Do we have what it takes to bring rich online experiences to the next level?
At one time or another, we've all looked at a banner ad, rich or otherwise, and said, "Is this really moving me emotionally?" Likewise for video the question is asked, "Is there something brilliant and head lightening about a small screen experience that most of us are relegated to?"
Now maybe that requirement isn't in the brief, and maybe you can't get emotional about some items or ideas. Regardless, you're trying to connect with a consumer beyond the functional aspect of interactivity. We aren't conditioned to look at a small, interactive screen experience in the same way we look at a large, passive one.
Will this change? It's hard to say if generations yet unborn will evolve and master the art of connecting emotionally with an audience no matter how they're experiencing a delivered story. Can you watch a tearjerker on your mobile phone and cry?
These kinds of questions may be beside the point. The idea of putting one form of expression into a new device and expecting the same result is flawed. It's about quality, but the dimensional aspect of quality is what is being challenged when you can get all misty looking at a TV show on a small screen.
Usually a great example of how to make a quality piece of art is derived from a formula of pain+reflection+refinement+time+execution=quality. Nowadays in the online world, we start at pain, get to reflection for a moment, and then execute.
Think of how long it takes to create something. You can easily find a difference of opinion in how long a creative needs to take to prepare for the act of creation.
But this is the bane of any creative, at any time, in any situation.
In our fast-paced world of human endeavor, we find too many ideas chopped off at the head and unable to grow into what they really could become. This may sound like a lot of creative drivel, but it isn't when you think about what it took to create something before we even knew what the Internet was.
That video may be long, but it proves a great point: extensive research is key to building a great story and finding the right elements to intersect and idea with a performance.
In the end, it seems our creative or pace of creation is limiting our ability to create moving emotional work. The issue that plagues online advertising is really about quality and, thusly, our perception of quality. As time goes on and we avoid the emotional aspect of online ads, we may degrade our expectation.
Could this be true? Some believe that if you lower the intellectual threshold of the audience, you can show them just about anything and they'll be entertained.
This could be true, but at the same time it doesn't take much to raise the hair on the back of someone's neck, at least at the genetic level.
Did my constant exposure to reruns burn my brain out when there were only three TV channels? Am I emotionally challenged? Why am I so emotional about that notion?
All that self doubt aside, the thing that we have to grasp is that online advertising is still very new. Our future is still in the hands of the minds that create the hardware and software we use. And yes -- you, the user -- most of all.
In a lot of ways, the Internet is like one massive R&D project to see if people can use screen-based interactive experiences to function. And how does that new replacement function interfere or alter the lives of people compared to before the Internet?
This notion of a non-emotional Internet may be an unrealized idea, except when you get a Dear John or Dear Jane letter, or are terminated from you job while on a business trip, or god forbid your vacation. The premise may force us to realize that no matter how you paint it, or animate it, our brains aren't conditioned to feel the same way when we're interacting with a screen.
Our search for emotion online may never come. We may not be able in the next several decades to recreate a similar emotional experience in an active screen-based state. Then again, it may be right around the corner if we're measured and simultaneously diligent about what we produce.
The lessons learned from the forefathers of creative quality may teach us the valuable lesson of being patient in our high-speed-digital get-it-done culture.
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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.
Hong Kong, May 5-6, 2015
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