Digital: The Force Awakens

Q&A with Jeff Long, Writing and Creative Direction


How did Fairly Painless manage to woo an executive creative director from Digital Kitchen?

First of all when you get a call from an agency with the self-awareness and sense of humor to name itself “Fairly Painless Advertising” you answer the phone. Secondly, when you find out the owner was a former North American head of Greenpeace and a native Kentuckian – your state of origin and a rarity in the global marketing community – you listen.

Add the facts that my wife fell in love with Southwest Michigan, that working in the 21st century means you don’t have to live in NYC or LA to do good work, and you end up in a town voted the second happiest place to live in America at an agency that can compete with anyone, anywhere.

I love that Fairly Painless works in both digital and traditional media and is staffed with the kind of media agnostic talent required to manage a brand’s story across multiple touchpoints. This is a reemerging advantage lost over the last decade in marketing’s rush to silo thinking and agencies because of technology – forgetting along the way that the cultural shifts created by the technology were (and are) what really matters for marketers.


How have the opportunities offered by digital advertising changed the way ideas are generated?

Technology is creating new touchpoints at such a fast rate that the ability to get up to speed quickly and develop visual/verbal languages that maximize their potential is paramount. You can’t speak Twitter on Vine or TV on Meerkat anymore than you could speak radio on TV. We had decades to fine tune message-making for traditional media but today we have months to develop strategically sound content for portals that instantly reach millions of consumers. Because of this, media and strategy have become a larger, more integrated part of the ideation process for creatives.


The ability to adapt to changing circumstances seems to be the theme here – so what’s the next thing that will change the way we do our jobs?

We are living in the pre-oculus, pre-internet-of-things, pre-streaming-kills-cable window of relative stability in marketing communications. This means we have about 5 years before we have to reinvent marketing all over again. Until then the growth of mobile, social as search, and the ever-escalating importance of video for telling brand stories will be what keeps us busy.


Why has video become so important?

Populating digital experiences with highly engaging, affordable and renewable video content is critical to every brand’s success. A couple of stats I like to glue together are: 82% of consumers research products/brands online before making a purchase, and 60% of web visitors prefer video content to the printed word. Storytelling is an overused buzzword but it exists because video is the most popular and natural storytelling medium available.

Filmmaking used to be the domain of bigger agencies with bigger clients and budgets, but consumers have made it a necessity for all brands and digital technology has made it affordable for most companies. Fairly Painless’s ability to concept, design, write, direct and produce quality content is an advantageous skill-set in today’s content-centric environment.


In what ways have you already made an impact on Fairly Painless?

That’s a hard question for me to answer but I know what experiences I bring to the table. I spent the last 12 years on the front lines of the digital/social media revolution as Head of Creative at an agency named Digital Kitchen. We were deeply engaged in the beginning stages of creating every imaginable form of content for every imaginable screen, platform, touchpoint and surface available for human consumption. Before that I was on the traditional side as a Senior Partner and GCD at Ogilvy where I worked on dozens of brands across a wide range of categories.

Fairly Painless is a right-sized agency to service today’s clients – small enough to adapt quickly to change and big enough to attract the talent required to provide highly-engaging solutions for local, national and international clients. I hope to be able to contribute to the agency’s work across a variety of mediums and help maintain its reputation as one of the most fairly painless places to work in America.