Technology as a Creative Solution
(I’m working on a piece for this year’s Sixty. This is the first draft. If you’re in the business, please take a look and make sure I’m not making an ass out of myself. Thanks!)
Digital shops large and small seem to struggle with the perception that they are merely suppliers far downstream in the workflow. This happens despite the fact that our industry has preached the good word of silo-breaking collaboration where everyone is responsible and capable of generating the big idea. The problem is interpretation. We still understand things in terms of output so we relate digital shops to websites rather than their true core competency – technology.
People today are uniquely empowered to influence the market however they wish. They buy according to values and beliefs rather than availability and price. And that evolution of purchasing behavior has turned their purchases into a representation of themselves. The point is, people are interested in telling their own stories rather then listening to the brand’s. The big shift in thinking now is not “what can we tell them” anymore, it’s “what can we do for them” a la the concept of brand utility.
Technology works for this situation because it provides value in its communication. It’s a conduit that provides an experience and that experience communicates the intended brand value. It’s like backing up the big talk with action. The Nike Plus idea is perhaps the only example I can reference because accomplishing this is not easy.
It’s no surprise that Madison Avenue struggles to get this kind of perspective, because people who think this way are tucked away in Silicon Valley rolling around in large piles money. In the past two decades, the most brilliant and innovative thinking came from computer nerds working from their bedrooms – Mark Zuckerberg, Kevin Rose, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, etc.
The difference is that advertising people are communicating and developers are creating. Communications can be convoluted because we’re trying influence through changing minds or reframing situations. There are a lot of mental hurdles to overcome for the consumer. However, for technology based solutions, it’s very functional and experiential. You do it and then you get it. It’s a much more natural interaction and it has the potential for mass appeal – whereas for communications advertisers can’t tell two different markets the same thing.
To really know how to use technology, you have to think “backwards”. And it’s “backwards” because in our business, we tend start broadly with abstract concepts and then whittle it down to some sort of idea before it manifests itself into an execution. It is a very inefficient way to solve a problem. To create creative solutions using technology, they ask “What’s the problem?” and then “What can I build/update/tweak to fix it?” Then, based on the experience you build, the concept and idea will reveal itself.
The problem of misusing technology can’t be fixed through just hiring or acquiring digital expertise. In doing so, you’ll continue to treat them as a supplier specializing in a specific media channel. The problem can be fixed through everyone understanding and appreciating technology as little blocks that you can build into anything you want.