Desktop & Portable Technology

In the course of researching this article, I interviewed a known Mac hacker in my office. He stared in wonder at the four year old Macintosh SE on my desk, with its lowly 20 MG hard drive, and feeble 2...

In the course of researching this article, I interviewed a known Mac hacker in my office. He stared in wonder at the four year old Macintosh SE on my desk, with its lowly 20 MG hard drive, and feeble 2 MG’s of RAM. He then shook his head derisively and asked, ‘What are you still doing with that antique?’

That comment neatly sums up the challenge of creating an ‘electronic agency’ today. No matter what your own level of expertise, or even your requirements, you’ll find yourself entering a world where product life is measured in 18 month increments, where price drops of 50% are the norm, and where the hype of the latest technology often overwhelms pragmatic concerns such as functionality, or even that rarest element of all – a return on your investment.

David Kelting, the director of Computing for Eisaman, Johns & Laws Advertising, a medium-sized (170 million) shop in Los Angeles, probably put it best when he commented on his own agency’s move into the digital age.

‘The people who simply bought technology for technology’s sake aren’t here anymore. That’s because their investments didn’t make the agency any money. Today, we’re concentrating on ways to be faster, more efficient, and more profitable. We’ve focused on our core business – advertising – and when and where it’s appropriate we’ll use new technologies, or we’ll bring in suppliers who are experts in those areas.’

Bill Sharpe is president of Robins Sharpe, a Toronto-based ad agency.

Creative Department

2000 Font Library/CD-ROM Drive/CD-ROM Library/Mac II FX, Minimum 8MG/128 MG Hard Drive, 16′ SuperMac Color Monitor/NeXTstation Turbo Color, 16 Mbytes RAM, 250 Mbyte hard drive, 17′ MegaPixel Color.

The key here is to make the integration between the creative department and the production department almost seamless. The outcome is to bring more work in-house, increasing speed, control, and where possibe, reducing cost.

The second absolute requirement is power. These days the minimum RAM required for computers is probably 8 MBs, but even that is quickly moving to 20 MBs, with 128 MB hard drives.

The CD drive and library are designed to give instant access to illustrations, stock photos, etc. It’s also setting up a platform for Kodak’s upcoming Photo CD system. With this system you can comp up almost finished quality ads and brochures quickly, with no external supplier costs. The library should include Grolier encyclopedia, also squeezed onto a single CD.

Macs still seem to have the edge in software and ease-of-use, but you’re paying a premium. Steven Job’s NeXT platform might seem like an orphan, but it offers industrial strength multi-media back-up because of its vast memory, its built-in support for MIDI and Postscript, and its facility in 3-D applications.

Production Department

Software Library MacroMind Director (MultiMedia) Quark XPress & Quark Xentions, Adobe Photoshop, Aldus Freehand, Adobe Illustrator, Microsoft Word 5.0 with Sound annotations/QMS Model 30i Color Printer (with 11′X 17′ capability)/Lexmark Laser Printer with 600 dpi, Nikon LS-351OAF Scanner/Kurzweil 2000 keyboard, with MIDI attachments.

With apologies to that terrible Oldsmobile campaign, this is not your father’s production department. Instead, it’s fast, functional, and staffed by young, recently graduated OCA/Ryerson type-hybrids who grew up with computers and who have a talent for both hacking and understanding art directors. It could even be a great training ground for the creative department.

The software scanner, printers, and software are all print-based. MacroMind Director and the Kurzweil keyboard are hi ‘authoring’ tools for rapidly unfolding multi-media applications.

TV, video, and sound production are judged to be better handled by suppliers due to the cost of technology, and the memory requirements of ‘live’ video.

Finance/Media

MS-DOS computers/Harris Donovan PC Screen

Most media and finance departments have proprietary PC systems. Finance tends to MS-DOS and Windows, while most media departments rely on Harris Donovan or the equivalent. The bottom line? These departments went electronic well before the rest of the stragglers in the agency.

- All departments are connected by a modem

- Production, Clients, Boardroom/Presentations, Account Services and Finance/Media are all connected on a Ethernet Local Area Network.

Sources: Thanks to New Media and Mondo 2000 (magazines); Simon Tuckett, Creative Director, Roboshop; Brian Quennell, Creative Director, Livingstone & Kai, Los Angeles; David Kelting, Director of Computing, EJL, Los Angeles; and Robin Heisey, Machead & Genuine Draft Guru, Bozell, Palmer, Bonner.

Account Services

Mac Powerbooks 170s/Xerox 7033 LAN/FAX/Xerox 5775 Digital Color Copier with Mac connection/Optical Drive Storage with 128 Mbyte back-up cartridges.

Everyone has some version of a Mac Powerbook so that contact reports can be written at the client meetings. the Powerbooks should also be equipped with Modem software so that any account executive can gain access to agency files from wherever they happen to be.

The 7033 Lan Fax is a local area network fax that saves paper by depositing faxes into everyone’s E-Mail on their PC. It also solves the problem of fax confidentiality, and interconnects with other local area networks around in the world in the same manner.

The Xerox Digital Color Copier makes very flashy presentations, can be connected to the creative department as well, and also doubles as a traditional black and white workhorse copier. The optical storage drive can probably provide back-up for the entire digital agency’s annual output in 5 or 6 cartridges.

Finally, the entire office is hooked up on an Ethernet Local Area Network. Although Macintoshes come with Appletalk, Ethernet can handle a vast amount of information almost instantaneously. This means that sound and pictures can be carried on Ethernet – a must for any agency that’s planning for the future.

Clients

Xerox Paperworks Software, Xerox 7033 LAN/FAX, QMS Color Printer, MAC II FX or SC, with normal memory.

Bad news for the agency’s regional offices. The electronic agency wants to ensure that the client is constantly in the loop, and that delays are a matter of minutes instead of days. Therefore, they equip big clients who do a lot of print work with all this flashy technology.

Clients can check ads on their monitors, print out some kinds of final art on their printer, and fax back changes and requests. The LAN/FAX once again eliminates paper, and the Paperworks software from Xerox, now available on MS-DOS machines, actually routes documents to exactly where they are supposed to go by building in an invisible bar graph in the document. So much for couriers, multiple copies of contract reports, and yes, those regional agencies.

The net result – an informed client, who has greater control, and more constant interplay with the total agency – including account, creative, and production people. Once again, the electronic agency persists in taking down barriers wherever it is implemented.

Suppliers

Typesetting/Data Base/Traditional broadcast production.

No vast changes here, except for the continuing erosion of market share among typesetting houses. The only real innovation is ‘modeming’ files to a type house. Some agencies have moved to owning their own Lintronics or typesetting machines, but the cost is till prohibitive, and you have to produce a load of typesetting to rationalize the expense – especially when the technology threatens to make any longterm investment obsolete.

Boardroom/Presentations

Two 37′ Mitsubishi Monitors, connected to a NeXTstation TurboColor/an nView Corp. Color LCD display unit/a Sony or Barco data projector/pull down projection screen, surround sound JBL or BOSE audio system.

Please, no more of those narcoleptic presentations where the president stands up in front of that terrible slide that shows us the location of all the international offices. This system offers the opposite-presentations for the MuchMusic generation.

Since all the information in the agency is in digital form, practically any case study or ad can be worked into a multi-media presentation. Every presentation can be customized, and there can be lots of flying logos, coupled with new client product shots.

After all, agencies are supposed to be experts in all sorts of media – shouldn’t their presentation reflect this expertise and cutting-edge technology?