Russell Davies: Look beyond the internet to remain ahead of the game

By Russell Davies, campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 27 October 2011 08:00AM

I did a presentation for the whole agency last week and as I looked at the expectant faces, I suddenly realised how young they all were.

Russell Davies

Russell Davies

It dawned on me that I'm the oldest person there. It was a form of senior moment.

I flashed back to being a young agency person myself, wondering at the strange lives my older colleagues lived - always rushing home for unfathomable things such as parents'

evenings and school plays, or constantly reminiscing about the good old days when the artwork was made by hand and the ads grew out of magic beans.

My doomed feelings of mortality didn't recede as I ploughed through the presentation and realised many of my references were flying over their sweet young heads.

Geocities, for instance - a touchstone for my generation on the web - meant nothing to many of them. No reason why it should, I guess, but it still surprised me.

I'm used to my references to ATV and Delaney Fletcher Slaymaker Delaney Bozell falling on bemused ears, but I suppose I hadn't thought that there might be internet moments too far in the past to mean anything now. That brought me up short.

But it also cheered me up, made me understand why I might be still useful, despite my decrepitude. It's precisely because I remember trying to sell technology change to large businesses the first time around.

A slight tangent to help explain. I was recently invited to do a talk to a group of senior marketing people and I sent them a rough outline of it. I said I'd like to discuss "what happens next" - what are the transformative technologies that might change our world the way the web did; things that are around the corner, still forming, but that feel to me like the web did in 1993.

They said that this sounded very nice but they'd like more indication that these things were really going to happen; more examples, please, of how these things were being used by real companies now, today. And - whoosh - I got another mind-jamming flashback to all those meetings trying to persuade people and businesses that it might be worth investigating this internet thing instead of BT's interactive TV trial in Southampton. A personal low point was failing to convince United Biscuits that it should register McVitie's as a domain name. It thought it'd be a waste of £15.

The current threat to so many businesses is getting stuck on the web the way the previous generation got stuck on TV - surviving one technological transformation and imagining it's the only one they'll ever face. Maybe that's the remaining value for oldsters like me. We can remember all the mistakes we made last time - perhaps we can help avoid them.

russell@russelldavies.com

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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