Nicholas Negroponte declared the digital revolution over in 1998. The ad industry didn’t get the memo. It was too busy completely reworking its basic creative, technological, philosophical and procedural assumptions to survive a revolution that, in brand world, was very much in bloody progress. With great effort, the industry made a mighty shift. Perhaps the best indication that the marketing business has finally, really, embraced the spirit of the digital age is that it’s doing a lot of work that’s not so… “Digital.”
The best companies have harnessed the digital mind-set and taken the shareable, ongoing, interactive, participatory nature of digital and created brand experiences that matter to people where they ought to in their real, everyday, flesh and flood lives.
This is, of course, not to suggest that digital doesn’t matter anymore. Quite the opposite. Grokking the digital ethic and understanding technology are not steps that can be skipped. The point is that digital underlies everything, is everything. As Negroponte said back in 98, “like air and drinking water,” digital would be noticed only by its absence, not its presence. Or, as planner/pundit/Really Interesting Group founder Russell Davies wrote in an essay on post-digitalism on his blog last year, most people have integrated digital into their lives, “to the extent that it makes as much sense to define them as digital as it does to define them as air-breathing. I.e., it’s true but not useful or interesting.”
So this is not exactly a new development. The most compelling brand ideas of the last decade have had a digital heart but have manifested themselves in meaningful ways in people’s fleshly lives see Nike and Fiat Eco Drive. And, an increasingly digitized world means the internet is already all around you. The internet of things the growing number of networked, everyday objects from fridges to pill bottles to cars is a reality. But it seems that the idea that digital has transcended something experienced from beginning to end via a keyboard and on a screen has finally gripped the mainstream brand world.
A glance at some of the big award winners so far this season seems to reflect the shift to real-world experiences. The Grand Prize winner at the One Show Interactive was a digital idea that literally played out on the streets Nike Chalkbot from Wieden + Kennedy (see below). At the Andys, the big winner was TBWA/Chiat/Day’s Replay for Gatorade, an idea that started as a live event and online content venture and spilled over into broadcast.
“In a way what I think is happening is that online behavior is affecting most other areas of life at the moment,” says Andreas Dahlqvist, ECD of DDB Stockholm, the agency behind the real-world-leaning Fun Theory Campaign (see below). “We see interactivity and social components everywhere now. There is huge potential in using digital to enhance ‘real life’ experience, and I think we are just seeing the beginning of that. It’s adding a new layer of value, a fourth dimension if you like. Looking at it the other way around it’s about making digital tangible. I think there is a need to add ‘real-ness’ in an increasingly digitized world.