Interactive or digital? Big ideas or rich ideas?

14 Jul

When people start talking about the “digital space” I always react with the belief that “interactive is a philosophy not a channel”. It’s not the technology, it’s what you do with it that counts. And even more importantly, why you do it.

An old presentation I used to give to students in my militant phase was subtitled “Stop folding TV ads and learn how interactive works” and while I may have mellowed a bit in my old age – the trousers might disagree – a lot of the interactive creatives I’ve been interviewing lately still rail against the notion that digital is a place you can lever a “big idea” into given enough lube.

Mass ATL media was based on the concept of a simple “big” idea, a single proposition or USP delivered in a linear form. It was a bit like Don Simpson’s idea of High Concept movies – without the coke and hookers and Tom Cruise “Playing with the boys”.

For the old BDAs in advertising this would mean a 60/30 TV ad, a couple of press executions and, if you were really lucky, it would stretch to a bit of radio. Then someone would take it downstairs to the “digital” boys in the basement a week before launch and you’d end up with a flash game. Sounds bitter? Maybe. But really it was the communications process mistaking a Big execution for a Big Idea. The Gorilla worked for Cadbury not because it was a big, great execution (it was) but because of the rich idea of “Joy” that underpinned it. The second ad, just like the later Sony ones after Balls, seemed to loose sight of this and in the process seemed to loose its Soul.

Hopefully this cliché is dead or at least dying despite some BDA’s attempts to resurrect it.

Instead it should be about looking for a Rich Idea as a starting point. And Interactive is fundamental to this approach.

Interactive is about a multilevel proposition or complex idea delivered in a non-linear narrative. The ideas or narratives are assembled by people or, better still, used by people in the form of an application or entertainment, a slideshow, interaction, video player, service or personalisation that is useful, usable and delightful.

It’s lots of rich ideas rather one big one. A journey from A to C to D to B to E, not A to B.

At Chemistry we’ve channeled this into a set of 6 interactive creative principles:

Empathy
Understand and appreciate the people you are talking to on their own terms without shouting. Promote their point of view.

Permission
Talk don’t push. We have no right to talk to anyone, it has to be on their terms and they have to give us permission or it is just so much extra noise.

Appropriate Intervention
Do things when it is right not just because you can. Technology lets us target according to time of day, part of a journey or behavioural activity.

Relevant Conversation
Talk about what they’re interested in and what they want based on what they have been doing and previous conversations.

Action/Interaction
Be playful, be useful. React and reward.

Reality
The real world will always trump the virtual. Show and connect, don’t tell. Take interactive into the real world. The internet isn’t computers talking to computers, it’s people.

In practice these are then channelled via a mix of acquired/borrowed/learnt/ever growing beliefs that we can use to create a way of working.

• You can’t know everything but you can be open to anything
• Do good stuff
• Do fun stuff
• Do useful stuff
• Take ideas and don’t be precious with them
• Push the ideas into shapes and places that people, not marketers, are interested in
• Tell a deeper, more involving story – but know when to be shallow
• Try to create technical and cultural innovations not the same old shit
• Let people be playful and explore
• Don’t be difficult
• Have smarter conversations with people
• Have entertaining conversations with people

Part of this means the death or evolution of the old Ad team model. The work is too complex for the old model to work. The idea is in effect the easier part – not that good ideas are ever that easy. Making it happen and making it easy to use and engaging is the hard bit, hence it is now about a collaborative effort. Teams need to be prepared to share or even give up their ideas at an early stage and get much more involved in the production process; a process that needs to be predominantly in-house if you want to have control, collaboration and flexibility, to play and to learn.

So if your BDA comes wielding a big idea you might want to decline and ask for a rich one instead and spend less time on the digital and more on the interactive.

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