Friday, September 23, 2005

It was never about the technology

A while ago I saw this letter in New Media Age from Catriona Campbell of The Usability Company. It highlights a topic I’ve been giving great thought to over the last year or so. I replied and even though it didn’t get printed in the magazine, I copied Catriona in on the reply and it started a dialogue between us. My letter is below:

I read with Interest Catriona Cambell’s letter in NMA 31/03/05.

She is correct when she says that an agency is made up of a series of specialists with different skill sets. Once upon a time we all stuck to those specialities and every body built up large and impressive client lists. Then the bubble burst and swathes of people were laid off leaving skeleton staff levels. That is really the point where general new media people were required, and this situation saw some people through the lean times of 2002/03.

Many agencies are still looking to follow this generalised model but the marketplace has recovered somewhat from those lean times. In its place is an expectation that any interactive work undertaken should be done so at a bargain basement price. We should therefore be wary about adopting long term business strategies based on short term market forces.

Anybody who has been around a few years will admit that market prices were too high in the past and are too low now. As trust and demand returns to Interactive projects amongst clients, then market forces will right themselves. I’ve been using the analogy of a suit for as long as this industry has been around to show the various offerings that different companies have when it comes to a website.

Everyone needs a suit, some people go to a budget high street retailer and pay less than £100, others get a designer label suit for £600-£1000, then some want the tailor made service of Saville Row. All you have is a suit, it’s made of cloth and it has arms, vents and buttons, but you get what you pay for. People make decisions about you based on your suit and how long it lasts depends on the cloth and the tailoring but also on you and how well you look after it. Clients are beginning to realise that they cannot ask for Saville Row quality at High street prices because the agencies they are going to will go out of business by supplying this, or will make the obvious cuts in service and not deliver what the client wants.

The danger with any educational accreditation is that it will be out of date by the time its gets approved, and in this industry all any accreditation will signify is how competent someone is with last years techniques. It was never the technology that made New Media new, it was the creative thinking. Somewhere on this roller coaster that point is being lost.

At the end of the day quality does speak, and quality of design is eternal. Robert Liederman hired me two decades ago as a teenager and he said something then that has rung true in every aspect of the media “A creative agency lives and dies by its creativity.” That great old man is much missed by this world, he wasn’t talking about interactive agencies, but he might as well have been.

Aaron Savage
Business Development Director
Butterfly Effect

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