The Wild West – Part II

(originally published in Screen Magazine 9/12/12)

About seven months ago, I wrote a little blurb about how the creative industry was starting to look like the Wild West. The thinking behind that article was that If you want success you have to go out and claim it. Nothing will be handed to you. There is no map or trail that will guide those working in the creative industry. You have to draw up your own map.

I love history, and I often wish I lived in the Wild West. It must have been pretty scary for those early settlers, but exciting at the same time. But can you imagine if everything had already been established, lines drawn, and then erased? That is where we are now.

Twenty years ago, everything was clearly defined. Advertising agencies provided specific services, event agencies played a defined role, PR firms applied their trade, and marketing shops tied up all the loose ends. Back then, talent agencies and their famous acting clients didn’t really concern themselves with the advertising world, because there were bigger fish to fry. Recording artists were considered “sell-outs” if they collaborated with a brand, and no one was talking about product placement or interactive agencies back then.

Everything was right with the world. Or was it?

I currently hold a position that didn’t exist twenty years ago. If I told my high-school guidance counselor that I wanted to be a Director of Branded Entertainment when I grew up, he would have said, “Really? What the hell is that?”

So I’d like to expand my Wild West analogy to include the entire entertainment industry. That’s right, I’m here to officially announce that we are all working in one big industry called the entertainment business. In fact, I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome those working in the direct mail sector, as well.

Seriously. Everything is a part of everything now. TV networks are looking to include interactive and potential branding components. Record company execs are talking about how to best brand their artists. Event agencies are producing some of the most visually creative work out there. Interactive agencies are taking the lead on many campaigns. Dogs and cats, living together – it’s mass hysteria!

But don’t let all this change scare you. In fact, embrace it. I think it’s great for everyone involved – especially the brand. Where others may see a duplication of service, I see a creative challenge. Exceed expectations on this assignment, and you’ll get another one. Earn the client’s trust in one discipline, and the door will open to another. But the key is this. If you put yourself out there and offer services that you haven’t offered before, you better be good at it. You better be ready to perform beyond the level that everyone has come to expect. You better improve on client relationship skills, and not just execute the boards. You better be prepared to live up to – and exceed – all of those promises. Because if you don’t, there is someone else out there that’s expanding their services to include your specialty. The Wild West just keeps getting wilder.

The Slope Towards Complacency

I hate the word content. More specifically, I hate both the noun and adjective uses of the word content.

So as of today, I’m on a mission to remove this word from the creative industry’s vocabulary.

First, let’s talk about the adjective: content. As in “He doesn’t feel the need to be more creative, more innovative, or do anything differently. He’s content.”

Is there anyone out there who feels they have accomplished enough, learned all they can learn, and helped all those who could use some help? If so, please step aside and let the rest of us do our best to kick ass and keep moving the industry forward. Please don’t misunderstand me. I highly recommend being happy and satisfied with your work. Just don’t be content. Contentment is a slippery slope towards complacency. Followed by mediocrity. Ending up at “average.” And as anyone who has worked in this industry for more than a week knows, “average” just doesn’t cut it.

Now then, let’s move on to the noun: content. I see and hear this word everyday. The client is looking for content for their website. We need more content that appeals to our social media audience, etc… I understand why everybody uses this word in the creative industry. It simplifies everything. But I think it oversimplifies. You might as well say we need corporate “stuff,” or “bland wallpaper,” or we need “un-interesting visual material to fill up some space.” In this industry we can’t allow ourselves to be content (the adjective) with mere content (the noun.)

Content (the noun) doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, it has the potential to be fun, informative, innovative, and yes – even entertaining.

From here on out, I intend to use the word entertainment in place of the noun content. Doesn’t corporate entertainment sound better? Doesn’t it sound like the goal is to produce something more innovative, creative, and engaging?

So please help me with my mission to remove both “content” and “content” from the creative industry’s vocabulary. Together we can do this. I for one won’t be content – uh, make that happy/ecstatic/entertained, until we do.