Digital is everywhere and everything

Digital is everywhere and everything
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The title of this piece is part of a direct quote from James Hilton, jury member at the Cannes Lions’ Cyber category, and co-founder of AKQA. Bravo, James.

The full quote is: “Digital is everywhere and everything. It’s redundant to talk about it as one category.”

I think most people realise this instinctively. We do so many different things in the digital world. We watch video. We chat with friends. We date. We shop. We show people our photos. We read the newspaper. We tell people where we are. We play games.

And even things that we have to do in the real world – eat, take medicine, go for a run – are supported, quantified or recorded with help from digital devices. 

Nike+, the ‘ID My Pill’ app, Instagram et al mean that our experience of the real world is coloured and influenced by our experience of the digital world. Our experiences of the two bleed into one another: they cannot be separated.

And yet, we as an industry keep talking about digital.

This is illustrated very well by two of the Cyber Lion winners. Toshiba’s ‘The Beauty Inside’ (below) is a great example.

This extremely impressive campaign – 70 million views and a 360% sales lift attest to this – is classed as ‘digital’, but really it’s as far away from where most digital agency’s skill sets lie (designing and building great websites, managing a bit of social etc) as it is from where most creative agencies skill sets lie. Contagious magazine describes it as ‘content led’.

Oreo’s culture-jacking ‘Daily Twist’ on the other hand saw the brand build a ‘newsroom’ to deliver a hundred days worth of their take on the daily news across a variety of social platforms as part of the brand’s 100th birthday.

I picked out these two pieces because I think it’s very clear that they are both actually content campaigns. One a rich, immersive campaign of long-form episodic content, and the other a campaign based around quick-fire, fast-response topical content. But both, at their core, content campaigns.

Here’s the thing: most traditional creative and digital agencies aren’t set up to deliver these kinds of experiences. And yet most businesses still structure their marketing departments around silos (‘digital’, ‘PR’, ‘direct’, etc) – so if they want a ‘digital’ campaign like these two, they’ll go to their ‘digital’ agency.

There is another option – which is to work with a content marketing agency that is set up to deliver exactly these kinds of campaigns. That is built on sound editorial foundations and stuffed full of great storytellers. Content marketing has always been about delivering something of value to customers, with the aim of building engagement and influencing behaviour over time – irrelevant of the channel (or, indeed, the silo).

The Australian marketing industry is still besotted with silos and labels. This needs to end. It’s just not the way that real people think.

I’ll leave you with another quote from Hilton: “My hope is that ads for ads’ sake will die away and brands will spend time making people's lives better. Ad interruption is over. It's time for festivals like Cannes to redefine what advertising means.”

Amen, brother.

Richard Parker is head of strategy at Edge.  

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