Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Virtual Ad Agencies Next for Golem Culture?

The Prague Golem figure—symbol for soul-less online agencies. Zimmerman gets a three-golem rating in my book. SOUL-less X 3.

Zimmerman President Pat Patregnani and Michael Gelfano, VP of retail technologies, demonstrate how Pick-N-Click works.

The virtual agency! It was a term that was floated often when I worked at Euro RSCG 4D, but it mainly described our partnering with multiple talent sources and sister agencies (is this term sexist?). The idea of an actual agency with no bricks and mortar office space but run online solely is an interesting idea.
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There is one agency, Zimmerman and Partners Advertising, that I found. They have set up a virtual extension of themselves aimed at serving a big part of their clientele and vertical market—car dealers. They call it Pick-N-Click, and it apparently enables auto dealers to create whatever they need online.

"It took 66 software code writers, $3 million up front and input from a number of talented people to perfect the virtual agency," said Michael Gelfano, Zimmerman's VP of retail technologies.

Pick-N-Click enables a business owner or manager to create ads for print, radio and TV from pull-down menus with 40,000 selections. Licensing costs to use Pick-N-Click range from $799 to $1,999 a month, depending on how many medias a company uses.

"We did $2 billion in billings last year, with about 860 employees and with a pragmatic focus on performance for our clients, so Pick-N-Click fits right in with our strategy," said Michael Goldberg, chief marketing officer for the Fort Lauderdale-based agency.

The agency specializes in automotive accounts, so its officials said they chose to introduce the virtual agency to that niche first.

The website seems to cover it all in the navigation buttons, Strategy, Creative and Inventory. Wow, what more could you want? Passion? Intelligence? Brilliance?

While I think this is all very creative and forward thinking, I have always wondered why auto ads are so god-awful, and now I know why. They really aren't about high concept, breakthrough creative at least on the dealer level.

The reason I got into advertising was to participate in that high concept, breakneck pace, intellectually stimulating environment. Although I did work on the Saab Auto account for a while (and it was a pleasant experience). I regret now that I gave most of my creative energies to sell freaking credit cards for all those years. It all seems so, unfulilling, so golem like, soul-less and lucrative.

But I digress my friends—so this is just one virtual business model, Zimmerman is a large agency or rather part of the large conglomerate Omnicom. The upfront costs of this were, I am sure, a result of detailed study by many marketing wonks (i.e. account types). The creatives were most likely only brought in to execute the cosmetics, and I am sure they never were consulted on the actual planning of the user interface. Excuse me, am I sounding a bit arch?

The dream of setting up templates into which content can be placed has been trotted out repeatedly. In fact by every single general manager I have had the pleasure to work with over the years. The idea too, that you can "save" unused creative concepts has been around from the days when I kept a flat file full of them—beautifully realized tissue comps to be saved for the next time.

Yeah right! How many times did the perfect storm of product, strategy and client taste ever present itself again.

Anyway, I will be doing more investigation into this virtual agency concept because I think you can do it with out it seeming like a Golem-like creation from the soul-less inanimate material from which all Golem are wrought. As I do this investigation I will be assigning online agencies a Golem rating.

Zimmerman gets Sharky's 3 Golem rating,

4 Golems is the worst!

Stay tuned, leave a comment! G.

© Copyright 2009 Guy Arceneaux All rights reserved

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Layoffs in the Ad World Force Many Back to School

I won't name names and certainly won't name agencies, but there have been many layoffs in the past year. The number of my colleagues out of work right now is rather alarming. These people are what I would have considered indispensable. Not only are many designers and writers once again freelancing, but the people that they reported to are also looking or have been forced to accept positions at a different level.

Going back to school is a step many have chosen to upgrade their skills. Print designers are confronting Dreamweaver, when InDesign was their forte in the past. Many are not ready for the rude awakening of the need to understand the basics of HTML. Many just never thought they would be put in a position to learn coding of any sort.

The Web is Your Tutor
Before you go out and spend mucho dinero on books, check out some of the resources available for free online. Try this one for a basic HTML tutorial:
This site appears to be free and also also offers a comprehensive set of tutorials to bring the avid learner
up to speed on HTML, CSS, XML and my favorite Javascript.

This is just one of many sites available, I am not accepting payment from this site, I just found them with a simple Google search using the phrase, "Learning basic HTML".

Dreamweaver is HTML and WYSIWYG Combined
When I first taught myself Dreamweaver (I am still learning), I had already taught myself HTML (I am still learning). The ability to view the visual layout and the HTML coding simultaneously was a real productivity booster.

Using some online tutorials and a Quick Start book, I was able to get enough skills to work on some projects at the agency where I worked. I actually value books because of their accessibility. Its all a matter of your personal learning style.

Set a Personal Project as a Goal
  • It is important to have a real project in mind. When you are learning a web-based skill set choose a personal project that you can manage, with all that entails. When I taught myself HTML, it was for a nonprofit client's project to be presented at a meeting, this put pressure on me at the time, but that's how I work best. No one had ever suggested a web site to any of our clients, and it caused a great deal of discussion. (1996)
  • Set aside a special time to dive into the new area you are trying to learn. Even an hour spent three times a week is good enough, I think of this approach as planting redwood seedlings.
  • Visit online forums and professional gatherings. You will be surprised at how much you can pick up from casual contact with others in the new area you are learning.
  • Use your new skills as often as possible. Try to keep up with new developments in techniques that last suggestion might prove to be a career-long effort. Don't be daunted by what I call the learning spiral.
  • Keep learning. Many things you learn today, will one day be outmoded. Sigh!

© Copyright 2009 Guy Arceneaux All rights reserved