Has ‘digital’ become an anachronism?

Digital Generation in their front page said :

“The digital age is here, and it belongs to The Digital Generation®.

You are The Digital Generation, the first generation on the face of the planet to grow up in a digital world.

You outnumber baby boomers and are building the future.

You are tech savvy.

You know the language … of the brave new world … of the digital age.

But are things changing ?  Econsultancy below has different view.

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Has ‘digital’ become an anachronism?

By Ben Davis

I was struck by the news that Adam & Eve/DDB  has dropped ‘digital’ from its job titles.

Firstly, what a perfect piece of PR.  But there’s more to it than that; the agency is an early mover in the next stage of an ideological regression that has been happening for a while now.

There’s a backlash against technology, against third-party solutions, corrupt ad models, poor creative and even content marketing.

Agencies want to get back to ‘the work’.

If not ‘digital’, then what?

Adam & Eve/DDB, a leading communications agency of advertising, communications planning, innovation, digital, shopper marketing, etc., has foregone the term in job titles, as well as dismissing the need for a separate digital department, in favour of the word ‘interactive’.

This makes perfect sense, given that interactivity is the goal of all brand content.

Alex Hesz, executive interactive director, told Campaign:

“‘Digital’ isn’t a subset of what we do here, just as it isn’t for consumers. It’s a part of every aspect of day-to-day life for us, just as it is for them.”

Creative has to work with new technology, not in spite of it

At the 2015 Festival of Marketing, we broke a world record for the world’s largest marketing lesson. Whilst the record was a bit of a gimmick, the subject matter was deadly serious.

Sir John Hegarty discussed the state of creative, limited not by too much technology, but by a lack of understanding.

A creative industry slow to embrace technology has perhaps led to the acceptance of poor quality and disappointing advertising.

If TV creative is simply tweaked in order to shoehorn it into online ad formats, the result isn’t going to be the harmony of medium and message.

In short, perhaps obfuscation has helped to sell new media to clients, who are blinded by its brilliance but never sure of its effectiveness.

Dropping ‘digital’ allows agencies to sell the best creative, not the newest ‘solutions’.

At the Festival of Marketing we saw a trend for experiential pieces (e.g. Carlsberg’s beer-tap poster) that combined well with online campaigns and newsroom strategy. Expect to see more of this style of work.

Has content marketing lost its lustre?

In our predicted ecommerce trends for 2016, James Gurd raised the spectre of diminishing returns from organic search, as mobile begins to dominate browsing behaviour.

“Google continued to make it hard to get free search traffic in 2015. There are more and more examples of SERPs where you struggle to see a genuine organic listing in the visible pane…

“…This is having an impact on marketing teams thinking for long term acquisition and retention, looking at how they can build their audience outside the Google universe and reduce reliance on these clicks.”

I’ve heard many grumblings recently about content marketing and its inefficiency for some brands who adopted a publishing mentality over the past year or two.

There are markets where content is definitely still the best strategy, and others where it’s time to admit that not everybody can game the same algorithm.

This shows the risk inherent in specialised agencies (e.g. content marketing agencies). Though they tend to be small and agile, they can be left looking a little dated as the technological winds change.

While not every agency can have every skill in-house, expect to see the emphasis in agency land to broaden out, focusing on ‘design’ and ‘experience’.

Dramatic vs. programmatic

The recent debate about advertising, kickstarted by the rise of ad blockers, has led many (including the IAB) suggesting that ads should be scaled back, in favour of more targetted, impactful yet ‘non-invasive’ experiences.

For agencies, the task is of course to reconcile the programmatic (advertising smartly at scale) with the dramatic (increasing the the chance of a brand interaction).

Few campaigns have utilised dynamic video, for example, apart from the much-vaunted Romeo Reboot by Axe Brasil.

Solving this problem of user experience in advertising is a challenge for agencies, but approaching this part of a campaign in an oblique and creative way is essential, just as for every other part of ‘the work’.

What does Ashley think?

Ashley Friedlein, Econsultancy’s founder, has previously argued that the Chief Digital Officer is a bad thing, saying the battle for digital had been won way back in March 2013.

Revisiting the topic in September 2015, Ashley argued that the transformer CDO (CEO in waiting) and ambassador CDO are forces for good in organisations embroiled in change, developing longer term strategies with technology as an enabler of new processes, products and revenue streams.

Econsultancy’s positioning?

If the supposition of this article is true, where does that leave Econsultancy and its strapline of ‘Achieve Digital Excellence’?

Maybe we’re back to plain old ‘marketing’ again?

Ben Davis

Published 14 January, 2016 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is a senior writer at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.  The author has some 576 more posts of the same quality and depth of analysis.

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