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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