It's Time to Break Up the Team

(The latest in a series by Nate Archambault on traditional vs. digital agencies.)

After two large projects and a handful of smaller ones, I’ve seen what digital looks like beneath the surface. I’m always working with different people. With different skill sets. I’m not working with the same art director day in, day out. No one is. Creatives aren’t split up into teams. We’re all individuals, manning our own chosen specialty. Every project is a revolving door of pixels, wireframes, code, calls to action, looks, feels, copy decks and dark roast. Every project has different creative needs. Different creative wants. Calling someone my “partner” may be great for confusing my family at Thanksgiving dinner but it’s not great for executing digital.

It’s time to break up the team.

Teams have made sense for a long time. Lots of great work has come from an art director and copywriter concepting together, bouncing ideas off each other. That's one way good ideas become great ones. But the traditional team has a few holes. Every digital project has a different scope, requiring a different set of talents. It doesn’t make sense to handcuff one creative role to another. Some projects are design-heavy, requiring multiple designers but only a few quick consultations from a writer. Others need to be populated with content, requiring little design but a boatload of words. Like this Snickers microsite. All it needed was a Snacklish translation for every word in the English language.

Digital creative departments are stocked with more than ADs and CWs. There are graphic designers, information architects, experience designers and motion designers. Plus specialists in mobile, social media, strategy and tech. People are still bouncing ideas off each other, but it’s not a two-person match. Team chemistry has been reformulated. Now the creative department feels more like dodgeball. Everyone has a chance to be a gamechanger. In print or TV, stories are told through visuals (art direction) or messaging (copywriting). Art directors and copywriters have the monopoly on where ideas came from. But in digital, tech can drive the idea. Cool technology can be synonymous with great execution. Take last year’s launch of the Volkswagon GTI. AKQA created a mobile app to promote the car. That’s it. No paid media. Just cool technology. The launch was a huge success. And the two Silver Lions it won last week aren't thanks to a CW/AD team locking themselves in an office for three weeks.

I still work with partners. But now I work with a bunch of them. Different ones every project. Monogamy isn’t always the answer. It’s time to embrace the creative orgy. Come prepared, ready to party and open-minded. The next big idea could come from anyone.

Cannes Young Directors Showcase

Yesterday I went to the Young Directors Showcase here in Cannes. Some very inspiring work. Here were a couple of my favorites.

Avoid This Pile

If you've got a subscription to (and there's no reason you shouldn't), check out the Cannes Diary by Cannes Judge, Blake Ebel, ECD of EuroRSCG in Chicago.

He posted this picture of the print work that didn't make it to the shortlist:

I'm guessing there are a lot of pieces in that pile that will still be featured on the agency web site, and in the books of the ADs and CDs who created it. There are probably some really nice lines and cool art direction in there. But even though they paid the $350-per-piece entry fee, they still ended up in this pile.

If you're really trying to do amazing, Cannes-shortlist-caliber work, you've got to do more than a nice line and cool art direction. Even in print. It's becoming a platitude, but it's true: good enough simply isn't good enough.

Make the Boring Fascinating

Not every assignment is going to be for Porsche, a snowboard company or a sushi restaurant.

You're going to have to do ads for insurance companies, digestive tablets, and major retailers who just want to say "Everything is 20% off, Memorial Day weekend only!"

When you're a student, the tendency is to pick products that are inherently interesting. It's this thinking that leads to books plagued by condom, tattoo parlor and energy bar ads.

The strongest student books, in my opinion, are the ones full of seemingly dull products made fascinating. Take a product you wouldn't want to touch as a creative. Then do a campaign that makes every creative director who looks at your book wish they'd done it.

If you can do that as a student, it will tell any creative director that you can do it for their agency.

Tomorrow Winners

I'm sure you've already tapped into this, but if you haven't checked out the Tomorrow Award winners, click here.

It's really cool that Ignacio and company have put the judges' comments on video. I think it's the best learning tool since the One Show's Gold on Gold section.

The Makin’ Ads Design Our eBook Contest

About a year ago, we at decided to write a book for high school and college students who want to get into advertising – kids who might be brilliant writers and art directors, but have no idea what it means to “put your book together.”

It will be a free ebook that anyone can download. And we’ve already got our list of undergrad communication programs we want to send it to.

Thing is, we want it to look good. Really good.

That’s where you come in.

If you’d like this book to go out with a sweet “art directed by [your name here]” prominently displayed in the credits, we’d love to give you a shot at it. And hopefully, it’s something you like enough to put in your own portfolio.

Here’s what you have to do:

1. Download the text of the ebook here.

2. Lay it out however you like. You don't have to design the whole book. Just a cover and a page or two to convey your idea and aesthetic. Keep in mind, like most ebooks, this will probably be viewed as a series of single pages in a pdf. But if you have a better idea, we're open to it.

3. Submit your design to Deadline is August 15.

All submissions will be displayed online and open to public vote. Feel free to spam your friends so they’ll vote for yours. We're not offering cash prizes or a new car, but the top three designs will be made available for download on And the one we like best will be sent out to mass comm college deans and other uppity-ups.

Good luck. Have fun.

Gorillas on the Side

Because we're fans of spotlighting produced work and side projects from former students, we now call your attention to a new book by Andrew Gall and Vince Soliven.

Below are a few pages from their new book Everything is Better with a Gorilla, available here. They're also having a pretty fun time promoting to book with a Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Use What You Have To Work With

It's great to take a client an idea that wasn't a part of an assignment. You just have an idea that would help their business--they always appreciate this. But unfortunately, these bonus ideas are often met with a response of, "Great thinking. Thank you for bringing it to us. We just don't have the money for that."

But rather than pitch a completely different "bonus" idea, sometimes it helps to start with what you already have. If you're already working on an assignment for a client, is there something extra you can do with it? Are there assets you can leverage?

Recently, I had a team who had sold an Armor All spot they were going to shoot with NASCAR driver Tony Stewart. In the spot, Tony's pit crew is helping him around the house. They swap out the wheels on his desk chair, make his breakfast and, in one scene, are using their impact wrenches to bolt a painting to the wall.

In the production of the spot, the team had to decide what the subject of the painting should be. Someone suggested a formal portrait of Tony Stewart with his pet monkey, Mojo. Then someone had the thought that there are a lot of Tony Stewart fans out there who would kill to have a weird painting of Tony and his monkey. So we decided to auction it off. Between shots on the shoot day, the team pulled Tony aside and shot a video of him introducing the painting and its significance. The money made on the auction will go to support the Tony Stewart Foundation.

This was all "bonus" for the client, but it cost them nothing extra. We weren't bringing them a completely different project--we were just leveraging assets from the TV shoot. As such, it was hard for them not to say yes.

When you're working on your next project, ask yourself if there's something extra that can be done. Can you use one of your props? The out-takes? The set? How can you go beyond the assignment?

You can bid on the painting through June 14th here.

Shameless Plug For My Side Project

Apologies in advance for this shameless self-promotion, but I wanted to announce the launch of an iPhone app that my buddy Lance and I have been working on as a side project to keep us sane. It's called SoundExcuses, and basically allows you to play sound effects over your iPhone to give you an excuse to get off the call. Stuff like the baby crying, a dog attack, someone knocking on the door, an in-flight announcement to turn off your electronic devices, etc.

Here's the link, if you care to check it out: SoundExcuses.

If you do and like it, please rate it, review it, pass it on, etc. Thanks for looking.