This is an article that appeared in B&T magazine:
<title> Dear Creative Director. I have an idea… </title>
Let us change the world... Actually, no, let's stick to advertising. But, really, billboards, why? What are they? They aren’t interactive. You can’t click them. They’re rarely contextual and are too far away (and we move too fast) to read. Why do I love billboards? And how are TV ads so magical? ‘Classic’ ads make us cry years later, but they don’t ‘tell’ us anything. I wonder what would a classic digital ad look like? These are thoughts that keep me up at night. OK, they don’t keep me up. But they do kind of niggle.
Why exactly do you come to work? I doubt it is to sell your client’s products. I'm guessing you enjoy dreaming and making things that people respond powerfully to. So... if we decided that the goal for digital was to create memorable ads, ones that stuck in the mind, rather than ‘interactive’? What then? As fresh-faced juniors right up to Executive Creative Directors, we have personal ambitions. One is to have your mates say: “Oh, I loved that ad”. That is why I do my job (and actually the same is true for most clients.) But who in your circle says that about digital ads (even if the reach is better and more targeted)? One day we are going to have to start to create digital ATL that make you feel at least as proud as that Lion-winning TVC that you wrote half a script revision for.
Here’s another thing. 50% of computers shipped in 2014 are tablets. Truly. Half. It is a new age of screens without keyboards - devices that are hard to ‘click’ - in other words, it will be about creating brand association. Just like it has been for 60 years. In other words… this is your time. Maybe it really was all about the story anyway, not just the click. About how you feel, not what you share. Maybe, just maybe, we have poisoned the well by measuring all those clicks rather than reach and sentiment. (but of course this is all heresy).
Fleeting ambient moments, glimpses, half-thoughts, jingles, imagery. Something you almost forget to see. Sounds a lot like digital ads, except for the CLICK HERE button. What happens when you take that button off. For a year? Online tends to be action-oriented due to the drive for metrics - there is always a CTA. CTA is acquisition focused. It is selling you something. Anyone selling you anything, even a "like", is making demands of you. Ugh. This is why brand marketing online is often weak, our need to measure the value makes the value so much less.
I mean, think about how much time you spend avoiding people selling you stuff. Of course we hate it. But not all of it. What about when it is just there - reminding us of the values of the organisation, giving us something to smile at, or play with, or just being itself. Unexpectedly the Google doodle feels like an inadvertent prototype of this sort of idea. It scales, it is shareable, it is global yet local, it is consistent yet changes daily. The consistent ‘always there’ nature makes it recognisable, familiar and comforting. We are very lucky to have stumbled across it, and we know that.
When we talk about ‘brand’ at Google we mean a set of digital advertising formats; for clicks we talk about ‘performance’: this is the same thing as ATL and BTL respectively. Now, fair enough, most companies don’t have the most trafficked page on the web - but they could use Google’s ATL ad formats to do exactly this type of daily marketing. With exactly that reach. Most don’t.
Your media people won’t let you use the wrong media for the wrong job. You don’t use billboards for ‘buy one get one free’ - you use point of sale. You don’t use POS for ATL, you use a sodding TVC. Same with digital. We have billboards, we have TV - they have better reach, better targeting and they can be way cooler. Stop treating them just like coupons. It’s not about ‘buy now’ stickers.
If you are, like many a creative director, a Brit who emigrated over here for an easy life, congratulations, well done, right choice. But, you remember how suncream in the UK was a thing you used on holiday? Well over here you just use it. Everyday. Or bad stuff happens. Same with digital. We may only just be realising how important ATL is, but we’re getting there - and if you can twig that a banner ad is where you start, not where it ends up - maybe you will be behind the new classic tear-jerker, and your juniors can be proud of that campaign.
Thanks for listening.