Thursday, December 2, 2010

miracle on 29th street: adland gets digital

It was 8:30 am and I arrived to the Boulder Digital Works conference at the Art Director's Club on W 29th a bit bleary-eyed. But encountering a slide from organizer (uh, experience-architect) Edward Boches woke me right up: Coding is more prized than copywriting. This, in essence, encapsulates how the shift in the advertising business has affected me and legions of fellow creatives. Used to be copywriters and art directors felt our key-tapping, marker-wielding fingers held the power to instigate massive shifts in consumer behavior--but now that power is shared (lion-shared) by those who are conversant in a language that's binary.

Faris Yakob (MDC's eminent Digital Philosopher) opened his talk with a request for show of hands from anyone who knew how to code--few arms went up. Following was a collective groan of frustration from survivors in an industry that for decades was a haven for the liberal-arts-minded. If only, instead of that seminar on Virginia Woolf we'd had the foresight to take a class in the computer lab! No one told us that geeks would inherit the earth, or at least the most profitable part of it. (See entire preso/performance--complete with juggling--here.)

Making Digital Work is a two day conference for agency and client partners looking to learn from some of the smartest minds in the digital business--emphasis on business. You know how digital conferences can be full of hot air, with "ninjas" waxing eloquent on mindsets and theoreticals? This isn't just a think-tank, it's a practical approach to how digital is propelling viable business models. Matt Howell, President of Modernista, described how losing Cadillac sparked an agency reboot which enabled the shop to evolve from making messages to building platforms. Chloe Gottlieb, ECD R/GA shared their formula for success in new(ish) creative collaborations: visual designer + copywriter + interaction designer + creative technologist. Saatchi's Michael Tabtabai showed inspiring examples of "stuff that doesn't suck" and Tim Malbon, Founder of Made By Many, led us in attempt to make stuff ourselves.

However. "We're not in the business of making cool stuff," Faris reminds us. "We're in the business of making money by influencing behavior." Good wake up call for us creatives. A title that applies to anyone working at an agency still in business today.

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