Ask An Expert – Digital UK Vs Digital US

By SuperSpy 

Welcome to part two of digital conversation series!

David Bryant is currently the ECD of Interactive over at StrawberryFrog, but he’s also spent time as the EVP, Executive Creative Director at DraftFCB; VP, Creative Director at Digitas (London and New York), Tribal DDB, Modem and Bartle Bogle Hegarty (just for good measure).


He once said in Creativity Magazine that: “The only downside of the interactive medium is us – the people. We’re not being clever enough. I love the creativity of online. Its potential has been hardly tapped.”

Now, who doesn’t love the hell out of that? Since David spent years in both the UK and US machines, we thought it’d be fun to ask him about the creative difference that may be present. Other than reading the Scamp blog and having a crush on Jack Davenport, we don’t know so much about what lies across the pond. David fills us in on the inhibition of the US and how the web has become a “super-socialite.”

Are there any differences in the “creative culture” when it comes to the U.S. vs the U.K.?

“No difference really. The real cultural difference is between good and bad creative. Good creative shops are similar all over the globe. But bad creative places are infinitely variable in form.

The real difference is that in the UK is that you work long hours then drink heavily. In the US, you work long hours, then work more long hours. Neither are particularly good for creativity.

If you look at the most great creative shops, they do great creative work for any brief – banner campaigns, anything. Lean Mean Fighting Machine are a great example of this. The guys there could take a Google search term campaign for a staple supply shop and win an Oscar for best director. Or Your Majesty in NY – who I worked with on a recent Starbucks site. It’s about perfectionism and standards no matter how small the job.”

Can you tell us the differences in the way that interactive work is produced and executed? Are there different powers at play?

“The differences in the way interactive work is produced in the US vs the UK is really driven by the business differences and cultural differences between the countries. And the differences are enormous.

A) The budgets are smaller in the UK, so paradoxically there is generally less fear about doing challenging work. If you screw up an interactive campaign in the UK as a client you’ll probably get a dressing down. In the US, you’ll get fired.

B) It’s much more difficult to offend people in the UK. For example for the launch of the Ali G film in the UK, a poster campaign ran showing him with both his middle fingers up the bottoms of two women. That got banned. Anything else and you’re probably OK. And the reasons for this are the litigious nature of the US society. In the US You can sue somebody for upsetting you. And there’s 300 million people here, so you’re bound to upset somebody. In the UK, they’d tell you to cheer up and stop whining and offer you a cup of tea. So the culture of treading lightly is always present in the US. And that inhibits.

C) Big business culture. Despite the recent humbling of big business on Wall Street, the prevailing culture is one of growth at any cost. If you’re a boutique agency, and you want to sell to a large network, you have to demonstrate non-linear growth. If you’re a big agency you want to continue to service “big clients” to take advantage of your economies of scale and cover your cost base. Which means growing vertically as well as horizontally. Which means owning backend production, front end, design, strategy, metrics, media – everything. Having all these offerings in an interactive shop can mean that the creative objective (make the work as great as it can be) get pulled out of wack by the other objectives from all the other departments (make it easy to media plan, easy to measure, easy to sell etc).”

Da Frog is not known for its digital work. What are you goals for the digital business of StrawberryFrog?

“Actually – Da Frog has been doing very good digital work for years which I wish I could take credit for – (Scionspeak, Microsoft, Heineken, IKEA, P&G, Microsoft, Smart car, Asics Tiger from Amsterdam, work from our Brasil office etc). But it doesn’t position itself as a “digital” agency so it doesn’t often get compared with them.

To us, saying you’re a “digital” agency is rather like saying “we’re a paper based agency” if you do print work. Or “we’re a cathode ray” agency if you do TV. SF’s positioning is clear: we create cultural movements for brands, businesses and digital is just another way of doing this.

My personal goals start from the assumption that great interactive creative work is a combination of a great brief from a great planner, a great creative team and a great producer. I’m hugely generalizing here, but boutiques tend to have everything except the planner and the brief, and large digital shops tend to have everything except the great creative teams. We want to continue to build SF’s ability to have everything.

What’s most exciting about digital right now? Any favorite accounts right now?

“There’s never been a better time to be involved in “digital.” In the last 10 years the web has gone from librarian to super-socialite. Gaming has gone mainstream with 100% penetration of youth market. Digital has effectively stopped being a “new” media. In a little while, TV will be digital and nobody will even notice.

Add to that the huge creative opportunity with new mobile platforms, and the increasing number of big established people like P&G who want to create content rather than make ads or websites, and you’d be hard pressed to find a boring one.”