Pixels as products

December 11th, 2014 by htadmin

It wasn’t all that long ago that the question “when will HT overtake traditional?” bandied about. Even in the last few years, the digital landscape—media, agencies, technology, everything really—has changed pretty dramatically. Now, there’s no question: Digital is ubiquitous. And it’s an understatement to say it has changed a lot, both about our lives and our work.

When I first started out, HT was basically a new space for the same tricks and tactics of the advertising world, only in pixel form. Sites were essentially brochures designed at a glorious resolution of 640×480. (I remember being a young design guy pushing hard to design for 800×600.) Page weights were a hefty 250k, I owned a 28k modem, banners were “narratives” and exciting, a popular photo editing tool had just gotten layers… and yes, I walked to work in 10 feet of snow, fighting off packs of hungry wolves.

Certainly technology has advanced, software has markedly improved, our digital literacy has deepened. That’s all true, but what really excites me is that HT has evolved from being new media to product design.

The line between what is a piece of digital media and a digital product can be a bit blurry at times. But was there ever that much of a line to begin with? An app is both a product and media at the same time. It’s advertising itself while at the same time being the product that you (potentially) buy. Certain online review sites started out as a great places to get reviews from people like me with similar tastes. Now, what’s written in a review could significantly affect a business. Facebook started as a way to connect, share and communicate. Now, it’s a budding operating system with more accounts in the U.S. than there are homes with televisions.

And there’s no coincidence that these examples are heavily influenced by mobile.

In short, there are very few areas of our lives that these products and their mobile experiences have not inserted themselves into. As a guinea pig in this great mobile experiment, it’s affected the way I communicate, shop, navigate, get weather, pay bills, take photos, listen to music, ride my bike, watch TV, get news, and wake up in the morning. It both augments existing behaviors and encourages new ones.

As HT moves from media-based to product-based and from advertising-communication to experience-centric, how we evaluate the performance and effectiveness of the work we create also must change. What does all this do to that nice, clean, conical sales funnel? That doesn’t exist anymore. What we see now is omnidirectional.

The mobile space has a way of very quickly separating the wheat from the chaff. If it’s not offering some kind of value, free or not, it gets deleted or—worse yet—ignored and unused. If it offers value, we become loyalists and freely laud its greatness to others. But not all opinions are created equal, and with so many voices out there, who’s the maven and who’s the constant critic? Our measurement models need to evolve to reflect the current landscape. In creating these experiences, we have to be as thoughtful in what we produce as we do in how and what we measure to determine our success.

All of this is why I’m very excited to join the HT team as creative director. This team has been playing in all of these spaces long before my arrival, and I’m excited to join them in pushing and delivering new work. I know that I can learn from and contribute to the growth of the HT going forward.

And with that, it’s time to get in the fray. Wish us luck 😉