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The Cost of Brilliance

  |  July 20, 2007   |  Comments

How much does it cost to be an online marketing success?

No, this isn't a piece that focuses on my prowess in the creative and interactive field; I'll save that for some other time. What came to mind when considering the state of online lately is how there are thousands, if not millions, of ways to showcase compelling creative, either using rich media technologies or just plain old video.

Some work out there is truly brilliant, yet there's no standard as to how much you should pay for something with brilliant creative power.

We see here, for example, how beauty and eloquence can be portrayed (albeit, after a very long load time) and make something simple so beautifully complex. Conversely, take the same element and see how on a budget you can have as much lean-forward engagement as you can get in an experience.

Two examples, same creative element, vastly different budgets.

So when it comes to molding, curating, or shaping these similar elements into a marketing campaign, be it Web site, online ad, or video experience, where do you start? And how much should you pay?

Before we talk cost, let's remember "brilliant" can mean a lot of things to a marketer: a great TV spot, a fabulous copy line, an awe-inspiring photo, or simply a great idea that spurns a hundred greater ideas or just a plain, old fabulous selling result.

And before you start pulling your hair out about that problem, you could start by separating the campaign idea into a lot of executional or behavioral categories. Or (like me), boil it down into being something remarkable. As simple as that -- something that's remarkable is almost by definition something to remember and ultimately share with others.

So who should do it? Your big agency? Or your nephew?

Ultimately, a truly remarkable experience is one that capitalizes on the management of all kinds of executional elements. Interactive spends a lot of time in this area due to the Internet's media-inclusive nature.

All those things we recall about the good, the bad, and the stupid campaigns out there? Try to erase them from your mind. Think of online not as a performance medium, but as a melting pot of ideas and testing opportunities.

And remember, rich online advertising has been going through a sea change in a very simple dynamic. Banner ads are becoming microsites, while microsites are taking the place of corporate master sites.

Despite this, one thing hasn't changed in online advertising: you can effectively test anything, so long as you know what you're looking for in terms of success.

Lots to think about, but herein lies a major difference between the old agency/client model of "Sell my stuff or you're fired" and the new model of "What is it, regardless of the medium, that changes the perception of my brand and my offering and motivates a new behavior?"

Why? Because unless it's a major gaff, the collective Internet memory doesn't care about a minor failure. It loves great content.

When it comes to producing content that drives either of those results, the creator can be a big sophisticated agency in a big glass high-rise or your nephew working from a college dorm room. Refer to the previous examples for reference.

This fact has left a lot of people wondering if online advertising is the cheap, cheerful path to becoming the next marketing star or the most expensive form of humiliation a modern version of the snake-oil salesman can sink to.

How much should you spend for brilliance? $10,000? $100,000? $2 million?

Think of it in terms of production dollars, and we start down the slippery slope of "the wise restraints that make us free." The idea and the level of execution we desire should determine the budget, not the other way around.

Before you think rich media is a total solution for your marketing, think about what you're trying to understand about your success (measurement) before getting all hot and bothered about the budget.

The answer isn't about the "how," as in "How much?" It's the "who," as in "Who will be the right combination of people to create brilliance for my brand?" It could be the best agency in the world. Or it could be your nephew.

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Dorian Sweet

Dorian Sweet is the vice president and executive creative director of GSI Interactive who leads strategic development and innovation in online advertising, Web development, e-commerce, and customer relationship management programs. His work has brought award-winning online solutions to such clients as Clorox, Miller Brewing Company, GE, Visa, eBay, British Airways, Wells Fargo, Discovery Networks, Motorola, Kodak, Sears, 20th Century Fox, and others.

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