Creative technologists in brand advertising

I recently read an excellent post by Randall Rothenberg on the IAB blog, A Manifesto on Interactive Advertising. It’s a passionate argument for a renaissance of creativity in interactive advertising — especially in the agency world.

Randall decries that online advertising, while pervasive, is rarely iconic. How many people have felt good about search ads or banners? In contrast to the great campaigns of TV and print, which have deeply affected people and culture — the ideals of brand advertising.

He blames this absence of “fantastic, emotionally resonant, culturally significant and successful interactive advertising campaigns” on four enemies of online branding:

  • a direct-marketing culture and tradition that devalues creativity and its long-term effect on brands;
  • an interactive agency business model that disincentivizes greatness and fails to penalize mediocrity;
  • an unwillingness by mainstream agencies to integrate technologists as full partners in the advertising creative team;
  • media industry values and habits that malign and depreciate its own products, and by extension its customers’;

The entire article is insightful, but his articulation of the need for creative technologists as an integral part of the core creative team in major advertising agencies caught my attention the most.

Randall unabashedly declares that the creative technologist must be the third member of the new creative partnership that for the past 60 years has existed between the art director and the copywriter. He quotes RG/A’s Chariman, CEO, and Global Chief Creative Officer Bob Greenberg:

“There are critical creative needs that didn’t exist in the old advertising,” says Mr. Greenberg, who counts 130 technologists in his New York office. “Advertising is no longer just about the display ad or the TV commercial or the banner; it’s about creating meaningful tools and architecting user experiences. Our technology group, they can keep up to speed technically with the top people at HP or IBM. But they also understand how to work with others to create an application that will lead to community.”
[Emphasis added.]

Mr. Greenberg stresses that calling the creative technologist the “third member” of the creative team is, at best, metaphorical. There are several new skill sets creative agencies today must possess to attract, engage, and influence consumers — Flash video development, software design, information architecture, animation, CRM, iPhone app design, and ActionScript development among them — and no one individual will have expertise in all. The point is that the men and women with these skills must be treated as full partners in the campaign development process, contributors to “the Big Idea,” not as executional afterthoughts buried in the basement.
[Emphasis added again.]

I find this exciting at two levels.

First, the elevation of technology talent in the agency world represents a tremendous opportunity for agencies — who need to address the disruptive innovation of online advertising with bold changes — as well as opening new career paths for technical professionals, especially those who blend engineering disciplines with creative and marketing business savvy. Marketing and computer science together in the spotlight.

Secondly, the agency world influences corporate marketing departments. The visibility of technologists as part of the creative marketing team will help speed the establishment of marketing technology teams — including senior marketing technology leadership — inside the marketing department, beyond the constraints of the traditional IT organization.

Cheers to the IAB for championing this discussion!

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2 thoughts on “Creative technologists in brand advertising”

  1. What’s needed is the Interpretive Manager as pictured by lester and piore in their book “Innovation”, a function that is between the analytical and the synthetic, helping each side to understand the other.

  2. People…here is a great piece (see below) which is so relevant in my travels around the tech marketing ecosystem. I think it is worth sharing on this platform:
    Can The Next Instagram/Hipstamatic/Klout/Angry Birds Be Born Within A Agency? | Mobile Inc

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