Interactive is the new traditional, according to Crayon's Joseph Jaffe. This is our opportunity to not be traditional media, but we need an appetite for innovation.
It's a chaotic digital world, and with everyone scrambling to figure out their place in the new order, one thing remains clear: There are no agreed-upon recipes for success.
But if there is confusion, there may soon be some order, according to Jack Haber, VP of e-business at Colgate Palmolive.
"What we're doing is breaking down all the chaos into bite-sized pieces so that we can actually build a strategy around all the new technologies that we see out there," Haber said in response to the seemingly hysterical reaction many traditional brands have had to the evolving media environment.
David Smith, CEO of Mediasmith, echoed Haber's point, saying that brands need to do a better job of educating themselves about what's out there.
"We're tracking about 25 emerging technologies right now," Smith said. "Now, that doesn't mean that a brand should be using all 25. In fact, they probably shouldn't be using that many. But brands need to know about everything, and they need to understand why they've chosen one technology and not another."
For Joseph Jaffe, president of Crayon, education only goes so far.
"I hear from a lot of people that there's no time for education," Jaffe said. "To me, you learn by doing. Get out there and experiment."
Jaffe challenged the crowd at iMedia's Brand Summit by calling today's creative "boring and shameful."
"Interactive is the new traditional," Jaffe said. "This is our opportunity to not be traditional media. But we need an appetite for innovation. Where is that appetite?"
According to Jaffe, fueling that appetite means spending more time on sites such as Facebook and Second Life.
While many markets applauded when Rick Parkhill, CEO of iMedia Communications, called Second Life one of the most over-hyped platforms of 2007 during his opening remarks, Jaffe challenged the crowd by asking how many in the room had actually spent more than four hours on the site.
Only a handful of attendees met Jaffe's high standards for experimentation. While Alan Schulman, SVP of imc2, agreed that experimentation was critical, he pressed Jaffe on the value of sites like Second Life.
"Most of the activity that goes on in Second Life is people looking for sex," Schulman said. "It's not a safe place for a brand to be."
For Schulman, it's a matter of "fishing where the fish are." The challenge, he said, will be to find ways to meet consumers where they are online without being interruptive.
One problem the panel could agree on was the issue of media planning, with each member of the group saying that the traditional planning paradigm simply doesn't cut it anymore because media moves too fast.
"The velocity of change is moving so fast that it's almost impossible to plan," Schulman said. "What you need is a planned framework that helps you deal with the technology changes as they come up."
To Haber, that means allocating a significant portion of your interactive marketing budget to experiments.
"Most of the future planning budget needs to be on proven stuff that worked in the past," Haber said. "But part of the plan must be to run experiments that are likely to pan out."
According to Smith, the new digital landscape means doing away with the traditional media planning and buying component of his operations.
"We've actually taken media planning and buying out of our mission statement," Smith said. "We're in the message distribution business. That means reinventing the world of the media department."
Picking up on Smith's call to move forward, Jaffe told the crowd that asking what the next big thing is in digital is tantamount to putting a sticker that says "idiot" on your forehead.
"There is no next big thing because the next big thing is now," Jaffe said. "We're not taking advantage of this unprecedented opportunity to connect with our consumers right now. That's what interactive is about, and that's what we need to be doing."
There may never be a coherent model to live and plan by, according to Jaffe. But that may not be such a bad thing. His advice: press forward and see what works.
Michael Estrin is associate editor at iMediaConnection. Read full bio.