The following is a post I wrote for the BB Digital Blog, Survival Guide. Some good stuff being posted there by senior staffers. Check it out here. Here's what I wrote:
Digital is not a discipline.
That probably seems like a weird thing for an Interactive Creative Director to say, but truth is, it’s not. Not a single discipline, anyway. At least, not when you look at the way the people use digital things.
It might be easy to look at digital as a discipline because there has traditionally been a relatively definable group of people who know how to make digital stuff. And, truth told, until a few years ago, there was a relatively definable group of people who even knew how to use digital stuff. But in today’s agency, and in today’s world, both of those groups have exploded in size, and neither is as definable anymore. The users have become, – to one degree or another – everyone you’d ever want or need to advertise to. The makers, too, now come with increasingly diverse backgrounds, and almost none of us wear pocket protectors or exist solely on Red Bull. Yet, more often than not, I still hear digital addressed as a single discipline. As in, “Ok, we have the concept now, how do we do this in digital?” Unfortunately, that can trip you up.
Because a website isn’t like a mobi site, and a mobi site isn’t like a banner ad, and none of that is an embedded video, which isn’t a flash game or an SMS, and that’s just getting started. Heck, almost never is this website like that website. And I’m not simply talking design. The key to it all is in the last sentence of my first paragraph. You have to look at the way people use different digital things to determine what the discipline actually is – for that particular thing. At that particular moment. For that particular user.
It’s always about the user. And the user uses a digital thing differently, depending on how, when, and why she’s using it. Sometimes, people go to a site for pure information. Sometimes, for entertainment. Sometimes to buy, sometimes to compare, sometimes to communicate with friends, and lots and lots of times, they just happen to find you when they’re looking for something kind of related to what you do. Users don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to the way they use things online. And here, websites are only an example. Online advertising is different, still. Targeting the mindset of the user at a given moment is key – not simply targeting a demographic. That goes for creative, as well as placement. Mobile is, again, different. Different reasons for users to use it, different interface, and a completely different mindset, depending on whom, exactly, you want to get your message to, and how they happen to be using their phone when you want to deliver that message.
Digital encompasses conceptual thinking, design, and development. Pretty much everyone in the business knows that much. But, truly, that’s the tip of the iceberg. It can also mean using filmmaking skills, game theory, pure storytelling – even things as diverse as crowd control, or the social skills you might find useful at a cocktail party. In short, digital uses all the same disciplines any form of communications might use. Plus some that are unique – not just to digital – but unique, even, to different types of digital projects.
If digital is anything, it’s a landscape. A broad, diverse landscape that includes lots of different environments. To traverse it, you’ll need two things: (A) One or more of a gazillion different vehicles; and, (B) probably most important: A really good guide.