This weekend, I watched most of the speakers at the AAAA's CEO conference via the media post feeds, and Peter Sealey struck a bunch of chords. His presentation on the trends and mega-trends we're currently experiencing, and about to experience, as we muddle through the digital revolution, made me want to physically shake most of the agency people and clients I know, and scream, "Don't you see what's coming??!! Don't you see that it's already here!!!!?" I wondered how his audience felt when they left the room. It was impossible to read body language of the audience members from the video feed. I felt hopelessly behind the times. What's weird is, I know I'm not. What I fear, though, is that most in the room probably left thinking, "Wow, that stuff will be cool when it gets here." Instead of, "What can we do right now to make this work for us - even in the stage it's in?"
In January, during citrus season, we released an online spot for florida-citrus.com on YouTube. I thought we were jumping on the thing a little late, and knew that a simple VOD spot was far from the cutting edge, but hoped for the best, anyway. We weren't risking a ton of money. That's an understatement, actually. It was less than peanuts to do it. That's one of the coolest things about the changes in the way people communicate - it doesn't take an army, or an army's budget, to make stuff that people like. It worked pretty well. Sold a good bit of fruit. Got the name of the client out. Got the name of the agency out. People noticed a tiny little client, and a tiny little agency that they wouldn't have noticed any other way.
In this article from Wired News , dated April 9, though, I found that just four months ago (about the time we were uploading the florida-citrus.com spot), YouTube was getting 3000 uploads a day. Sounds like a lot. Except now, they're getting 35,000.
You can still do it for peanuts. Nothing, actually. Just the cost to make the piece, which, if you're smart, is way, way less than the cost to make an overproduced piece of crap to run on ER, and signal to the audience that it's time to grab a bowl of rocky road. Except - now there's lots and lots more competition, so the chances of getting through are much much smaller. It's already late, and I'm betting lots of agencies and even more clients have no clue, exactly, what YouTube is just yet. As soon as they find out, they're gonna wanna jump right on it, because it's new. The really cool agencies and brands have said so.
For an industry that seems to incessantly complain that its clients won't let it LEAD them, the advertising industry, at least from my perspective, does an awful lot of FOLLOWING. What's worse, it seems to always follow itself.
In the past few days, I've heard agencies say they want "to be like Strawberry Frog, or Crispin." I've had creatives tell me they're working on something that's "just like that thing Nike just did." Throughout my directing career, I was asked, exactly twice, out of hundreds of jobs, to make a spot different than anything that had been done before. (Interesting sidebar - those were always the two most popular spots on the reel.)
I understand client fear. I understand that educating clients to alleviate that fear is difficult, and at times, impossible. I also understand that most of the time, salaries, rent, mortgages, etc., depend on delivering the brochure the client wants. I live all of that, just like you do.
But I also know that it's impossible to become the next CP+B by doing exactly what CP+B did. Because they've already done it. They became what they are by doing things nobody else was doing. And because doing exactly what they did is, now, exactly what a lot of other people are doing.
In order to be really, really good - or at the very least, slightly innovative - at advertising, you have to pay attention to something other than advertising. Your customers, potential customers, audience, potential audience -- whatever jargon you want to use to describe normal everyday people - are doing just that. All the time.