Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Brian Morrissey of Adweek posed an interesting question the other day: Are designers to blame for bad web ads?
(Of course not everyone thinks they're bad. But if you're reading this blog, you probably agree that with a few notable exceptions, they are pretty awful. For you (and me) there's now Ad Block Plus-an app that replaces online ads with images from curated photography collections (!)
I think the fault for lame web creative lies not with designers, but with old agency constructs. As long as creatives see web campaign components as add-ons, as long as we're willing to throw them over the ropes to "guys in interactive" and as long as "interactives" work in isolation, kept out of the club where briefings, strategy and creative executions take place, web ad space will continue to be a place where designers try to out-flash, out-code, out-animate each other. In other words, ads will remain tactically-focused, failing to forge emotional connections basic to the power of advertising's persuasiveness. Imagine what print ads or TV spots would look like if created by only those in production.
Recently, IAB chief Randall Rothenberg argued for putting creatives together with web designers (or creative technologists or digital experience strategists or whatever is the au courant title of day) to form a new creative partnership as transformational to our business as Bill Bernbach pairing copywriters and art directors. (Fact from the wayback machine: until the 60s, they worked apart. Writers used to slip copy under AD's doors, with requests for illustration and--because the requests were coming from writers-- often didn't make sense from a visual perspective. An oldtimer once told me he received a yellow page of aspirin copy with the request for drawing of "man without a headache".)
I agree with Rothenberg that before creative change in web advertising can take place, we need to change the way web creative is done. (Bob Greenburg of R/GA has been saying this for a while.) We have to stop segregating web advertising from advertising. If the state of online creative is to improve, we have to take what we've learned in decades of doing offline advertising and, working with new rules of consumer engagement, take back creative in the digital space.