Editor's Letter, March 2008

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You may or may not notice that there's a theme to this issue. Broadly speaking the theme is "digital"—Creativity and our sibling Ad Age have published concurrent issues devoted entirely to this topic. But in assembling this edition, a few things quickly became apparent.

First, even if digital is interpreted in a narrow way, to even make a dent in all the relevant and inspiring things to cover in this space would take several issues. So, though there is a fairly wide range of people and topics represented here, we only covered a fraction of the playing field. Second, well, you can't interpret digital in a narrow way. The digital space is like space itself—seemingly without beginning or end. On the creativity side, there are thinner and fewer lines of demarcation that distinguish digital and everything else. A discussion of digital not only encompasses a wide range of creative endeavor (games, mobile, image creation, robots, etc). It spills into issues of what's next, talent (hence the piece with M.I.T.-turned RISD mind shaper John Maeda), business practices, company structures and more. So if you missed the cover line maybe you didn't even notice that there's a theme at all. And that's OK. It's kind of the point, and it's what many of our commentators talked about in the following pages.

AKQA's Lars Bastholm addressed the "digital is everything" fact of life and its implications for agencies when we asked him to contribute to our state of interactive roundup (see p.32 ). "Everything from home appliances to every other gadget will have some sort of interactivity," said Bastholm. "The whole idea of digital has left the computer. Recently, we were looking at what we had delivered in 2007 and we counted up to 14 different types of things, from websites to online marketing to even radio. So the spectrum of what a digital agency is expected to deliver has already expanded. We're becoming less digital delivery boys and more strategic partners."

The roundup included many of the industry's best and brightest digitally-oriented types and many of them addressed this expanding creative scope. "It's not about advertising an idea, but ideas that can become advertising," said Paul Collins, interactive creative director at Sweden's Akestam Holst. "We have to start using our communication skills to come up with new services that can leverage more value to the consumers. Nike+ is a perfect example of this. It's not just going to be the R&D department's job in the future to come up with products or services that generate new revenue stream and more value to the consumers. This burden is equally ours to bear."

And Goodby interactive CD Will McGinness thinks "smart advertising in some instances can really help inform the way our clients do business. Retail environments, product design and basic business practices are all within the scope of a good agency. The challenge will be to continue to expand into new realms with enough caution to not wear out our welcome."

This issue is also bookended by a pair of thought pieces written by digital honchos from very different best in class companies—R/GA and Wieden + Kennedy. The views (unintentionally) represent opposing attitudes about what's important in the digital space and in the brand world generally now—and at first glance make the authors come off as dueling agency guys. R/GA's Nick Law issues a somewhat snarky wake-up call to the "sons of Bernbach," the "story guys;" W+K's Renny Gleeson says "marketing and brand communications need storytellers" and at its best the ad business tells "compelling stories that create meaning for a brand."

On a careful read though, they get at some of the same core things, many of which also echoed through the comments of all of our contributors to this issue. Some of those things, in summary:

A collaborative and flexible mentality is important.

Embrace technology in a real way—not for the sake of doing this or that campaign extra.

You need technology geniuses and strategic problem solvers. They might not be the same person.

And, special issue notwithstanding, "digital" isn't a thing apart. It informs everything. And interactivity isn't doing a microsite. It's understanding the ways in which a changed media/technology world allows idea people to create a whole new set of ideas for brands—off, on, above, below, through and over the damn line.

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