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Digital - an end to the traditional creative team?

The traditional creative team of Art Director and Copywriter, which has ruled advertising since television emerged as the dominant medium in the 1950s, is about to get the heave-ho.
"It simply doesn't apply any more," says Gloo CEO, Pete Case. "We use teams of at least eight or nine people to generate even the simplest ideas, as there's a far wider battlefield to consider when thinking and crafting digital. Successful integrated communication today requires an optimal blend of idea and technology, meaning that cross-platform thinking is no longer a two-person job."

Case sees only two realistic options for the future shape of integrated advertising: Either an agency fully invests and builds an integrated offering - not a two- or three-person strategic arm, but a fully-fledged offering - or it creates a strong and meaningful partnership with a pure-play digital agency, on a strategic level, and not just as a production afterthought.

Building the necessary level of 'tradigital' competence is not an overnight shift. Europe and the US only started producing great tradigital work after four years of take-overs and mergers. It takes time and breadth of experience to fully understand the changing consumer landscape and nuances of integration.

Case explains that the key is to understand the audience and where it lies on the "experience curve". Unlike traditional media, people need time to live with digital media before feeling comfortable enough to use it to their full capability.

They start with simple interactions such as phone calls and emails and graduate to more advanced use such as online payments via their cellphone. Eventually, and we're starting to see this as a growing trend locally, they exhibit advanced behaviours such as simultaneously watching TV while searching for deeper richer content on a tablet or smart phone. In this way, they take ownership of the medium. However, this process can take many years.

"In my opinion," says Case, "this gap will dwindle and eventually disappear as the youth growing up today with smart phones, tablets, Wi-Fi and web-enabled connections take centre stage."

"Marketers need to understand the relevance of this experience curve, and how it relates to their target audiences. Most importantly, they must prepare themselves and their brands to engage with this new group, for whom sharing their opinion, and relying on the opinion of millions of others, is totally natural.

Today's youth connects to 'the cloud' with ease and is able to filter truth from lies, or authentic and relevant messages. They make instant decisions about whether a company is trying too hard to live in their space, then to share the opinion, influencing peers and strangers with the click of a mouse. If a brand tries to live in these digital spaces without being comfortable, or truly understanding why it's there, it'll stand out like a lone parent at a teen party, with the result that where it has previously been seen as confident and engaging, it is transformed and damaged by looking insincere, insecure or shallow.

Just like TV ads, good digital and integrated marketing is entertainment and gets spoken about and shared. Bad or mediocre marketing is just litter. One important difference with digital is the instant access to shared opinion. In the interactive space, this translates quickly into 'skip' or 'close', instead of the behaviour we'd prefer to promote, which is 'share' or 'like'. That's the true democracy and power of digital.

With our current local spend on digital media being between 3% and 5%, it's clear that South Africa has a long way to go. The question is: Who's brave enough to start changing the way they work, and who's got the appetite for changing the way they service their clients?

"With digital fast becoming the new norm, as opposed to the specialist, the value of digital needs to be considered at the heart of the think tank and by a differently shaped team", Case concludes.

"The result of this change will be the shape of the future-proof agency that everyone's looking for, with happier clients and more effective work. It's hard to understand why so few have taken the lead."

Pete Case is Founder of Gloo. A full service agency for the digital consumer, with offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Awarded Digital Agency of the Year in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.


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Gloo is a team of multi skilled and talented designers focused on creating clear communication across the growing digital media space. Based on Award winning creative work and Design solutions that add real value to our client's businesses. Let Gloo help you stand out from the crowd.