Last Wednesday, I went to an event titled "Creating Digital Culture". It was a crowded event, with the prominent names in the marketing industry: Hashem Baiwa (Director of Digital Strategy, Droga5), James Cooper (Digital Creative Director, Saatchi & Saatchi), Mike Geiger (Chief Digital Officer, Goodby), Matt Spangler (Digital Marketing Entrepreneur), Taras Wayner (ECD, R/GA), and Rick Webb (Co-founder, Barbarian Group). Moderator: John Winsor (Director of Strategy and Innovation, Crispin). I wanted to write my take on it afterwards, but somehow couldn't really decide on what to say. I failed to get inspired.
As so seemed the participants on the panel. What was very obviously lacking in their discussion (aside of a single female participant) was the enthusiasm. How?? Like, digital media are the most interesting and fun and creative thing that happened to marketing since it was invented, and those people can't get excited enough to offer an original opinion? Their interns and junior planners are probably more psyched about the web then they are.
To be fair, though, the questions we heard were all the usual suspects: what's the next thing in digital? what's the agency of the future? how does it look like, what's called? where do you find planners? where is creativity? I've been hearing those same questions since 2006, and they were lame even back then.
Most likely, if you haven't figured it out by now, it's either a) not very likely that you ever will or, b) the question is wrong. I choose b). So, first, change the questions. Change them.
Second, how about a little mixing up with who the panelists are? I mean, these people are a great draw for the crowd, but how about giving them (and us) a break? Like, why not inviting some smart planners or good creatives (instead of their bosses) to say how they actually - in real life - solved some problem and addressed some challenge. Bet there would be more interesting insights. And then, those people are on the rise in their own careers: they are passionate, and interested, and ambitions, and curious. At least, they'd show some excitement.
And I would love to see some of the most talented digital creatives up there: for example, Creative Directors Diana Hong and Mehera O'Brien would make an amazing panelists (yes, they are girls!! and they are the most incredible professionals!). And so would Amber Finlay and Johanna Beyenbach and Kristen Hengst and Michal Pasternak. And, also would Ivan Askwith and Lee Machmeyer and Matthew Danniels and Adam Liebsohn and Gene Liebel and John Antoniello and Jeff Wong and Michael Surtees.
Those people are smart and talented and motivated and fun and they do the work while their bosses are trying to figure out the meaning of that same work. They know how the digital agency should look like in order to function better; they know who they need to collaborate more in order to get the work done; they know what are blooming trends in digital - because they encounter all those challenges daily. And after all, if you'd like to talk about digital environment, why not create a sample that's actually (in terms of age and gender) a good representative of that environment?
Web is a proof that best ideas come from literally anywhere. So why asking the same old people the same old thing over and over again, in a vain hope that they will give us a different answer this time around?? Maybe before we go on to find the next agency model, how about a new panel model? A model in which the panelists get to sit in the audience, and some in their audience get to climb up there. Just for a change.
And, if this sounds naive, see the videos from the evening yourself.