Five minutes with Simon Berg
Simon Berg, CEO and founder of Ceros, a technology company with a cloud-based platform that empowers brands, speaks to Transform magazine about the ins and outs of digitalisation in the creative world. He discusses the importance keeping up with a digital audience and the risks creatives face if they can’t execute in both traditional and new mediums.
What risks do creatives face if they can’t execute in both traditional and new mediums?
The most significant risk is getting sidelined. If you can’t execute top-notch, interactive content quickly and easily, who will your chief comms officer or your brand director look to? They’ll turn to the outside agency for an expensive deliverable, or they’ll turn to developers to take your design foundation and try to make it into something dynamic. And that’s all we need—more page-turner animations of otherwise static PDFs; or worse, another dozen review cycles with developers and agency liaisons.
I don’t think creatives lack a vision for digital experiences, but they often lack the tools that empower them to truly create. The value that creatives bring isn’t in their ability to learn code or manage developers; it’s in how they can conceive a new idea and make something that connects with an audience in a meaningful and extraordinary way. What grates on us (I still consider myself a creative) is anything that becomes an obstacle throughout that journey. So, if you can design for print or you can design for out-of-home, you can design for new mediums, too. Technology should be your enabler, not your barrier.
The next-biggest risk is simply your organization not delivering an experience that engages its most important audiences. If the creatives can’t deliver and resource constraints prevent other options, it’s likely the brand will have to go without, and the digital experience never improves. That’s a big risk for an organization to take, especially when it really doesn’t have to.
How can creatives navigate today’s high expectations for immersive online content?
Anything that a reader or website visitor can interact with—design elements, charts, quizzes, data visualizations—is immersive content, which is generally viewed by designers as better-performing, yet most designers report they’re currently producing more static content than interactive. Digital experiences will prove their value time and time again, so it may be less a question of high expectations and more a question of whether an immersive strategy is even on the table. Our research indicates that the top reasons for not having interactive content are lack of budget, lack of in-house skills, and lack of support from company leadership. While it’s tempting to be disappointed to see design undervalued in this way, I prefer to keep fighting for creatives, giving them the tools to make immersive content that sets their brand apart and watching them win the race for audience engagement and retention. Their competitors will have to catch on, eventually.
Is keeping up with a digital audience a must nowadays?
If I answer with anything besides an emphatic “YES,” I’m in the wrong business. Actually, I’d argue that “keeping up with” it is the bare minimum. Trying new things, pushing the boundaries, testing and iterating—those are the musts. This is especially true for companies that have adopted a digital-first or digital-only strategy. Even longstanding brands that sell physical goods are on board. If you’re painting a room, you use a website or an app to see what a given color will look like in your room with your lighting. Then you can change your mind 10 times. It’s a creative solution to an age-old homeowner’s dilemma. Now imagine trying to compete on that front with nothing more than paint chips at the hardware store.
The information you can glean from how users interact with these online experiences far surpasses anything you can get from other mediums. Audiences crave more from brands—they want to be a part of the experience, whether they could verbalize that or not. Creativity is the difference between delivering what the audience demands and turning them off.
What are digitalisation’s pros and cons for the creative industries?
It’s a medium in which the reader or user can actually participate. That’s part of what makes it so intriguing from a design standpoint. You’re not designing something to be consumed. Rather, you’re designing something to interact with. In contrast, with more traditional forms of creative, there’s a clear barrier between the work and the audience. It’s these qualities that make digital design so potent for engaging audiences from a commercial perspective—on par with environmental design, for example, except the audience can take a digital brand experience anywhere they go.
If there’s a downside, it’s the ephemeral nature of the medium. I don’t expect us to look back at websites in 50 years and marvel at the digital experiences we created. But that doesn’t make them any less powerful today. As creatives focus on engaging audiences in the interest of achieving specific goals, the somewhat temporary nature of digital simply means the experiences have to work that much harder until the next iteration.