A BIG Awards Promotion: BIG ging up British - Digital

When I started out in this game, we called it "new media". We plied our trade, building websites to support advertising campaigns and making banners with other people's assets.

We got very excited about a new software called Macromedia Flash, which meant we could actually make images move. The "Flash intro" became de rigeur for any self-respecting designer, not least because it helped to disguise the loading times that the poor user was being asked to endure. And it also allowed us to experiment with new-fangled online advertising formats. Remember the "superstitial"?

Despite the obvious technological limitations, we felt we were in the vanguard of the internet revolution, the pathfinders on a mission to explore uncharted creative territory. For the internet at the start of the new millennium, read TV in the late 50s.

And so it has come to pass. Digital, as it is now called, has progressed way beyond the banner and the microsite. It is now such an integral part of the marketing mix that it can no longer be regarded as a discrete channel in its own right. We are fast reaching the point where marketing and digital are one and the same thing. The world of marketing and advertising is the world of digital. And in this world, how brands behave is far more important than what they say.

Today, the creative challenge is not about overcoming the restrictions of format and file size. It's about coming up with ideas that can work across multiple platforms and an increasing array of consumer touchpoints, ideas that adhere to the core principles of interactivity and connectivity - in layman's terms, getting people to do stuff and allowing them to share it. And it's these that make digital such a powerful marketing tool and give it unique creative possibilities.

The ideas I get most excited about exploit these principles to the full. They invite participation. They are so entertaining that they demand to be shared. They have the potential to provide a genuinely useful function. In some cases, they don't have to rely on paid-for media at all. Take the Fiat eco:Drive. It's not an ad in the conventional sense, it's a software solution. But at its heart, it's still a great marketing idea and a truly interactive one at that.

As the distinction between online and offline disappears, some ideas have actually started life in the real world. Is the T-Mobile "dance" campaign a TV or digital idea? I'd argue it's an interactive idea in the widest sense of the word, a creative platform based on an event that has then been distributed via a number of channels, including TV and the internet. It's an example of an idea that can be advertised as opposed to an advertising idea.

Perhaps part of the problem is this word, digital. It might describe the technology, but it's no longer the most accurate descriptor of what we do, which is why you'll find me using the "i" word more often.

Yes, we've come a long way since those heady new media days but, at the risk of being unpatriotic, I'd say that we still lag behind our American counterparts. There are too few British equivalents of Whopper "virgins" - big, bold interactive ideas that sit at the heart of a campaign.

That said, there are enough signs to suggest the golden age of British interactive creativity might just be about to dawn.

For more info and to enter the BIG awards, visit campaignbigawards.com

Mark Collier's five favourite things about Britain ...

- Uncle Joe's Mint Balls. Wigan's finest since 1898. Pure cane sugar and oil of peppermint. Does what it says on the tin.

- Tim Berners-Lee. The modest man from East Sheen who has transformed our lives forever.

- Jim Telfer's 'Everest' speech. 'This is your ****ing Everest boys ...' Just one of the gems from the ultimate team-talk in rugby, possibly in any sport. Still sends shivers down my spine.

- The view of the south Cornish coastline from Dodman Point. The South-West coast path is the longest national trail in Britain. The view from this commanding headland towards the Lizard peninsula is breathtaking.

- Cook, Cleese, Clement/La Frenais, Merchant/Gervais ... Just a few of the names on a very long list of brilliant British comedy writers.

Topics