A dispassionate dose of digital
For the last week I have been reading and editing our annual Digital Essays supplement. This means that for the next month or so I can pretend to understand technology as much as the twenty- plus experts who wrote for us ( as long as I stick to broad assertions and don’t have to field any follow- up questions).
What I find just as interesting as the individual topics covered are the themes that begin to emerge each time we ask a lot of people to write on a given subject.
Several of our essayists discuss blockchain, and the potential it has to provide transparency in programmatic buying and beyond. And e- commerce also crops up a lot. I would predict we will see a lot more happening in this space next year.
Another theme seems to be rationalisation of digital hype. For a few years now, data- powered digital has been the be- all and end- all of marketing talk. From targeted buying to on- thenose creative insights to reach and discussions and artificial intelligence and robots and algorithms and Pokémons, digital has been the future.
But now the industry is taking a deep breath, stepping back and rethinking this obsession. There is no doubting that digital has revolutionised marketing, but it is not a replacement for old media so much as a supplementary medium.
This is echoed in the interview on page 18 of the main section of the magazine with Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower who broke the Cambridge Analytica scandal. “Data informs you, it doesn’t tell you what to do,” he says.
A case in point is the partnership between Twitter and Unilever that lets the FMCG giant make the most of the social platform’s live video shows. In the feature on page 14, Twitter’s regional managing director Benjamin Ampen explains that everything from subject matter to programming is guided by the conversations that are happening on Twitter and with advertisers.
So let’s embrace the possibilities of digital marketing without being ruled by them any more than we should be ruled by that data. Television and print and outdoor and radio ( and podcasts – read more on page 8; they are getting a second wind, says Markettiers’ Cheryl King) are all still alive and kicking. Digital has transformed them and will continue to transform them. But it will complement more than kill.
And we should learn to look at all the tools and media available to our industry rationally and creatively to see what magic we can weave, be that through digital or analogue means or a mix of the two.