Just read an article posted on Adweek yesterday, The New Tech Heads, profiling four “digital technologists” — that label seems a tad redundant, doesn’t it? — from top agencies:
- Scott Prindle, executive creative technology director, Crispin Porter + Bogusky
- Chris Kief, creative technology director, TBWA\Chiat\Day
- Richard Schatzberger, director of creative technology, Bartle Bogle Hegarty
- Gareth Kay, director of digital strategy, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners
I’m thrilled to see this coverage. The integration of technology into the marketing world has been largely ad hoc to date, usually without consistent executive leadership. Establishing senior management roles for creative technologists is an important step in reconfiguring the DNA of new marketing organizations.
Congratulations to Scott, Chris, Richard, and Gareth on leading the charge. (By the way, Gareth has a great blog, brand new, that’s worth checking out.)
However, reflecting on this article — and exploring the web sites of these agencies looking to learn more — it struck me that the mission of a creative technologist may be quite different than a marketing technologist.
The role of the creative technologist — as the title implies — seems to be primarily about (a) using leading edge technology to execute creative campaigns and (b) finding inspiration for new creative campaigns from the leading edge of technology. The focus is on creative campaigns either way, which is an evolution — but not a revolution — of what agencies have provided for decades.
Now, I believe there is a genuine need for such creative productions — and always will be — and therefore there’s a place for such creative technologists who can lead and enable them.
But I wonder if the emphasis on creative technology has caused a number of these agencies to overlook the larger vision of marketing technology.
Marketing technology isn’t just about creative productions. It’s about changing the very operational architecture by which marketers run their organizations and build relationships with customers, prospects, partners, vendors, collaborators.
Creative technology projects are a subset of this new marketing technology universe. But there’s a need for a broader management vision that synthesizes such creative technology with overall social media marketing, search marketing, web site and post-click marketing, email marketing, marketing automation, cross-channel management, marketing analytics, marketing resource management, and so on.
Granted, these broader marketing technology responsibilities probably fall under the domain of the CMO of a company more than an agency. But agencies should be deft and nimble at interfacing to their clients at that level, if for no other reason than to make sure that the benefits of their brilliant creative technology productions are fully captured.
I can’t help thinking that agencies have an opportunity to lead this integrative vision — and that it is a revolutionary shift in marketing. But to accomplish that, they need to integrate such marketing technology into their own operations first.
Not to pick on anyone, but…
When writing this post, I did a Google search for each of the people featured in the Adweek article. As an example, I did a search for “gareth kay goodby silverstein” — figuring I might learn more about him on a profile page on their site — only to be shocked to discover no links to Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in the first three pages of results from Google. I gave up before going to page four.
Puzzled by that, I went to the Goodby Silverstein web site, which launches a visually stunning Flash experience. There was a Staff menu option, so I clicked it and came to a beautiful mosaic of about 100 faces that you could roll over each one to see their name and title. I hunted around for Gareth, but never did find him. I can kind of link you to the page, but it’s actually deep in a Flash — so you have to get routed through their official opening.
From a purely aesthetic perspective, it’s a gorgeous site.
But from a functional marketing perspective, the closing off of Google as a channel — and really all link-oriented social media venues — seems like a dubious marketing technology decision.
Maybe some would argue that such sacrifices are sometimes necessary in the interest of developing the most creative production. It doesn’t have to index in Google, it just has to be gorgeous. Maybe that’s true.
But I’m not convinced that we’re anywhere near the Pareto frontier of having to trade off creativity and functionality. I think we can have both — although it will require creative and functional forces to collaborate even more tightly, beyond the scope of any one creative project.