I work in an odd space. Not physically, that space is rather uplifting and well designed with a great magnetic wall workspace (that's it up there,) except for the overly ambitious air conditioning system. I mean the space I do my work. I have the misfortune of not working exclusively in a hot trendy new space, like being a pure digital person, or social media or even this summers hot ticket an augmented reality strategist. I also don't have the comforting simplicity of being an pure play dinosaur who just makes TV, print or radio ads. Nope, I sit right in the middle of it all. Some days I sit on TV sets, others in multi-platform content strategy sessions and others in development studios building mobile applications. Consequently, nobody really knows what to make of me. I hang out in all these areas but don't belong exclusively to any one of them.
I don't have the luxury of being able to live within a single silo or medium and become a deep expert. I respect and love the depth of knowledge and expertise these folks bring. I also have the inglorious duty of looking at client budgets and their business challenge to pragmatically and objectively create a strategy using any medium that will best serve their needs. Though I don't plan or buy media, I do have to figure out the role of what mediums we do use, which becomes increasingly important as planning media is not just running some numbers, but figuring out based on a target audience which increasingly is anything but simple demographics, the business problem, budget, and creative idea what mediums are best. At that increasingly is mediums or media we create, not just buy.
And so I'm consumed and fascinated by how different mediums work together. Not which single one is best, which is where a lot of media punditry sits. I really don't care that much (as long as they stay in operation) that the owners of multiple media properties are having a hard time making as much profit as they used to. It's not because the mediums don't work, be it newspaper, radio, display advertising or TV, as they are being consumed at all time high numbers, it's because their ownership model and using these media assets to fund through excessive leveraging other business endeavors got them in trouble.
It is amazing the depth of poorly researched punditry on what mediums are dying and decades old, new to them, solutions proposed to fix them. To paraphrase a comment from a recent Noah Brier post on Business Week prospectively selling for a dollar, business reality frequently collides and destroys media punditry. I try not to waste my time focusing on the punditry and spend it in more fruitfully by figuring out what mediums will solve a problem and how will they work together with in the mix of a brand's marketing activities.
When understanding how mediums work together a fundamental part of this work is defining the specific role of a given medium. Absolutely the context of a particular medium shapes what you can do and how you create the content, and increasingly monitor and facilitate the content. Therefore what really interests me these days is media properties that are doing new and interesting things. Not speculating what is going to replace another to do the same thing at a lower cost. I love the new forms of media properties that are being created and what we can do with them that's unique and original. I am consumed with figuring out how can we use them creatively to tells stories and build brand value, not just run a contest or deliver some coupons which seems to be the knee jerk tactic for so many new properties.
While this may seem may seem a narcissistic post, the past few years I've noticed this need, across multiple areas of the business work, be it marketing, medicine or innovation where companies are starved in finding people that can bring together the thinking and work of differing silos. Both in terms of someone who can work across the silos but also the people within the silos who are open and able to work and collaborate with people from other silos. The specialist are necessary, but the elitist specialist attitude is detrimental.
The rising importance of integrative thinking isn't new but seems to be growing louder. One must wonder if it will be the essential skill of future marketing superstars. While redundancies are always unfortunate, there is an interesting note in the BBH announcement of letting go 10% of their London office - it enables the ability to bring on board more broadly skilled creative talents. The most interesting educational program right now is the Boulder Digital Works as part of Colorado University with heavy involvement by Crispin Porter + Bogusky. Most interesting is its mission, not digital in place of all, but a way of thinking integrating it all. Love that.
I wonder, and hope, that we are entering the post "death of" era. Where the only death we are going to see is the death of "death of" rhetoric. In fact I hope so much that I seemed to be up to do a talk on this at SXSW titled the Certain Death of Advertising Absolutism.
Could be a fiery debate...