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.

The Importance of Seconds PART 2

15 seconds is half of 30 seconds.

30 seconds isn’t very long to begin with, but it seems like an eternity after you’ve tried cramming an idea into 15 seconds.

Clients love 15-second spots because they can buy a lot more of them for the money. In media impressions, they’re not that different.

But in creative terms, they are very different. In a :30, you can set a scene. You can have some dialogue. Tell a little story.

A :15 is the equivalent of a billboard. You get one idea. A simple one.

DO NOT try to cram a :30 idea into :15. The results will not be good. I say this, and yet I’ve tried it many many times. I’ve had ideas that I just knew were so great that I wouldn’t let them go, even though they were too complicated for 15 seconds. I’ve had :30 scripts that a creative director promised to a client could become :15s. Most often, I’ve had :30s that had to also be cut down to :15s because they had the in the plan. Whatever the reason, the results have not been good.

Know going in if you have to do a :15. Then concept for a :15. KEEP IT SIMPLE.

One of my favorite :15 campaigns of all time had a very straightforward, single-minded idea.