Client Services. A Call for Transparency.

Unless you’re a magician, palm reader, or priest, transparency is your friend.

If you are a client services company, or more specifically, advertising or interactive services company, it’s not ok to misrepresent to your client exactly who is performing the services. As more and more companies claim the ability to perform services outside of their actual skill set, the issue is proliferated.

An interactive journeyman of 15 years, weaving in and out of the advertising arena, I’ve seen a fine array of misrepresentation of services performed. Typically, the situation arises in the development phase of a project that is on a tight deadline. Unfortunately, in the more traditional agencies, every interactive project fits this description. Inevitably, the ad agency hires what they call a vendor ( what the vendor calls a partner ). The agency has sold the project in to their client under the false pretense that they’ll be performing all services under their roof. As a result, the vendor is silenced, unable to display their work in their portfolio, harming future business development. The agency not only profits from subcontracting the work at a lower rate, but also is given full credit, profiting even more from the exposure the project brings. Their client is none the wiser.

With the recent fracturing of ad agencies, and the rise of the “integrated” agency, this is thankfully happening less in some instances. And sadly, more in others. Those companies that are more forward thinking realize that it’s ok to be transparent with their client. Some even realize it’s actually better. They’re realizing it’s not only noble to be honest with themselves about their skills, or lack of skills, but also a benefit to show clients they are smart and nimble enough to find a skilled Vendor Partner to get the job done right, on time, and within budget. Clients like this. Vendors Partners like this. Agencies should too.

At theGOOD, we’ve been on both sides of the nickel. We’ve formed great partnerships with agencies that are completely transparent with their clients. They bring us in for pitches right on through design and development. The client is fully aware of who we are, what services we’ll be performing, and how we can help. The result is a better end product. Unfortunately, we’ve also played the roll of Blackwater. A contracted vendor performing double secret services in some shadowy development bunker. These projects are typically one offs, without a future relationship forming. And that’s fine. Not really. It’s disingenuous at best.

If we are the agency that is direct to client, and partner with another agency to help us out on a project, we are always transparent. We don’t do commercials. Nor do we do traditional branding. We couldn’t live with the lie that we do, and it seems silly to pretend.

So, let’s end the charade, guys. Be honest with your clients. Be honest with yourselves. Business will still come to you. Perhaps even more so.


Mooning Mt. St. Helens


This photograph of mine was recently selected for an Ann Sacks national print ad. Besides getting some national photography exposure, my wife, a very talented photographer in her own right, is also the model. Even better, her (very fine) rump is featured prominently.

When I was informed that Ann Sacks had chosen the photo comp as one of three finalists I surmised they had done so just so they could feel edgy. I didn’t give it much chance being the victor. I was glad to been proven wrong, and was pleasantly surprised by their large cojones.

Ann Sacks: top shelf tile. My wife: top shelf arse! An advertising duo to be reckoned with!

Interactive Reactive Experiential Enviro

A year or two ago when I started experimenting with creating applications that provide interactivity outside of a browser, in the environment, I thought it would take years before environmental experiences went to market. I thought there would be no demand by agencies for several years, no clients forward thinking enough to request interactive installations and certainly no companies focusing in on delivering these experiences. I was mistaken.

I’ve been surprised by the amount of buzz generated around interactive installations in the advertising industry. I’ve had thousands of visits to my blog from agencies, developers and the like with keywords such as Flash and Installations, Flash and Motion Detection and Interactive Installation. I guess I shouldn’t be shocked that an industry that is always hot for the latest ‘thing’ would push the medium forward. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see several companies honing in on the niche that has presented itself in Interactive Installation. The fact these companies are specializing in it is a testament to the rising demand. There have also been several agencies that are developing their own internal lab to function as R&D into these areas. I commend these agencies for their forward thinking. Unfortunately, most of these agencies still haven’t figured out how to do traditional interactive profitably and or properly. That’s right, I said it. “Traditional Interactive”. Perhaps in these agencies this new medium will be able to skip over the old agency model of traditional “creatives” holding on to the last bastion of control over an interactive project, but I doubt it. Just as in traditional interactive I see Barbarianesque shops excelling in the Installation arena. We all see clients sidestepping traditional agencies in favor of new media agencies in both project work and AOR. I see no reason that trend would not continue in Reactive Media. After all the best interactive work results when the people designing the piece are also building the piece, concepting the piece, doing analytics on the piece and owning the piece.

All that said, I’ve just finished and launched the Interactive Installation located at 6th and Alder in Portland, Or. This is the second public installation I’ve done. I was shocked to see the amount of attention it has received, and is again a testament to how powerful this medium can be. Yes it helped that the client was/is downtown Portland. It got me on the news several times. But still… the excitement is there over the technology and the potential uses of moving experiences into the environment we all live in. I look forward to doing more.

If you’ll notice I’ve called this ‘thing’ several ‘things’ already. I’ve heard many terms bandied about. Some of these terms include Interactive Installation, Environmental Interactive, Reactive Installation, Interactive Projection, Enviro Interactive and Experiential Installation. To me none of these fully encompass what the medium and industry will be creating in the coming years. While most of my experiments have involved motion detection, there are many other avenues in this ‘thing’ to pursue. Auditory data aggregation, touch screen, sensors, robotics, industrial design melding with technology and interactive design just to name a few. I like the term Enviro Interactive. I think it gets close to encompassing the vast array of potential applications without confusing people with the word spelled out in full, ‘environmental’. On more than one occasion I’ve explained what I’m doing as Environmental Interactive only to get some vague response how nice it is that I’m being green.

So, what would you call it? Are you currently working in the medium? If so, in what capacity?

ps. In the news clip above notice that they captioned me as the ‘cyber snow artist’. From this point forward please address me as such. Anything less would be an insult of epic proportions.

Look ma’s, we’re on the news!
Look ma’s, we’re on the news! from chris teso on Vimeo.
We’re on the news! Wait, I abhor the news and their ratings motivated scare tactics.

Well, anyway, Lis and I were on Portland news Channel 8 last night. Lisa is making her acting debut in some of the commercials for the city of Portland this year, and I was interviewed for an interactive installation I’m developing and installing @ 6th and Alder.

The piece is about North’s work for client The Downtown Marketing Initiative and highlights this years campaign to drag the economically scared shitless consumer out of the suburbs and into the unique beauty that only downtown Portland can offer. I’d say we’ve done a bang up job of it.