I don’t get digital


Oh look its Billy Joel, throwing a stone inside a glass house

There I’ve actually gone and said it, I don’t get ‘digital’.

This week I was chatting to an eminent media chappy and realised that I don’t understand what ‘digital’ is and why people have businesses called ‘digital’ agencies.
Now, I realise I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer (CSE in maths and all that) so maybe I’m being dumb and you lot can help me out. However, even listening to Mark Cridge of Glue fame recently (on the occasion he nicked a chart of mine and didn’t attribute it) didn’t leave me any the wiser.
When they say ‘digital’ do they mean that they embrace digital means of communicating information? Funny but I am struggling to find some non-digital means of communication. Digital TV accounts for well over 60% of UK households, online communication is exclusively digital and cinemas increasingly use digital projection. I guess you could suggest the printed word is non-digital, however the means by which the printed word appears (with the small exception of craft typesetters working with moveable type) is dependent on digital and advertising is supplied in digital form. Radio is still largely analogue so maybe this means that digital agencies reject radio as a medium. Fair enough but rather shortsighted – wonderful medium radio you know.
Maybe its not that at all, maybe they mean it as a sensibility. That ‘digital’ is is synonymous with the sensibilities of post ‘2.0’ consumers that value the kind of brand communication that online inteactivity has generated in the recent past. Maybe they mean digital as more of a philosophy than a description of the way information is coded in 1s and 0s. That would be kinda cool but then how come so many are still grubbing around in the world of interuptive banners and pop-ups with scant regard to the cluetrained populous that are viewing their work.
Maybe they mean ‘digital’ as a term for production capabilities. They like doing things that appear in the online arena and require loads of code beacuse they have basements full of people that can do this – the way to HTML is paved with blog intentions my dears. Not sure I’d build a business on this basis given the way the requirement for geek expertise is being progressively rolled back as the web becomes user friendly. Sure there will always need to be digital production houses with very clever people and lots of big kit – online equivalents of The Mill if you like. But they won’t be front line communications advisers to clients, they will be crafts people not consultants.
And then I just run out of ideas about what these people mean by ‘digital’. Perhaps its a rather sexier word for ‘new media’, you know websites and shit. But there is a good reason why we dropped this phrase (though New Media Age still battles on with it) since it is cataclysmically wrong to regard everything that happens in the online arena as ‘media’. Read my lips, Second Life is not a ‘channel’. More than that media is evolving at such a pace that today’s new media is tomorrows been there done that media – Email anyone?
No I’m sorry I can’t see why you would elect to define a communications business in such limited terms as ‘digital’.
Time they faced the fact that it was a hoot coding in HTML but today’s brand advisers need to be far more media agnostic and far less obsessed with narrow production capabilities.
All I am interested in is brand engagement and creative persuasion and I don’t give a damn whether its this is analogue, digital or live.
As Billy Joel memorably pointed out “Everybody’s talking about the new sound. Funny, but its still rock and roll to me”.

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50 Replies to “I don’t get digital”

  1. Hmm…where do I start.
    First of all of course if I mis-attributed a slide then I of course apologise, however as you failed to mention which one I can’t be sure (let me know which one and I’ll mark it up accordingly).
    I did do a presentation recently where I used numerous slides created by a colleague of mine at Isobar Lynette Webb, who if memory serves me right has been saying very similar things to you for a little while. (I do attribute Lynette’s slides when I use them, phew.)
    On the whole I agree with your general sentiment about the whole ‘why have a digital agency’ thing. At glue, my agency, we have called ourselves an advertising agency since we set up in 1999, albeit one who specialised in creating work on digital channels.
    This distinction has always seemed fine to me as what we specialise in is using interactivity to engage consumers in our advertising. As each medium becomes increasingly digital at the point of consumption it means we find it relatively easy to apply these ‘interactive’ skills on each media as they become digital.
    This to me gets to the heart of the matter, as it is the traditional agencies who will have to change in many more ways to adapt to the continuing wave of digitalisation. So in the end it doesn’t really matter where you start from we’re all going to meet in an increasingly muddled, but very exciting middle.

  2. Jeepers how scary is that. some Idle musings on a Saturday afternoon and the odd name check and Mark himself comments.
    Let us not concern ourselves with the slide issue – I think it was Lynette who added a spot on visual to one chart in a presentation I did. Ideas get passed around and made better – I guess thats the ‘always in beta’ thing Russell Davies talks about.
    I guess I had Glue in mind when I was thinking about this. There are a handful of people distributed throughout the marcoms landscape that ‘get it’. Some are in ad agencies, some in media companies, some are in direct marketing agencies and some are in digital agencies. The challenge is for someone to make the breakthrough from one of those places of origin and create a holistic creative persuasion agency. My guess is that Glue are closest in the digital world.
    However, at present no one company in the UK is trusted to deliver advertising across traditional and emergent media…by bluechip clients.
    Work to do all round.

  3. To me, saying “Digital” is a bit like referring to traditional media as “TV” or combining magazines, 6 sheets, newspapers, leaflets and mail shots as “Print”.

  4. The best and first definition of digital I heard was ‘everything happening at once’ as opposed to analogue where signals travel in sequence.
    Does the digital agency deliver everything? Course not. We are in Mark’s muddled middle ground already. Just about every campaign we do (across the industry, not just at St Luke’s) now works on and offline. Good creatives and planners want to be online, its exciting, its a new world where the opportunity to create something original is greater. Our cients want to be there because it is a more cost-effective use of budgets, messages can be optimised and results can be seen immediately.
    I’m not sure who is going to have to change most though. Everything does not begin and end with online. Campaigns which are only online lack stature and impact. When everyone is doing digital and, as Richard said, production is a separate discipline, digital agencies will have to get their heads around the whole offline world where credibility is hard to achieve. That’s quite a change.

  5. Interesting question, and one that I’ll consider more deeply. In the meantime, here’s a snap answer:
    Most ‘digital’ agencies spend a great deal of time considering what to call themselves. Are we ‘new media’, ‘online’, ‘digital’, ‘internet’, ‘web’, or ‘technical marketers’? What we offer (of course) differs quite a lot from traditional ad agencies – we have different skills, and our audiences are more and less than passive consumers of our art.
    I agree that ‘digital’ doesn’t describe what we do, any more than ‘advertising’ describes what trad agencies want to do. I think a lot of our peers would say the same.
    We choose to describe our businesses based on what our clients want from us. We’re digital because THEY want a “digital” agency.

  6. It’s legacy stuff. When web 1.0 started kicking off, agencies got a little caught out, read some “wired” magazines and decided they needed to do it too. “It” was I.T. with code and things (this was back in the day when the sign of a good site was that the code was good). Because it was code it was digital and agencies needed to have a digital division. Then the digital divisions splintered off and became digital agencies.
    All silly in a way and in the light of Web 2.0 not really very helpful. Agencies do stuff problem is agencies have never been very good at explaining what that stuff is.

  7. Getting jiggy with the digi??
    When I do my spiel about digital in the context of teaching people about making multimedia ie photos, audio and video I summarise digital as being precise, editable, portable, and perfect in a sense that analogue media can’t be. But also democratic (undermining professionals/intermediaries) and generative (continually mutating standards). All of this is addressed to the raw material of digital media so perhaps Richard you’ll say that all I’m describing is a new delivery channel.
    My argument is that these factors taken together make digital media much more than a means of delivering messages because it destabilises the way in which companies and their agency suppliers operate. You could call this interactivity but it is more than that. Who needs to talk to the brand manager even if they were willing to talk back? The ability for customers to make their own testimonial material, to mash existing ads or to band together with others to form your own lobby group – all of this was possible in the analogue age but digital technology puts it in everybody’s hands. Significant proportions of the population are becoming creators, editors and producers. Every time a digital agency boasts that they can distribute TV commercials online (and this still happens far too often) I groan because it misses the point. There’s an open question mark over the business model of digital gencies anyway because origination and distribution is so relatively cheap that you can’t earn an honest living short of turning into a consultancy and charging labour and thinking by the hour. No money in production then. The emerging model of a digital agency will stimulate and harness all the creativity out there and amplify it. Think part baked loaves that you can finish in your oven at home and feel you baked it yourself. I don’t think we have the business model or the technique yet to make the most of it. But soon somebody will.
    Agencies (including a lot of ‘digital’ ones are having to readjust because they only get paid for making new stuff. There is already too much stuff out there. Agency originated material isn’t so much better that it gets more attention. Despite the production values. Soo we should only get paid every time we persuade someone. Anybody want to mortage their house against that one?

  8. IMHO, there’s not much to ‘get’ if you are looking at what digital agencies do. The interesting stuff is what people are doing with digital. For instance, what do brands do in a world where customers have their own media to play with?

  9. it’s an obsession with labelling as means of delivering meaning. ‘Digital’ is a small package which sounds relevant, nifty and modern(?!)
    When I think of ‘digital’, I think of Casio. They own that word in my mind. In fact, the next client that asks for a digital campaign will get 100,000 branded Casio watches which they can send out to their customers.
    There is no difference between this and ‘advertising’ being used to summarise a communications requirement – bollocks.
    We do it to appease clients, because we don’t want to admit a) we don’t control it and b) it moves faster than us.
    I see no difference, at all, between any established or emerging communication channel and so far, refuse to use terms like ‘digital’, ‘advertising’. we are simply communicating a message through the most relevant channel. End of.

  10. When clients say digital they generally mean websites plus other stuff (banners, viral clips, community forums) that appear on websites. (Mobile and digi TV coming a very distant second) Some websites are shops or services, some are media. Although… the ‘all at once’ definition is interesting. I’ve been looking on a project at how internet retailing/services often combine lots of things that used to be spread out in a chain and also involve the user as producer. ebay, wikipedia, amazon etc.
    Marketing week published a survey of clients in July which said that while media and direct marketing agencies ‘get’ digital, ad agencies, brand consultants and PR firms dont. “Just 4% of 85 client companies surveyed felt their incumbant ad agencies are keeping up with developments in digital media while 65% say they are not delivering what is expected of them” Moreover; “70% said digital activities are important 95% think it is more important than 2 years ago”
    The shame is that many planners (especially blogging ones) probably do get digital. The double shame is that most digital agencies dont get planning; according to a big client contact of mine who recently cast around for a digital agency, only one turned up with a planner and/or bothered to think about the strategy before jumping straight into ‘what can now be done with flash 27’.
    Anyway Russell is the man who pays for his occasional photocopying and meeting rooms at W&K by updating them on this stuff. He must get it. When is he back from holiday….?

  11. Richard,
    I have always aspired to work for an holistic agency. When I was younger, i was led to belive this was full-service. Slightly older, integrated. Recently, it was dare I say it “brand.design.digital”. Now I realise they are all the same and no-one has yet to grab the idea of holistic agency…Ironically, most will agree that this is the way forward.
    Have we lost the bottle?

  12. So maybe part of the problem is that by ‘digital’ we really mean all of an organisation’s activities online – advertising, e-commerce, brand engagement, investor relations, recruitment, intranets, the shop in second life, the sales director’s blog and the like.
    Now I love all of this stuff BUT I don’t want to do all that stuff. Advertising as the art of creative persuasion seeks only to use some facets of the online arena for its purposes, just as it only uses some of the capabilites of other channels.
    Advertising is a discipline, digital is a medium – it is inappropriate to compare the two.

  13. The biggest problem is the fact that ‘digital’ has been taken over by old school advertising agencies and people who have been schooled in that particular way of viewing consumers and brands . Online and ‘digital’ as advertising channels came out of a technological environment that was very narrow in its consumer reach initially, but as more and more people ‘got into it’ suddenly the advertising agencies and corporate boys sniffed some new cash potential, which is their job. The early true interactive agencies , many of whom crashed and burned and whose people then rose from the liquidated ashes as the basis of some of our well known players these days, jumped on this bandwagon and have rightly made good money from it, but have now reached , from what I can see , an impasse as online advertising has saturated itself far quicker than TV and offline as a medium. The fresh thinkers and evangelists of a genuinely exciting consumerscape have also become predictably corporate as part of their commercial ‘growing up’ and as the money men hand them cash to expand and sell their agencies, the fresh thought and unique creative and also technological possibilities are becoming secondary to the pressures of corporation-style ‘efficiency’ and hard-nosed cut-throat politics which has all clearly come from the advertising industry. The very ethos of this article explains why the advertising agencies don’t exploit ‘digital’ properly because essentially none of them really GET IT. The future is in new thought processes for an ever-changing communications landscape that actually DEMANDS new approaches and 80’s marketing suits aren’t going to cut it in the long haul. They’ll make their money and retire to the country and that’s fine. The dropouts from the dot.com crash who managed to smalltalk their way into leading agencies will also have a limited life span. The future is the people who actually ‘got’ this unique space in the first place (people like Mathias Hellquist , my right hand man when I was at Dare and now Technical Director of Profero – a true visionary in my books) and who continue to constantly evolve themselves and ‘get it’, who are learning how to think strategically and commercially now but without constricting the possibilities of how to truly engage the audience. And it’s much more than advertising you know…cut the cynicism and open your mind and you’ll see the new consumer and how to reach them.

  14. why is advertising a discipline and digital a medium? I see no difference.
    Both require application of consumer based persuasion techniques across ‘space’ that is the most relevant.
    Perhaps this continuous discrimination and obsession with advertising is the reason we have an insane paradox.
    The discipline is communications and the medium is ‘advertising’, ‘digital’ (I’m grouping here based on perceptions of what they mean).
    Surely all communications is based on creative persuasion?
    BTW, in some of my clients eyes, ‘digital’ also includes flash presentations, CD-Roms, DVDs, stuff which as nothing to do with the the internet.

  15. Surely ‘digital’ is a medium within the broader scope of advertising and marketing.
    To me it seems that (quite often, but not always) when agencies talk about “digital”, it simply means that they are not a leading innovative agency; simply one playing catch up. One that has seen a trend for online media or interactive media and decides to get on the bandwagon.
    Why do some agencies need a completely seperate “digital” company? Why is this not all part of the same creative strategy? Even if different people produce for different media, surely they can work as different parts of a whole?
    Square pegs in round holes.

  16. We presented a campaign last week – ads leading to website where content is co-created, content becomes viral ads and podcasts, an event is created to display content in the real world, leading to PR, in-store materials and numerous street media ideas. The campaign is held together by one of those Big Ideas that everyone is always going on about.
    Getting to the campaign involved rejecting lots of ideas that worked across lots of media but didn’t really answer the business problem.
    Getting there also involved rejecting a smaller number of ideas which worked across all media, answered the business problem but didn’t do much for the brand.
    We also rejected a few that did all the above and took the brand somewhere but just weren’t meaningful enough.
    Getting to the idea that did everything came from 3 people in a room – client, creative, planner – all capable of understanding the business, the brand, the audience and what is meaningful in culture right now.
    That’s the important bit, everything else is just execution and there is always a way to execute.
    I’m not sure about this whole digital – non-digital distinction. The old school new school doesn’t make that much sense either – wasn’t it Ogilvy who just did Dove? But maybe there are two types of agencies: those who think it’s all about problem solving and those who think execution is getting it.
    The message must come before the medium or you ‘aint doing it properly.

  17. Advertising is a discipline that aims to persuade people about the merits of a particular product, brand, service, organisation or behaviour. It is not defined by any media – traditional or emergent. The tools it uses mutate as the consumer and communications landscape changes. CDP would have been considered a new media agency in the 60s as they pioneered such revolutionary media as colour press and television.
    And this conversation has made me think that digital is an inappropriately crude catch-all for all an organisation’s online activities – plus production capabilities that depend on similar skills.
    I am wrong for lumping together all those advertising agencies that specialise in emergent channels a ‘digital’. Perhaps they are at fault for all too readily accepting this label that ill suits them.
    Beyond that I also can help the feeling that some so called digital practitioners just don’t like advertising at a deeper cultural level. For them it is a world of corporate neanderthals hell bent on defending something or other indefensible.
    Not really my experience I’m afraid.

  18. Dove evolution – O&M – no TV spend – 1.7m viewings on youtube – 3X the spike in traffic to campaignforrealbeauty.com than the superbowl spot. Gareth at Brand New has the full story.

  19. ..i respect and recognise what advertising is meant to be. but in today’s environment it has a completely different meaning. Today, most people see this as a TV, Press, Cinema, Radio or Outdoor advert promoting a brand/product/service/offer.
    Frighteningly, most advertising and marketing personnel share this belief. Likewise, I suspect consumers have the same perceptions. So following that trend, ‘digital’ has become a recognised label for all things internet based…
    For some, the dumbing down of communications creates an easier short-term sell.
    We like lables e.g. ‘Zero Media Spend’ – this may become the hot term in the next year..whereas our colleagues in the PR industry have, in essence, been using this model for a long time. But then, what does PR really mean…another useless label…(!)

  20. Sigh.
    Fairly obviously, a simplistic label is unlikely to be accurate, meaningful and enlightening – cf. ‘above-the-line’, ‘relationship marketing’ etc etc. When the label applies to a constantly-evolving industry like ‘digital’, it’s even less surprising you don’t find it very satisfying.
    It seems your question is more about “why do we need digital agencies when we’ve got advertising agencies?” Because ‘digital’ (whatever that is) is not advertising – even though advertising is something you can very legitimately do online (which is why Glue really is an advertising agency first and foremost). Digital is more about the different ways in which people now receive, participate in and respond to communications – way beyond what the term advertising has meant over the last 30-90 years, and fundamentally different from almost all traditional media. The implications of this for brands and the relationships they have with customers are an obvious challenge for all marketers. You can redefine advertising to encompass this new world if you like. Certainly there’s no reason advertising agencies can’t learn to do digital. But to say “advertising … is not defined by any media” is only a partial truth.
    As has been said, a lot of planners (from ad land) really do get this stuff (tho there are plenty of people in ad land who still don’t). But rest assured a lot people in digital agencies (especially planners, by this or some other name) also get it – and have the specialist knowledge to go with it. We’re all in the communications industry, but advertising and digital are not one and the same thing.
    Things have moved on from five years ago. How about taking a more positive attitude and trying to engage with “them” in digital instead of putting up barriers?

  21. It’s just semantics. Replace digital with interactive if you like. That’s where the perceived difference is between traditional advertising agencies and digital agencies; engagement, participation etc. etc.
    I hate the word interactive though, somehow still too limiting.
    I read a comment from Mark Cridge recently saying there were going to be two types of agencies in the ‘digital’ space; production houses and agencies who get involved at the strategic level with their clients. He said he thought the thing that would separate the two would be good planning, and I have to say I agree entirely.
    For too long many ‘digital’ agencies haven’t had a recognised planning function while many advertising agencies haven’t understood the possibilities of digital. I can’t wait for us all to come together in the middle. Sometimes it seems to be taking forever!

  22. Hiya.
    Everything is digital – yes.
    Or at least it will be soon.
    But I think the reason / difference comes from how digital changes the nature of the relationship with media.
    Digital is cut and paste. Digital is 2 way interaction. Digital is control in the hands of the consumer – on demand, and my way – if I don’t like I want to change it. Digital is get my attention or lose it.
    Digital isn’t about channels – it’s about how people want to consume and play with content they find desirable.
    And the reason digital agencies sprang up is the traditional ones didn’t understand that / didn’t have the technical skills required to implement it.
    And yes it all comes down to planning. It always does ;-) What do people want? How can we give it to them and sell them something at the same time?
    Increasingly, any kind of communication will require creative technologists to implement it, just as production companies have always done.
    The problems arise because creatvies understand what is possible with film. So they can imagine films that stretch what post production is capable of.
    But with digital, at the cutting edge of development, only geeks will know what CAN be done.
    And if you don’t know it can be done, you can’t incorporate it into your creativity.

  23. The suggestion that digital will mirror the ‘traditional advertising’ model of production houses following the instructions of the strategic digital agency misses the point. Why do you need to separate the two? The fact is historically most digital agencies haven’t had proper planning departments. Well, that’s quite easy to solve.
    Surely you will get much better results from a mix of the two (planning and production) and everyone collaborating to create an innovative strategy that might use a completely new creative or technological route to deliver (which you couldn’t do without input from all disciplines) . The trouble is with most digital agencies is that this has always been almost exclusively creative-led without understanding or valueing the uniquely technological bias of the medium and what that could offer a campaign.
    Question: Why was Google so successful initially ?
    From a formal planning and creative perspective it would have looked incredibly dull on paper and would not have got many excited if an agency planner had presented it as an idea for a new brand. There was a clear industry search leader (yahoo) at the time which was established and effective and the vast majority of the audience’s default search tool.
    The reason it took over was because it was simpler, more usable and a technologically excellent DIGITAL idea (i.e. it gave you better results) – factors which most traditional advertising thought would dismiss as merely the execution . But the execution (and the technology) WAS the idea . The advertising and branding were effectively an afterthought and now have been beautifully exploited which is great. Anyone can post-rationalise but who could have genuinely predicted Google and YouTube’s meteoric success back in 1998? This is what makes digital so intriguing to big brand marketeers and why the people on the edge of what’s happening on the ground (not in the boardrooms) will need to be the thought leaders from now on. Creative Technology linked to truly integrated planning. And a good idea is a good idea, no matter where it comes from or who.

  24. Not really advertising, but what make google rise so meteorically was word of mouth (word of mouse).
    People used it and realised this actually delivered on the promises other engines made, and they couldnt wait to ‘be the first to tell’.
    As the first person I know to use google, I can absolutely vouch that people telling their friends is what made google (and to the same extent you tube).

  25. The obsession with nomenclature just seems to be a distraction from the fact that whatever the fuck this thing is it’s very very complicated and only a few smart, creative, EXPERIENCED people can really make it work for them and their clients. I saw an ad guy talking the other night claiming that as a consumer of web-stuff his ad-team were as credible as any pure-play web/ digital/ whatever team to produce digital, new media/ whatever ideas. It’s like saying because I watch films i know how to make them. It’s pretty arrogant and naive to write off the insights, skills and sensibilities gathered by those focusing on the area for years, using some tedious rhetoric around definition to undermine it.

  26. Fair enough point and Poke are a fantastic agency.
    But you do still seem obsessed with medium more than ideas. Sure it takes crafts people with enormous experience to make a film, but it is not fair to say that therefore they are the only people that can come up with great ideas for movies.
    And the truth about digital is that it is becoming increadibly accessible. You have to accept that 2.0 has democratised our relationship with interactive platforms and allowed people like me to self publish with only a primary school knowledge of code. We are all at it these days when only a few years ago you had to be ‘EXPERIENCED’ and extremely technically proficient.
    Of course the best stuff is and will always be produced by those at the cutting edge of techinical proficiency. But you don’t have the monopoly over ideas.
    Moreover, you have to be honest and accept that the vast majority of case studies on the websites of the digital agencies I have had the pleasure of checking out as a result of this post, represent the online activation of brand ideas other people created.
    I work as a planner in adveritsing because when I was an account handler in a direct marketing agency I realised I wanted to be the person that decided on the strategy and framed the brand idea. Now advertising certainly doesn’t have anything like an monopoly over the creation of brand ideas (though it still produces more than its fair share of the great stuff)but digital agencies must accept that until they are doing that job they will not cross over into the role of brand advisors rather than online executors.
    And by the way I thought the rhetoric was rather good and not at all tedious.

  27. Hmm that sounded almost conciliatory Richard. But after 30 posts it is inevitable that someone is going to attempt a bootstrapping argument so I thought I would get in first. So the guy who wrote I don’t get digital has stimulated a debate not involving less than 10 people. And created an articulate many stranded exchange. Ain’t blogging wonderful? But it really doesn’t seem like a mere channel to me. The question is – how many advertising agencies would set out as a matter of course on their clients behalf to use a blog for example to persuade audiences of the merit of a brand idea? Huntingdon walked the walk but would his agency?

  28. i just want to add that i am not talking about craft but thought and creativity. those with a deeper experience of digital/new media/ whatever are more likely to have sounder digital/new media/whatever thoughts just as a film maker tends through their career to get a better instinct for what will and won’t work. of course anyone can have a film idea but how many can transform that thought into something that really works (and don’t say it’s just a film crew who know what they’re doing)? it really feels like experience and insight are being downplayed in an attempt to level the playing field so everyone, irrespective of ability can get in on the action. ad agencies of course will be the source of many great ideas but are they really best placed to direct digital communications? if they were we’d all be having this out on some ghastly pimped up island in 2nd life ;-)

  29. isn’t that the beauty of communications now…anyone armed with a big idea can direct them.
    Including general public.

  30. Yes, and clearly this is allowing real talent that whould have never got past the prejudices and self interest of the film, TV or musicindustry to shine through – like The Andy Milonakis show on You Tube.
    But we need to be careful (as brand advisers) about user generation. Not because it is a bad idea but because we are in danger of abdicating responsibility for giving brands direction.

  31. But if a brand is the perception and attitude of a company, then is the consumer influencing brand direction a wholly bad thing?
    Surely it would let agencies find out aspects of opinion and feelings that could make advertising connect much more with the consumer…

  32. Yes of course and that is the primary role of the digital environment for brands – to learn and understand better what is happening in people’s lives – unmediated research.
    Not to ‘invade’ the digital space until they really know what they are doing.
    By the way – just seen an ad (yes an ad) on a website where skyscrapers are usually plonked – for PS3 and 60seconds of video that in the old days we would have called a TV advertisement. The video revolution online will significantly challenge digital agencies unused to creating brand films.

  33. So to paraphrase (with strong quotes..)
    “Digital” is the new tv, and tv is the new “digital”..?
    No wonder people are confused!

  34. Except that TV (excepting iTV) is a one way non-interactive medium in general with a fraction of the capability of digital and using linear video as an online ad is hardly new (since Flash introduced native video), but it is actually quite lazy unless you do something interesting with it that makes use of the interactivity of the space. I also wonder how effective that particular ad will be…. The ads I’ve ever worked on that involved heavy use of video to deliver the message were a disaster in terms of audience take up . The purely interactive ones worked a hell of a lot better in terms of delivering results.

  35. Questionable bandwidth has been a key part of that I would say. If you have to wait 20 seconds to see a video in a banner spot…why bother. The whole viral thing kind of took the “ad video online” thing away from a traditional ad model before it ever developed.
    I notice they are mostly used for game ads now, where they use them to show video clips.
    If they are done well, they can still work though, just a case of getting people interested in the ad before they have to wait.
    “The ads I’ve ever worked on that involved heavy use of video to deliver the message were a disaster in terms of audience take up . The purely interactive ones worked a hell of a lot better in terms of delivering results.”
    Thats interesting, could the reasons above answer that?

  36. “Advertising is a discipline, digital is a medium – it is inappropriate to compare the two.”
    I’ve been thinking about this since our conversation last week and have come to the conclusion that it is entirely appropriate to compare the two: advertising is a discipline: digital is a discipline.
    The comparison holds up even when you think about executions. ‘Traditional’ advertising encompassed TV, radio, print, etc etc etc. But the only part of the process that could be described as the discipline of persuasion is the thinking – whether it be planning or creativity. The rest are all channel (or media) specific: the person who produces the TV spot does not produce the print ad and so on*.
    Similarly, if a digital agency has been correctly briefed by the client, it’s primary activity is the discipline of persuasion. The channel, whether it be online, mobile, DVD or iTV is irrelevant because it’s unlikely that the same producer will be able to produce every execution. Or, if they can now, they won’t in the future.
    Reading this thread has been interesting and educational – especially the feisty bits – but it seems to me that the disconnect at the heart of the subject is essentially age related. ‘Digital’ (will someone please think of a better word…?) is young and full of raging hormones: ready for a fight and quick to dismiss the legacy of its elders. Traditonal agencies are seeing the world they once bestrode with total command collapse around them and they are rightly very worried about securing their futures.
    Personally, I don’t think anyone should be too concerned: both sides will change and adapt, having lost a few pioneers and curmudgeons along the way, and end up doing the same things as each other – then worrying about what will come along next.
    It may already be here. If you think about what Volvo of America is doing with Google, the output will almost certainly mean both ad and digital agencies end up interpreting a strategy and/or an idea created by so-called Harvard maths graduates armed (apparently) with nothing more than some stats…
    * Actually, reading that back, I guess you could say that the discipline of persuasion in tradtional advertising can be stretched to include luxuriant filmography and beatutiful typography – but then same can be said of digital executions…

  37. In the interest of fraternal love I was going to let that comment go but I simply can’t.
    My whole point is that there is not a discipline called digital. By discpline I mean approaches to the consumer relationship. So we might describe the level of involvement with a brand that they have online as brand engagement but we might also describe a sales promotion like Persil splat balls as a technique that fosters greater brand engagement.
    Similarly dvertsing is a discipline in that it aims to actively persude people to do or think something in the advertiser’s interest. If digital platforms are used to do this then the discipline we are talking about is advertising.
    And I know that this pains many people in agencies specialising in the online arena because they believe that they have some higher calling to do with improving the human condition. And if they are developing applications that with fundamentally change the way that human beings relate to each other then they are. If they are helping me build closer bonds between people and brands with the intention that those people execute the wishes of the brand owner (from buying Jamesons whisky to stopping smoking) then they are in the advertising business.

  38. I think a lot of people in online agencies or working in that area just can’t be bothered with formalised, constricted marketing bullshit that is increasingly not delivering results. The consumer landscape is changing more than ever before and applying the standard rhetoric just doesn’t work anymore. Television advertising is dying in the UK because no-one watches TV to anywhere near the extent they did when we had 3 channels and 20 million viewers on a Saturday night and when the Internet and email were merely scientific community playthings. Call it what you will, but to compartmentalise anything that encourages people to sell as ‘advertising’ is too narrow. The consumer is driving brands more than ever before. Look at McDonalds who had to radically rebrand and totally reposition their core brand and product offering due to negative brand perception and consumer pressure. Most consumer’s response to the dire advertising that has attempted to support this is ‘what a load of cynical crap’. Consumers are getting wise and want to drive the relationship with brands rather than the traditional reverse. All the rules are changing and advertisers and brands need to learn to embrace theese new skills and environments (which are far more challenging than television was) or face extinction.

  39. “Similarly advertsing is a discipline in that it aims to actively persude people to do or think something in the advertiser’s interest. If digital platforms are used to do this then the discipline we are talking about is advertising.”
    At the risk of getting into a messy micro-separation of marketing communications disciplines, surely not every piece of work that aims to actively persuade people to do or think something in the advertiser’s interest is advertising…?
    Events, sponsorships, consumer publishing, brand affiliations, branded entertainment (content), paid-for UGC, promotions, CD/DVD giveaways and a thousand other techniques that aim to persuade people to think favourably about a brand are also in the business of persuasion – but they aren’t advertising. Nor are they a subset of advertising; like advertising, some fall into the “digital” discipline and some don’t. Some advertising is digital: some digital is advertising. Neither is a subset of the other – all the time – but (like all the others mentioend above) they are both surely tactical executions of an over-arching marcomms strategy and therefore (these days) rarely, if ever, exist in isolation.
    This is what I was attempting to get to in my previous post: I just don’t understand where the separation exists these days, nor why there is any need to try to keep things apart. It’s all just what it is… persuading people to think or act in a way that is favourable to the brand paying the bills – regardless of platform, medium, channel or production technique.
    Isn’t it?

  40. But the fact that people are less interested in television, or that they use the internet more doesnt mean that what is commonly referred to as digital is any less of a form of advertising.
    Those sponsorships and brand items are surely a part of advertising and pr. The question is where we draw the line. If those promotions were aimed at reaching a particular market as part of a specific campaign then surely they are part of the advertising?
    The problem is that every single agency in advertising, marketing, pr, ‘digital’, atl, btl, direct, etc etc has different boundaries. What is seen as digital to one agency is simply part of the usual mix for another.
    Perhaps the thing is that (like other forms of expression, whether artistic or otherwise) people spend so much time making terms and definitions and building boundaries (look at the completely wrong and unbordered use of words like ‘goth’, ’emo’, ‘pop’ etc in music) that the actual activities that fit within never really get nailed down…if they ever should be.

  41. I agree. Why we seek to label everything in order to constrain it is a form of self-preservation that our jobs become irrelevant at some point, which they probably will. At that point I hope I’ll be selling Caipirinhas on a beach bar in Brasil.

  42. That depends on what your definition of a bar is. Does that incorporate a traditional beer model, or simply a bottle retail model? Do you have a seperate “beer” bar?
    Wouldn’t life be awful if we categorised everything that way…

  43. Step 1: It just means it’s easier to make things. Moving images are easier to capture and distribute. Type is easier to set. Simple animation doesn’t take hours. Ideas are easier to send (as I’m doing now).
    Step 2: Because of this, you need fewer people and less time for production. Response can be rapid. You can fail faster and thereby learn more.
    Step 3: We just don’t have to worry about media production the way people did thirty years ago.

  44. interesting piece in this weeks NMA which I reponded to via my own blog, but even they think “We don’t get it”..
    Basically, why are so many people in ‘digital’ prohpets about the future??

  45. Great thread – made me to try to answer this most basic of questions with:
    “Digital is this chance to rework culture, building upon human abstraction, not mechanical idealisations.”
    Full details in a long posting via my name link below.

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