Time is not on our side, but social media is


socialmedia1_small.jpgADOTAS — Like most creatives, the thing I used to want more than anything was: Time.

More time to think, more time to tweak, more time to make it perfect before it hit the press or the air. There was a time when our fight against time was either a fight against an airdate, or a fight against an estimate that never, ever, seemed to include enough creative time.

But times have changed. And now I find that our old enemy, Time, is on our side. Oddly enough, though, it’s not because we have more of it. It’s because we have less.

As social media continues grow as the go-to function for web users, as brands continue to integrate social elements into brand sites and brand elements into social sites, the metaphor of marketing as a conversation ceases to be a metaphor. It’s real now. The conversation is happening. It’s live, and it’s in real time.

Things that happen on the web have always happened fast. They happen faster now. Sometimes, in 140 characters or less. Mini trends spout, blossom, mutate, spawn related trends, and die off, all in a span of time that was once considered not enough time to even get a project through the initial planning meetings. So, how can this new acceleration of time possibly be good for creative?

It’s good because it underscores the basic principle of all creative, online or off: If you’re doing it right, you’re creating something that initiates, or perpetuates, a human interaction. That’s true of interactive. It’s also true of a billboard. When you’re having a creative conversation in real time, you pay more attention to the person you’re conversing with. Making creative decisions in real time forces critical thinking about the possible immediate reaction to those decisions. It allows for real-time adjustments when the environment shifts. Real-time changes when you make a mistake. And real-time intensification when you hit home.

While I hate using over-used sports metaphors, I’ll do it anyway: The faster pace of creative in today’s environment has shifted the job of the creative lead on a project from being an offensive coordinator in the box to being the quarterback on the field. You do the pre-game strategy, and follow a game plan. But being in the middle of the action forces you to react, and sometimes improvise, based upon immediate changes around you. If you don’t, you’re in the dirt.

That doesn’t mean it’s a time for shoot-from-the-hip creative. Far from it. It’s a time for more homework. If you’re going to be able to react in a way that not only takes advantage of real-time shifts in the environment, but also moves your effort forward, strategically, and in a macro sense — you’re going to have to know your stuff. You’re going to have to be prepared for, literally, anything. Only when you’re fully prepared are you ready to play in real time.


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