by special guest writer James Cooper, creative director, Dare.

I feel a little bit like jumping into the bear pit here, but since Scamp asked me to write this and I’m leaving London soon to do something different you can take it or leave it. If this advice helps just one creative then that’s a good thing.

I think I should let you know my stance. I don’t think digital is the answer to all advertising’s prayers, far from it. In some cases it makes sense for a digital idea to lead, in other cases TV or press (or PR – Run London for example) to lead. I’m not sure I can think of any reason why you shouldn’t use digital at all in a campaign but I’m sure someone will find an amusing response to that.

Much of what the press reports about digital taking over from TV is also more apt for the US than here, where, in fact, it still makes sense to hit a load of people during Coronation Street. Time zones and scale make it more cost effective to do things differently across the pond. So don’t worry, you’ll still be able to make your ‘films’.

Here goes for a few things that might help you get your head around digital work.

1. Keep it simple. Life is not so different down here in the basement. If you can’t explain your idea in 6 words don’t bother. Start again. With all this software around (and clients) there are people that will always want to make things more complicated. If you start off with something complex the chances are it will turn out a mess. A site that has been hijacked by girls, a site that crushes desks, a girl you can tickle. All simple. All good. All winners. NB. The flip side of this is that if you want to win a craft award for sound design or motion graphics or something like that then complex RULES! You absolutely must be more cutting edge and geeky than those freaks in Northern Sweden who never leave their macs and only eat reindeer meat and dried white foodstuffs.

2. Be original. Same rules apply to when all you lot who moan about whether Bravia or Guinness or John Lewis was original or not. Poke’s nice unlimited site looks a little like a Motorola site, our nice Bravia site looks a little like a Pioneer site. The point is it’s not such a leap to imagine that creative brains come up with the same things. An amount of copying goes on, but these things right themselves in the end. No one is going to make a serious career out of being unoriginal – apart from The Chemical Brothers. There are trends in digital in the same way there are in TV. If you really want to stick out then you have to do something different and we all know how hard that is these days.

3. Doing digital is harder than TV. What? Yes, sorry folks, it’s true. The delivery of TV (and Press) has not changed since it started. In digital there are constant innovations that you need to keep up with. As a creative you will be expected to know how to come up with an idea for a site, what it looks like, how it should be delivered and how people will interact with it. No one is going to do this for you. Then you need to multiply this for all the other ways an idea can be expressed in digital other than a standard site; a facebook app, mobile, digital outdoor, banners, interactive TV, Second Life, YouTube and basically whatever some dude in California comes up with next. If you’re not interested in technical innovation then, again, don’t bother.

4. Great digital work usually comes from teamwork. Usually two creatives – a writer and an art director, a designer and a techy. Having said above that you need to know how all the geeky things work you won’t actually be expected to get your hands dirty with code or anything like that. This is both good news and bad news. The good news being that you don’t have to have spent years buried in software manuals. The bad news being that the person who has done that now earns more money than you do and can f**k up your project at the flick of a switch. Also this person will actually work at your agency rather than be a hired supergeek like a lighting cameraman for example. You will have to learn to deal with seeing someone everyday who is more important than you and has better trainers than you.

5. The digital equivalent to ‘Balls’ is Nike +. This is the piece of work that everyone wishes they had done and arsey creative directors use to dismiss other pieces of work, ‘Well, it’s OK, but it’s not Nike + is it?’ If you don’t know what Nike + is you may as well pack up and go home. The thing that makes this work interesting and a cultural shift is that it is useful. Consumers actually want to use this piece of advertising, they seek it out. Anomaly have coined a phrase, ‘branded utility’ - expect much more of this sort of stuff.

6. It’s actually easy to win an award if that’s all you want to do. In the same way that if you can somehow manage to do a 48 sheet with no words and a visual metaphor then it stands a good chance of winning something at Cannes the same is true of digital, especially banners. Do a neat visual trick, have a little bit of user interaction, lose the words, change your name to something Brazilian sounding and Bob est ton uncle.

7. If you are going to use celebs do it in an interesting way rather than just plonking them on a site. We are just about getting the budgets to do things with proper actors and artists rather than the girl from accounts. And of course it’s well worth it. We did a site with Martin Parr a few years back that was very successful and I am just finishing a project for Sony Vaio with John Malkovich where he has written the first scene to a movie and will judge the next scenes posted on the site. This, to me anyway, feels right contextually rather than just giving him a laptop and asking him to smile and say ‘cheese’.

8. People talk a lot about community and social networking. Sometimes this is the right way to go, often it’s not. Doing something on MySpace will not guarantee you a hit. It’s horses for courses I’m afraid and that’s part of your job to work it out – interrogate your brief and media agency and don’t settle for buzzwords.

9. Don’t take yourself too seriously. No one likes a smart arse. A lot of people started up digital agencies or came from ATL agencies to get away from cocky little shits. I know, I know, you’re just passionate about your work. But life is too short to have to deal with assholes. Work should be fun and when it is, it tends to be more successful. The best ideas come when you are happy and relaxed. As Mr Wenger once said, ‘to win you have to enjoy what you do first’. And, as I say, ‘if you weren’t enjoying yourself while you were winning then, frankly, what was the point?’

10. What’s with this conformity? Who says 10 is the right number?

So as you can see it’s not that much different to TV and Press. You need an idea, you need to keep things simple and use your common sense. There are shortcuts to awardsville but if you seek something bigger, something that people will talk about down the pub for years to come then it’s back to the grindstone I’m afraid (and take a techy with you).

thanks James

Tip No.31 - How To Do Posters
Tip No.30 - Look At Weird Shit
Tip No.29 - Presenting To The Client
Tip No.28 - Presenting To The Team
Tip No.27 - Presenting To The Creative Director
Tip No.26 - How To Deal With Rejection
Tip No.25 - Look Creative
Tip No.24 - Don't Be Afraid To Ask
Tip No.23 - Your Idea Has To Be 120%
Tip No.22 - Read Iain's Tips
Tip No.21 - Don't Behave
Tip No.20 - How To Discuss Ideas
Tip No.19 - Read Hugh's Tips
Tip No.18 - How To Get A Job In Advertising Part IV - How To Turn A Placement Into A Job
Tip No.17 - How To Get A Job In Advertising Part III - How To Approach Agencies (re-print of Tip No. 7)
Tip No.16 - How To Get A Job In Advertising Part II - How To Put A Book Together
Tip No. 15 - How To Get A Job In Advertising Part I - FAQ
Tip No. 14 - Make Friends With Traffic
Tip No. 13 - Get Reference
Tip No. 12 - Don't Stop Too Soon
Tip No.11 - Be Very
Tip No.10 - Breaking Up
Tip No.9 - Working Well With Your Partner
Tip No.8 - Finding The Right Partner
Tip No.7 - How To Approach Agencies
Tip No.6 - Never-Seen-Before Footage
Tip No.5 - Dicketts' Finger
Tip No.4 - Two Blokes In The Pub
Tip No.3 - Play Family Fortunes
Tip No.2 - Should You Take A Bad Job?
Tip No.1 - Don't Overpolish

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