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Digital people.

There will be digital people in the meeting won’t there?

I overheard someone say this during a visit to the office of another agency some time in the last couple of weeks. (I’ve visited quite a few in several cities. No names no pack drill).

It’s nearly six years since I worked in a “non-digital” agency. All of my colleagues are “digital people” of various shapes and sizes. The idea of a “digital person” never crosses my mind. It’s meaningless. And it’s really strange to hear someone say it out loud.

The very idea of a “digital person” carries with it a counter-productive exclusivity.

The existence of “digital people” implies the existence of “non-digital people”, at a time when everyone is, or should be, “digital”.

What matters is the all shapes and sizes specificity. What is your particular area of digital expertise? Writing code? UX? SEO? Interactive design?

The same applies to creativity and “creative people”.

There will be creatives in the meeting won’t there?

I’ve always hated the idea of “creative people”. It has that same counter-productive exclusivity.

The existence of “creative people” implies the existence of “non-creative people” in an environment in which everyone is, or should be, “creative”.

What matters is your own special brand of creativity. Copywriting? Original conceptual idea generation? Presentation skills? Elegant strategic problem solving?

Everyone who is any good, in any department of any agency, is “creative”.

Ditto, these days, “digital”.

Creativity is a cross-discipline aptitude. That’s why anyone from any type of agency – advertising, DM, PR, media, and yes digital – is capable of having good ideas.

Likewise, “digital”, whatever the hell “digital” is, is a cross-discipline aptitude. That’s why all types of agency – advertising, DM, PR, media and yes digital – are fighting over it.

By the way this is what the hell digital is.

6 Responses to “Digital people.”

  1. Andrea says:

    I recently went to talk to some very lovely people who don’t want to brand themselves as ‘digital’ or ‘creative’ and they were telling me about the fact that they still get meetings where clients come in and say they want to say ‘you are the digital people’ as a sort of moniker that they feel comfortable with.

    It’s particularly annoying to be pigeonholed like that and I will tell you it’s even worse at an individual level, nevermind agency-wide. It’s not what they call you, it’s what you answer to though đŸ™‚

    • phil says:

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. It is a bit of an idealistic post to be honest. These labels are just too useful in everyday business life to expect people to drop them. The problem comes when repeated use of these terms as business shorthand insidiously affects thinking. It’s more an issue with couter-productive shorthand like “community”, “engagement” and “influencer” that can directly affect strategy. “Digital people” is more of a bugbear than a major problem.

  2. Craig McGill says:

    A good post, but something to consider is that if we all try to claim “digital” then that can lead to confusion in the eyes of clients who might think “well, if they do digital then they can do SEO, web design, audio, video” which then leads to problems when said person/firm can’t do it.

    (I know that’s not what you’re getting at here but it is something to bear in mind. Yes, we may all be digital now – or should be – but the client may see that digital as different to us.)

  3. Phil Dearson says:

    Thanks for the link, Phil.

    My hope is that all this is a phase and that, in say 5 years, people in agencies who don’t understand digital or creative won’t be working in agencies any more. They won’t be qualified to participate. An understanding of digital in society will be table stakes.

    There’s certainly a difference when we talk about digital specialists though. For the time being there’s still a need for people with depth of experience (I’m thinking of Boches’ T-shaped people here).

    Anyway, we’ll all be “quantum people” soon if this qubit teleportation research develops: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21811-teleportation-record-heralds-secure-global-network.html

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