Online, digital, social media, multi-media, web, they’re simply canvases in the same way press, posters, or TVCs are.
I work in boxes. Whether it’s a 96 sheet poster or an online banner ad, I start the same way. I find out as much about the client as I can. The same goes for the consumer, the competition and the market. Then I work with clients, account handlers and planners developing a strategy and a creative brief.
After all that prep work is done, I get out my A4 layout pad and black pen and I start scribbling ideas. Words first. Ideas come from words. We describe ideas to each other in words. Even if the idea we are describing is an image.
Once I have an idea I start scribbling boxes. Vertical ones, horizontal ones. Tall ones, short ones, fat ones, skinny ones. Sometimes they’re rectangular, sometimes they’re square.
If it’s an online banner ad I treat it like a cross between a press ad and a little animated TVC. So I might stretch it to three boxes.
Do I know how to code a splash ad? No. But nor do I know how to be a DP on a film shoot or print a newspaper. What I do know is that whatever canvases we are using to talk to our target audience, we need an idea.
I think there is an over reliance on the machine over the mind.
Ideas first, tools second.
Whether we use a 48 sheet or a social media campaign depends what part of the consumer pathway to purchase we are on. Online is better for retail and direct response as we are usually asking the consumer to do something immediately. A website is merely an online brochure or catalogue.
There is an unfounded mysticism surrounding digital among clients and traditional ad agencies. Of course digital is the way forward as that’s where we will increasingly find our audiences, but they’re not going to turn into Tron-like hermits who only inhabit cyberspace.
Horses for courses, I say.
So get your layout pads out, draw three skinny horizontal boxes and there you go, you’ve got an online banner ad template. Now all you have to do is come up with a brilliant idea to put in them.