Wednesday, 12 January 2011

dandad got me writing 2

So: there's no denying that this year has been undeniably tough. As both a company director and as D&AD president, I've seen the industry struggle with signing off new projects, deflating budgets, and staff creaking under the pressure - but the gloom has been tempered by some pivotal and really exciting developments.

After quite a few years working in digital (formerly 'new media', now 'interaction' or whatever catch-all phrase has been handily coined in the last 20 minutes), it seems to me that a certain maturation happened this year. It feels as though we finally found a real acceptance for what we do and that it is, at least in well-considered and well-crafted examples, something where the benefits (be they KPIs, buzz, loyalty or whatever) are real and recognised. We've also made some clients and people famous along the way.

New tools and channels have been popping up often-ugly heads for years, and I personally have spent the last 15 trying to work out what's most appropriate. It's not just having the tools, it's knowing what to do them that's important. Audiences are smarter, more careful about where they're putting their money right now, and, most importantly, vocal. Do something good, and you'll need to do something great next time. Do something bad/ poorly executed/ ripped-off (insert bandwagon-jumping Twitter/ Facebook campaign here), and chances are there won't BE a next time. Big ideas that reach and speak to specific audiences need the right tech or channel to work for them, not the other way around.

Thankfully, some of these amazing new tech tools have permeated everyday life - cue Facebook, Google, Sky+, Twitter, Oyster Cards, Kinect and yes,  Apple, which, for the most part, work well and adapt to what people want. These may well be our Trojan horse, proving to mainstream audiences that digital 'stuff' can help and not hinder.

It's no easy hill to climb. The scope of what we do has become wider and deeper, requiring real collaboration and unrelated skill sets that have never met over drinks in the pub before.
At long last, previously fragmented parts of communication are undeniably coming together: UX meets art meets advertising meets writing meets new platforms. This is highlighted by the collaborations, mergers, departures, hirings, and firings of late, but the overriding thinking is that digital skills and thinking have to be the spine of any organisation.

Finally, the precocious digital kids seem to be in the right place. We need to keep, not just thinking, but most importantly, learning about new consumer behaviours. We should accept that we're inexorably flowing towards a totally connected world where we'll have to intuitively understand the exact location of that fine line where technology stops being clever, useful and appropriate and instead becomes distracting and gimmicky.

We have the world to talk to, and it's listening and wanting to take part. Roll on 2011.

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