In Other Words

Ahundred years ago, Sergei Eisenstein and D.W. Griffith helped create the language of film, using words like cut, dissolve, fade and focal length to describe their storytelling methods. Millions of stories are now built on this platform. Directors, editors and actors use it to communicate with each other, and over the years it has found its way into documentaries, feature films, TV programs, commercials and music videos. This critical invention led to the creation of the modern TV spot and branded entertainment.

Another global language is emerging that is having a similar impact on advertising and marketing. This one revolves around the Web, interactive media and digital filmmaking. Much of the iconography and many of the words—bandwidth, interface, Googling, bookmarking, ping, toggle—have crept into everyday use. Eventually, this language will become a basis for interactive storytelling via games, experiential Web sites, iTV (interactive television), in-store displays and mobile devices.

This evolving language is changing the way we interact with consumers. For it to move forward and be broadly implemented, it has to adapt to changes in four primary areas: technology, process, cost and creativity. How we communicate and entertain ourselves today lays the groundwork for iTV. Learning from the past, I have seen that programming and content don’t happen without corporate sponsorship and significant ad support. As an industry, we need to figure out a new advertising and sponsorship model that goes along with the invention of this new language.

Technology. This is the single most influential factor affecting communications. There are new tools for developing videogames, real-time feedback, database-driven information and high-definition (HD). Just as film is already dead for consumer photography, it soon will be dead for commercial shoots. Both the resolution and fully digital architecture of HD are now good enough to allow for repurposing of material from TV shoots. In another words, you could shoot once and reuse the HD image capture for print, direct marketing, in-store displays, billboards, interactive broadband applications and games.

Process. One benefit of digital production is that the quality is maintained no matter how often the images are enlarged, manipulated or composited. Another is that the content can be edited or shared with clients immediately, shortening project time. That means cost savings.

Through a digital database, images, sound effects and music can be shared globally among clients, agencies and production companies. The sharing and networking of desktops makes a lot of sense to me and is reflective of a broader trend toward consumer networking. More and more, our world is defined as one of “invisible computing,” where each consumer device is networked, from the desktop to mobile phones and expanded to cars, multiplayer games, signage, etc. The upside for clients beyond cost savings is that their branding is consistent across channels, and they are left with an archive of images for future use.

Cost. Clients need to spread their budgets across a broader consumer landscape and are looking to optimize creative across channels by producing cost-effective solutions that are fully measurable. Just as music videos were created in the ’80s as a lower-cost alternative to typical commercial production, today’s challenge is to design mutichannel campaigns for any size display or resolution without blowing the budget. Ultimately, the successful interactive experience should be (metaphorically) two minutes by 120 minutes wide. The two minutes represents short-subject videos, demos or games, and the 120 minutes the multiplicity of links that emanate from online ads or sites to additional content and information. With a 30-second spot running around $12,000 a second, the old pricing model used for TV commercials doesn’t translate well to an interactive scenario where experiences last for minutes or hours.

Creativity. A new generation of storytellers have grown up with computers and are comfortable multitasking. The new creative directors are no longer working as solitary practitioners; they are working collaboratively to design more robust experiences both online and offline. The long-term implications are that creators of advertising need to develop new skills to architect truly immersive online experiences, not linear stories.

The changing nature of technology, new processes, budget constraints and the rise of multimodal designers necessitate cost-effective solutions that speak to new audiences in a language they understand. Just as music videos ushered in a new editorial language to communicate with younger generations, communicating with millennials (15-24-year-olds) requires understanding nomenclature for use in text messaging, video blogs (vlogs), webisodes and “mobisodes.” It is a new language that speaks directly to a new generation.