Russell Davies
Russell Davies
A view from Russell Davies

Russell Davies: Advertising has its vices. Technophilia isn't one of them

A correspondent politely took issue with my last column, suggesting that my caution against technophobia should be balanced with an equal suspicion of technophilia - over-enthusiastic adoption of the latest technology might be as bad a problem as Luddism or reluctance to embrace the new.

As ever with feedback on this column, my instant reaction was: God, yes, he's right - I'm wrong again. Why do I even bother? That's my default response to any piece of feedback. That's why I never look at comments, or the bottom half of the internet. But, then, after a long bath and some reflection, I thought: no, he's wrong. And here are 300 words on the subject of his wrongness.

First, can you imagine a technophilic ad agency? A business that invests in and investigates new, unproven technologies out of sheer love of the new, despite what their business priorities might dictate. You can imagine that? Yeah, right.

Second, most agencies aren't technology businesses. No-one has to place massive bets on particular technologies the way manufacturing or engineering companies do. This is not about huge bet-the-farm investments; this is about curiosity, about research and development. All I'm suggesting is that people in communications should be interested in new communications possibilities, that they should have an inclination towards investigating and playing with new communications tools.

Twitter started in 2006. As of June 2010, it was publishing about 65 million Tweets a day. And I still meet advertising professionals who dismiss it as pointless prattle about sandwiches and celebrities WITHOUT HAVING USED IT. I can understand completely why you might not have a Twitter-shaped hole in your personal life. Fair enough. Just as, presumably, you don't hire a production company and make a TV commercial whenever you want to communicate with your family. But I'd suggest that if you don't at least try it out, then you're not doing your job properly.

What my correspondent should come back at me and say at this point is: "But what about Second Life? That was supposed to be the future and where is it now?" Fair enough, I'd say - good point. Except for:

1. You could have done of lot of interesting experiments in Second Life for free. A lot of people did. That might have been one reason why it "failed": many people got accounts, spent time there and decided it wasn't really worth investing in. They were equipped to decide this because they were used to evaluating new communications technologies.

2. Everyone who "wasted" money in Second Life learned a huge amount from the experience. Or they should have if they'd designed the experience properly.

So. There. No compromise. Technophilia is officially not an acceptable problem in advertising. Now, what's next?