Why the 'D' word is redundant

Our world is immersed in digital - it's time job titles drop this word.

The job of a modern creative agency is, as it has always been, to originate experiences for consumers that help clients achieve their goals. Those experiences take place in the real world. Not on a screen in reception. Not on a jury in Cannes. Out there. Where our total online time can no longer be measured in hours connected but in minutes disconnected. Because we are almost never truly disconnected. 

The web – or "digital", if you insist – is how we get our messages and how we track our sleep. It’s how we tell our loved ones we love them and how we meet them in the first place. It’s how we find where we’re going, how we hail cabs, how we exercise. It’s how we keep track of our health and our wealth. It’s e-mails, recipes, photos, videos. It’s the facts we check while watching the news, the games we play on the loo. It’s in our pockets, in our cars, on our walls.

And let’s be clear, because this is no Brave New World rant: it’s how we watch TV, respond to posters, point-of-sale, packaging or direct marketing. It is not an optional extra.

Hard cut to a presentation. Maybe it’s a pitch. Maybe it’s a quarterly meeting. We need a structure to present work. We’ll kick off with "film" (let’s hope the agency hasn’t actually written "TV"). And that’s not necessarily wrong. Three-quarters of the web will be video by 2017 and it’s the dominant currency on every platform going (Facebook and Twitter increasingly resemble scrolling, multi-format YouTubes). So understanding what job video can do for a brand is no bad place to start. 

A well-crafted video experience is the epicentre, creatively, of some of the greatest campaigns of recent years. Whether live and driven by PR, like Red Bull, broadcast and driven by a media buy, like John Lewis, or co-created via social, like Under Armour. So it’s no wonder our presentation is starting there. The dominant creative expression, video in one format, has given way to a new dominant expression: video in near-infinite formats. 

OK. What’s next? Print and outdoor? Let’s at least call it "display". How the work can play out across platforms as diverse as perimeter hoardings, newsprint, mid-page units, promoted social posts and urinal posters. Places that display a message but do not let you do much with it. "Display", oddly, is a word that has been co-opted by the "digital" world, as if it isn’t just as true for a 48-sheet poster. So let’s group it like that. In a post-digital world, where programmatic means even the most basic messages can be smarter, what is the role
for display?

Up next is interactive. Used incorrectly as a near-synonym of "digital", to us "interactive" covers any execution that allows participation that can alter the experience or outcome. That is as true at a till as on a web page. It’s just as much the plastic green discs at Waitrose as a mobile game. While most interactive channels (as with most display and film channels) are connected to the web, and it’s the web that gives consumers the ability to interact and change the experience, others are not. 

Back to our meeting. The bullet to dodge is "digital" being an agenda point in itself, as if it’s divorced from video, from display, from interactive. As if it’s a channel or a challenge unto itself. It isn’t, it can’t be – and yet some persist in treating it as such and clients let us off the hook. "So that’s the idea sorted. Now, what’s our digital strategy?" "How does this creative work play out in digital?" These are questions that, if we don’t challenge the assumption that an idea could somehow play out today in the non-digital world, render our role as modern marketers laughable.

So we have binned it. It’s coming off job titles. It’s being deleted from creds. Because it’s a falsehood to be hidden behind. It’s permission for a person to say "Sorry, I just don’t get that whole world" while absent-mindedly reading MailOnline, then ordering a cab home on Hailo to catch up on Netflix. It’s patently untrue. If you don’t "get" the digital world, you aren’t noticing how you yourself are living. How everyone, of every age, in every part of the country, is living. To say it, to suggest it, is a startling confession and yet still stunningly prevalent and acceptable right across the industry. 

I used to have "digital" in my job title. Lots of people did. But, at Adam & Eve/DDB, that will no longer happen. Because, for us and our work to be relevant in the real world, we have to live in the real world. Out there, there is no border governing where the web has influence and where it doesn’t. The real world doesn’t have a "digital" section. And so, from today, we don’t either.

Alex Hesz is the executive interactive director at Adam & Eve/DDB

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