The Zen of Technology

Creativity versus technology: in many ways it defines the fundamental difference between marketing and advertising methods associated with “traditional” media (television, print, radio, and outdoors) and those associated with the emerging media platforms such as the Internet, wireless, iTV and so forth.

Storytelling, art, theater and the cinema, literature: these are the driving forces behind traditional ad making. And success in this arena is often dictated by creative inspiration. This is not to say that technology is not important, but it serves the creative means.

The opposite is true in emerging media platforms. For rapidly evolving technology-laden platforms, successful ad making often comes down to the understanding, utilization, and manipulation of the underlying technology itself. Again, this is not to say that creativity is not important but, at least in today’s market, it is usually subservient to the technology.

A fundamental lack of background and understanding of technology, and the different roles that creativity and technology play within emerging media, is at the core of much of the confusion that exists around Internet advertising today within the ranks of traditional marketers. Similar confusion fueled the downturn in the CD-ROM games market in the mid-90’s. At that time, the convergence of Hollywood creativity and Silicon Valley technology, known as Sillywood, promised a new era in game play.



Unfortunately, a lack of understanding and mistrust that existed between creatives and technologists produced a plethora of computer games that provided neither good entertainment nor good game play and generated nothing but unsold inventory and bankrupt companies. Successful computer games are technology driven. They are, in fact, the same game made faster, louder, more intense and realistic, through technological means, rather than creative ingenuity.

The same battles are now being waged in the advertising community. But at a time when the need for a strong technologic grounding is more important than ever, there are fewer and fewer resources for the marketer to turn to, and less free time to gain a critical understanding of the methods that can help them more effectively reach their audience.

This summer I wrote an article for Media Magazine called “The Death of Rich Media.” The point of the article was not that technologies such as “rich media” were ineffective, but that it was meaningless to talk about techniques such as vector-based animation and streaming video/audio in isolation, apart from the techniques of targeting, optimization, measurement, and reporting, as well as delivery platforms that surround them. I suggested a new term: Integrated Marketing Technologies (or IMTs) to reflect this new synergistic approach to marketing science.

It is not enough for today’s marketer to only understand the creative possibilities of a technology like rich media. They must understand how the technology works alongside and in combination with email marketing, or SEO, or optimization, or URL tagging, and so on, as well as understand the differences among the myriad of vendors associated with each of these technologies.

And so we come to this column. After taking a sabbatical from writing, I approached the editors of MediaPost with an idea for a new weekly column on technology. The idea was to create a Walter Mossberg type column for traditional marketers.

Each week, I’ll be talking about a new technology and a new vendor and see if we can hack through the jargon and get to the meat of it’s all about. In Walter Mossberg’s first column he said: “ Personal computers are just too hard to use, and it isn’t your fault.” Let me say the same. Marketing technologies are too hard to use and it’s not your fault. But you need to know them anyway. In a time when millions of marketing dollars can be wasted by making the wrong technology choices, you, as marketers, need to know this stuff.

Next week we are going to dive in and take a look at some of the new players in the DHTML/Floating ad space, but before we do remember this: if you think you are the only one who doesn’t understand this stuff you are wrong. There is a vast misunderstanding of these technologies on all fronts and frustration is mounting. In my business I see this everyday

The journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. Next week we’ll try and put our best foot forward and try and bring some clarity to a decidedly murky area.

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