Tag Archives: ad agency headhunter

The Real Scoop on Creative Salaries

Keeping Up With the Benjamins

“Did you do it for love?/Did you do it for money?/Did you do it for spite?/ Did you think you had to, honey?”  — Don Henly/Glenn Frey

Money, money, money; that’s what I want. That’s what almost everyone wants. The root of all evil (well, not quite ALL evil). Dough re mi. Cabbage. Gap. Dead Presidents. Benjamins. Bread. Cheddar. Clams. Dinero. Cake. Jack. Lettuce. Loot. Moolah. Wad. Wampum. We all sit on the jagged precipice at the juncture of Art and Commerce.

The Long Run

There’s a perception that the only way to prosper in the ad agency business is to move about like a gypsy — one desperate agency upping the ante after another. This perception has become reality. We’ve become a peripatetic species. The proliferation of creative headhunters has certainly exacerbated this condition. This isn’t a bad thing, nor a good thing. It’s just the way it is. Everyone’s looking to make a buck. What’s lost on everybody is The Long Run — how much money will you make in your cumulative career? And, the dark side of the road: when do you become irrelevant in this business?

This is a complex question and concept. If you break down your creative career into segments and evaluate how to maximize your marketability — you may have to sometimes take LESS money (or make a lateral move) to enhance your career. Why? As always, it’s because of the work. But, too many reject the notion of a lateral move (or less). It’s beneath them. Their buddies will snicker. Their spouse will bitch. Greed is a terrible thing — it’s the work of the devil. I’ve learned that creatives who focus more on the work than the money ALMOST ALWAYS make more money in The Long Run.

The advent of the Social Era spawned numberless online creative communities. Job Boards. Resume and Portfolio Farms (er, I mean “forums”). Creatives have become cattle in the slaughterhouse. Another hyperlink in the chain. Lost toys on Hyper Island. There are more shills on Twitter than there ever were in the diners along the New Jersey Turnpike, or Telegraph Road. They feed off online creative communities. These charlatans are quite adept at touting the results of their latest poll (as if statistics prove anything). One of the most amusing myths that emerge from these online communities: “Salary Monitors” — by region, by title, by gender, by height, by shoe size, etc. Quite often, creative candidates tell me how much salary they should make according to some cockamamie Salary Monitor.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news — but salaries in the ad agency business are exactly the same as they were in 1989 when I began placing creatives in Raleigh, NC. The minimum wage in NC that year was $3.35 per hour. In 2012, NC sports a $7.25/hr minimum wage. That’s more than a 100% increase! Okay, that’s a common laborer at the low-end of the scale. Possibly an incongruent example. So, let’s go to entry-level salaries out of Wharton School of Business in the same period. Guess what? Same 100% increase. Yet, ad agency salaries are exactly the same in 2012 as they were in 1989.

Why is this? How can this be? It’s the law of the land/supply and demand. Employers pay what they have to and not a penny more. That’s why I chortle at salary monitors. A boss likes a book and asks me what it costs. And if it matches up with the person, they pay it. The really bad news, even in this era of creative dearth, is that creative salaries are beginning to trend down slightly . We can only theorize why. No theory ends happily. When push comes to shove, technical skills trump creative skills today. Style trumps substance. Context trumps content, despite what the blowhards are spewing at Cannes this week. This is not a complaint, it’s just the way it is. There’s a New Kid in Town.

                                                      The New Kid in Town

Quite simply, a technologist that can think somewhat conceptually. This is a freakish morphing of the creative species. Reminds me a bit of flying roaches or two-pound   cannibal shrimp. The New Breed of Art Director is a Developer that can think conceptually. It’s a Designer that thinks in terms of web experience. The new Writer in town creates the “new poetry”: tweets. They ghostwrite blogs. Their favorite brand tagline is: “Like us on Facebook”. But if you follow the money to get to the immediate truth, you’ll see that the best paid folks across the board are still doing traditional television commercials. Why? Clients still pay more for traditional media than digital media. Therefore, agencies pay accordingly. This, too, will pass. The new kids in town, the Jeff Benjamins, and the new media, are fledgling and will ultimately prevail.

                                                     The End of the Innocence

With the Social Era comes an inescapable transparency. Most transparency is good, but some is toxic. We “friend” people we hardly know. We “connect” with people we’ll never talk to or even email. We share secrets with total strangers. We’re left to live out an inescapable irony: being “Social” encourages us to be less social than ever. We lose a little bit of innocence with every Instagram that we pin onto Pinterest. Voyeurism and Exhibitionism replace Sociability. Does it surprise that in this environment money trumps creativity? Or that widgets trim ideas. What does that have to do with creative salaries? One does not need to look any farther than the rash of consumer-generated content in the past 5 years. Allow the late, great Phil Dusenberry to explain:

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE STATE OF COPYWRITING, GIVEN THAT WE HAVE USER-GENERATED CONTENT AND CONSUMER INFLUENCE IN THE CREATIVE PROCESS? Dusenberry: “As far as consumer-generated content, I think that’s a joke because you should leave it to the pros to get something done. You may luck out and catch an idea from some amateur, but that’s not really the way to go.”

SO, YOU THINK IT’S A FAD? Dusenberry: “I don’t think it’s going to last, and you’re going to see it take a powder very soon.”

EVEN THOUGH “CONSUMER ENGAGEMENT” IS THE PHRASE OF THE MOMENT? Dusenberry: “The whole idea of consumers generating ideas is like pulling your own teeth as a dentist. Leave it to the professionals. That’s what they’re paid for.”

“Professional” is the operative word here. Your “profession” has been devalued to the point that clients think they can get what you provide from anywhere. It’s like if the Boston Red Sox allowed me to play left field for them because I love Ted Williams and Carl Yastzemski. Your skill set is commoditized to the point that brands can’t distinguish between you and an amateur. That’s why hybrid technologists are in greater demand than creatives at ad agencies. How did we get here? That’s why creative salaries are exactly the same as they were 23 years ago, and may soon drop.

On Writers, Part IV by Bob Dylan

Excerpts from The Rome Interview

Q:  Do you look out for new writers?

BD:  “Yeah, but I don’t believe there are any, because we live in another age. The media is very invasive. What could you possibly write that you haven’t seen every day in the newspapers or on television.”

Q:  But there are emotions that have to be expressed?

BD:  “Yeah, but the media control people’s emotions, anyway. When there were people around like William Blake, Shelley & Byron there probably wasn’t any form of media. Just gazettes. You could feel free to put down whatever you had in your mind.”

Q:  Do you think the TV and the media have killed poetry?

BD:  “Oh, absolutely. Because literature is written for a public. There’s nobody like Kafka who just sits down and writes something without wanting somebody to read it.”

Q:  Every writer?

BD:  “Yeah, sure, but the media does this for everybody. You can’t see things that are more horrible than what the media give you. The news shows people things that they couldn’t even dream about and even ideas that people thought they could repress, but they see them and they can’t even repress them anymore. So what can a writer do when every idea is already exposed in the media before he can even grasp it and develop it.”

Q:  How do you react to all this?

BD:  “We live in a world of fantasy where Disney has won, the fantasy of Disney. It’s all fantasy. That’s why I think that if a writer has something to say he should say it at all costs. The world is real. Fantasy has become the real world. Whether we realize it or not.”

7 Habits of Highly Effective Creative People

Creative people think they defy convention. They believe they are anomalies — each one an intricate, complex web. They remind me of dungarees — a badge of non-conformity until everyone conforms to them. Most people in the communications industry think they are creative, except for the bean-counters. Ironically, it is the Controllers that have had to be the MOST creative people at the agency these days (especially when figuring out how to monetize their Social and Digital offerings).

The problem however, is that true creativity is on the wane. This is not exactly a watershed era for artists, writers, poets; and not just ad men and women. Where’s the work? Where’s Mona Lisa? Who’s our Beethoven? What’s the new Great American Novel? Who’s the next Jack Kerouac? F. Scott Fitzgerald? Where’s the great ad tag line of this century? And what in the hell has happened to rock and roll? Does it even exist? There are all kinds of theories about how and why, nothing can be proven — but there has to be some inextricable link to technology. Does it make us use our minds (our creative minds) more or less? What will we call this creative generation? The Googlers? The “I’m Feeling Lucky” Age? Or maybe Generation WTF.

What I’ve found is that truly creative people tend to downplay their “creativity”. And pseudo-Creatives tend to overplay it and dramatize it. But this post is not about attitudes or cerebral posturing. Intelligence is somewhat relative and subjective, anyway. Sometimes I believe that the smarter you are, the dumber you really are. Columbo always cracked the case by asking the dumb questions. This post is about habits — proactive habits. Things creative people DO, not think.

Of the many myths, the notion of “eccentricity” is most often assimilated with creativity. Creative people often have a peculiar trait or two, but no more so than the average schmuck that makes your sandwich for lunch. We just pay closer attention to the creative Shaman and become smitten with their oddities. Another myth is that creative people are “deeper” — they’re heavy — more sensitive to the human condition. At least I know that I’m shallow — an inch deep and a mile wide. A dilettante. I don’t confuse my one great gift with intelligence or creativity. I’m blest. Blest with what? I forgot. Oh yeah, I was born with a great memory (but, it’s short). Fortunately, our world rewards a good, short memory.

“Curiosity” has recently emerged as one of those agency-speak buzzwords. Due to it’s current popularity in the creative vernacular, I’ve chosen to leave it off this list. Maybe one day I’ll write an entire post on curiosity and it’s link to creativity. But there seems to be enough of them out there in the blogosphere already. Here’s a goofy one from a guys that calls himself a “creativity coach”: link.

Nobody asked me; but these are some of the common denominators that I’ve observed in working with highly effective creative people:

1. “Painters paint”– Writers write. Designers design. Singers sing. The great Al Jolson, in his dying days, would stop people on the street and tell them he was Al Jolson. When folks didn’t believe him — he would sing to them — right there on the street. True, today he would be diagnosed with dementia, but the illustration is that he had to sing. It was in his DNA. And when he could no longer sing, he died. Quickly. Effective creative people create. Constantly. They don’t talk about it. They do it.

2. Compulsive addiction to their craft — I’ve noticed that the most effective creative people can’t stop. They can’t walk away from the table. And if they do, they come back shortly. They either stay up ridiculously late at night, or rise ridiculously early to create — but they can’t rest easily because their active, creative mind won’t allow them. They do not think about getting better or improving. They just know that the more they do something, the better they will get. They create while on vacation. They wake up in the middle of the night and write ideas. They can’t stop learning all they can about their craft.

3. Unhurried — Truly effective creative people are able to “slow the game down”. They won’t be rushed . They love what they do too much to rush it. They savor their craft like a foodie savors a meal. We sometimes confuse this unhurriedness for slowness and we bellyache when deadlines aren’t met. But effectiveness should not be confused with timeliness. In short, effective creative people are on their own schedule. And often in their own world. This is not “eccentricity” — it’s the ability to recognize and adhere to a process. It’s actually quite opposite from “eccentricity”.

4. Purity of Heart — The best creatives I’ve been fortunate to observe are purists. They reject and abhor anything that is impure as unnatural. They possess moral turpitude and a respect for the gods of their discipline. Their craft is sacrosanct. I play golf with my dentist. He’s a great dentist, the best I’ve ever seen. When on the links, he wears two golf gloves, one on each hand. His hands are that important to him. Great creatives treat their mind the same way.

5. Minimalism — Great creatives travel lightly. They are not seduced by the treasures of this world. Their treasure is between their ears. They are other-worldly. They would do what they do for free if food, clothing and energy were gratis. They see money as a necessary evil. If they collect anything at all, it’s something associated with their craft. Objects almost embarrass them.

6. Don’t understand “no” — They often ask for forgiveness and rarely seek permission.The surest way to get them to do something is to tell them they can’t do it. “You can’t write a great radio commercial for a cheap hotel chain.” Huh? Next thing you know, we get Tom Bodett. They are not belligerent about the word, “no”, nothing malicious about them. It’s just not in their nomenclature. They simply don’t understand the language of “no”.

7. Laugh, cry, get goosebumps — Until this last habit, you might be getting the impression that creatives are compulsively driven Fascists devoid of emotion. I’ve found quite the opposite to be true. Creative people are “feelers”. They laugh and cry freely and often. The world gives them goosebumps. They are eternal children. It’s how they cope with fear. It’s how they deal with success. Every day.

Handicapping Talent in the Tradigital Age

The Revenge of the Nerds

More than occasionally I am asked “just what the hell is going on out there?”  Roughly translated, this means, “what are the trends in the talent marketplace –who’s hiring? who’s laying off? who wants what? who doesn’t want what?”… and so on.

Let’s start with this simple truth: EVERYONE WANTS WHAT THEY DON’T HAVE.

By that I mean, digital agencies are scrambling for traditional talent and traditional agencies are scrambling for digital talent. The reason is obvious, everyone wants to be everything (and anything) to clients and prospective clients. Maybe everyone should focus on what they do best, huh? There seems to be this futile race being run to some mythic finish line of a total, irrefutable, adaptable, flexible, collaborative, fully integrated, supremely omniscient, master of the universe perfection in communications. It’s pretty comical to hear exactly what the heck is actually going on out there. The last time that I felt this way was in the 80’s in a bar near Wall Street playing liar’s poker with dollar bills and a bunch of coked-up stockbrokers. I could just make up any hand and then play it.

Marketers say they value integration, yet they unbundle their accounts faster than Macauley Culkin on Christmas morning. Agencies sing the integration song, but too often they make up the lyrics as they go — changing verses and choruses to suit the next sucker (er, I mean prospect). So they focus on what they don’t have and try to find it — and not focus on what they do best and make it even better. As a result, the landscape is covered with a hybrid grass that looks and feels like AstroTurf. One fact remains, nobody does anything as well as they claim to in their case studies.

There is a New Order, however. And Media is the clear winner (almost by default). I remember going into pitches with agencies and we’d leave 10 minutes at the end of the presentation for Media. Usually, that 10 minutes became 2 — or even worse, a follow-up email from the Media Director to explain their slides in the Powerpoint. Media was like, well, shit. What happened? Media Conglomerates sprung up the world over and effectively said, “look, your money is too important to be handled by those creative guys at the ad agency.” So, now, most agencies have become forced to sell creative ideas instead of business strategies. They’ve become forced to sell service and order-taking instead of business leadership. How can they possibly be business leaders when they can’t even determine where the media money will be spent? Make no mistake, today MEDIA leads the process — not account planning or creative. The medium is the message.

Let’s look at how that has affected the food chain hierarchy of the talent pool. Let’s start with creative, since this is a creative blog but let’s also take a look at the entire roster. Last week, the New York Times ran an advertising column about how agencies are all bellyaching about the dearth of digital and technological talent in the marketplace. Agency leaders whine and fret over a “talent gap” — as if they weren’t the ones that caused it in the first place through their negligence. I mean, the revolutionary book “Being Digital” was published  almost 15 years ago. The column can be read here (but read the rest of this post first, Podner): http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/31/business/media/ad-companies-face-a-widening-talent-gap.html?_r=2&pagewanted=1

DESIGNERS: The single most demanded job on my desk this year is something called a UX Designer, it also helps if they have “mad skills”. No education required. No background checks necessary. No references needed. If you can do that — you can go to the head of the creative class and you are in the hunt to be successor to your CEO. Congratulations. You other digital designers, way to go, you have succeeded in taking an art form with unlimited possibilities and replaced them with sterile and finite devices and widgets. Last week a client asked me to find a designer of  “cool apps”. So I found one. He had an app for an airline that looked really cool. Except the only problem was, I couldn’t book a flight on it. If you are a digital designer, you are set for life, even if you are a registered sex offender.

COPYWRITERS:  As noted in my previous post, this game has really changed. The new breed of digital writer writes something called “rich content”. Unfortunately, the majority of what passes for “rich content” is actually very poor content. Hey, I’d settle for middle-class content. They write compelling tweets, like this one from The Gap: Check out our new I Want Candy kids line! To celebrate,@mariiiaofficial helped us make a video to “I Want Candy”. Is there a correlation between this kind of nonsense and the fact that The Gap is one of the worst performing retailers in the word? Could this be part of the reason Gap sales are down 15%? I remember when The Gap did their own ads — they were the most entertaining and beautiful spots on television. The retailer thrived. the brand was the strongest in a strong apparel category. Now they tweet out this crap and call it ‘consumer engagement”. This comes from bookoo research that tells them “people want to make commercials”. Hey guess what? I want to play left field for the Boston Red Sox and bat cleanup. Gimme a break. The Gap gets what it deserves: I Want Candy videos and sluggish sales. Their brand is lost. To read more about copywriting in today’s brave, new world, pease read my last post.

ART DIRECTORS: If you’re a traditional art director in today’s creative world, boy are you fucked. Who in their right mind would hire you? What value do you bring? Fortunately, there are some brands that value your skills (the new Captain Morgan and Heineken TV campaigns come to mind) — but most of them are heading towards DRTV and Print. Read the newspapers, magazines and watch TV — have you ever seen more 800 numbers?  Recently, the Chief Creative Officer of one of the largest agencies in the Southeast told me, “we’ll never hire someone with the title ‘art director’ ever again”. Huh? I’ll dig deeper into the new Captain Morgan and Heineken campaigns in my forthcoming Creative Musings column.

STRATEGISTS/PLANNERS:  You guys are way ahead of the chess game — castling when everyone else is pushing pawns around the board. You renamed yourselves “connection Planners” and tried to latch on to the coattails of media types long ago. As if we can’t see through the charade. You morphed into what you tried to kill — media planners. Are you a hybrid? Are you media? Are you strategy? or both? What are you? How about coming up with an insight that is unexpected? Surprise me. Scare me. But don’t tell me you are a “Connection Planner”. 25 year-old digital media planners can replace you. The Planning jobs I get are for strategic folks that can get to the heart of a brand’s essence — not media hybrids. It’s everyone’s responsibility to understand digital media and apply that knowledge to their own discipline. Account people once strove to become planners (especially after their account left the agency). Now planners strive to become media people. We’ve come full circle.

ACCOUNT SERVICE/CLIENT LEADERSHIP:  Most of the strategic oomph of this lot has been sucked dry by Planners, Media and even advanced forms of the Creative species. They’ve been reduced to order-taking servers. Back slapping High-Fivers. The empty suits have never been emptier. Never have Account service salaries been lower. Never has the job been less distinctive. Those lucky to survive and advance Darwinistically to the role Account Director are fortunate. because based on trends — there won’t be any Account Directors in the future. The client will be the Account Director because that’s what we are letting them be now.

SALES:  Finally, a growth sector in the industry of creative communications. In the struggle to be so technologically advanced and digitally cool — we forgot one key thing along the way. We forgot to sell. We forgot to sell our clients’ products and we forgot to sell our own services and point of differentiation. We forgot to sell our value proposition to clients and prospects. Heck, we forgot what our value proposition even was. Strangely and ironically, our industry is devoid of professional salespeople. This is good news for the disciplined and perseverant sales pro — someone who can actually sell an idea or an insight; someone that won’t rely on creative work to “sell itself” (as if it were heroin and people were addicted to it). To the new and next breed of rainmaker: your future is bright.

On Writers, Part III

Making it in Today’s Brave New Creative World

So, where is the writer’s place in today’s marketplace?  How does one make a decent living these days spinning words? Advertising copywriters are the top of the financial food chain. Journalists and academicians are paid paltry wages in comparison. Trade writers are the bottom feeders. Yet, there is a fine line between the skill sets of trade scribes and ad copywriters. And the line is getting grayer. So how does today’s writer distinguish him or herself from a lowly tradie or newspaperman?

Well, to get to these answers we should first look at how copywriting has changed. In the 20 years that I’ve recruited writers — I’ve noticed a gradual erosion of the craft (that’s not new news). But, that erosion is more likely the result of adaptation than decay. Media has changed. EVERYTHING is media, therefore I guess everything has changed. But mostly, writing itself has changed because READING has changed. The craft adapted to the practice. I went to a Barnes & Noble recently. I depressingly felt like I was in the new Blockbuster Video retail environment. I couldn’t escape two striking observations:

  1. Coffee table books ruled. And they were mostly heavily discounted.
  2. Books for Dummies has grown out of control, like some literary form of kudzu.
What does this mean (other than the fact that I felt perfectly comfortable in a literary environment targeted to Dummies)? Well, you can take some liberty here and make your own connection. But, I’m guessing it’s got a lot to do with the fact increasingly more “real” books are purchased on the iPads and Kindles. The rest of us morons go to Barnes & Noble. (As I write this, Borders Books just became officially extinct).  “Real” reading is a largely digital experience today.

Okay, how does that affect a person with a copywriting career? Professional copywriting has always rewarded versatility. We assume the pro can crank out headlines. Those are table stakes. He (or she) masters body copy that sells (sure thing) by making it interesting. Penning the 7-word billboard joke — they’re comedians. And only now, have we crossed the Mendoza line.

The real hitters today pound out compelling and alarming tweets. They write engaging and entertaining online content. The new visual format is the 15 or 20-second online spot — it’s like “TV Lite”. They can write natural and human dialogue that works in a television script.  And above and beyond all, they can conceive a campaign that amazes from a single, simple idea. That’s a lot to ask. But, that’s why they make the big bucks. Those folks could have been nationally-syndicated columnists if they chose  journalism as their professional writing career, or dramatists. They are the George Wills and David Mamets of our industry.

What appears to be somewhat scarce in the new breed of  digitally nurtured writers is strategic marketing thinking. I read a lot of new stuff. Some of it is advertising. Some of it is… well, I’m not quite sure. But, what sticks out like a sore thumb is a strategically connected thought, well-written — in any media or format. A business idea well told. An enlightenment creating a sense of wonder, however ephemeral. The ability to kick a snare drum in someone’s brain.

So, it is the Big Idea that remains the Holy Grail for writers. Big Ideas are simple. Multi-lingual. Cross-cultural. Timeless, yet “new” (not always in a contemporary way, but always in a fresh way). They hold a mirror up to society (or a targeted segment of it) in a way that  reveals an unexpected truth. Yet, it cannot be too unfamiliar. Simple. Yet, not too simple. Specific, yet broadly interpreted. Open-ended.

So where are all the big ideas out there? Everyone loves talking about them — about how they are the only true value ad agencies can provide to brands? And about how they are what separates creative agencies from technology marketing firms.  But where are they? SO often you see work that contains a big idea, yet it’s half-baked. Or rather raw. Big Ideas need to be fully baked, like ziti with grandma’s tiny meatballs. I haven’t seen much great ziti lately. Help me out, where are the big ideas?  What will this era be remembered for? The Apple Store? What are the definitive concept-driven campaigns over the past 5 years to current — in this country, America;  not some third-world country without an FCC.

Who is this era’s Mr. Clean? Is it The Most Interesting Man in the World?  The Brawny Man? Or a Subservient Chicken (that would be you, Mr. Hotshot Writer)? Send me your votes. Please excuse me while I seek recluse to tend to writing my Great American Book for Dummies: Life for Dummies. It’s a Cautionary Tale-Coming of Age-Allegory-Epic-spanning-four generations of a Sicilian/American family confronting the moral battleground of good vs. evil. It also contains a recipe for great ziti.

Death of a Telephone Salesman


imagesI work with creative advertising agencies. I’m a Rainmaker (new business guy) and Headhunter (recruiter). In the past 20 years, I don’t think anyone has read/watched/listened to more ads. Before this career, I was a college basketball coach. I’ve always approached my recruiting work with the mentality of a college basketball coach, incorporating the same principles of wooing talented student-athletes to recruiting creative & strategic talent. I remember pulling into diners on the New Jersey Turnpike to get to a phone booth so I could call a kid, his father or his coach. I’d sit in the booth for hours building relationships via telephone, sipping black coffee, winking at the waitress.

When I started recruiting advertising talent in 1989, I made hundreds of thousands of phone calls. I had to evaluate talent by resumes, portfolios and strategic marketing plans. But the extra mile was traveled by investing time, energy and emotion in telephone relationships. Hearing clients and candidates describe their goals and dreams provided me with the foundation to build relationships. And as I built relationships, my network and business grew. The mobile phone changed my world, but at first it was more expensive for me to drive and use cell minutes than fly most places.

When I made the move to Agency Business Development in 2002, I applied these same principles to new business. I built relationships on the telephone with marketers. I equated a productive day with telephone “connect time” — the goal was a minimum of 6 hours “connected” on the telephone. How anachronistic. It’s 8 years later and I do less talking. I still build relationships and business via telephone, but, it’s just one of a myriad of communications tools.

Ad Agencies are not in the advertising business, they’re in the communications business. The digital world has not changed them, despite many of their claims. It’s just given them more vehicles to communicate with. It’s changed their tactics, not their skill set. The “revolution” of social media assumes that we are “social” (have the ability to communicate) to begin with. So now we’ve got new ways to build relationships and business. Okay. That is why I’m writing right now and not talking on the telephone. W.H. Auden said, “It is the duty of the writer to make language ‘new'”. I’ll try.

SECOND LIFE, ANYONE? Random Thoughts on the Digital “Revolution”

Doesn’t it seem like so much digital content today is produced for nothing more than the sake of just producing it? Is “ready, fire, aim” the way most people surf the web? Digital is everywhere, and yet nowhere. It is the Emperor’s New Clothes. Put someone in a room to talk about Twitter and neophytes are sure to follow. Social Media? Sure. I’m a believer. Yes. Media has become social. 95% of what people call “social media” is Facebook. 3% is LinkedIn, the other 2% is Twitter. Pardon the rough estimates, but it just seems that way to me. Why do you think Facebook is so popular? BECAUSE IT’S FREE! Good luck monetizing it. “The web is dead”…I mean a dead experience when it comes to memorable content. I’ve been online 10 hours a day for 15 years and I can’t remember one ad I’ve seen there. I can’t even remember sitting all the way through one. And I’m a good target — I buy all kinds of stuff: Golf stuff, cigars, guitars, Scotch Whisky.

Whenever I hear about a new digital revolutionary gimmick, I think about the Second Life (that was just 3 years ago, but seems so “last decade”).

From my friend Clason:

“I was reading an article in Wired magazine about the colossal failure that was Second Life … according to the article, many brands had spent millions of dollars developing branded properties in this alternate world that at the time was reported to have a “population” of several million. Upon closer examination, it was discovered that these numbers had been grossly overstated as the majority of registered users had as many as four accounts. Even more users had signed in once or twice and never returned. The number of regular users was quite low … in North America, something like 10,000. Digging deeper, they discovered that “members” in the regular visitor population were not visiting the extravagant properties that the brands had built for them … they were all going to the same place … a lollapalooza-sized orgy at a nude beach. The total brand investment exceeded something like $100 million. The brands that had blindly jumped on the Second Life bandwagon had basically spent roughly $10K per interaction collectively to market themselves to what was, for lack of a better term … a cyber pervert convention.”

Maybe our industry as a whole needs to concentrate less on producing “digital content”, and focus more on creating content that people won’t delete on contact. It’s troubling that something like “Second Life” can even happen — like some Madoff Pyramid scheme. I remember (just 3 years ago) — digital “prophets” were telling everyone that life without “Second Life” was not worth living. They’re the same folks who are preoccupied with the next “big thing” in Social Media. It reminds me of Robert Preston in “The Music Man”.

As Clason reminds me, this business is and always has been about one thing … great ideas that generate sales. Granted with the advent of the digital age we now have an overwhelming number of entry points into consumers’ lives but the basic fundamentals have not changed.

michael palma

841 inman village pkwy
atlanta, ga 30307