Do you have digital game?

Marketelle's Jessie Sternthal on why intimidating and confusing new platforms don't have to hinder creativity.


I admit, I’m not on Instagram. The only thing I know about Snapchat is that you can make yourself look like a puppy on it. Until a few days ago, I thought a voken and a beacon were the same thing (or am I thinking of a vlog…en…ken?). I couldn’t tell you the difference between Whisper or Bumble or Happn and I’m pretty sure I’ve botched the correct use of SEO, CRM, SEM and WTF in at least one sentence today.

I’m an advertising creative over 35. I use pens. There’s a jingle in my book.

And my years of agency experience are starting to slap me across the face in briefs as if to say, “Wake up, girl! It ain’t about great writing and killer insights anymore. It’s about being the first to apply those things to new technology. So learn this crap and look alive!”

I’m willing to bet my favorite 2005 Communication Arts annual that many writers, art directors and CDs in ad agencies (I mean data-driven-cloud-based-digital-creative-content agencies) around the world are sitting in the same meetings I am, eyes wild, wondering when this happened. And, more accurately, “Will I be replaced by a 17-year old who not only understands, but embraces hashtags as signatures?”

Ultimately, we’re asking if you have to play the game to stay in it. Well, the answer to that depends entirely on you, and on what that game is.

Recently, a link was sent out to my entire agency that elicited more reply-alls than that time a VP once typed “erotic” instead of “erratic” in a staff email.

And just like that, we were all connected. Collectively breathing the same knowing wink and nostalgic air for the days before the “digi-culousness.” The days before you had to include a handle in a sentence, or have the efficacy of a spot judged by how many views and shares it induced. The days of great outdoor. Smart headlines and copy. Clever visual communications. Hilarious TV. Devastatingly good radio. Newspaper stunts that ran on Saturdays and big ideas that covered war rooms and set the stage for any brand to breathe, thrive and prosper in.

We roll our eyes when briefed on a subject heading, but how’s that any different from a few years ago, when briefed on a direct mail headline? Or even a magazine ad?

Mobile is the new outdoor? Cool. Find formats and write 50 of them and give it everything. Pretend you’re writing boards in Times Square. Get famous from them.

Content is the new spot? Awesome. Tell a great story really well. Make it last for two minutes. Make sure the world remembers the brand behind it. Make it your mission.

This is the game to play. Not one where whoever knows the latest tech wins – but rather, one where the winner is whoever knows how to mine the truest insight, express it in the most surprising and simple way – and do it through channels people are consuming now.

This is the “a-ha” where the fun starts again. This is where new media jitters die and really good creative comes back. And, honestly, not understanding what your digital strategist just said to you becomes okay, because even if you don’t really get RFID bracelets and why they’d be perfect for your budding campaign, you can ask. Ask someone what the hell they do, because they’ll be excited to tell you and you’ll end up being excited to learn.

When you do grasp it all, pull out your favourite pen, grab your partner and that tattered crappy notepad you love so much and craft your agency’s next Cannes entry. Invent your client’s next tidal wave of unprecedented success. Just do it with something all the kids are using.

The game is smarter, leaner and faster, but also more creative than ever. So yes, stay in – and play – that game.

As for me, I may cave and get on Instagram because that’s where all the pretty photos are. But I draw the line at that Pokemon thing.

jessie_1Jessie Sternthal is a senior copywriter at Marketelle.

Featured image courtesy Shutterstock