Above Image: Image of the Uniqlo Lucky Counter
So the summer and awards are over. I judged the One Show earlier this year and kept a pretty close eye on everything else as well. And although there were some good pieces, there was nothing earth-shatteringly good. The closest was Nike Chalkbot.
There could be a number of reasons for this. First up when the economy is tanking no one wants to take risks. Also maybe when the world is in a recession it’s also just a little depressing and you wonder whether you really care or not, you are reluctant to go the extra mile. Who knows?
But one thing I think is true is that there was nothing really new in terms of technology. With regards to technology and advertising we seem to have hit a plateau.
No Longer About New
It used to be that judging awards was pretty simple because changes in technology allowed you to do things that no one had seen before. So the first banner to house video: Gong! The first banners that talked to each other: Gong! Papervision doing jazzy things: Gong! Having fun with webcams or more recently Augmented Reality: Gong! First branded iPhone app: Gong! Of course to win really big it wasn’t enough to just use those new pieces of tech – you had to pair them with a decent idea or that was well crafted (sometimes even both!). But for a long time there was definitely a sense of, ‘ooh I haven’t seen that before.’ Gong! I’m as guilty as anyone in that regard. But this is changing.
And this is a good thing. For too long the interactive world has obsessed with technology and being first. When I award work I like to think it will last the test of time. So that means not blindly awarding something because it’s not been done before but actually studying whether it’s a decent idea and has some story to it. For example the technology behind Chalkbot is nothing special, it’s Twitter and a computer controlled spray can, but it has real emotion and tells a story. Bob Greenberg is famous for saying that storytelling is dead in the digital age. I can’t believe that he really believes that, I think he’s just fishing for headlines.
Back to Content
The flip side to this is that we have to stop dismissing something because it’s been done before – from a technology point of view. Saying a YouTube page takeover has been done and therefore is not worth awarding isn’t far off from discounting a great TV spot because 30 second TV ads have been done. Of course if the actual creative idea has been done, work should absolutely be marked down. What I think, is that we need to start awarding ideas and craft rather than “media firsts.” New does not necessarily mean good.
Have we really reached a plateau? I think so. People are now comfortable with all forms of Social Media, Geo Location & Augmented Reality. The changes I see ahead are more about convergence (Google TV, etc) than a new piece of technology breaking through. Some recent work that’s hit the headlines seems to prove this point. The Uniqlo Lucky Counter site (Image Above), where the price goes down the more you tweet about a garment, is a fine example of how technology has become mainstream. And the Arcade Fire Google Maps work (which although I think is interesting, is perhaps not as good as most people seem to think) is made possible through people feeling comfortable with Google Maps’ functionality.
The correlation of this is, of course, that if we are no longer obsessing about technology and being the first to use it (technology has become more democratic). The creative power – in theory – swings away from digital agencies and more towards ad agencies. In theory.