June 30, 2008

My Two Cents

Credit has been a topic that has been long looming over the interactive industry for sometime now.

The traditional agency and digital agency relationship has blossomed into a full blown collaborative marriage and the lines of vendor client relationship have been blurred to look more like full on creative collaboration.

My gut instincts tell me that the topic hasn't been fully addressed until now because in many cases it is really not that big of an issue when you boil it down to the root of why credit is so important.

At the end of the day its not really a deal breaker between either client or digital vendor.

This is an issue that needs to be evolved more than it needs to be solved. Similar to the way Hollywood shares credit when awards are doled out for best picture. The CG team doesn’t come up for the award, MAYBE they get mentioned in the thank you speech but that is definitely not to be expected and if they aren't mentioned there isn't some big press release as to why or why not. They get their own award for technical achievement in some secondary award show that isn't televised.

Again this debate only exists in the very ego-centric realm of recognition, awards.

At the end of the day its about doing great work and feeling great about the work that we do. Its about creating something positive for our culture and work that advances us as an industry.

Unless the project is simply amazing and the budget is paltry, credit can sometimes be a factor in making the decision as to the worth of taking the project on or not.

Sometimes a PR project comes along and its not about the money but more about what kind of amazing things you can do with the brand and showcase your studio’s skills using the brand as the stage. In that case credit is critical and needs to be negotiated at the onset of the project. I cannot remember a single case where we turned down good money on a project where the client absolutely refused or simply could not give credit where credit was due.

I have personally produced a number of great projects that have won awards but will never have my name or the name of the shop I was with associated with its credit.

Its not entirely a bad thing.

Humility sometimes rears its awkward face in times when its hard to be humble, and maybe its a lesson we must embrace in order to not lose site of the big picture. Great work, regardless of accolades and awards.

There is rarely a case where a digital shop didn’t get public credit but couldn't show the work to a potential client or agency in order to get new work. Even if they aren't allowed to list it on their website portfolio it can still be part of an internal presentation for business development.

At the end of the day the level of credit should be equal to the overall level of involvement with any given project. A digital shop cannot expect to receive full credit for executing an agency’s vision, regardless of how awesome the digital execution is. But if the digital shop DID indeed conceive the idea or alter it enough for full credit to be given, then that is the case in which the agency needs to step up and give credit where it is due.

Most digital agencies and 14 year old kids can build a simple web site, only a select few can build a website exceptionally well. Even fewer can conceptualize, script, shoot, frame 3D, and produce an entire campaign without the ideas and assets (footage, copywriting, etc.) that the traditional agency delivers. So no matter how important the digital shop was in the execution, the efforts put fourth by the traditional agency cannot be ignored no matter how minimal because ultimately it is a vendor client relationship where the traditional agencies are delivering a product that will determine if they keep their clients business or not.

We need to all understand how symbiotic this new dynamic is and be sensitive to every collaborator when it comes to credit so that we all win in the end.

This kind of public strife shines a negative light and doesn’t help the advancement of the shifts that are taking place one bit, resistances are natural and healthy but need to be overcome in mature and fair ways.

We need to all play nice.

Lebowitz and his shop Big Spaceship should have gotten mention from BBDO and had their efforts recognized during the acceptance speech or in some print ads thanking them for all they contributed. BBDO deserves the award for collaborating with Big Spaceship on this website and having the wisdom of knowing that only a top notch digital shop could have pulled the site off as well as they did.

We need to evolve together and share the praise as well as the criticism of our industry and be a more cohesive network of creative professionals.

June 29, 2008

Big Mouth

Friends and close industry folks have asked me to comment about the recent statements made by Big Spaceship CEO, Michael Lebowitz at Cannes regarding the HBO Voyeur project his company collaborated on with BBDO.

As someone who works in, and closely monitors, our industry I felt it was an important enough topic to deserve a blog entry.

In my humble opinion this is probably one of the most important and hottest topics of this year.

Let's set the scene:

A steamy, sultry, passionate French summer in Cannes, the worlds most creative minds attending the Oscars of the ad industry, hotels, bars, clubs, halls, streets, teeming with ad agency brass, hungry and rabid for that Golden Royal Feline set in their cross hairs and waiting to poach it up for their shelves back in NYC.

Emotions are on high, the competitive fierceness has been unleashed.

A year wrought with anxiety and fear of the silent industry tectonic shifts between traditional and digital, causing all kinds of eruptions across the creative landscape.

Each side battling for dominance in this lavish world of shiny and technologically polished ideas.

France, the country of love, emotion, heartbreak and despair.

The place of ex patriots who have fled their home lands in order to find themselves through the eyes of a country known for its outspoken rebelliousness and uprise.

Thoughts weigh heavier in this French air, much harder to keep to ones self in the midst of competition.

A judge, Mr. Lebowitz, sitting on high looking down at the piranha snapping at the prize.

Reality kicks in as he watches someone else walk away with his prize, that coveted Lion is being carried away farther from its source, the shop who toiled to earn its merit.

Michael Lebowitz, CEO of well known digital shop Big Spaceship, the creators of the website that took home top honors at Cannes this year. As he sits at the judges table, seething with animosity and disdain for the lack of fairness being displayed right in front of his eyes.

Why not have Lebowitz himself present David Lubars of BBDO the award for the HBO Voyeur website?

Opinion versus Fact

Most industry people will say that BBDO owned the idea and they simply contracted Big Spaceship to "code it up".

Others will say that Big Spaceship took an idea that lived outside of the web and digitized it to work on the most powerful media platform known to man.

This is a topic that is going to become increasingly hotter and hotter as the internet becomes the "official" launch pad for most or all ad campaigns.

Being able to translate an idea from the bowels of a brand into the digital world completely integrated with interactivity, entertainment, illusion and inspiration is no small task. Some would say it is the most detailed and intrinsic role of any campaign today.

Voice of Reason

Lebowitz simply took that first step into the parted ocean and spoke up for what he saw as the truth. He let his emotions run free and what better place to kick up some dirt and peer into "the often uncomfortable relationships between ad agencies and digital specialists" than Cannes, France.

Like a lovers quarrel while on a holiday, Lebowitz took this opportunity to speak his mind and attempted to defend the smaller digital shops against the mighty ad agency that often times takes most or full credit for an idea born again in a digital world. Ideas that could have only been given birth to by the digital shop that was inseminated by the agency to translate their concepts on the web.

Rupal Parekh, a writer for Ad Age covering this story, enumerated this relationship in the following statement,

"Increasingly, agencies are becoming a kind of hub that marshals other resources, from digital experts to production companies, on behalf of clients."

If this is indeed the case then it should be the digital agency that walk away with the honors and the traditional agency simply patting themselves on the back for finding the perfect match to bring their ideas to life.

However, it is true that the traditional agency is the birthplace for the concept. It is the traditional agency that has won and maintained a relationship with the client and ultimately holds in its back pocket the client's trust. And it is the traditional agency that did ultimately make the decision to choose a particular shop to collaborate and execute their idea digitally.

Why should they not get all or most of the credit for orchestrating this difficult process?

I strongly disagree with Rupal Parekh. Agencies do indeed marshal resources in order to translate ideas digitally, however those ideas still remain the property of those agencies and at the end of the day it is the agency that brings the overall idea to the digital shop to execute. Ownership is never transferred.

Now don't get me wrong, I am fully behind the reasons for why Lebowitz said what he said but what I am not behind is what is seemingly being built up as a war between traditional and digital agencies.

BBDO had every right to take credit or share credit for the work, they rightfully won the awards for the concepts that they delivered to Big Spaceship.

However because Big Spaceship so perfectly executed that idea in the digital space and it was that very space that launched this idea into the stratosphere, BBDO should have made mention and even shared the honors with their partner.

It was the lack of recognition that charged Lebowitz with emotion to speak out against his agency partners, it was the blatant disrespect for the ability to take an idea and bring it to life in a totally new and powerful way that was completely dishonored here and that is where the unfairness resides.

Lebowitz is 100% correct in saying that the award shows are just as guilty for not recognizing the digital efforts put into a campaign and to award them based on those merits alone.

We as an industry need to step forward and realize that every aspect of a campaign requires a completely new set of rules in its execution of an idea and even though that idea has originated from a different source, it takes on a whole new life once it is given into the hands of those who re-birth it on the web or any other emerging platform.

No one is to blame, these are simply growing pains.

Lebowitz spoke up and I respect him for his emotional honesty and his passion for our medium.

BBDO did as they have always done as a traditional agency and simply haven't gotten used to the fact that the digital shop plays a much larger role in a campaign.

Cannes needs to get with the times and start sharing the love with everyone who plays a major role in the idea becoming part of pop culture.

Let's not create a stand off and a cold war that will only hurt the "ideas" being collaborated on. We all need one another so lets realize that sensitivities need to be met and that credit should be paid where it is due.

Lebowitz and Lubars need to get on a web cam and hug this out and be a shining example for the positive direction we all must go in.

Digital and Traditional are now tied at the hip. We are at a cross roads and we must decide on a path, it can be laden with thistles and thorns or an illuminated golden path that leads to a new age of ideas and creativity.

Let's choose carefully.

June 13, 2008

June 12, 2008

A Summer Supposition

It is now 12:51 am on a Wednesday night and my intemperate love for the web has led me down another path in which I will once again try my best to make an indelible observation that may or may not offer to shed a new light on what seems like an illimitable subject.

It is now 12:56 am and I have decided that I have way too much work tomorrow to sit here and pontificate on the cultural nuances of the internet.

Plus its really hard to think with that annoying white hum of the air conditioning, its not just my apartment, I feel like I can hear every air conditioner in Manhattan, collectively churning out that cool dehumidified thermal comfort.

NYC seems to get into character in the summer time.

The sweltering heat is so indicative of the NYC persona this time of year.

NYC in the summer is a tall, slender man in a gray suit. Worn out at the limb bends, pilled and sweat stained, smoke stenched jacket hanging over the back of his broken leather chair.

His lady bent sideways hips and hoops, draped over him, hot as asphalt.

His cup filled with hops, scotch and ash.

The winning pitch, the big idea, just above his head like a brumous cloud settling upon that bridge to Brooklyn.

His eyes carry a crepuscular charisma, his hair less kept.

Deep in thought he sells his soul to the devil, for conjecture.

But then again conjecture sells...

OK its 1:17am and I think I have satisfied my desire to write.

Not sure I said anything, or that I really needed to say anything, just felt like acknowledging the heat.

Data Viz Update

As a follow-up to my article on data visualization I wanted to point out that Read Write Web has one of the most comprehensive data visualization lists I have ever seen.

Really impressive and one well worth studying.

Thanks RWW!!

Check it out here

June 5, 2008

Breakin the Law

This is a response to an article that RGA CCO Nick Law had penned in Creativity.

Check it out here

I am a huge fan of Mr. Law and respect pretty much everything he has to say, however I disagree with his ideas about the diversity of teams in our industry.

Idealistically he is 100% correct, however in real practice we still need to go out and mine the ideas, to look for them like gold and diamonds and to bring them in and communicate them in the most creative ways possible. No one team member is going to consistently come up with new ideas and even the story teller role is limited to the exposure they have gotten in their lifetime.

The old guard knew how to tell a story, they were immigrants, they were refugees, they were idealists who were laying the foundation for a new world, however we are the spoiled great grandchildren who are still living off of the fat of our forefathers, we need to somehow find our voice and speak from that place genuinely.

This is why the user generated content trend has lasted so long. Its genuinely raw. That is what the old Mad Men had over us, they told stories the way people wanted to hear them. We tend to repackage everything and pay little attention to the lack of substance in our campaigns.

YES! We do need a new role of the story teller, the narrative craftsman who can weave the tale in an interactive and entertaining way that translates to the mediums that we are now executing for.


In all respect, Mr. Law, I think your being a bit too idealistic. I agree that the creative tent needs diversity and that has always been the desire of the entertainment/ad/creative world, to capture the hidden moments and human nuance that makes us all laugh, cry and think.

To tell a story and to involve those who you would never think would allow themselves to open up and shine a light on those small dark spots we call intrigue. To celebrate our humanity through creativity and to ultimately sell products and services based on the obvious needs our complex human race and its many facets.

However... it is our jobs as creatives, technologists and producers to find these rays of light, and then to put them on a stage.

They are NOT in the tent nor do they belong in the tent, they are hidden gems out there ready to be mined. We need to extend ourselves beyond the confines of our offices and to glean the stories that are out there and to retell them in the ways only we as a creative industry can.

That is what makes a good creative better than the next.

Storytellers and stories worth telling are the clovers in the field for us to find.

They are not under our desks or in our offices, they are walking around in the streets and fields of the world.

June 3, 2008

Mitochondrial Web

The advertising industry is like a giant tributary of creativity feeding the internet with what seems to be a never ending stream of content.

The financial world is blazing across the bandwidth offering people opportunities to buy anything and manage their monetary assets in all kinds of flexible ways.

The educational world is ridding itself of the confines of the classroom and spreading its wings across a network of unlimited knowledge.

Commerce is booming in this digital shuk offering buyers products never before attainable at any price one chooses.

Community and communications has become an open stream connecting people from past present and into the future.

Every single day is another surprise, full of new visual toys and entertaining and interactive websites to play with. It is like a sea, a giant ocean teeming with intelligent life in the form of art, design and information technology.

Looking back at the late 90's it now occurs to me that this was the internet's version of the Big Bang not the Bubble Bust.

I feel extremely lucky to be a part of the birth of this new online realm, its like finding a new planet with life on it, a new societal platform that is going through very similar growth and development pattern as the very planet we live on. Perhaps we can learn from our past mistakes throughout history so that we do not replicate them, virtually, in this new online world that we live in.

The Internet gave life to a world teeming with intelligent technology, it has rejuvenated a world that was starving for better ways to communicate and has built bridges that would connect us as a global nation. It exposes to those who are lacking in cultural luxuries the ability to indulge in them and to cultivate original thought, education, creativity and opinion.

The landscape was raw, its resources limited and its potential unknown. The first signs of life that started to develop as primitive incarnations of what we know today were struggling just to stay alive, fed with venture capitol, youthful ideas and over-inflated expectations, it lasted just long enough so that the evolutionary process could take.

In a primitive world where survival was key the web set up fierce battles of the delivery services that ran in packs on bikes and vans delivering a can of coke and a pint of Ben & Jerry's to anyone who would log on and request it. You had web currencies that ran themselves into early extiction.

Travel sites promising carpet rides to the moon and the amazonian commerce sites that now quietly lay below the surface of the waters still vicious and deadly like mighty crocodiles who devour the herds as they must cross through the shallow waters with only one or two making it to the other side; bruised and bitten.

The giant search engines roamed freely with very limited purpose other that to use their mighty necks to see above the landscape. They too fell one by one as the evolution of the search became a mighty intelligent being that does all.

The once fierce GIF and the nimble JPG have been overtaken by the sleek and elegant SWF and the the regal Quicktime.

It seems that we have sped through the prehistoric age of the web, the speed of its advancement has accelerated its evolution and we are now embarking on a new age.

The bust was a bang and that bang has shattered across the world.

The Internet age has begun.

June 2, 2008

Creative Codex

Books are a legacy. They are the only real fossil an artist can leave behind in this world. A bound and organized object that houses his thoughts, art, work, pictures or words. A book that can be handed down from generation to generation as gifts to the posterity of those who are yet on this earth.

I recently made a book for my children this fathers day that captured our greatest moments, I got this book today and I can honestly say that this is truly the greatest $30 anyone can ever spend in a lifetime.

I create websites for some of the largest clients in the world, but after creating one of these books for my kids I can truly tell you that there is no better feeling in teh world.

APPLE did NOT pay me for this! I promise.

Go to iPhoto and check out the Create a Book feature and go crazy! I did and I am really impressed with the results.

Trust me on this one.