As Javed Jaffrey says in all those Maggi Ketchup commercials: it’s different. It’s not just the medium. It’s the way consumers interact with it. What they expect from it. How easily they can build or tear down your brand in it.
Bernbach laid out broad guidelines, Ogilvy prescribed rules. I don’t presume (not loudly, at least) to be of their stature, but here are some of the things this copywriter has learnt about digital communication.
- Be clear why you’re doing digital. Ask yourself what will digital achieve for this brand that a TV commercial won’t. In India, TV is still the fastest way to reach an audience. The trick with digital (at this point in time) is to satisfy a different need for the brand, working in conjunction with traditional media. At Lowe Lintas, we call this Channel Planning.
- Don’t begin with technology. Begin with an idea. Preferably a brilliant one. Then figure out which is the right technology (or technologies) to use to build a brilliant engagement. It’s easy to get carried away by the technological novelty of the medium. We’re all nerds, but we should be nerds who can communicate. If you want to do great tech stuff, join Google.
- Have a clear strategy for every digital channel you’re using. Plan for what you’ll do on your website, your blog, Facebook, Twitter, banners, what-have-you. You’ll find each channel can achieve different objectives. Think of it as one dog to bark and one to bite. (Disclaimer: No dogs were hurt or mentally traumatised during the typing of that line.)
- Be very clear about how you’ll measure your campaign, and what will classify it as a success. That way, you’ll have enough ammo to argue with a client when he tells you he’s cutting digital spending. Don’t just show him the results, beat him over the head with them.
- The era of the clever headline and the twisted visual is over. Pour your heart and soul into coming up with the best engagement idea you can. But keep the communication for it simple. You want people to spend time on your website; not waste time trying to understand what that clever, subtle, visual-and-tagline emailer means.
- Execute your idea’s pants off. It’s far more critical online. On TV, trends emerge every year. Online, they emerge every day. Study web design, motion graphics, Flash, typography, CSS…whatever you can think of. You need to know how to get it done, and make it look better than anyone else. And the next time, the benchmark will be even higher.
- You want your audience to spend valuable time interacting with your brand online, and then spend even more valuable (in this economy) money buying it. Give them a reason to engage with you. An incentive. A surprise. New information. Relevant information, re-packaged. Remember: on TV, you still have a second or two to grab eyeballs before they grab the remote to change the channel. On digital, they can simply ignore you. And even get their browsers to do it for them.
- Keep reading. I spend my first hour in office every day catching up on my RSS feeds. Watch every campaign, read every case study, dive into every new technology. You’ll find some useful links in my sidebar. Why is Girl With A One-Track Mind in there, you ask? No comment!
- Get involved in everything. Work with your planners on the strategy. Then put on your creative hat. Work with your art director on the web design. And work very closely with your tech team. If it seems like you’re poking your nose into everyone’s business, you’re doing something right. Because in the end people see/remember/forget the work, not the effort or compromises.
- The basics of communication haven’t changed. Brevity is still important. People still read left-to-right, top-to-bottom. So don’t get intimidated by a new medium. Just don’t tear up your copy of Cutting-Edge Advertising yet.