Digital Minds: 60 seconds with Lean Mean Fighting Machine’s Dave Bedwood

Digital Thought Leaders

dave%20bedwood.jpgWhat goes on in the mind of a Webby-winning Creative Director? Continuing our new series of interviews with people shaping the digital landscape, we talk to Dave Bedwood, co-founder of creative agency Lean Mean Fighting Machine. Here, Dave talks candidly about how technology can never replace creativity, changing processes in campaign development and being The Beatles of the digital world…

What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen online recently?
That's tough, the good thing and the problem with digital is there is so much stuff that it all gets a bit ephemeral, Spotify and Twitter are very uninteresting answers but they are the two things that I still use. In terms of advertising ideas - I'd have to go and look in at my de:licious site, which is not a good sign. Only thing I can remember lately is the BBC world history ad, which was an amazing TV ad I happened to watch online.

What most excites you about digital marketing?
The fact that it is like the wild west, it's all up for grabs, every brief could be something different. There is always some new canvas to work in or way to reach people. At the same time that is also what is irritating, technology often becomes the most important thing not ideas which opens the gateway for charlatans. As long as you know the latest acronym your suddenly good at advertising.

What was the ‘ah!’ moment for you – the moment where you suddenly realised the scale the web or digital marketing would play in your business…
We set up our agency with the 'ah!' moment.

What do you say to senior directors who just don’t get it, senior directors who treat digital channels as a minor add-on?
Do you mean senior directors agency side or client side? I'll go with agency side - Unlike most digital creatives, myself and Sam Ball (my creative partner) started out as a traditional creative team ( was no need to say traditional back then as digital didn't exist) which means we've worked both sides of the fence.

When you are a team in ATL you want to make TV ads, because it is an amazing medium the closest thing you get to film. It is also without doubt the most emotive medium available. People in ATL agencies (the good ones) are brilliant at strategy and big ideas, defining what a brand is. These are the things that digital agencies are not as good at, because they have never been in that position. Therefore the weight of the work is still top down.

There isn't a whole new world out there, people are still people and what drives them, persuades them is still the same things since time began. Digital merely shows us the truer picture now and allows us to have dialogue. BUT you still need people who know how to construct that dialogue in a way that will be advantageous to that brand.

Good senior directors get people and brands, good brands now need to embrace digital as that' s what people are consuming. The two things are one and the same and feed off each other. The reason why it's been an add-on is down to old habits and big agency structures and how they make money and how the senior director helps make that money.

Most big UK agencies are still very top down (i.e. they create a TV ad then drag that through all the other channels), this usually means telling the DM agency to follow the TV ad and put it in to a mailer and the digital agency to stick the TV ad in to banners or put it on YouTube. Obviously the other agencies don't take to kindly to this as they are good creative agencies in their own right. Hence we all end up with a load of shit work but at least it all looks like the same shit.

I think eventually this will erode and we will get a more 'centre out' approach (like you see in the states with CP+B) where an idea is at the heart of it and that gets pushed out into whatever channel is appropriate.

It can't happen overnight, but eventually action will catch up to all the lip service.

What’s the difference in thinking managers need when their firms enter this space?

I can only really speak in terms of creative teams, the thinking is the same, how do we get the people we are after to like us, spend money with us, stay with us?

What are the tools available, what's the best way to use them. I'd say the only real difference between digital and ATL is that with digital you are best to construct a slightly larger creative team. We use a traditional creative team, a technologist, a planner, designer and a producer. A real small crack team. Each has their own responsibilities but each can inform or add to the others.

Rather wanky, but we take the Beatles as our inspiration, there was four of them, George Martin and a sound engineer. They created the best content the world has ever heard. It doesn't need a team of 20 people, it needs smaller collaborative teams who respect each others skills.

Most common mistake people make in digital media or marketing?
To believe that new technology is a replacement for wit, charm and persuasiveness.

If you could go back in time to a key ‘digital moment’, where and when would it be?
To the meeting where they decided on the dimensions of a banner.

Where do you spend your time most online?
Twitter and posterous

Are digital channels a step-change in communications or simply a natural progression in marketing?
Both things.

How do you see social media changing marketing?
There will be more predictions, more conferences asking that question, more case studies proving it is changing marketing, it will have marketing professionals chasing it's tale for the next 10 years whilst the public will carry on playing, watching and sharing content that makes them laugh, excited, sad etc etc etc...

Social media is not complicated is it? It enables people to share and participate. The key is WHAT are you sharing, that's is the hard thing to create: something worth sharing.

How does consumer generated content sit with traditionally authored and published content, what’s the relationship?
All depends. It's right sometimes, sometimes it's not. It really is dependent on what you are trying to achieve and what the take out to the communication is. If it's appropriate then great, but like anything it is not the answer to all briefs. So often now briefs or work is becoming like an MOT checklist - facebook app - check, UGC - check, twitter feed - check, mashup - check etc etc. As long as everything is checked then we have a great campaign. Terrible.

Who should own digital strategies in an organisation: brand/marketing, agency, technology team, other?
Not sure what you mean, is the organisation you refer to the brand? If so then they own it but it's co created with the agency.

My Digital Journey

Dave Bedwood – Creative partner
Lean Mean Fighting Machine

Dave Bedwood has worked with his creative partner Sam Ball since 1995 where they met doing an Advertising degree at Buckinghamshire College in the UK. They were one of the first traditional teams to get a job in digital advertising. By 2001 they were Tribal DDB’s Creative Directors, after 4 more years they felt that the big agency had taught them enough to risk going it alone. They set up Lean Mean Fighting Machine with the belief that writing should always come before technology. In 2004 they were voted into Campaign’s Top Ten Creative Directors in London across all disciplines as well as Campaign’s Faces to Watch. Since starting Lean Mean Fighting Machine they have picked up numerous industry awards including D&AD, Clio, One Show, Cannes, Creative Circle, and the Webbies. In 2008 Dave made The Observers Future 500 list, Campaign’s A-List, went to Cannes and with an agency of 22 people became the first UK agency to win ‘Agency of the Year’.

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