When I first started in advertising, the industry was at the tail end of a very classical period. Projects would often take over a year, and the deliverables were primarily magazine ads and television commercials.
Anything on the Internet was considered a geeky experiment and not to be trusted. I joined Twitter during its first year, and I remember suggesting using it for a campaign. I was roundly laughed out of the room for my naivety. The same thing happened with proposing a campaign that would work entirely on Facebook.
Refresh your browser to today, when Twitter and Facebook have become a core consideration on every single advertising brief. Gone are the year-long concepting grinds. Replaced by a new kind of fluid client-agency partnership that takes incredible collaboration to meet the ever quickening deadlines. The process is often chaotic during the making of these things, but when the dust settles, we have projects that everyone takes pride in.
I think the model for advertising used to model the process cycle of filmmaking and the fine arts. But as technology has tipped into mainstream ubiquity, the advertising model I find myself operating in is closer to developing, programming and hacking. It’s our job to bring as much taste and aesthetics to this process, but you need to shift your mind into a perpetual beta state to keep up. The rules of the digital landscape are being written on a daily basis, so there can be seismic shifts mid-production, or even after launch. If you don’t find a way to cope with that new reality, you’ll go mad, and your projects will never be realized.
I find myself creating ‘theories’ more than concepts these days. While I always start from a core idea, I try to keep my mind loose, to be receptive to a range of executional options. I also try to use as many digital platforms and tools as possible, so that I constantly know where the edges of the playing field are.
It’s impossible to predict where tomorrow’s innovation will take us. All we can do is stay fluid and adapt. All we can do is be water, my friend. We can’t predict the future, but we can be smart about building a mobile foundation that will be able to react and take advantage of this constantly evolving digital landscape.
Last night I realized something fascinating about myself. As I sat at my iMac having a Google Hangout with Sam working on turning a joke into a Tumblr post, I realized I love the combination of technology and comedy.
Since I can remember I’ve wanted to make people laugh. I’m obsessed with it. I’ve also always loved technology and I spent 3 years working for Apple, maybe the biggest technology company in history. I am just now realizing how much technology and comedy have in common.
Comedy and Technology are essentially about the same thing. They are both about solving a problem. Comedy is about solving the specific problem of how to make somebody laugh. Language is the main tool we use. We work to put words together in such a way that they surprise the audience.
Tumblr is the technology I use to solve the problem of not being able to reach an audience. Tumblr has given me the ability to reach numbers of people that I never could on a live stage.
For a long time I thought my path was supposed to be the typical path of a stand up comedian who performs live shows until he catches a break and gets into television or movies.
But last night, as I worked on creating a post that exploits the specific technology of the Tumblr photoset, I realized that maybe I was always meant to be an “Internet comedian.” Maybe using technology to create, publish, and share my humor is the path I was always meant to take.
On one hand, it is hard to compete with the immediate feedback and the rush you get when you make a live audience laugh. On the other hand, I’ve never performed for 20,000 people, but jokes I’ve made on Tumblr have been viewed and “liked” by that many people.
I’ve always loved comedy because it feels like I’m cracking some sort of code. You start with a premise for a joke. It’s a good start, but it’s not funny yet. Then you take what you words and actions and find a way to apply them in order to achieve the maximum result.
Last night I realized Sam and I were doing that exact same thing, only with a Tumblr photoset. And when the post was created and it was exactly what we hoped it would be, it was one of the most satisfying feelings I’ve ever had.