrowed from other agencies in any case for the pitches. Doubtless, though the very difficult traditional/digital agency mergers will continue for some years to try and solve these problems.
In a lot of cases (like the one we started with), the problem is that “creative idea” actually really means a visual or video idea. Becuase the sort of creative breakthrough which allows for really good user-engagement online, are actually creative planning ideas – consumer insights brought to life, combined with an understanding that online people take action rather than just builidng memories. But we also still see so many agencies unable or unwilling to take onboard the insights of the Cluetrain manifesto to understand why online is not another channel – you don’t always get to select the method and means by which you speak to consumers.
And the debate rumbles on. Ashley Friedlein of e-consultancy last week set the scene again for this most contentious of battles, which Jim Taylor has also done a great job of mapping out in his Space Race (very much an insider’s view, loaded with keen observation about the what real structural constraints that are driving the industry).
Is there an upside to this in-fighting? Although a few skirmishes still happen, the advertising agency world does seem to have at least withdrawn from the battleground of the functional website, thank heavens. What we need now is a new brand of agencies that can do for digital advertising what web agencies have done for websites. But those won’t be set apart by cunning production methodologies or outsourcing to India, but by a redefinition of what planning and creative mean in this setting, and how that relates to user’s needs and desires.