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April 28, 2009
Creative Solution vs. Creative Production
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times in digital marketing. The banner is dead, long live the banner. Well, you get the idea. IAB head Rothenberg is decrying the state of online advertising creative, there are new standards and formats being set. But wait a minute…are standards really the issue? Are formats?
The real issue is that in these tough economic times, we are falling back to safe production volume driven DR banners that make everyone’s eyes glaze over and don’t meet any real business need other than being low production cost. And why is that?
Because in the rush to book business, any business, we often forget to ask what the client’s business need is before we rush to the cheap and easy prescription. Why? Because it is easier to sell cheap than it is to sell thoughtful solutions in bad times. Lowest common denominator thinking is what takes over when times are hard and the path of least resistance the one we take.
Is it really you know, like bad to ask a client with cash money what he is trying to accomplish? And really, is the DR banner ad thing the way to do it?
A lot of people these days would say yes, it is risking the sale to question the client. But we know that there are many levels and solutions to the marketing funnel and if the solution of cheap banners doesn’t match the need, we won’t get repeat business.
I can hear people saying repeat business, what is he smoking, we need business now!
But remember the accountable part of online advertising; a mismatched DR campaign with lots of resizes that doesn’t match the client’s goals is going to stand out pretty quickly. And sure there CAN be a lot of creativity in even DR banner campaigns but do we get there without investing some thought time in the solution before the rush to produce? No.
We have been working recently with an offshore firm to do resizing on our advertising campaigns. One of the mistakes we have made with this resource is assuming that they can extrapolate our knowledge of the client, the client’s brand and the elegant solution simply because we throw assets over the fence to them.
This is the same sort of thinking that leads to selling in volume of banners vs. quality of thinking: the sum of the assets without the creative strategic thinking doesn’t equal success. Sure banners are acceptable solutions but as part of an advertising campaign generally and DR as part of marketing solution that acknowledges that customers are at different stages in considering or discovering the brand.
By just taking the order for a banner campaign, knowing it can be knocked out quickly and we can move on, is the combine-harvester to booking business not building it. How often have we really said, no don’t do only a banner campaign, let’s build widgets in addition and Tweeting? Rarely, these days.
But our client, H&R Block has allowed us to come up with creative solutions this way and has garnered more business, more PR and creative more referrals with just this approach. The latest launch as part of this campaign was an interactive You Tube video quiz that actually made discovering tax tips entertaining. Who would have thought that learning tax tips could be fun? Certainly not President Obama.
Finally, clients do expect us to bring something to the table beside the ability to produce creative assets; they expect us to produce the RIGHT creative assets. To get to the right creative solution requires the give and take of a good, challenging and thoughtful discussion, not just an order pad and cutting corners on thought to lower the bid. It requires a confidence that any solution is not necessarily the right solution just because in these tough times, cheap is more attractive.
So rather than blaming formats or standards, let’s hold ourselves up to the light: Have we contributed the right thought leadership to make any format work for our clients?

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Matthew Childs currently is the advertising lead for Razorfish’s central region. In that capacity, his clients include ATT, Barton Brands, Carnival, Coke, and others. His previous positions include VP Brand Strategy at FKQ Marketing, partner for online marketing at Brodeur Imagetime in Milan, Italy and director of interactive at GSD&M in Austin, Texas.


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