There’s a good bit of discussion floating around the agency world about the “new breed of creative” that an agency needs to be competitive, we hear from Ernie Mosteller, VP, creative director of emerging media at Brunner Digital in DC.
Mosteller provided an interesting observation about this new breed of creative, which follows, in this post to Adotas.com.
A lot of the discussion is good, and to the point. Ideas and delivery mechanisms are inseparable now, and you need people who can think stuff up with a thorough knowledge of both. It’s also clear that the old model of only art director + copywriter simply doesn’t produce Web-native concepts. So the discussions are a good thing.
But it seems to me that most of the discussions are rather tactical. As in, “You need a 20-something Web designer who might have few real-life social skills, but who commands a cult-like following online.” Stuff like that. Useful? Maybe. But maybe it’s a good idea to get a sense of the bigger, less tactical picture.
I propose a new list of staff you need for a solid creative department in the digital age. These are functions, not titles. There are no hard and fast educational requirements for any of the functions in the list. In fact, if you look hard enough, you’ll probably find your existing interactive staff practices some of the functions already, even though they themselves may not know it. Sometimes – frequently, even — one person can, and does, fulfill more than one function. From where I sit, the following list is a good starting point for a good interactive creative team:
It really helps to understand human nature. How people have reacted in the past, and how they’re likely to react in the future. This is true both online and off. But because humans respond actively, quickly, and decisively online, their assessment of your work is sometimes painfully and immediately visible in a way that it’s not in mass media. An understanding of basic human nature helps you develop stuff for the user, rather than simply for yourself.
The wisdom of crowds; mob mentality; societal acceptance, rejection and self-identification; are just a few of the online mazes the sociologist must know how to navigate. Things don’t run demographically online the way we’ve always understood them to run offline. Someone who’s a natural sociologist can help you decipher how groups of people may interact, and react, to your work. They can also tell you why the group of people you really want to reach isn’t defined by age or gender, but rather by an affinity for some obscure something you haven’t heard of yet. They keep up with stuff. Which is why they can also probably tell you why that new song you can’t stand is on everybody’s iPod.
We’re in advertising, after all. We want people to do something. And though we’re still truly in the infancy of the digital age, it has become abundantly clear that we in advertising are even less of an authoritative resource for trusted information than ever before. Not that we’ve ever been all that trusted, mind you. So it really helps to know not just what people think, but why they think what they think. The Psychologist can help.
Information drives the Web, and information architecture is the difference between a successful site and one people leave in droves. Like the brick and mortar version, this architect crafts space, flow, entries and exits with the user experience as the single most influential variable.
There’s a difference between a sprinter and a marathoner. Both are great athletes, but there’s a marked difference in their approach. Ditto for a great traditional copywriter, versus a great interactive copywriter. Long-copy ads notwithstanding, the world of traditional advertising is built on clever simplicity. Because it works better than anything else. On the Web, though, the thing that works best is elegant complexity. You need a writer who can be quick when needed, and go deep at any time — and most of all, make people want to come along for the ride.
Web design is not simply print design with navigation. They are two different animals, and although they can, and almost always do, inform one another, neither is superior to the other. They are different. They deal with different visual cues to promote different physical and emotional responses. I repeat: They are different. The Artist on your interactive team understands this.
As a cost of entry, what you make has to work. But a great engineer will go beyond simply making something work, and will forever look for ways to make it stand on its head. Call him a programmer, a developer, a geek — the engineer is a core part of the interactive creative — yes, creative — team. Because inventing brand new stuff that also happens to look great is way cooler than making the same thing over again.
The Drill Sergeant:
Just look at this crew I put together. They’ll never make a dime without a great production manager to keep them on track. It helps if she’s equally driven by accomplishment and schedule, and knows how to balance the two.
Here’s your leader. This is the person who sees the possibilities, fuels the enthusiasm, and lives by the phrase, “What if?” Without this function, everything you make will be the same, and could be the same as everything everybody else makes. This person can make the client see the vision, and can make the team want to make it live.
So, that’s your creative team, as I see it. Or, at least, the beginning. The list is not intended to be all-inclusive. The point is, the functions you need aren’t the jobs you advertise for. They’re the qualities you seek, if your goal is a quality product.