Please Don’t Tell Me You’re Digital
Regular, or rather, long-term readers of this blog will know my views on the word ‘digital’.
It’s a fine word. It means something very specific – it relates to a system of data technology that uses discrete (as opposed to continuous, or analogue) values. And that’s fine; use it for that.
Where I never believe you should see it used is as part of a Suit’s job title. As far as I’m concerned, and as I’ve made clear before, a Suit who describes him or herself as ‘digital’ is missing the point of a Suit’s existence; a Suit who wants to be ‘digital’, doesn’t really want to be a Suit.
My issue, of course, isn’t really with the word ‘digital’. I’d be just as frustrated with an account man who felt the need to describe themselves as ‘TV’, or ‘Press’. Except nobody would ever think of doing that. In fact, the idea of a Suit labelling themselves as TV is as ludicrous as a TV Producer not knowing where the Ivy is.
But I’ve said all of this before: you know how I feel about Suits. We aren’t TV producers, we aren’t digital designers, we aren’t mac-operators; we’re Suits. Mark Lund recently described the Suit’s role as that of the ‘super-generalist’, there to tie it all together for the Client – to simplify and distil the raft of communication options available. And he’s right – it’s our job to understand and to inspire, to break the silos, not to build the website, post-produce the TV ad or develop the app. The problem I have with the Suit who refers to themselves as ‘digital’ is that it feels like they’ve misunderstood the job they’re supposed to be doing; and in doing so have misunderstood what everyone, from the Clients to the Creatives, wants and needs from them.
And I think, to be honest, that the same goes for Agencies that insist on referring to themselves as digital; give it two years, and the idea of anyone selling themselves as a Digital Agency will be as anachronistic as selling yourself as a TV agency would be deemed today. I was discussing this with someone recently, and he used the analogy of two dinosaurs wrestling, which seems pretty much on the money to me.
The breadth of options that digital technologies have opened up when it comes to answering Client briefs is nothing short of phenomenal, and phenomenally exciting at that; but they still remain options – digital in and of itself is not a solution, and should never be thought of as such. And of course thinking digitally is important – but to ONLY think digitally is the sort of thinking that leads to tech-driven responses, rather than idea, or, dare I say it, customer-driven answers that have the capacity to engage, and to drive participation.
To be able to succeed and thrive as a contemporary advertising agency, you need to have the breadth of knowledge to consider all the options, and then the flexibility and adaptability to deliver the right ones as rapidly as is necessary (whether through internal resource, or through a managed network – another post on the horizon…). That’s not going to come from an Agency that doesn’t understand the importance of digital; but nor is it going to come from an Agency that doesn’t see the point in considering anything else.
So, please. If you’re a Suit, or if you’re an Agency, don’t tell me you’re Digital. I’m just going to assume that you don’t get it – and so are your Clients.