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23 September 2009 5 Comments

Ah, yes, the digital growing pains of our “integrated” industry.

I find it remarkable that in our new-is-better industry culture, the digital revolution was really more of an evolution. And for that, I blame the geeks.

Several years ago I joined an agency that had an “Interactive Department.” Which, in reality, meant we had a handful of people that found building shitty websites and designing shittier banners inspiring. They sat on a different floor. Worked on different projects. Answered to different clients. And spoke a different language. As a result, I regularly referred to them as the CFL. Yes, like the NFL they had quarterbacks and geek_running backs (copywriters and art directors), but unfortunately their quarterbacks could only throw about forty yards. And their running backs were barely capable of a yard or two at a time. It was kinda like advertising, but not really.

And this is where the blame comes in. The folks I had the “privilege” of interacting with liked being different. They liked pretending that they had a lock on all knowledge about these “digital dark arts.” They had no desire to engage on anything to do with creativity or communication. (It was almost as pathetic as what they did in their spare time.) What frustrated me the most is that the conversation was always about the damn technology. Which made about as much sense to me, as an art director being obsessed by the CMYK separation process. Yes, you need to know how that works, but that’s not really what we pay you for.

There is good news.

The geeks are going down. In the last few years the worst of the Pixel’s & Code crew have found less and less safety behind their force field of bullshit. The real creative talent, including many with a digital background, have wrestled the lightsaber from the sweaty palms of the hacks that just didn’t get it. As proof of that I offer the following statistic: Of the eighty-nine Cyber Lions awarded at Cannes this year, only twelve went to strictly digital shops.

Do the math. Yes, I mean you, geeks.


- Craig Crawford


  • Shawn said:

    you are so brave for writing this; surely all of your World of Warcraft characters will now be under constant assault.

  • Glen Day said:

    I can imagine the traditional print guys were saying something similar about the newcomer TV groups in agencies about 50 years ago. I do have some sympathy and appreciation for those who broke the new ground but you’re right. Idea trumps medium and that will not change.

  • Alex said:

    Yes, but judging the “Interactive Department” at a typical Agency is like judging the creative group at IBM… in the 1960′s. It’s simply not where the good folks go. It *is* the CFL. Many agencies are still all about the big waterfall methodologies that came from large government projects and that most folks abandoned in the 90′s. Only now they often try to off-shore the implementation because “it’s just coding right?” I won’t name names but I know this because over the last few years I’ve had to recommend firing two large “interactive” agencies off of large, multi-million dollar projects.

    Let’s face it, most hard-core technology people haven’t used the term “interactive” since CD-ROMs were the hot stuff.

    There’s a traditional chasm between the two but, thank god, I think there are folks now moving to close it. It really is less about the technology and more about the application. Many creative folks are getting smarter about this. And many agency technology people are understanding the creative side and also are champions of things like Agile development, rapid frameworks like Ruby on Rails, and open source. And many of the key ideals of social media really have been executed in tone and practice by the open source community for over a decade…

    But agencies that don’t get technology don’t have any idea how to hire a good technologist…

  • Matt said:

    I work in the “digital department” of an ad agency. We’re a different company, we do different projects with different clients and they all work very well. We don’t have art directors and copy writers, the agency does.

    We’ve not figured out what the fit is yet. There might not be one. We don’t need there to be one. We both do fine on our own. But for the time being we’re sitting next to each other, talking to each other and trying to see what’s what.

    You clearly hired the wrong people and made a mess of the process. You made a mess of it. Move on.

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