Sunday, March 13, 2011

March 11 - Digital?

As we start to tick off the months of 2011, I’d like to call for a moratorium on the term digital agency. More specifically, the often bandied around term “pure play” digital agency.

Surely, in an age where even television is broadcast digitally, the idea of digital as an area of speciality is rapidly becoming redundant?

Many of the campaigns I have worked on recently, none of which I would consider to be especially digital, would have been possible without digital.

Digital, and more specifically the internet, are neither channels nor media these days. They are, I believe, idea facilitators.

They enable an idea to be broadcast or narrowcast, shared one to one or one to many and also to engage and invite people to contribute to it.

Digital also helps brands collect data. And data, as any good direct marketer will tell you, should never be considered an expense but a bargain.

So if all the above (and so much more) is possible because of digital, why oh why are there still people out there talking about being digital?

It’s surely the 21st century equivalent of calling your agency a television specialist?

In a recent post on the Weiden & Kennedy London blog, Neil Christie coined the term Post Digital. A very interesting piece of terminology I think.

“Digital is not a channel,” wrote Christie, “it’s the context in which everything lives.” He backed up his statement with this;

“Declaring in an article in Wired way back in 1998 that the digital revolution was over Nicholas Negroponte, founder of MIT Media Lab, observed that, ‘Like air and drinking water, being digital will be noticed only by its absence, not its presence.’
Today we are breathing Negroponte’s post-digital air: pretty much all media are now digital. People can watch TV shows on their laptops, read newspapers on their phones, absorb video content from poster sites, read e-books on their Kindles and get the news from Twitter.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

What makes Neil Christie’s opinion even more pertinent is the fact that Weiden & Kennedy are widely recognised for their digital work.

Their much talked about Chalkbot campaign for Nike took out the Cyber Grand Prix at the most recent Cannes Lions. And their Old Spice Man campaign is already the stuff of digital legend.

“We've reached a tipping point,” says Christie, “where the tech and the audience have reached a level of maturity where digital is everyday and normal.

Now, what agencies and marketers need to understand is how people behave in relation to content, community, technology and media. This isn't easy because it's evolving rapidly and constantly.”

And because, as Neil Christie says, digital is still evolving, those who still cling to the term pure play digital seem to believe that they are the only people who are capable of navigating the hitherto uncharted waters of next generation digital.

In his blog post, Neil Christies argues that in the past, “Digital agencies had the technical knowledge, and the traditional agencies had the big, emotional ideas.”

Of course those from the pure play digital area would probably make that statement somewhat differently. They’d argue that traditional agencies were just that – traditional.

They’re not. Haven’t been for a while. In fact I wrote about this very topic in this column a couple of issues ago.

So if digital is dead and post digital is the future, what kind of agency do marketers need to help them in this constantly evolving new world?

Neli Christie has the answer.

“Not ‘digital’ agencies. Not ‘creative’ agencies. Not networks or boutiques or platform-agnostic transmedia nodes.

Just smart people who get it and who care about doing great work that makes a difference, regardless of medium.”

The only problem that marketers will have, is finding such an agency.


W&K London Blog

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