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11/21/2010 A Traditional/Digital Creative Peace Plan

Some political problems seem intractable: Democrats and Republicans agreeing to work together for the good of the country, Israelis and Palestinians working out a peace agreement to benefit the entire Middle East (and the world), and traditional and digital creatives finding a way to work collaboratively in and between agencies for the good of their clients. I’ll save the first two for another blog post or VPR commentary. But I have hope for the third one.

While I constantly read online about the gulf separating these two creative groups of people, and the challenges for agencies to move from the broadcast to the digital age, I received some stark reminders at this year’s MITX Award ceremony. The bigger, older agencies expressed frustration over attracting digital talent and implementing internal change.  The smaller, digital agencies (and big agency digital talent) still felt increasingly dissed and misunderstood by their traditional counterparts.

And I kept thinking, “We’ve come so long, why can’t we all just get along.” (Hey, I’m from Vermont and lived in Sweden, so neutrality comes naturally).

The traditional/digital divide is a real one. Somehow it seems that the talents and knowledge of each groups threaten the egos and jobs of the other. That’s unfortunately what happens when you have people involved. But all hope is not lost. Here’s a solution that I think might help bridge this divide. It’s the idea of recognizing that each group has a unique approach and that the other group usually lacks just that approach.

Great traditional creatives have the critical talent of simplification. They have to take messy ideas and turn them into an effective, easily understood and emotionally resonating message for a print ad or 30 second spot. Believe me, it is really hard to say something of value in such a small or short space. The limitations of the ad world mean that traditional creatives excel in Simplicity. And simplicity is a critical component for success in communication.

Great digital creatives have the critical talent of complexity. They can recognize complex patterns and connect seemingly disparate elements into logical systems. They take modern digital technology and build platforms for doing things, remarkable things. It is amazingly hard to build great, easy to use platforms that deliver true value. Digital creatives have mastered the challenge of complexity, a critical component in developing unique, and effective people-focused digital communications.

The problem today is that a lot of the digital creatives make things TOO complex. They over think their solutions and often times develop systems that are way too hard to use, implement or understand. I’ve found that keeping digital creatives and technologists from over-thinking is a huge challenge.

Traditional creatives, on the other hand, seem to have the problem of not being able to construct systems or platforms, even on an idea level. Somehow they think they’ll end up having to do math, so they turn away from it. Their solutions tend instead to be overly simplistic and one-offs. I’ve found that moving traditionals into more complex discussion makes their eyes just glaze over.

My peace plan is this:

Digitals need to recognize the power, and sometimes brilliance of the traditionals’ simplicity. They need to learn this power from them and embrace it as part of their thinking. The power of simplicity when applied to complex ideas is astounding.

Traditionals need to recognize the power, and sometimes brilliance of the digitals’ complex thinking. They need to learn this power since, at the end of the day, this complexity connects to the actual, real world experience of everyday people. The power of creating complex digital systems for the good of consumers is brilliance in motion.

And just to show that this can work, just look at the hackneyed example of Apple. They’ve combined brilliant, complex technical systems with an elegant simplicity of use. It’s no wonder their products are wildly successful.

There is a way to work together in the creative marketing spaces. Of course, recognizing and embracing each group’s unique talents means keeping egos and titles in check. It means accepting the idea that each group and person in that group needs to grow and evolve. 

Otherwise, we'll just keep on fighting, and losing.



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