A Farewell to Armchairs

It’s moving day at Creative Dimensions. Although all of us are setting forth with the promise of greener pastures, I can’t help but wax a bit sentimental about the sterile little office I leave behind.

The furniture in my 12×12 workspace looks like office furniture anywhere in America, as does the phone, artwork, blinds and walls. But, as when leaving the high school you took for granted for three years and waved to from the street for the last time, you realize that its particular clang of lockers and that indelible custodian smell of its bathrooms are gone forever—as is all the pop-quiz angst you sweated into the floors and that black splotch on the lab counter where your Bunsen burner blew up.

So, what am I leaving behind? (I have to laugh at the irony of the phrasing.) There, in the chair which has looked so clone-like all this time, are two divots that, like a fingerprint, mark my time in this place. Will another institutional-gray-fabric-covered-piece-of-foam ever embrace me the same way?

I cast a wistful glance to the corner where the front and left walls meet. A “V” of shadow points down to a spot at which I’ve stared for countless hours thinking about brands, promos and websites. I can’t shake the feeling that residual ideas linger there and will haunt the next occupant as did the two little girls in that hotel where Jack Nicholson went crazy in “The Shining.”
There are two guest chairs that have stared at me unblinking for two years, a painting in pastel colors of a flowerish thing I’ll forget in the next few seconds, and the desk that I’d like to think was faithful, but I know will throw its drawers open for the next John to come along.

Well, toodle-loo, old chum. Don’t cry for me. You’re an office.

–John Graham, Copy Director @ Creative Dimensionsblue chair of death

A Riposte to the Post-Digital World

dinosaurs

The term “post-digital world” is cropping up more and more, but I wish it wouldn’t. The term refers to a new zeitgeist that’s less Internet-centric and more live-centric, meaning that digital space is less of a destination and that live experiences are more of one. And that’s fine.

Semantics is the issue here. Using “post-digital” to describe a trend in marketing—which it often does—is misleading. It heavily suggests that digital is becoming irrelevant. I certainly wouldn’t want to throw the term out to one of our clients, many of whom are just now coming on board with the idea of digital advertising. Any reference to “post digital” at this point would be a jarring contradiction, like saying, “hey, dinosaurs are the new thing, but too bad they’re extinct.”

Spin it however you want, but consumers are still up to their i-balls in the digital experience. Unless an electromagnetic pulse renders all electronic devices unusable, people will be using the Internet as a conduit to discovering, learning about and interacting with companies providing goods, services and entertainment for at least the next decade.

If “post-digital” truly refers to the rise in currency of the live experience, then why don’t we call it that? Can’t “The Digital Age” include a “Live Experience” corollary? Wouldn’t digital marketing be one avenue on which to bring a consumer to a live experience?While it might seem to be picking nits by tearing into the definition of “post-digital,” it isn’t. With the vocabulary of our industry expanding so rapidly with the advent of new technologies, getting the definitions right is imperative. Not only do we have to understand and implement new concepts, we have to guide our clients onto the new terrain, as well. And that’s so much easier when they believe you know where you’re going.

–John Graham, Copy Director @ Creative Dimensions

Vendor vs. Pander

I have no answer to the question I’m about to pose, but maybe you do. The question boils down to this: Are agencies Dictators, Consultants, Vendors or Panderers?

In the “Mad Men” days, agencies could often act as Dictators and prescribe how a brand was to be marketed. It didn’t always happen this way, but when you read Ogilvy and other luminaries of the period, you hear of companies swallowing the advice of their agencies without many questions and a big gulp of faith.

By the late 70s, early 80s, that kind of magisterial power had been supplanted by…what? Savvier clients? Ex-agency marketing directors? The rise of consultants? Whatever happened, we saw agencies begin aspiring to, at most, the role of a guide who could maybe lead—but not control–the course of a brand, becoming more Sacajawea than Caesar.

With the Internet, the proliferation of boutique agencies and everybody and their dog and their dog’s fleas thinking they have mad skillz in PhotoShop, CMS, Dreamweaver and all social media, mid-size to small agencies scramble to fulfill any role they can. As such, we end up being Vendors supplying only parts of our clients’ brand strategies, too often not having the opportunity to work with other vendors. Say, one group doing the brand ID work might have little to no hand in guiding other groups doing collateral, online or promotional work. The brand face on television doesn’t resemble the brand on facebook, etcetera.

And that brings us to Panderers. In the last ten years, I’ve known—and worked for—several very smart agencies who have found that advising the client actually had negative effects. A client might respond to a presentation with something like, “But we’ve heard this or we’ve read that and what we want is this.” Pushing back meant getting punched out. So, to meet the bottom line and keep the business, it seems agencies are giving more and more of whatever is asked with little question.

So what’s the answer? Flee to one of the few remaining prestige agencies on the coasts and hope the poison hasn’t reached toxic levels there? Bring firearms to strategy meetings? Don lingerie and try seduction? Please let me know your thoughts, as I look terrible in a teddy.

–John Graham, Copy Director @ Creative Dimensions