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Exactly What is Digital, Anyway?
By: Brian Keller
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We were interviewed recently and the interviewer asked for work that we were proud of. We spoke of a TV commercial we loved because of the strategy, the execution, and, most importantly, the results for our client.
As we spoke about strategy and how we came up with the concept, the interviewer asked another question. “What links can you show me that are representative of digital?”
“What do you mean? We write concepts, strategy, ideas, etc. We write so that our ideas will fit digital channels, plus TV, radio, print, or wherever we have to deliver a message. We do social media, we do apps, websites, interactive games, etc. We embrace all the tools.”
We were asked again about digital.
“If our concepts don’t work across all media, what good are they?”
Is “Expect More. Pay Less” digital? Look up Target and you will, on the site, find “Expect More. Pay Less.” This is found in every Target execution and is a building block in Target’s renaissance. The “Just Do It” campaign just celebrated its 25th year. “Just Do It” is still rumbling along unimpeded across all channels, including digital channels.
The Internet in 2013 passed newspapers to become the world's second-largest ad medium, behind TV, according to ZenithOptimedia. The Internet now captures one in five ad dollars.” 
The operative words here are medium and ad dollars.
ZenithOptimedia also says that “Digital and online media have dramatically increased the ways consumers can see, touch and buy brands, and have opened up thousands of new opportunities.”
Ideas are being produced and executed digitally. People who get the idea of an idea, and adapt to new channels of delivery, are still producing the ideas. In the past, creative people were not harnessed by the words “TV,” “radio,” “newspaper,” “print,” “out-of-home,” etc. Art directors, designers, and writers were expected to work in a way that delivered for the client across the range of media chosen. Producers, as they have done forever, produce. Production is production. You better know the basics. 

It’s a terrific time to be in the creative department. Creative people are afforded an amazing array of fun tools to play with to create sustainable work for their clients. Digital media and editing have made broadcast “doable” for more clients. The expense of film, for a high-end product, is not a constraint. Digital capture is now beautiful. Postproduction that took up rooms in separate facilities is done compactly. Time doesn’t matter, as the digital age has destroyed some of the restriction of a defined “spot.” Material that is compelling gets an audience on the Internet. It’s mind boggling what you can do in the digital space. It's mind boggling that, we think, digital has been defined properly.

It’s a horrible time to be in the creative department. Creative people have to figure out exactly what digital is and how it’s perceived. Is it an idea, is it media, is it an execution? One bright gentleman, after our last piece on digital, called it a channel. We like that. However, digital imaging, either still images or video, is really a process of capturing images in a certain format. So, is digital a format? Some people call digital a place where ad dollars are spent. It's mind boggling that, we think, digital has been defined properly. 

Recruiter: “Hi. What’s your name?”
Jules Verne: “Hi. Jules Verne.”
Recruiter: “Hi, Julie. I see you’re here about the travel copywriter spot. What have you done?”
Jules Verne: “Well, I helped predict space travel with my novel From Earth To The Moon. I wrote Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and other things. I like to write about what will be and not what might be. Some thought I was foolish, but for the most part I’ve been pretty on target with my concepts.”
Recruiter: “Good. We’re looking for someone with digital chops?”
Jules Verne: “Can you define digital for me?”
Recruiter: “I’m going to circle back and keep you in the loop.”
Recruiter: “Mr. Picasso, you’re interviewing for the Art Director slot. Tell me about your digital chops.”

We would still argue that digital is not a concept but a method for capture, or a channel, or a media choice, and so on. We argue that it is not the idea. The idea comes first and when things shake out you will find that concept is still king.

NOTE: Digital cameras can take pictures because they contain a small sensor that converts light into electricity. The principle is traced back to Einstein and the Photoelectric Effect in 1905. This work forms the basis for the development of all equipment, which converts light into electricity from digital cameras to solar cells. Einstein won the Nobel Prize in 1921 for this. Would you hire him?

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About the Author
Brian Keller is the Creative Director at teeny agency in Baltimore. He graduated from the University of Maryland (English), went to grad school at NYU (Cinema Studies), & attends University of Baltimore School of Law.

Brian's been working primarily in the digital space for years but enjoys all communications avenues.

He has built the creative departments at two agencies.

He likes skateboarding with his son. He also falls off his skateboard and amuses his son. When not amusing his son or riding bikes or playing basketball or working he writes for Beyond Madison Avenue & that's why Beyond Madison Avenue appears twice in this sentence.

Find him online here and at www.teenyagency.com.
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