Op Ed: Digital Done Right and Three Companies That Seem to Get It (Part 1)

By Matt Van Hoven 

This op-ed was written by a digital/interactive reporter who wished to remain nameless. For now you’ll know this person as Shape78. Tell us what you think &#151 and be sure to check back next week when Shape gives us Part 2 &#151 who’s not doing it right. With no further…

Part 1

Digital, interactive or whatever creative work you’d like to call it has obviously been in increasing demand from clients spanning practically every vertical. The banner ad, while enhanced by rollover videos and other forms of interactivity, simply doesn’t have the impact anymore. Neither does a microsite, the meaning of which is seemingly vague as of late. The audience wants more, be it a social networking component or an informational tool, a memorable, eye-catching destination or a pleasing distraction from the monotony of the work day.

Good digital work today is, of course, reliant on the consolidation of all these creative concepts but most importantly as any creative director will impart on you, it has to ultimately tell a story. So who’s actually getting it at this point and in turn producing quality work that resonates with the web audience? Fortunately, there are several companies with varying attributes who are doing things right while expanding beyond their creative roles in the process. While there are too many to pinpoint with respect to word count, here are a few well-known outfits that stick out.

The Barbarian Group

While its headquarters technically remain in Boston, digital company The Barbarian Group’s creative core has shifted to New York City, a big move that’s analogous to the creative leaps the company’s taken since its breakthrough “Subservient Chicken” effort. In the past year alone, the Barbarians have broken out of the microsite mindset that comprises many an “interactive” campaign nowadays and flaunted their creative prowess with the CNN.com T-shirt application, the idea-inspiring, audiovisual “Moodstreams” site for Getty and the user-driven “Waking up Hannah” web tale for Dove. Along with internally developing software such as presentation tool Plainview, BG has built up its strategy and user experience divisions under the watchful eyes of ex-Naked Communications lead Noah Brier and Apple alum Justin Baum, respectively. Now a multi-tiered operation that doesn’t view the digital landscape through a narrow lens, the Barbarians have created an operation where user-friendly creative executions and utility have equal importance.


During the course of the past decade, bicoastal production shop Firstborn has methodically situated itself as the digital partner for agencies throughout the world. The company’s reputation has been cemented through the development of aesthetically pleasing sites including Nokia’s “Music Almighty” destination for W+K, London and the hallucinatory Microsoft Zune experience for T.A.G. When you talk about doing digital right, Firstborn has consistently developed creative work where sleek and pretty melds effortlessly with functional and entertaining, arguably the essential formula for solid digital creative. Most recently, the Webby-winning company has teamed with Droga5 to launch the site promoting the Puma “L.I.F.T.” shoe. The 3D, slightly salacious experience lets visitors control scantily clad models by having them sport the ultra-light shoe or compare its weight to other random objects.

Goodby, Silverstein & Partners

Sure, this stalwart San Fran-based operation already broke the digital mold years ago with its “Get the Glass” game (developed with North Kingdom), but among its big name agency peers, Goodby has also been the most progressive and consistent in the quality of web work. Phase two of its Got Milk? web work, “White Gold”, was a multi-faceted project that consisted of a content-heavy website and YouTube videos centered on a fictional, vitamin D-loving rock god. Entertaining and amusing while subversively serving as a PSA, “White Gold” paved the way for further unique initiatives including “Comcast Town”, the information-loaded widget site for “Sprint” and the YouTube-destroying viral video for Nintendo Wii’s Wario Shake It game. Perhaps its ultimate feat, though, was last Halloween’s “Hotel 626” effort for Doritos, the webcam-based haunted house experience that satiated both the reporter and horror fan in me.

As previously noted, it was hard to choose just a few so out of respect to those who didn’t get bigger mentions, honorable nods go to: B-Reel, Big Spaceship, Perfect Fools, Forsman & Bodenfors, Grow Interactive and Odopod.

Next up and indisputably more fun: Companies who are doing digital WRONG.


More: “Op-Ed: What Social Media Revolution? By Gareth Kay