May 18, 2007

Agency Understanding

The giant wave called “interactive” that has splashed on the shores of the advertising world has created many opportunities for a re-examination of roles and talent in the ad business. Interactive is a digital multi platform arena that offers advertisers the most impact and allows for the most engaging ideas to be developed. Integrating a campaign is no small task and requires a true leader who understands how to anchor the print, TV and other offline media with the strengths of what online brings to the table.

I work with many agencies, I manage many projects for the worlds largest brands, companies like Microsoft, Intel, Samsung, CITI, AXE and many more who rely on our abilities to develop an online strategy for their brands. We hold the key to the most intimate engagement that our clients have with their consumers and we serve as their navigator for the interactive platform.

One of the many challenges that I and many other people face today is the transition that many of these agencies are currently going thorough in order to fully comprehend and integrate interactive digital services with their more traditional approaches to advertising. Developing an online campaign is very different than the offline traditional print, TV and radio.

So I asked myself who's capable of managing these types of projects?

I understand that a person in this position is a rare breed at this very early stage; it is not a unilateral decision to become a leader in this field. A successful interactive producer requires the respect of those he manages, the various artists, designers, developers and motion graphic people who need to know that their fearless leader is someone who lives and breathes the intimate interaction that the web offers its users. If they don't attain that respect from their teams and people they work with then their teams are merely being managed and not being led. The various intricacies and combination of creative and technological understandings along with the cultural variations of the web require a real leader who knows how to combine all of these aspects and how to distill them down to him team and then across to the client.

A true interactive producer at this early stage of the web spectrum must in some way want to make a difference and push the limits of what people are doing online. They have to trust and know the team and their abilities and to know how to work with them as an extension of themselves. To imagine that this is something that can be done independently of others is foolish. To achieve true innovation and inspiration requires the cooperation, will, and desire of the entire team to follow their leader and to accomplish a larger mission.

The mission is not to simply produce a pretty website; it is to engage the user to fully connect with the brand and the environment that they are in when they visit the website or interactive installation. It means that a lasting impression must be made and that the user feels a sense of connection and affiliation to the brand and the overall message. Success is achieved when the user feels right at home every time they reach the destination and that they return to that destination as their main source of information for that particular brand, product or service.

In my experience the key to getting the entire team completely onboard (enthusiastically) is to first get them committed to the overall project idea. (And remember, before you can get others to believe in anything you have to first believe in it yourself.) The team is not just the interactive team but the entire creative team that will be working on all aspects of the campaign. This is very important because everyone needs to have a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities in order to have realistic expectations. Educating the print or broadcast team as to how the interactive works is the secret to getting everyone to play nice. Often times it’s the lack of understanding across the project lines that causes frustrations and slows down delivery of important assets that are being shared.

Once the idea is fully flushed out and the online experience has been completely finalized by the producer that is when the fun starts, you will suddenly radiate enormous enthusiasm as will your team because everyone has similar expectations and a unified goal has now been set. It is the producer’s job to keep up the energy and a clear plan for success this will keep the clients happy and your team committed.

The final key to success is never to forget to keep everyone up to date with how things are progressing; the client and other members of the team may not have the same understanding of the production process as you do so this should be set as one of your primary ongoing day to day tasks. Being a producer also requires personal responsibility; never ever make it about your own ego or personal spotlight. Educating your clients and team members is about listening and making sure they understand the processes involved and are clear with realistic expectations for delivery dates and the ability to change within the allotted time and budget. Remember these few pieces of wisdom and you'll continue to have your design and development team as well as your clients and fellow co-workers believing in and joining your efforts to take interactive into the mainstream advertising spectrum.

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