I have, over the past year, done a series of master classes on three continents, some were open to all others were tailor made for some of the leading international advertising and marketing agencies.
Here are some of my observations, in no order of importance and largely with no deeper analysis.
Each of them could in themselves be a basis for a deeper discussion and I hope some of you will engage either here or on your own platforms:
1: There is no general consensus on what "digital" means
Digital is one of those amorphous words that means different things to different people.
To some it means "those strange guys on floor three who do the weird shit", to others it means a channel, “Great, thats the big idea sorted, now lets add some digital”. Some see it as flashy shining objects that don't translate into sales.
I would argue that digitalization is a much deeper change than learning to use new tools. It is a serious shift in the way we see ourselves, societal structures and each other. It is a mindset change. A radical shift in perception. It is a (r)evolution, unstoppable (though not unshapable) and global. The shift from an analogue to a digital society is as profound as was the shift from an agrarian to an industrial society.
Words have power. How we name things, how we describe things, forms our ways of doing things. This often translates into structures which mirror the perception of the description.
Digital is a divisive word in that it creates an artificial opposition between "digital" and "non digital". It creates a mental dichotomy between the "real" (meat world) and the "virtual" (almost real) world. This in turn determines how we organize our work, our work flow, how the composition of creative teams is viewed, how awards and rewards are given, how silos are build (even by those who espouse tearing down the silos) how we bill (internally and externally), how "failure" is defined and understood and, well, pretty much everything.
So, should we kill the word?
Some believe so. Laurence Green from Fallon thinks so.
Nicholas Negroponte, in a prescient column thought so as early as 1998.
I would love to ditch the word. I think however that it would be a mistake to do so. To speak about "post-digital" would be to belittle the scope of the change, to reenforce the notion that "digital" is a tool set rather than a mind set and to further frighten the surprisingly large group of people, many in senior (global) positions, and many on the client side, who still do not understand the nature of the shift.
Besides, we are at the beginning of a shift which "digital" strives to describe, not the end.
As Mel Exon intelligently argues:
Until the industry at large has a universal understanding of what it takes in terms of craft and intelligence to deliver *outstanding* digital work, suggesting we should ‘kill digital’ feels grossly premature.
Rather keep the word but develop its meaning and as soon as a better word comes along, jump on it like a hungry dog (or indeed @adlandsuit) on bacon.