June 27, 2009

I Heart Twitter

Erik Natzke is an interactive designer who is constantly trying to blur the lines between design and technology. Erik (@natzke) recently ran a contest on Twitter where a random person who mentioned the hash tag #NatzkeFreePrint would win a free signed print of one of his amazing pieces of artwork.

I WON!!!!

I have watched You Tube, Google, Facebook, and many other web mainstays emerge and submerge and I must say that Twitter is by far the most immediate, exciting and interesting of them all.

The sheer volume of content, feedback, interactivity and potential is endless. The surface of Twitter hasn't been scratched and I am really excited to see what new ways to aggregate live awareness emerge.

I wanted to make another mention of a new website that has blown me away with its innovation to use Facebook as a content aggregation, it is a new site called Prototype-Experience (http://www.prototype-experience.com) it is for a new video game of the same name. Check it out and see what the future holds in store for social network content aggregation.

Anyways, thanks Erik!

June 14, 2009

What's the Time?

I realize that the conversation pitting traditional Vs digital has been going on for some time now and that it has probably gotten to the point where the mere mention of the topic induces nausea and anxiety.

If I had a nickel for the amount of times AdAge and AdWeek have featured articles on this topic plus the various blog posts, commentary and panel conversations not to mention a certain bubbly society that prides itself on this very distinction, I would be a very rich man.

However I am going to go against my better judgment and speak about the topic because an amazing analogy came to me that I feel best describes the situation we find ourselves in now.

The Set Up: Definitions taken from Wikipedia.

Traditional advertising is a service business dedicated to creating, planning and handling overall marketing and branding strategies and sales promotions for its clients.

Traditional ad agency clients include businesses and corporations, non-profit organizations and government agencies. Agencies may be hired to produce an advertising campaign.


Interactive agencies differentiate themselves by offering a mix of web design/development, search engine marketing, internet advertising/marketing, or e-business/e-commerce consulting.

Interactive agencies rose to prominence before the traditional advertising agencies fully embraced the Internet.

The digital agencies offered a wide range of services and grew very rapidly, although some have downsized just as rapidly due to changing market conditions.

Today, the most successful interactive agencies are defined as companies that provide specialized advertising and marketing services for the digital space.

Now that we are clear on the distinctions lets move on to the "Vs" part.

Traditional agencies have been farming out digital work to the smaller digital agencies for 10-12 years now pretty much keeping them afloat in terms of large budgeted projects and the infusion of how to service these larger clients from a creative production standpoint.

The smaller digital agencies have been assiduous in learning how the larger agencies function and have adopted many of the same practices in hope that they will slowly evolve into one of these larger agencies with digital as the core and in time start to compete with the larger agencies that have been keeping them in business all these years.

The larger agencies provide their clients with a multitude of other services that are critical to formulating an entire campaign and require the ability to manage hundreds of people and tasks that a smaller digital agency would be overwhelmed with, making the larger agency the ideal starting point for the brands to formulate its message.

The smaller digital agencies are fast and nimble and can complete similar tasks, but not all, in half the time because they have been bred to work faster and turn around very complex technical and creative work in a very short amount of time.

Now as I thought about the two I wanted to apply them to a real world example that would help me better understand the relationship that the clients had with the two worlds.

Then it hit me. A Watch!

Think about it... what do most people have on their wrists to tell time?

I would say most people who appreciate fine time pieces that are accurate, stylish and expensive are walking around with an analog watch. A watch that has been built in a similar way for ages and a watch that has thousands of moving parts each one of them interacting with the other all to perform one small simple task. Telling the time.

Kind of like a... Traditional Agency.

How many digital models does Rolex make?

Why wouldn't someone who could afford a fine timepiece choose to get a geeked out digital watch?

Its just as accurate if not more accurate, it can be synced up with a satellite or a database, it has the ability to provide many other functions all in the same form factor and can be encased in gold, platinum or any number of metals.

A digital watch can be made to do virtually anything its buyer wants yet everywhere I look I see analog watches on the wrists of those people who I would consider in the same bracket as the decision makers at the big brands.

It seems that people choose the more traditional analog watch that has that reassuring ticking sound, with clear backs that display thousands of gears all moving at once all to serve one purpose and one purpose only, to tell you the time. I guess the psychological advantage is that each and every one of those gears is there to serve you in its own way.

Sure from time to time you have to wind it up or shake it or change its battery, but most people enjoy the small effort that they have to put into this seemingly complex object. In the mind of its owner it is a precise instrument that is worn on ones wrist so that they can better manage their lives.

Not that different than a traditional agency, don't you think?

Thousands of people teeming all at once doing this and that in order to come to the very same conclusion that a smaller digital agency may be able to come up with using a quarter of the people in half the time. The digital agency has all kinds of functions, animation, design, data, social media, it is plugged in to all kinds of data and can instantly expand things into a million new directions, yet clients seem to prefer the reliable gears all turning for the single purpose of servicing them and them alone.

It makes total sense to me when I think about it in these terms.

Why should advertising be any different? Why wouldn't the head of a big brand want the prestige of a Parmigiani over the geeky sleekness of a Rosendahl?

Now lets look at the price differences between the two.

You can get a digital watch from Timex, Rosendahl, Abacus or Garmin that is Bluetooth-enabled with caller ID that will tell you the weather, act as a USB drive and locate the nearest WiFi connection for under $200 dollars. WOW! (see that excited me).


You can get a Lange and Sohne, Alain Silberstein, Audemars Piguet, Blancpain, Breguet, Franck Muller, JLC, Parmigiani, Patek Phillipe, Ulysse Nardin, Vacheron Constantin within the price range of $5,000 - $2,000,000. These watches have hand finished mechanical movements and some additional mechanical complications like moon phases and power reserve indicators to very subtle ones like correctly handling all the obscure conditions of the Gregorian calendar.

Starting to see the comparisons?

Traditional agency Vs. Digital agency...

I admit that I personally do not wear a watch and I usually whip out my iPhone to tell me when my next appointment is.

And if I were to wear a watch I certainly would not feel comfortable sporting something that costs more than my buddies house. Nor would I want to have some geeked out digital watch that is solar powered with 8 selectable radio channels and 38 subcodes per channel and LEDs to indicate the hours and minutes in binary format.

So what is the solution?

Well, thats not for me to decide, but what I wanted to do here was to just present the situation against something that may help make a bit of sense to those who had some struggle with the whole Traditional Vs. Digital quandary and to put it into a little bit of a better perspective.

I will let you the reader decide what the answer is.

June 8, 2009

The Runaround

Navigation is one of the very first words that I had encountered when I started designing and developing websites in 1998. It was and still is the very foundation of what sets digital apart from traditional. The navigation is what gives our audiences the wheel in order to make their own decisions and to decide how and when they were going to interact with the brands that we put in front of them.

Web design is not advertising nor is advertising slowly becoming web design but what bridges the gap between the two is how we hand over the wheel when we design and formulate a navigation system to our now rich and complex online campaigns.

When I say navigation I am not just referring to that left hand down or that top centered line of icons or text. I am talking about how we take our audiences through the experiences that we build.

There are clients who will jump on the band wagon and throw millions of dollars towards whatever the hot new trend is right now because they want to take advantage of the immediacy of the crowd and its various waves.

The draw back to that is that a strategy needs to be formulated on the spot and executed flawlessly as to not seem like it is band wagon jumping and to also completely interpret what that wildly fast trend is at that exact moment, not so easy.

Then we have clients who want tried and true, a website or a digital campaign that embodies the very core of digital standards, upright information, clean sleek design and absolutely none of that horse play that goes on all over the web.

The safe route. Playing it safe in a dangerous world can sometimes be quite dangerous.

Then we have clients who are always a step behind, they want the best, they want to experiment and be the absolute cutting edge but due to not being guided properly and tending to fall in love with what has already been done successfully they simply end up missing the mark and looking tired and old once their shiny new digital campaign has launched.

Then there is the trend setter, the brand that has the digital eyes and ears to navigate the yellow brick road without falling prey to the disasters that ensue along the way.

The web is so vast and so precise that it is so easy to get it wrong. You have to stay one step ahead without over jumping that step and maintain a strong and steady grip on this bucking broma bull we have all mounted.

I read Ad-Age and AdWeek each and every day, the NYTimes and the Wall Street Journal and countless blogs (just see my blog roll on iPro, yes I do read all of those) and what I am experiencing is similar to the picture at the top of this post.

That Scarecrow that keeps pointing Dorothy in every direction and at the same time in no direction.

AdWeek will feature some CEO talking about the revolution that is Twitter and then follow up with another CEO bashing the social media trend. Yet another who says traditional isn't dead and then the very next day some famous Creative Director swearing that every single dollar must be put into digital, then another COO claiming that Facebook will raise the dead and yet another saying that Television is about to explode and then another saying that.... STOP!!!!!!

See what I mean?

I'm not saying that any of our prestigious publications are not doing their jobs, they are. But it is up to us to decipher what is and what inst the right direction to go in for our clients.

With so many options today it is extremely important that we try to stay away from just slapping on a trend and calling it a day.

The way of our business is that everything happens fast. The pitch takes place at lightning speed, and that sets up unrealistic expectations because we promised the client the world. The agency then wins the account and starts bidding out production, then the production shops have to all fight for the right to execute those unrealistic expectations against a crazy time line and zero budget - you can imagine the end result.

Lets remember that there are a hundred answers to every problem and each one of them need to be carefully examined before dumping tons of money into a campaign that will prove to do nothing more than scratch that digital itch.

As an industry (digital) we need to help navigate the deep channels that are now dominating our client's attention and guide them carefully as to where their money will be best spent.

The first step is carefully understanding each one of those channels and knowing how to wrap it around the right brand so it accomplishes the goals that the client sets out to meet. This involves having the right people who can hit those moving targets when the time comes and get the brand positioned with the channel that fits them best.

So the next time you read that "this" is dead or "that" is hot or "this" is dying or "that" is emerging. Keep in mind that everything comes and goes and that the web is a giant life cycle that keeps on feeding into itself as it gives birth to new and more interesting ways to navigate its waters.

Don't ignore what has been or what will be and keep in mind what is now and what works best for your brands. That is the beauty of this medium. Unlike print or TV it is never canned or done, it is an evolution that is constantly morphing as we morph within it.

Imagine a digital campaign that lasted forever, slowly evolving and taking on various incarnations but all seamlessly and effortlessly flowing through the same vessel as its changes. No new website, just an evolving digital idea, a story that intensifies and changes over time based on the terrain that it navigates over.

Now that's digital!

June 2, 2009

Digital Dumbo #5 - Freedom + Partners Rocks The House

Digital Dumbo - Freedom + Partners Rocks The House from Craig Elimeliah on Vimeo.

Digital Dumbo is quickly becoming one of the hottest must attend events in the digital social scene.

Dumbo is the epicenter of of digital New York and is home to many of the worlds best interactive, motion graphics, creative and technological studios in the world.

We get together on the last Thursday of every month for some well deserved drinks and socialization.

Freedom + Partners hosted the past event last Thursday by preparing a flash based audio and video installation that rocked the house all night with music that was all Brooklyn themed.

Community is one of the foundations of our existence and it is important that we are plugged into the digital community as both a contributing partner and active member of our small digital neighborhood.

Enjoy the video.