This is a comprehensive summary of SXSW Interactive Panel “We Made This And It’s Not An Ad”.
Why is everyone talking about making things that aren’t ads? Because the internet happened. What does that mean?
No mass audience = no mass media
No mass media = no mass advertising
No mass advertising = oh oh.
So what can agencies create and sell?
The answer begins and ends with consumer behavior. The future of marketing is not advertising. Agencies need to go from making people want things to making things that people want. Do it for our clients and do it for ourselves.
The most innovative agencies have within their DNA the vision that there is no separation between products and services. They don’t just provide marketing services, they create products.
Paid media driven connections to consumers, fixed deliverable projects, and an over-emphasis on the big idea. This is the Old Way, both offline and online. Even in the “new media” space there is such a thing as Traditional Digital (note: a term I’ve also been using for a while). This is still filling a hole on a page, but filling it with banners ads, landing pages, and emails rather than print ads, billboards and posters.
So the best agencies and the smartest clients are not just making ads - they are creating products. Sometimes these are physical products, and other times they are digital. And increasingly, they are a blend of the two, or so-called physical-digital, like the Nike Chalkbot developed by DeepLocal. They are building things that enhance people’s live. And agencies, not just brands, are creating products and devices that serve a true purpose.
But agencies can’t make stuff unless you have people who make stuff. Once you see people making things, it’s infectious. But if you just hire people with ads on their resume, they’ll probably just make ads for you.
The Art Director + Copywriter team is awesome for making ads, but not much else. And the Creative Technologist role, as originally conceived, is defunct. We don’t needs a translator between creative and technology. We need creatives that can speak directly to developers and be understood.
When you hear things like “This whole ‘collaboration, we’ll work together as a team’ - I find it really difficult,” or “there are too many people around the table,” or “developers aren’t creative or idea people,” then you have the wrong people around the table. You have the wrong people on your team.
Progressive agencies are shutting their doors for a day or two for personal project time, group work sessions and hackathons. Everyone gets involved to make stuff, to concept it, to create it. They are doing this because coming up with ideas alone doesn’t give you an edge, it’s the ability to make stuff that sets you apart.
Your competitors (or clients) will make stuff with or without you. This isn’t maybe going to happen. It is happening. Brands are already doing this. Other agencies are doing it.
So get out there and make stuff that isn’t an ad. Here are 10 things to consider as you go:
1. What’s your reason for making things?
2. Find, or hire, your makers.
3. Beware of old ideas in new clothes.
4. Mistrust hierarchy, legacy structures and roles.
5. Give people time to create and to build.
6. Institutionalize collaboration.
7. Be agile in thought and action.
8. Establish a “No permission required” culture.