Perspective: Digital needs to be allowed to fulfil its awesome potential
A view from Mark Cridge

Perspective: Digital needs to be allowed to fulfil its awesome potential

Have you heard the phrase "digital-centric" recently?

It seems to have popped up in conversation a lot more of late, usually to describe a situation whereby a marketer or agency has succeeded in putting digital front and centre of a particular campaign.

This might mean a number things in practice: digital might be the first piece of work to break; the TV spot perhaps encourages you to "see what happens next" at brandx.com; you've started a Facebook page; or maybe even that you've actually come up with a genuinely active and involving brand idea that lives across all channels.

Whichever flavour of digital-centricity you happen to adopt, you would think that this would be music to a digitalista's ears.

After years of being the digital barbarians at the gate, most would assume that we've well and truly broken through and made it inside, hopefully with a bit of ravaging and pillaging along the way.

But rather than claiming a seat at the top table, arguably it feels instead that in most cases, all digital agencies have done so far is grab the front seats on the top deck of the bus.

It feels good, looks like we've arrived, we can see all around us, everyone can see us, it's exciting (when you're about ten years old) but although we get to ring the bell a couple of times, the driver might throw us off if we cause too much trouble. Because even though we've grabbed a prime spot, we're still not driving the bus and we're rarely in control of where it's going.

So being digital-centric is a good start, but we've still got an awful long way to go. Being surrounded by all things digital is not the same as being changed by digital or taking full advantage of all it has to offer. We need real change, not just phrases that sound like change.

A checklist of digital accomplishments is not the same as genuine reordering of priorities, just as listening to Twitter is not the same as having an in-depth conversation with your customers. Digital has transformed our businesses and our behaviours, but is all too easily corralled and controlled in its own little walled garden.

It would be complacent to assume that the job is done. I was reminded recently by Malcolm Hunter from Aegis of a great quote that "we live in a time when people's interest in advertising is declining, just as their interest in brands is increasing".

People want to engage with us, and digital has made it more possible than ever. But until we stop doing things the way they've always been done, it will be difficult to do that interest justice.

Mark Cridge is the global managing director of Isobar