Sure it's fun to sit around Facebooking all day, but some aspects of digital media royally suck. We're hoping industry expert Christopher Lee Ball can teach us a thing or two about how to survive with his Kemet and D&AD workshop, 'A Day In The Life Of Your Digital Strategy', on April 6th.
How hard can it ever really be to work in digital media? Come on, these people get paid to play with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all day every day! While everyone else is running to the office to sit around and type things into an Excel sheet, rushing to a factory to watch others manage the machines, or even to Mogama3 El Tahrir to sit on a chair all day long, these guys just seem to brainstorm fun things, play with their phones and post pictures and nice words online. Reality check: people who work in the digital media field may very well be the most intellectually and creatively stressed workers in comparison to any other fields. Seriously, name one job that requires a person to come up with 10 awesome and creative ideas in less than 15 minutes. It's exhausting! Working in the digital media industry is overly romanticised and, honestly, given that we have the inside scoop on this whole digital media thing, there are some things about this field that absolutely suck.
Having to always be creative - over and over and over again.
There comes a point when you realise that you have run out of ways to say 'party', 'happy', or 'fun'. Finding original and cool synonyms or entire ideas every single time you write or do anything - from a Facebook caption to a full-fledged online campaign - becomes nearly impossible after a while. Can't we just go right ahead and say 'just like this page already' or 'pretend to be excited about this because I'm too exhausted'? The unfortunate answer is 'no'. We have to push through the annoying frustration of creatives' block (a made up word that is the creative equivalent to writers' block) to please you, our audience, and make you like things. Because God forbid that you would have to see two subsequent posts referring to something as 'awesome' and thus deem us boring. Challenge: come up with 10 synonyms for 'awesome' in less than a minute without using a thesaurus nor sounding like one. *buzzer sound* You are the weakest link - goodbye.
Your brief consisting of just the name of whatever thing you're working on.
Nothing is more difficult than having to produce work about something you know nothing about and have never heard of before. We're expected to produce a large quantity of elaborate and high quality content that we're rarely ever given a proper brief for. You might as well give us a toothpick and ask us to dig a hole to the core of the Earth in 10 minutes. Okay, maybe that's a little over the top, but not being given information and being asked to make something out of nothing is still freaking difficult and exhausting.
The illogical and insane things you do to gain appeal.
Think of one super fun thing that could be said about a real estate press conference. Give up? You probably did, because it's an insane 'WTF' type of request. The audience are fun-hungry vultures that only give views or likes to fun, engaging, and creative content - regardless of the topic - and rightfully so. People want to be immersed and engaged with the content, but sometimes the content is dry and we really have no idea what to do about it. We have to bend over backwards to find a way to make you care about a real estate press conference, and do it without being all boring and intellectual. Talk about thinking outside the box...
Forgetting reality from all the fiction you're forced to deal with.
Harsh reality: your food shots on Instagram will never rival that of the store from which you bought the food, no matter which filter you use. You know why? Because digital media agencies have an entire department that'll put together a full-on photo shoot for the same food you're photographing with your iPhone - that's also why their Instagram images look different than the food on your plate, too. Plus, we end up having to say things like “The yummylicious flavours that caress your taste buds with love and ignite the passion within your soul” when we're basically just talking about cake.
Having to deal with some of those out-of-touch-with-technology and/or stubborn clients who only understand old school advertising.
“No I cannot post your one minute commercial on Instagram; I can only post parts of it.”
“I paid so much money to make it and I am paying you so you must do it.”
“But Instagram can only take 15-second videos.”
“I don’t care, find a way.”
“I can add a YouTube link in the caption with the hashtag.”
“You are fired!! How dare you promote drugs (hash) in my company’s name?”
That's just your little preview into what it can be like dealing with clients; they really need to go through an Internet For Dummies crash course, sometimes.
Having to reply to every single comment on every platform.
If you are abducted by aliens and taken to a faraway galaxy googolplex lightyears away from Earth, haters will still find you and give you awful comments on no valid basis. It's like people treat the comment section of any social media platform as their own personal psychiatrist - dishing out all their pain and trauma in this irrelevant context. The most annoying part is that the account handlers still have to reply and be very decent and professional. No wonder most of them are on the verge of going insane, they have to deal with everyone's ridiculous comments all the time.
Having to be creative on the spot at any given moment.
Back in the day, people had weeks or months to come up with a creative idea for a promotion. They would think of that one cool thing for weeks and work on shooting it for a TV commercial or a billboard for months. Today, things are just so much faster. Working in digital media means you have to be ready to pull a rabbit out of a hat – or a horse out of your ass – at any given moment. The speed required and the speed actually applied is just insane. Come up with a six-month campaign in a day. Come up with six Instagram posts, one Facebook post, four tweets, and endless Snapchats - all within 30 minutes; if that is not pure kickass insanity, we don’t know what is. GO GO GO GO NOW NOW NOW NOW!
To conclude, when people first start in digital media they're all excited and full of fresh new ideas. They have all these cool captions and awful puns and strange quirks that they apply whenever they need to, regardless of the platform. What happens after a few months of having to do all of the above at a ridiculously rapid rate? We run out of ideas. We run out of creativity. We get rusty, despite being so immersed in the creative field that we so love, and we need a little reboot.
Perhaps we all need a little rejuvenation and a fresh perspective on this whole digital media thing – it isn't easy, but it can't be impossible... right? Christopher Lee Ball's workshop on April 6th with KEMET Art & Design and D&AD – A Day In The Life Of Your Digital Strategy – might be a good place to start. After all, man's been in the field for about 10 years and worked with names like BBC and AstraZeneca, so he probably has a few tips on how to survive the madness that is digital media, while keeping your creativity levels up and your sanity intact. We have our fingers crossed.