Young Guns at the Killing Fields
Agencies in 2012
Adhering to the FITC event in Amsterdam, Adobe hosted a debate about the "Agency in 2012". They invited a bunch of brilliant big shots from the digital media industry (average age around 25) to give their thoughts on the short-term future and talk about their products and pains. A brief report and comment on the highlights.
Big Shots from digital media companies debate about their visions for 2012. Present (among others): Media Monks (Wesley ter Haar), De Monsters (Paul Reijnierse), Kong, Nascom, and Pluginmedia. Host/moderator: Robin Charney and Richard Galvan (Adobe).
The toughest problem they unanimously expressed, was the need for skilled staff. They all complained about how difficult it is to find the right people. They blame education (for not doing what is necessary), they blame contractors (for not being the solution), they blame Adobe (for not playing a serious role in this*), they blame themselves (for not being big spenders...)
Back to School
Although they live, work and sleep in digitally connected biospheres, and millions of people are desperately looking for a job, they just can't seem to attract enough bright guys and girls to make Magic happen. "Students freshly coming from media or programming academies or even universities don't know how things work in our world. They're just not fit for any position at all, actually. Maybe 1 or 2 in a class might be capable and talented enough to work with us", was their collective opinion.
But if you constantly keep pushing the boundaries, keep working at the forefront of technologies, is it that strange to have trouble finding "capable people" ? Is it surprising that regular education is not (yet) up to the desired level of expertise ?
And why would a national education system spend money on students, who – at the flick of a finger – hop onto a foreign company ? "Let those companies invest/educate their own staff to their likings !" is an unspoken but understandable opinion of some school boards. They focus on "broadening their creative horizons", and there's nothing wrong with that. Will they ever get a chance again, to spend weeks or months on a project, thinking about it, developing their creative minds ?
At least one of the big shots admitted to devote 20 to 25% of his working time to exploring new techniques (or at least he intended to do so). He was being applauded, cheerfully, to be that brave ! But on the other hand, they all looked down a bit upon youngsters, in schools, doing just that.
If it's that difficult to expand a team with more "great, talented, and passionate people", why not try hiring a multitude of staffers, doing the job from 9 to 5 ? Of course, such co-workers will struggle more than a digital diva, and socially they bring in a bit different culture. But together they'll get the job done, eventually.
Traditional vs. Digital
Somewhere in the dicussion, this funny statement could be noted: "Traditional media are much easier [than digital media], because they don't have such tight deadlines and it's not such a panic when problems occur. It's easier to solve it and just try again."
Strange, huh ? One would expect that digital media would be less of a problem. After all, in a digital world there are no expensive printers waiting for a PDF file. While in traditional media one can't simply "Undo" an incorrectly cut-off in 100.000 glossy brochures. But did you ever try to stop a digital campaign that's already out of your hands and all wired and cross-linked into Google and YouTube ?
So I can understand where it's coming from, and there's a truth in it, actually. Traditional media use (as the term implies) well-crafted tools and techniques and well-known workflows. They can be relied on much more than all this new digital stuff. So yes, the traditional media might be better at meeting deadlines, being able to track mistakes and solving problems in a quicker way. There are many more professionals standing by, capable of helping out when things go wrong.
The discussion came to a nice conclusion, when they all kind of agreed that digital agencies don't understand the customer's marketing, and advertising agencies don't understand fancy new techniques. "To the digital agency, Snickers or Mars are just similar candy bars. And to the advertising agency, Flash and Tweets are all just buzzwords." They desperately need eachother.
And every year or two, they both buy into a new hip phenomenon, dive onto it, overuse it, and finally break it. "From desktop apps to iPhone apps, from viral to social." Companies and brands now want to be on Facebook, and populate Twitter channels. When this increasingly happens, it takes approximately two years to see users and visitors steering away from it, looking out again for another new trend.
So, what's next, according to these bravely backfiring young guns at the killing fields ? On this point, their views went in many different directions. Augmented Reality and Layar ? More Flash 3D and 3D video ? The iPad ? They didn't know...
Published: on-line only, March 1st 2010.
Pictures: Bert Hagendoorn.
* Adobe replied they focus on making easier tools, and support education through marketing programs, certification, and activities like these events.