May 24, 2011

Traditional Creative In a Digital Age

Several years ago I was told that if I wasn’t working in a digital agency in the next couple of years, then I faced the very real possibility of being left behind. My response to this was, “Pshhh … traditional will be around forever. TV shoots are awesome. You’re talking crazy.” Or something along those lines.

Fast-forward a few years and here I am at my second digital agency, still not quite willing to admit I was wrong. I know full well that the future is in digital, and that traditional as I knew it is pretty much dead. But, I will say that coming from a traditional background has given me a unique advantage over most people who’ve either started in digital or have spent the majority of their careers there. Digital changes every day with new technology, social media outlets, etc. But, the skillset I learned writing TV spots, billboards, print ads and radio spots served as valuable experience in the form of campaigns and big ideas. Having that ability has not only helped me on the digital side, but when those projects like web videos or the occasional print ad do come up, it’s nice being the guy who knows how to do those things.

With the social scene in the forefront of every clients’ consciousness, it’s becoming more important than ever to know how to think bigger than just one execution or website. To be able to think across multiple channels and platforms and have them all work together and deliver a strong, consistent message is the key. This is similar to the thinking that is used to develop an ad campaign. Sometimes I find myself wondering if the ability to think of how an idea can translate across all mediums is lost in digital agencies that built their reputations on strong design, development and execution — or if those digital agencies just aren’t there yet. The same way most mass agencies like to fancy themselves as digital shops, digital agencies have to start thinking more like traditional shops.

So, with the ever-increasing dominance of digital advertising and the growth of the digital agency over the last decade, it has occurred to me that we may soon be facing a time when many young creatives will be at a major disadvantage. They will be working in environments where they haven’t had the opportunity to develop their conceptual thinking the same way they would in a traditional advertising agency. The ability to write a short, succinct headline or bit of body copy is replaced with the ability to write strong SEO and long-form copy. Writing headlines 100 times on a piece of paper until it’s right is replaced by typing it a few different ways into a Word document. The art of writing a big idea in seven words or less could be lost forever. But let’s hope not.

Maybe, like the rest of the industry’s change, there will come a change for the creatives that helps them think bigger than just one execution or one web page. Maybe it starts with their teachers in college or portfolio schools. Or maybe it starts with someone like me, who still remembers the good old days of writing newspaper ads.


(Contributed by Nathan Dye, Senior Writer)