Friday, June 01, 2007

Digital And The Emperor's New Clothes

"handed out like candy bars in online"


I've been wanting to write a reaction to last week's D&AD awards.

Now someone else has done it for me.

Here's a wonderfully thought-provoking guest post, by award-winning DDB London creative Rob Messeter.

I know it's the future and everything, and everyone seems to be wetting themselves with excitement over it (particularly marketing people) but, is it me, or is most online advertising really pony.

I’m not just talking about the big shouty garish banners, or the annoying pop up things, I'm actually thinking of the supposedly award-winning stuff.

For instance the Virgin Casino campaign that last week picked up a silver Pencil in the online advertising category. Let me refresh your memory, you click on the word 'Spin' and a chap dressed like a croupier, wait for it, spins around. In another execution, you click on the word ‘Stand’, and a man stands up. Genius. If I presented anything so woeful to my creative director he'd laugh me out of the room.

Have a look for yourself.

Of course this is just one isolated example, so lets look at another. Another pencil winner in the same category. The Mercedes GL Banner. It’s a shocker. Car drives around bumpy terrain, and glass of water doesn’t get spilt. Ford made a TV ad like this almost a decade ago.

But, these campaigns are over a year old, and things move quickly in digital. Lets look at something current. A recent campaign from the same agency that created the Virgin Casino work.

This time the work is for COI/Anti-Smoking, 'There's never been more ways to get rid of cigarettes.' Now, lets skip the 10 word endline and move straight to the series of 'games' a term used very loosely as in fact they weren't games at all. One of the ways to get rid of cigarettes is apparently to drop an elephant on them, or lower them into a vat of acid. The hottest campaign from the hottest digital agency in town? Hmmm. A strategy that will never make a smoker stop smoking wrapped up in a series of 'games' that would only engage/ challenge/ interrupt a 3 year old.

I think we need to get some perspective. Digital is still relatively in its infancy. As time goes on I’m sure we will begin to see more maturity in the work. But for the moment, everyone please calm down. Clients, throwing all your money mindlessly into digital might not always be the best answer to your business problem. And awards juries, please try and be a bit more critical. In a year when the brilliant Nike St.Wayne poster didn’t get a look in at D&AD, pencils were being handed out like candy bars in online.

There’s something not right there.

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well done Rob. I've been saying the same thing for ages. In fact I've said it one here but I can't find the place where! Digital advertising is the new dotcom where people are making a fortune based on very little as far as i can see. Most of the creatives there are those not good enough to land jobs in the top agencies and the industry is still in it's infancy as far as great ideas goes. D&AD hasn't done itself any favours by dishing out so many pencils for, frankly, what look like first thoughts. I'm glad Rob has said this becaise I'm sick of reading Campaign journalists and industry figures desperate to be seen to be embracing new media whanging on and on about digital at the expense of so called traditional media and how tv is dead. It's a long way from dead and won't ever be unless digital starts to produce really clever and engaging ideas

Seb said...

Rob is absolutely right. Unfortunately not only in the online categories some of the judge's decisions are hard to understand. The black pencil in the category of illustration for example. Is that a piece of work deserving a black pencil? An award that is supposed to be the most difficult thing in the world to win? If we go back some years and have a look at the ideas that were awarded with a black pencil and - more interesting - brilliant work, that has not been awarded, it's a decision that I simply can't understand. "Odyssey" for Levi's, "Cog" for Honda, "Mountain" for Playstation...they maybe got a yellow, but not a black pencil. "Odyssey" wasn't even awarded. If you look at those great ideas and compare them to some, not all, that got a yellow or black pencil in 2007, it's really disappointing, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

agree that a case of the emperor's new clothes is in full effect here. but the digital agencies are just taking advantage of a vacuum left by the "traditional" agencies. doing websites is a pain in the arse. you don't even get to stay in fancy LA hotels.

and have you ever been on a digital jury? pain in the arse too. they're interactive you see.

and have you ever partied with digital geeks? Painful. In the arse.

the unfortunate reality, ladies and gentlemen, is that our industry is rapidly losing its glamour and the geeks are taking over. and there's bugger all we can do about it.

Stan Lee said...

And there I was thinking I was in the minority on this matter. I touched on dodgy banners myself earlier today.

Robin Grant said...

Boys - I've blogged about this on Brand Republic, added links to all the executions mentioned and asked Dave Bedwood (LMFM's Creative Partner) to respond - let's have a bit more of public debate on this - i.e. come on over and comment there....

daniele said...

I think you really need to separate the quality of D&AD winners with the overall quality of work coming out of digital agencies. The former are awarded by juries and juries do not always get it right. The problem I think online has at the moment is that the juries can be dominated by digital creative directors who come from design backgrounds rather than an advertising background. This means the communication idea is sometimes lost in the judging. This does not mean that there is not some fantastic advertising being delivered by digital agencies (does the fact that people are disappointed with who won the Black pencil mean there the work in general this year has been poor?).

The digital industry is in very good health at the moment and there is some great work - just look at the OneShow winners for a far better showcase of this. However this does not mean it can’t get better – it can and it will.

writer said...

The Mercedes GL Banner. It’s a shocker. Car drives around bumpy terrain, and glass of water doesn’t get spilt. Ford made a TV ad like this almost a decade ago.

Also, BMW put a glass of water on its 6 cylinder engine block, switched it on and the water didn't shake let alone spill.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a wail from a dying species if you ask me. Judging digital hype by D&AD awards is such a stupid thing to do it's laughable. If you look at any of the digital awards by digital authorities you'll find the standard much higher. Keep getting people used to judging posters to judge digital and you'll keep getting virgin campaigns. New technology needs switched on judges.

Anonymous said...

D&AD 2007: Online Advertising Jury

Foreman: Mark Cridge (Glue London, UK )
Alessandra Lariu (Agency Republic, UK)
Bob Greenberg (R/GA, USA)
David Alberts (Grey, UK)
Hiroki Nakamura (Dentsu, Japan)
Mark Chalmers (Strawberry Frog, Netherlands)
Paul Collins (FramFab, Sweden)

Anonymous said...

Dying species? Huh. Look at the digital jury - going on their decisions at D&AD the so called elite of new media wouldn't know a great idea if it bit their asses. Where's this great digital work you claim is out there? I'l tell you where - it's still in the heads of people who aren't working in digital yet

Anonymous said...

i think the bmw ad was a martini not a glass of water. on a non bmw engine it was spilt and the headline said Shaken. On the BMW engine it was still and the headline said Not Stirred. Whatever the digital ad is a pathetically old idea and not worthy of a pencil

Robin Grant said...

Have any of you - Rob included - actually interacted with the ads? The reason I ask is that the D&AD site just has shitty little quicktime movies, which do not do the exections Rob mentions justice at all.

If you'd actaully like to try all the executions Rob mentions, click here.

Anonymous said...

Yes Robin I've looked at the Mercedes and Virgin efforts and the descriptions which spring to mind is purile, uncreative, boring and a real intrusion of my enjoyment of the web. This kind of stuff is just electronic junk mail

MacBore said...

It looks like D&AD were making some sort of statement by turning thier backs on the past and awarding so much online work this year. Like everyone, they know that the industry is changing and they desperately want to join the new school (or is that nu-skool?). Also, they're giving out the message that you don't need to work for a trendy London agency, have huge budgets and top directors to be in with a chance of winning. This will increase the number of entries. Online entries were already up 90% from last year. Next year that figure will go through the roof.
If the online work was ground-breaking we'd all be here praising D&AD for their decision. Sadly, the Nike + site was they only online work that deserved a gold.
Don't get me started on the bento boxes!

J said...

I don't what the fuss is about...
Not only d&ad but creatives and creative directors in london seem to endorse this glorified view of digital.

Try to show your book around and you'll see how 90% of the people will ditch it if you don't have a fair ammount of digital in it.

It's just the same as the 'I don't want to see ads, I want to see artsy fartsy stuff' attitude of some creatives during interviews.

I heard a bloke say that 'advertising is becoming a dirty word in advertising agencies!'.
How truth.

J said...

Ah, scamp is at it's best.
Creating a stir and lots of comments on the past few posts.
How great.

Anonymous said...

You know what the ads you mention are crap. There's no disputing that. But you might want to think about it from the other point of view - traditional advertising agencies don't give out enough awards for good work. There have been many deserving examples so obviously robbed in recent years. The judges are also scarcely able to look beyond the logo at the end when making their decision which is why the same old crap from the same old brands crop up every year. It's a cabal and if you think otherwise you are seriously kidding yourself. PS This years traditional work was, by and large dull dull dull. Honestly when was the last time you saw a good telly ad. Think now...

Anonymous said...

The last time i saw a good tv ad was this week. Skoda Baking Of...and Traktor's Mail on Sunday Battle ad for BBH is good too

Anonymous said...

Meh

Anonymous said...

as a yankee colonial, the whole thing with D&AD's pencil stinginess smacks of not wanting to give anything to your fellow brits and avoiding populist work to a ludicrous degree. esp. in recent years.

Anonymous said...

Skodas 'baking of' ad good? So it's not just an idea born out of a fad that the industry's going through? Oh look weiden and kennedy have made an ad that doesn't use CGI, let's all jump on the bandwagon and make over the top ads without CGI. Lets make a car that's a cake? Good idea? you obviously like cake...

Am i mistaken, or is this blog actually a self help group? Please can someone massage my already self important ego as i'm feeling a bit threatened and fragile. I'm sick of hearing so called 'traditional' creatives whining about digital? Before digital came along you all moaned about how hard it was to come up with an original idea as everything's been done before. Boo hoo hoo.

Along comes a new medium for you to exercise your 'amazingly' creative minds in and finally come up with an original idea and surprise surprise it just becomes another opportunity to moan about something else.

the little team said...

I agree with Scamp that a lot of digital work is pretty poor and underwelming. I also agree that it is still early days for online advertising and I'm certain there's better stuff to come.
As some others have said, I've met some people in digital agencies who, I'm sorry to say, really don't seem to know what they're talking about. Not all, but some.
But no-one can doubt the potential of online. You just need to look at Monopoly's online game, (for those of you who missed it, it involved real taxis with GPRS systems driving round London, and was highly addictive), MillionDollarHomepage, Facebook etc etc to see what can be done. I look forward to it, when it happens.

Anonymous said...

Rob Messeter Vs. The Digital Kids.
Let's get ready to RUMBLE!!

Anonymous said...

shouldn't digital be judged solely on the audience they attracted? since that's its job. unlike tv and press which piggybacks on something more interesting than itself to get an audience.

unlike easy-to-judge TV spots, judging digital is not purely subjective. people either showed and interacted with it or they didn't. and if they didn't, then it's a failure.

Anonymous said...

The outstanding creative work at D&AD this year was Dove Evolution a digital campaign.

This won a silver pencil. Meanwhile a charity poster, with bad typography, won a black pencil and a photoshopped picture of an aeroplane won an award for best photography (no prizes for best the guy who coded the program?)

Swings and roundabouts Rob. Stop bleating and do some decent TV work, it was all pony this year.

Anonymous said...

digital judged solely on the audience it attracts? Sorry but that's not D&AD's role for digital or any other type of work. D&AD should be about great creative ideas. What the post above talks about is for the effectiveness awards shows

Anonymous said...

previous anonymous,

for a mass market brand, great digital = big audience. simple as that. otherwise, why do it? the subjective opinions of a bunch of hungover idiots like myself are meaningless in this arena. that's what's changed. and that's what's so great about it!

what's being revealed here is the increasing irrelevance of D&AD/One Show/Cannes. they derived their elegance from the media they were founded upon.

reading about websites in a printed annual just doesn't make sense, does it?

Anonymous said...

this is exciting. a civil war! lovely. i predict 100 comments.

Anonymous said...

this little gem from the future received fack-all awards too. at the time. i'm giving it best of show retroactively.

it's seven years old. truly original. would you have come up with this?

http://www.advertolog.com/files/paedia
/reel/part_1/11676/f
ile/CL2000-2_20_342.mov

Scamp said...

Thanks for sharing that, Anonymous. Brilliant.

Tony Davidson said...

Sounds like fighting talk.
Let Battle commence!

Anonymous said...

Miaow! You guys should really stop taking yourselves so seriously. It's a yellow pencil for god's sake. You are making me feel depressed about working in advertising. So long!

Anonymous said...

I'm in ur aw4rdz, getin ur pensilz...

kthnxbai.

Anonymous said...

Dear Rob:
http://googlefight.com/index.php?lang=en_GB&word1=Rob+Messeter&word2=Digital+Advertising

and, uh, ahem, do try to get a life.

Scamp said...

That's fun, I didn't know about Googlefight before.

By the way, the results would have been even more conclusive if you'd put "digital advertising and" instead of "digital advertisingand" with no space.

yours pedantically...

Anonymous said...

Digital isn't advertising, it’s about engagement, an interactive experience, a conversation between a product (I hate the word - brand) and person (consumer too)? That conversation, that banter, chatter generates communication not just between the product but everywhere when it is successful.

‘Digital’ or engagement is about simultaneously giving us three things. Firstly something well presented. Elegant, simple and user-friendly. Something easy to use! Secondly something so compellingly useful you want more and always overstay your visit. Finally something gloriously entertaining too that always makes you feel like it was worth it and not a waste of time, you learnt something, you gained something, you’re happier, more satisfied. It has to be something that will stand out, something which has instantaneous viral attraction, infectious WOM. Something so compelling, we will go back again and again because it will have some purpose or value in our lives, make our lives easier, simpler and meshing with some form of entertainment. Giving us all 'SOMETHING WE DIDN'T KNOW WE NEEDED'. This is the ideal and probably doesn’t exist. Even when you get close, the hard part is it’s stickiness, keeping that formula alive and relevant. Most ‘digital’ are visited once, played, explored, briefly engaged and forgotten.
Great engagement or ‘digital’ of the moment? I’d say facebook is the winner hands down. Youtube? Shouldn’t creatives, whether digital or traditional create platforms and ideas like these?

Anonymous said...

Sam & Dave, the team that produced the Virgin Ads are from an ATL background and have done the rounds with their book just like the rest of you. They were the one of the first creative teams to make the switch, spotting the opportunity to bring ATL craft to digital creative. Knowing them they probably agree with most of your comments - digital creative is still evolving and struggling to attract the talent it needs to rival ATL. We all agree that there are a lot of dodgy online campaigns out there - Production budgets are tiny compared to other mediums and there are technical factors such as file size which limit what you can do.

As the saying goes - 'don't curse the darkness, light a candle' If digital work is so poor then surely there is a massive opportunity for ATL creatives to put all us 'geeks' to shame and write great online campaigns? I’ve worked (as a producer) with a number of talented ATL teams and when faced with a digital brief all they can do is write a TV ad or a poster which doesn't work in an interactive medium. The plain truth is, like you I'm on a blog, not watching telly. That is why everyone including clients is talking about digital.

Sally Bedwood (wife of Dave 'virgin ad' bedwood)

Anonymous said...

sally is right.

Matt said...

Some advertisers think the Internet is a bad thing. Your job stolen and your ideas can be robbed without setting foot in your home. A place for clients to exercise their darkest desires. An open market when you can shove banners everywhere you like. A world where everything is watched and monitored to make sure 100% click-through rate has been achieved.

Orwell was right, ripping off AOL ads to try and make an internet joke wasn't the best idea on retrospect...


Seriously though, I bought the book "advertising now - digital" and it has some stuff I really wish I had done, so there is hope for some awesome digital work, it just didn't make it to D&AD. I'm not saying it is right or wrong for D&AD to throw awards at one medium or another, but if some of the stuff in that book had got yellow pencils this year then I think there would be less bitterness about the whole thing.

May the fight continue, it tends to bring out better work after all!

Flipper01 said...

I come from a web design background and now work in digital advertising. Sally's comments some up a lot of how I feel (I work with Sally), you guys are being very harsh towards us new kids on the block and a lot of you seem to have a pretty blinkered view. I'm a big web user (see look up there, I’m not called ‘Anonymous’) and very passionate about not wrecking the web with bloody advertising. Some would say it’s already wrecked by the crap advertising that seemed to be acceptable for many for years. It’s only by raising the bar by producing MUCH better work will things improve across the board.

It’s true much of our industry is still a bunch of kids trying out new things compared to ATL old masters. Things are getting better for us as more and more clients are seeing how much more effective digital advertising can be over so called ‘traditional’ techniques allowing us more time and money to make richer work, but this isn’t helped by you guys saying how naff our home made go-karts are from behind the tinted windows of your million dollar sports cars. It would be great to ditch this ‘us and them’ attitude and learn to see each others skills and craftsmanship.

Of course all of this is dependant on a good idea that is carried throughout the work; I’m not defending the vast amount of crap on the web.

Anonymous said...

B.O.T.H.E.R.E.D

As someone who used to work as suit and then a planner in advertising (Fallon)it's very amusing to hear creatives in ad agencies slating creativee work in digital.

But do you do any better?

More pertinently do your ad agency bosses invest in digital.

Very few have, and very few successfully.

And the reason why?

Traditional advertising is a mature business, with defined rules and 'learnings'. It has a defined model for creating work and needs to simplify it down to one word, one thought, one line.

Digital advertising is the bastard child of this thinking.

But, here's the rub. Look at the IPA Bellweather report and see the forecasts for the next 10 years on where marketing money is going to go.

It's not on posters and TV.

So where would you want to be?

Part of a mature, well-established sector that is in long-term decline.

Or in the one that is immature, with no horizons and new ground being discovered every week?

Before you answer, it might be worth thinking about where the CDP's, BBH's and Saatchi's came from in the 70's and why they did so well.........they were tackling an established sector that needed new thinking.

Oh.

Anonymous said...

agree with previous. another key difference between TV and digital is that digital requires deeper , more holistic thinking and more hard work.

don't intend to be facetious or flippant, but having done both, tv is a piece of piss by comparison.

Anonymous said...

Sally. How long did it take your husband and his mate to come up with the Virgin idea then? I have no problem with online as a channel. It's exciting - but Rob's original comments about the pencil winning work still stand imo

Anonymous said...

...For me there is not big difference between the mediums, its all about a good finding the best idea that will do the job.

Lets stop staring ourselves blind at a specific discipline!

Anonymous said...

haha.. there's a right load of tripe talked here. must be hard to have a £250k budget to spunk on some "big picture" non targetted advertising. trying coming up with something people will interact with that's actually measurable for £30k. we're coming to get you though. :)