Interactive Creative: The Battle Rages On

Two weeks ago, I attended the Battle for the Heart Creative Roadshow, a traveling event put on by Joseph Jaffe, a former ClickZ columnist and a great guy. The event highlights some of the best interactive work out there. But it’s also a challenge to creative, media, and account people alike, tasking us all with raising the bar for interactive creative.

This is the Battle’s second year. It coincides with the release of Jaffe’s first book, “Life After the 30-Second Spot.” The book is a wakeup call to anyone who doesn’t recognize, or refuses to acknowledge, advertising’s changing landscape. Technology and consumer dissatisfaction with traditional approaches fuel resistance to advertising. Jaffe tells it like it is and gives some great insight into how brands and agencies can adapt to the new landscape. He covers such things as:

  • Consumer-generated content

  • Branded entertainment
  • Mobile marketing
  • Long-form content

Many of these messages resonate throughout the Battle. At the Dallas stop, which I attended, Jim Ferguson delivered the keynote address. Ferguson is chairman and chief creative officer for TM Advertising. Quite the character, he had this to say about the future of creative:

  • It’s about the idea, not the technology. Ferguson made it very clear he doesn’t care what technological platform is used to deliver the idea: “Nobody cares that you’re using Flash 7. Technology is not the idea, the idea is the idea.”

  • Get interactive involved early.“For the longest time, interactive traveled coach.” Sometimes, it didn’t travel at all. Ferguson recalls the days when, as part of a new business pitch “interactive would be discussed on the plane ride back from the presentation.” As it evolved, “it was something we thought of on the plane ride to the presentation. Today, it’s something that comes up at the beginning of every effort for every client.”
  • Reinvent the creative team. “Rotate creative people through the interactive department.” Many of us work in agencies with separate interactive and traditional groups. But some of the greatest interactive marketing ideas have come from “traditional” creative groups. Instead of having a handful of interactive creative people come up with ideas, why not have dozens of creatives throughout an agency contribute interactive ideas? Make it an agency policy for creatives to spend time in the interactive group.
  • Let consumers contribute. “It should be painfully obvious by now that we don’t have a lock on the idea business.” Ferguson showed how TM has incorporated consumer home videos into campaigns for American Airlines and Nationwide Insurance.

    Jaffe points out in his book, “Consumer-generated content… is the Mount Everest of the world of advertising…. Consumer involvement… is in itself a significant accomplishment… it pales compared to the concept of consumers voluntarily creating their own content with a direct or indirect tie-in to a brand.”

A lively town hall discussion followed Ferguson’s address. The main point of contention was return on investment (ROI). There were several opinions about how responsible, or not, an agency should be for advertising’s effect on a client’s business. The opinions ranged from “Advertising is just one component of a brand’s success,” to “Approve the idea and then get the *#@! out of the way.”

We’re in the business of getting results for our clients. Recent advances in technology and evolutions in practice enable us to track consumer response to our messages in many different ways. If these technologies can help us engage consumers in a more relevant dialogue with brands, we should embrace them. Creative and accountability are not mutually exclusive. There is a battle raging and those who believe in interactive are poised to win.

Where is your heart?

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