The discussion during my IAB MIXX panel last week reminded me of a recent article by Tod Sacerdoti of Brightroll. Tod’s high-level point was that there is too much relative focus in online advertising on the sizzle vs. the steak, which creates a variety of downstream problems.
Tod took some lumps in the comments, but he was and is right on with this piece. There’s way too much time spent today selling shiny objects vs. selling scalable, repeatable results. I have written on this previously in the context of BT, but I see it over and over.
The interesting thing from the panel was that my ostensible adversary in the “debate”, Calle Sjönell from BBH New York, and I actually agreed strenuously on a) the need for and b) the possibility of *both* creativity and scale. Both sizzle and steak.
One specific example Calle gave was Apple’s iAd initiative. iAd offers an extremely compelling creative environment, but one that is highly prescribed. Controls for the ad must be in certain places and do certain things. The ad itself has fixed sizes and specifications. The creativity (to paraphrase) is in using the box provided creatively, not in coming up with a new box every time.
One could argue that iAd itself is a shiny object at this point, but Calle’s message was clear. For the truly innovative, the specs of the box don’t matter. It’s what’s in the box that matters. E.g., you don’t need 35 seconds to make a compelling TV spot or as Tod points out, you don’t need Superman flying across your webpage to influence attitudes and/or drive offline sales.
If Calle’s award-winning creative mind can work happily and effectively within a fixed canvass, then I would submit that others should be able to as well, which would have tremendous benefits to the industry at large. Standardized web advertising is now capable of phenomenal scale. Getting better at combining that scale with creativity, rather than arguing for one or the other, should be the priority.