Jan 28, 2009

Can we have interactivity without spontaneity?

This video clip of Clay Shirky speaking about how to humanise brands got quite a bit of play on the blog circuit a while ago. Clay's point that advertising is too focussed on seeming perfect - and therefore is less inviting to interaction and participation - seems to be spot on.

But I believe that there's something else that Clay may have overlooked.

A pre-occupation with 'perfection' also implies a sustained inward focus and an inclination towards being self-absorbed. And that in my opinion is what primarily hinders interactivity between brands and its consumers - even above the 'touch-me-not' finish of most advertising.

One can't have a conversation with someone who's constantly preoccupied with what to say next or how to say it best. A quest to overwork and craft every word we are going to say only puts us more and more out of sync with the conversation around us - eventually leading our fellow-conversers to abandon the dialogue and move on.

So the need for brands is not to abandon perfectionism and deliberately introduce an unfinished messiness to their advertising, but to be spontaneous and join in the cut and thrust of the conversation as it unfolds. Not, as is the practice now, to withdraw to formulate a repartee and return to the conversation at a time (and place) of their choosing, but instead to go with the flow.

True, as a direct result of this spontaneity, a brand risks making its advertising seem less perfect and messy - but the distinction I'm drawing here is that the latter follows the former, and not the other way around.

If a brand's involvement in the conversation were to be spontaneous and yet well-crafted and perfect, I don't think it would hinder the interactivity or the flow.

On the other hand, withdrawing from a conversation to ponder over a suitable reply almost always kills it.
About the author:
Iqbal Mohammed is Head of Innovation & Strategy at a digital innovation agency serving the DACH and wider European markets. He is the winner of the WPP Atticus Award for Best Original Published Writing in Marketing & Communication.
You can reach him via email or Twitter.


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