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Get a Grip On Mobile

Scott Seaborn, Executive Creative Director at mobile marketing agency XS2, on the importance of truly grasping the mobile format, designing mobile first and advancements in mobile marketing. This is a response to Amy Vale's article 'Mobile Just Got Real'.

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I have to say I agree with everything Amy says in 'Mobile Just Got Real' 

The thing about creating a new breed of ‘creative’ to make the most of this ‘mobile’ opportunity is that one must first truly grasp the format of ‘mobile.’ By ‘one’ I mean a whole heap of creative directors who really, genuinely, understand it and are capable of bringing junior teams forward through the mobile practice. Herein lies the challenge for the industry…

The practice of mobile (as far as I am concerned) has three main territories of thinking.

  • Human understanding (this is nothing new)
  • Technologies and innovations (also nothing new)
  • The Format (brand spanking new)

It is pretty easy to see how working with human insights and new innovations can be interesting. But, understanding the format and using it interestingly is where the great work comes from.

"We need to get a grip of the tools of the trade. User specific ‘unique elements’ are where some of the best ideas come from."

Scott Seaborn

I think that the format of any medium is defined by the unique elements of it. So with TV you have a speaker and a screen. These are not unique elements however because a newspaper has a 'screen', as does a picture frame etc. and a radio has a speaker. The thing about the format of TV is that these two elements were brought together in one media object – that is the unique thing. So it is no good taking a press ad and a radio ad and re-purposing them for TV.

The same goes with any medium, we can compare the elements in oil to watercolor, canvas to wood etc.

The big thing with ‘mobile’ is that there are more new elements to consider, and they can be brought together in combinations that generate even more unique facets of the format. Sound confusing?

First off, ‘mobile’ is a now a wide term for all wireless devices and connected devices that can be handheld and used while on the move.

Secondly the unique elements of mobile as a medium are numerous. Wider things like QR codes or computer vision come in to play.

Thirdly, we need to get a grip of the tools of the trade, techies call these ‘sensors’ – things like camera, microphone, GPS chip, touch screen, RFID chip, even a barometer in one handset.  These user specific ‘unique elements’ are where some of the best ideas come from.

"The fact is, great creativity usually happens when there are tight boundaries."

Scott Seaborn

You would be mistaken to think that the more unique elements the better (more colors and textures to the pallet if you will). It should make things easier from a creative perspective? But the fact is, great creativity usually happens when there are tight boundaries. Rules, laws and other stipulations that the creative process must adhere to.  These are the things that help create great work. This can be seen in music for example: artists must work within the lines, literally. Some of the worlds’ best art and innovation have come from situations of constraint.

So, most of the decent ideas that we have had for mobile have always begun with some human understanding and some tech inspiration – but then we drop everything and think about which parts of the format we want to play with. ‘Does this brief lend itself to the camera?’ or ‘How will the microphone bring this work to life?’ If you can answer these questions, and use at least more than one unique element in the work, then you are making real mobile work – not re-purposing stuff from other mediums.

It has taken us 10 years to work all this kind of stuff out. It might take another 10 actually do something interesting with it.

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