There’s something very pure and timeless about print. Digital gets old too quickly.
Dominic Goldman, the man behind this issue’s selection of digital work, is a creative director and partner at BBH London. He produces work in all mediums, from TV to interactive, and is currently developing campaigns for brands such as Axe,
Weetabix, ASOS, and Dulux. Dominic spent seven years in Singapore as a digital designer at Media Arts before moving on to become Digital Creative Director at
OgilvyOne. After three years in San Francisco as Digital CD at Goodby Silverstein, and later at Hal Riney, he moved back to his hometown of London to join BBH as Creative Director in 2007.
Michael Weinzettl chatted to the multitalented creative – much of whose work has featured in this magazine down through the years – about his career and experience in the industry.
L.A.: Hi Dominic, you’ve worked on three continents as a creative director – in the US, Asia, and now Europe. Are there differences in the way creative advertising is produced and how digital is perceived?
Dominic Goldman: During my time in Asia, digital was something new in advertising. The budgets tended to be much smaller in this market, which forced the creative thinking to work hard with limited resources. They embraced it quickly and, with the strength and proactive nature of the culture there, interesting things tended to happen. During my time in the US, people were merging storytelling with digital experiences thanks to the luxury of huge budgets and entire production companies, which were unheard of in Asia at the time. I’ve been back in London nearly seven years, and digital has gone through so many changes in that time. Social and mobile exploded and it’s not enough for a client to simply have a token social outlet. It’s fundamental to their brand’s success with consumers now, so baking in ideas with social at their heart is often the desired outcome. However technology and our use of it might evolve, it’s still about creating a compelling idea that is interesting and relevant to people. That’s what wins in the end.
L.A.: How did you get into advertising in the first place? What attracted you to the ad business?
Dominic Goldman: I’ve always been interested in anything creative, really, from the simple pencil drawing to making a short film. As long as I’m creating and learning, then I feel excited and temporarily fulfilled. I always wanted to get into advertising when I was young, as I grew up on ads such as Levi’s Launderette, which made the industry seem so cool and alluring. When I graduated I discovered that, to get into an agency, one had to work for free for six months, which only seemed possible to those from privileged backgrounds. My friends at the time suggested I learn Flash, which I did, and before long I was working as a web designer for the next four years. My desire to get into advertising and have ideas, rather than just make things look good or just getting excited over new tech, led me to Ogilvy in Singapore. I worked with some great thinkers who collaborated with me, and for the first time I experienced ideas in the digital space. Bizarre to some, perhaps, but creating banners was so much fun to me. They were like little interactive print ads that required an idea before someone would bother to engage. After seven years in Asia, I then went on to work for three years in San Francisco, adapting to a different culture and trying to learn from some incredible storytellers. I became very interested in the medium of film, and how I could use that in a more interactive, non-linear way, excited me – which, in the end, took me full circle back to London and BBH. Ironically, my boss – Sir John Hegarty – wrote the Levi’s Launderette ad, so it certainly feels like a strange, inevitable destiny that I would find myself here. Since I arrived, I feel I’ve been predominately in film school. I’ve been surrounded by the masters of this craft. Nowadays, I enjoy having ideas which can be told in any medium relevant to the idea. It could have a mobile/social platform at the heart of the campaign, with film, outdoor, or online media driving to it.
L.A.: Is there a tendency nowadays for ad creatives to covet working in digital/
social media the way, ten to twenty years ago, they saw the 90-second commercial as the pinnacle of their career?
Dominic Goldman: I don’t see any – unless you try and use the wrong medium to express the idea. What I’ve also learnt with my time in the industry is that, by and large, most of our ideas in the course of the year will die. It’s the nature of the business. While I’m less precious about this than I used to be, if it happens too frequently then the creative circle on something doesn’t close. You have all these uncompleted circles, which leaves one feeling frustrated and depressed. It seems obvious, but I’ve realized that I’m most happy when making something I’m excited by. The medium is irrelevant. So indulging my passion for sneakers and art, or drawing a friend’s portrait, begins and ends and I can move on, feeling temporarily complete again.
L.A.: What, in your experience, has been advertising’s general attitude to digital? Do you think that the ad industry has now successfully adapted to the importance of digital and social media?
Dominic Goldman: The digital issue in advertising has definitely faded away for the most part. Traditional agencies realized years ago they need to solve a brand’s business problems in new media, and if they don’t adapt they may not survive. However, the challenge of merging the specialists and corralling a team at different phases of a project still needs refining. Clients, too, feel more comfortable evaluating and buying a TV spot than some seemingly complicated platform, where innovation is part of what makes it interesting, but also scary. Clients who embrace this, and take the step into the unknown, will do well.
L.A.: How has BBH managed to triumph over the dilemma many agencies face when trying to incorporate digital into their agency rather than turning outside for help?
Dominic Goldman: However BBH succeeds, it al-ways has the desire to look inwardly and try and find ways to do things better. Digital has been the highest priority, and the transformation into an agency of the future is still in progress.
L.A.: What would you say was the work you’re most proud of and what were some of the challenges you had to face there?
Dominic Goldman: I don’t have one piece of work that I’m most proud of. I really enjoyed creating the ASOS interactive film, combining my new love of film with my background in digital. It was satisfying to create the Barnardo’s “Break the Cycle” banner, and a particular high was the MySpace Music site where people get to experience 50 Cent and Alicia Keys marveling over the picture. I’ve recently written and directed an ad for the first time. That experience was like going back to art school. I really enjoyed it.
L.A.: As we’re primarily a print publication, we would, of course, like to hear your take on the future of print?
Dominic Goldman: I love print. It’s the simplest yet, at times, the hardest to create. I’ve always enjoyed this publication for inspiration. There’s something very pure and timeless about print. Digital gets old too quickly.
L.A.: Also, do you think there will ever be a way to make money with content off the web when there is free stuff all over it?
Dominic Goldman: This has been the challenge for brands such as Facebook on mobile and any social platform where many people congregate. YouTube manage to do it successfully and I don’t see why people can’t make money without disturbing the consumer experience.
L.A.: You’ve won lots of ad awards for your work and have also judged at a lot of award shows. How important are these kind of awards to you and for the industry?
Dominic Goldman: They used to be way more important to me as a younger creative and I certainly see their benefit. For me nowadays, they’re a nice byproduct. It’s always good to be recognized, but that shouldn’t be the goal. It’s transitory, and only the satisfaction of creation can truly fill the void, albeit briefly.
L.A.: And what do you think about presenting Interactive work to ad juries?
Those five-minute films which, of course, all claim that the response to the campaign presented was “overwhelming,” “went through the roof,” etc. Are they the best way of putting digital works forward to an ad jury?
Dominic Goldman: This topic has been contentious since all agencies realized the only way to boil down a seemingly complex story into something simple, clear and exciting, was to create the three-minute award film. When you judge,
it’s very repetitive to hear the same claims, or have the same tone as hundreds of others. Unfortunately, I don’t see a way round it for now. Stories need to be explained. The target is the judge. And, just like our ads, how do we stand out from all the other entries? It’s an ad for an ad.
L.A.: What were some of the criteria for your selection of digital work for this issue?
Dominic Goldman: There are times of the year when I feel exposed to either more or less of what’s out there. Usually, after judging a show, you get a real sense of the global output, and you don’t have to rely on something winning to have seen it. Discovering new things in markets one isn’t generaly exposed to is very inspiring. This time of year is usually more barren in terms of my exposure. So I found it more difficult to discover a variety of fresh work that I wanted to share. The categories and the types of output keep increasing, so it’s nice to try and reflect this.