Finweek English Edition - - Advertising & Marketing -

LAST WEEK’S “Crack­ing the dig­i­tal code” con­fer­ence was a fright­en­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for me. The fact that I was chair­man of the event might make this sur­pris­ing. I should have known what was com­ing. But a gath­er­ing of some of the coun­try’s sharpest minds on the sub­ject of on­line/ dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing brought home just how un­stop­pable the new medium is.

The speak­ers were charged with talk­ing in plain lan­guage to in­tel­li­gent lay­men and to leave the au­di­ence with prac­ti­cal things they could take away. When they’re not hid­ing be­hind jar­gon, acronyms and tech­ni­cal gob­blede­gook their mes­sage is even more pow­er­ful. Those who fail to seize the day are toast.

The op­por­tu­ni­ties of the new me­dia are so abun­dant and ob­vi­ous – and so widely ac­ces­si­ble – that you can no longer le­git­i­mately ar­gue that on­line is ir­rel­e­vant, a fad, or un­suited to a de­vel­op­ing coun­try. Yet there are such peo­ple around, still in de­nial about the new medium. They ex­ist in ad agen­cies and some me­dia com­pa­nies, where em­brac­ing the new or­der in­volves aban­don­ing a life­time of train­ing and ex­pe­ri­ence.

They’re about to get a shock. Rather like the sad­dlers, bri­dle­mak­ers and black­smiths who clung to their outdated liveli­hoods af­ter the au­to­mo­bile was in­vented, pooh­poohing it as smelly, un­re­li­able and noisy. “It won’t last,” they said. “It’s a fad.”

Over­pop­u­lated with peo­ple like that, ad agen­cies are in dan­ger of be­ing swept away by new young geeks. Be­cause change doesn’t hap­pen in an or­derly, well-mod­u­lated way: it hap­pens by new com­pa­nies tak­ing own­er­ship of the new ter­ri­tory while the di­nosaurs see out their fi­nal years cling­ing des­per­ately to the old.

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