Is ‘digital’ marketing dead?


digital marketing website 1999 graphicI had an update session with an agency client at the start of the year.. some crystal ball gazing for 2016. We looked at new ‘tech’ (hardware, a la CES) and possible developments in online media and social / cloud platforms etc.

And what would be prevalent in the world of digital marketing. Yep, I used the d word.

You could read various pronouncements at the end of last year (and much earlier actually) around the term digital marketing disappearing.

For example this one from Cisco, declaring digital marketing is a redundant term.

I threw in some thoughts on why digital as a term hasn’t gone the way of the Dodo yet and why it’ll be a prefix in some job titles for a while to come.

And I just read that Adam & Eve have dropped the term digital, replacing it with ‘interactive’. Which is newsworthy and a good bit of new year PR. It’s also a blast-from-the-past term, they get my vote on that. There’s semantics here of course: interactive can be shorthand for non-print / broadcast / outbound computer-mediated marketing campaigns but can also mean branded (for the purposes of agency world and their clients) HCI technology, so ‘allowing’ any agency to encompass product creation around IOT, screens, VR etc.

If the ‘digital’ moniker disappeared I wouldn’t be upset: I wasn’t enamoured of the term when it first gained traction as descriptor for the online team I ran a few years back (within McCann). Checking back to some old records: we’d mixed and matched terms like new media, interactive, e-business, multimedia, web, online.. with some or all terms used concurrently. But digital won out around 2001 as the term de guerre. Our website proclaimed that we provided ‘effective digital business solutions’. It was seen as the exciting, futuristic, cool sounding one in the industry and the term the biggest gravity well – and we jumped aboard so we could speak a common language for recruitment and for new business.

I still have some of those other terms peppered across this site and also on my LinkedIn profile though. Not just for search reasons but because I like them. More than digital, actually, in terms of how they describe what people did and still do.  I always thought digital seemed an unnecessary additional term that was more about technology than marketing / promotional channels or experiential initiatives.

But it was a term that we all adopted and I believe is still needed as a flag to rally around for skills development, organisational transformation and growth and marketing initiatives. If I dropped it from my online profiles I’d be harder to find for the experience I have and my elevator pitch would need way more clarification.

digital marketing website 1999 graphicThat’s not to say I won’t drop the term in time, just not yet: it still has too much resonance for much of client world and lots of agencies. And for good reasons, see some recent survey findings and an interesting piece from Dave Chaffey on SmartInsights re the move (or not) to a post-digital world.

The graphics for this post come from early iteration of the McCann-i website. And look wonderfully of the period, pretty sure they did something interactive courtesy of flash. Credit goes to excellent designer / digital Art Director, Dave Burgess of Pixelsoup.

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