What’s New Is Old Again

Remember art school? You’d have this ugly, green tacklebox filled with pens and pencils, rulers, paint, pastels, Rapidographs, ink, scissors and erasers. It was everything you needed to change the world. You were encouraged to use your imagination to explore new directions and nothing was off limits. For the first time in our young lives we had nobody to tell us what to do. For most of us, our lives changed forever.

Well, fast-forward to today and welcome to the World Wide Web: a great, big, wonderful sandbox to play in. Welcome to a second chance at art school. Thank you Adobe, Google and YouTube. We now have a new tacklebox: a beautiful, glossy, white one filled with photography, typography, filmmaking, editing, sound design and animation that is needed to make a creative soup.

No longer are we handcuffed to the network’s time limits or their blatant double standards towards censorship. We can free a still image and make it flash. Typography becomes even more powerful by animating it. We can produce small films that are festival-worthy.

Most amazing to me is how little new hiring we’ve had to do relative to the new medium. What has happened is a vast outpouring of creativity from all areas of our company. Designers are becoming art directors; art directors in turn are designing Web sites. Film producers are becoming animation experts. Writers who only wanted to produce a 30-second commercial now work excitedly on long-format films in the multifaceted environment of a complete Web site. If you can create a rich banner, you can write a 30-second commercial. The rules have changed.

Now this didn’t happen overnight; it’s actually been building to a boil over a two-year period. At first we separated our Web designers, writers and producers. We didn’t give them a clever production company name, but they were off to the side. Now that we have empowered everyone to challenge the norm, the walls have come crumbling down and it’s like a shot of adrenaline has hit the company. Because of this magical medium, I can only think that the future of advertising is actually in a healthier place. In fact, 50 percent of all our creative output is Web based, and we have won more awards from the One Club and Cannes for interactive than the so-called traditional media. All of this in only two years: now that’s moving fast. The genie is out of the bottle and we’re not going back.

I myself was slow to embrace the Internet because I was distrustful of being able to capture real emotion and unable to give up the comfort of holding ink on paper. I held these as sacred truths to everything I know about communicating. But, I came to realize I didn’t have to give up very much to be able to do so much more. The speed with which a viral film runs through YouTube and into popular culture has convinced me of the Web’s importance. This is powerful stuff. Agencies have been talking about creating content for the last few years. Well, I think our time has come.

Now, I want to make it perfectly clear that this is not creating for the sake of creating. The idea will always be king and the balance between artistic execution and the selling of a product is still the norm, but now we have a deeper environment to exploit it.

We are truly a lucky bunch of people who actually get paid to play instead of paying tuition. This is a great opportunity; let’s not mess it up. Let’s bring out our new tackleboxes and get the standards really high. This is a new medium that we’ve been training for our whole lives. This is why we went to art school in the first place.