New Technology and the Advertising Age

compiled by Heather Kenyon

The introduction of new technology into the commercial world has revolutionized the process and in turn the advertisements that we see each and every day. For an insiders view on the changes, I asked Glenn Chalek of LoConte Goldman Design, TOPIX | Mad Dog's Sylvain Taillon, The Attik's James Sommerville and David Starr of Curious Pictures, how the integration of new technologies has altered the way they do their creative business.

Glenn Chalek, Executive Producer, LoConte Goldman Design
Boston, Massachusetts, USA

LoConte Goldman Design's "Bose Interactive Kiosk." Courtesy of LoConte Goldman Design.

New technologies have had a dramatic and creatively liberating impact on the advertising community. Creatives in the advertising world were previously harnessed and restrained by the limitations of not only what was technically available, but also the affordability and geographic access to what was technically achievable. As new technologies evolved, and became more powerful, versatile, and readily available in both large and smaller markets, agency creatives were truly able to think outside of the box in a more sophisticated manner. Altering or reproducing reality was easily achieved. Creating an entirely fictitious but realistic world was similarly achievable. Physical travel has become less critical, and visual communication more fluid and instantaneous. As technology improved in parallel with the volume of advertising communications, the conceptual and creative parameters have also widened exponentially.

"Lotus Corporate Image Video" by LoConte Goldman Design. Courtesy of LoConte Goldman Design.

Another key benefit to the advertising community has been the introduction of a huge pool of designers and editors who had worked primarily in the broadcast industry. This group of companies and individuals, whose world revolved around broadcast design, are now stylistically appropriate and technically capable for advertising communications. Currently, it is quite fashionable for a designer to design/direct a television commercial, corporate video or create a web site. The lines have been blurred in the marketplace, and what had been segmented production industries, have now converged in the general world of visual communication. Because this group had been accustomed to state of the art equipment in creating their imagery, they now provide a well-seasoned and experienced resource for visually sophisticated or effects-laden advertising tools.

Sylvain Taillon, Partner and Executive Producer, TOPIX | Mad Dog
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

TOPIX | Mad Dog did "Chicken" for Pepsi. Courtesy TOPIX | Mad Dog. TOPIX | Mad Dog's spot for Crayola Colour Wipe-offs. Courtesy TOPIX | Mad Dog.

The introduction of new digital technology (flame, inferno, henry, etc.), special effects and computer generated imagery has changed the advertising field on two levels.

For one thing, the new technologies are providing an unprecedented amount of control over the material that finally makes it to air: we are, after all, more often than not in the business of creating an ideal vision of the world. We can make reality better than the best incarnation of the real thing. We can make it glitter, erase its flaws, steal the perfect cloud formation from Take 1 and paste it in the back of Take 62, the one with the perfect delivery.

And that is just for starters: while we now have so much control over the images we create, our technologies and talents have freed up the minds of the creative types. If they can imagine it, we can, most probably, do it. Which is great in most cases, but we can also give birth to monsters, ideas that would have been better left alone in a now-gone world of impossibility. As George Mallory said in 1924, when asked why anyone would attempt to climb Everest: "Because it is there." The same goes for some special effects extravaganzas: why in the world did we do it? Because we can.

Adidas' "Performance." Courtesy of The Attik.
James Sommerville, Group Creative Director, The Attik
New York, New York, USA

In almost every decade I can remember, creative styles and approaches in advertising seem to change and follow certain trends. Sometimes for the best and sometimes for the worst. In this last decade, we have experienced the digital revolution, and for me it is no different than any other trend. Technology allows creative teams to enhance the aesthetic look and feel of a commercial in post-production, taking it well beyond the spots of yesteryear with new effects and filters that set this futuristic look and feel whilst, at the same time, it has sometimes ruined a perfectly beautiful piece of footage with crap graphics and cheesy animation. Watch TV tonight and you will see what I mean.

The thing to remember is that technology is no good on its own. Without good people in control of it, today's technology, however 'high-end' will not create the spot. Another worrying factor to me is post houses which suddenly claim to have a design team...blah...blah! For me, the combination of a strong creative team, director and an amazing post-production operator is the perfect mix. As soon as people take short cuts, either for budgetary or time reasons, that's when it will all fall apart.

David Starr, Executive Producer/Head of Sales, Curious Pictures
New York, New York and San Francisco, California, USA

New technology has become an imagination enabler for the technologically challenged in the ad industry. No longer does one have to draw to be an art director. No longer does one have to know the first thing about special effects to be a director of special effects projects. Before digital opticals there were few live-action directors willing to venture into the world of special effects. Everything was accomplished in camera. Digital manipulation has made the realization of impossible images a more relaxed process.

New technology has also helped to make things happen faster. Ad campaigns can be conceptualized with great sophistication and broadcast with very little lead time allowing more last second strategy making. We produced an animation project for AT&T in one day and a slightly more complex animated campaign for British Airways in ten days.

Projects can now be finished in such a short period of time compared to the days of film opticals. Film opticals were an inexact science. It led to an era in which stunning production overages were common because it would take so much more to accomplish a change in the waning stages of a project. The digital big machines have made the production side so much more agile, enabling significant changes at the eleventh hour and more precise budgeting when planning projects.

CD Now's "Road Trip" by Steve Oakes. Courtesy of Curious Pictures. "Cheese Surfing" for Kraft, by Steve Oakes. Courtesy of Curious Pictures.

Heather Kenyon is editor in chief of Animation World Magazine.

Note: Readers may contact any Animation World Magazine contributor by sending an e-mail to

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