Simplify.

That’s it.


OK, fine, I’ll elaborate. But just a little bit. No reason to overthink things here.

For the most part, traditional ads for TV and print are one-dimensional. They don’t require a whole lot of effort to understand. They’re like wide-eyed puppies sitting in the window, desperate for attention. No one struts down the block looking for puppies. But sometimes they’re just so darn cute or funny or meaningful that people pay attention. As a traditional creative, your job is to get people to stop in front of the window. That’s it. (Never mind if puppies have it easier than brands.)

You see a TV spot, you know what it’s for and what it’s trying to do. Sell yuppies more boat shoes. Get moms to upgrade their laundry detergent. Convert teenage girls from that shampoo to this one. Digital campaigns, on the other hand, are rarely one and done. Blame integration. A banner begets a Facebook fan page begets a web app begets a microsite begets an online contest that begets three web pages to register and enter. It’s tempting to figure out how to incorporate every social network and technology under the world wide sun. But that doesn’t make an idea better. It makes it more confusing. Every added step is another burden. An obstacle in the way of your message. Squeezing too many moving parts together doesn’t make a better-running machine. It makes a campaign that’s more likely to break down.

Digital campaigns need to be accessible. They shouldn’t require a bachelor’s degree and twenty minutes. When creative directors are flipping or clicking through books, they want to see brilliant thinking, writing and art direction. Not case studies. Take this Movie Maker for Sprite. It’s ridiculously easy and it’s fun to play with. It’s not intrusive. You can explain it in five words.

Don’t confuse complex with smart. And don’t mistake simple for dumbed down. It’s hard to do easy. In digital, it’s very hard to do easy and cut through the clutter at the same time. That’s what I like about this banner ad for Toyota. What it sacrifices in mindblowingness, it makes up for in effectiveness. Is it intrusive? Not at all. Fun? A little. Interesting? If you’re looking for an AWD vehicle, it is.

The best idea is one that has been boiled down to its most basic essence. Not watered down by whatever technology or social network is getting the most buzz. Just because everything on the web can be connected doesn’t mean it has to be. If people had to press a button and fill out a form to see puppies, pet stores would end up with a whole lot of dogs. What I’m trying to say is when in doubt, cut it out. Sorry that took so long.




This is the fourth in a series of guest posts by our pal Nate Archambault on his transition from traditional agencies to digital. Follow Nate on Twitter@NKArch.

2 thoughts on “Simplify.

  1. The maze imagery is the perfect visual analogy for something the PMs on my team eloquently refer to as 'challenges' —the complex journey from initial idea to execution.
    However, it's worth considering complexity, from a design perspective, can quite often be subjective —what's complicated and esoteric to one person may be regarded as simplistic and trite to another.
    A thought provoking post. Thanks.

    Like

  2. You see a lot of books these days with traditional work – print, billboards and bus stops – and then almost on cue, the campaign finishes with an iPhone app or a Flash banner. Now I'm not saying this is wrong, but this certainly isn't a formula that should be followed by all.

    I agree completely agree that, “just because everything on the web can be connected doesn’t mean it has to be.” And I think the same goes for the digital platform and its various mediums. A company doesn't need to be on Twitter if it doesn't make sense, just like a campaign doesn't need an iPhone app if it doesn't reinforce the objective.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s