I’ve been a relentless champion of ‘digital’ in India for the last decade. I’ve championed it, I’ve propagated it, I’ve held it in high regard. It was the place i found solace from chasing 100cc ads, and 10 sec promo films as a copywriter. The digital space was where i found long form content and the freedom to marry tech with creative. I attended 4D workshops, creative technologies workshops, i lectured in fair few in my later days. Digital head, i called myself.
There was a romance in fighting for a cause, for a change. There was an unrelenting sense of pride in breaking down the walls of traditional advertising practices, to introduce clients and brands to new platforms that were direct to customer. There was an adrenalin rush in the instant feedback for your campaigns. Everything was instant. No more half yearly campaigns, it was all about weekly content buckets, about fast churning. Mo more static imagery, it was all about the narrative in real time motion. I wrote articles after articles praising the uprising of the new creative that was not bound by the dying old format of communication that was so devoid of the real pulse of the customer that it belonged in a museum. Just like the old twisted nostalgia of Mad men, of scotch drinking and elbow patches.
Dont get me wrong, i am still in awe of the masters. But they were masters of their time, and their time was great when it was. Their skill sets were legendary for their time. But times were changing, and a ragtag group of people within the industry were rebelling. After all, that’s what being creative was about – rebellion. It was a very hard climb to come from 2% of the media budget, being clubbed with CRM, DM & BTL marketing; to a place where i could stand in the McD board room & tell them that ‘digital’ needed to be the majority of their marketing spends, and find the client in agreement. It was amazing to come from being thrown scraps to actually be the most prominent voice in the brand dialogue. It was amazing when it lasted.
And i use past tense because the dream is dead. The old furniture has not been thrown out, and today that rut has spread beyond cure into what was once new. Today everyone with a smart phone and a Facebook account is a digital expert, without actually understanding what the basic DNA of digital was. Its change. Constant, relentless change. The platforms are and always will be tools. Digital is all encompassing, it’s NOT a segment of the marketing strategy, IT IS THE STRATEGY. If you put a social media link on your POS, your print ad, your TVC; they are all digital content. If a passerby clicks a picture of your poster on the road and rips you, thats digital content. But if you take your horribly made TV commercial, and shove it down people’s throats before they get to watch a video on YouTube, THAT IS NOT. And that’s the reason digital is dead. Because the old furniture was custom built for something else. They were made for campaigns that ran for a year. They were made and trained to tell their stories and sell their brands in 15secs or less. This is not their world, but no one told them. No one told them that the social media platforms dont matter, the inflating fanbase they bought off peddlers didnt matter, the conversations did. No one told them that running an ad before i saw the content i wanted to see is the opposite of what i wanted. No one told them this wasnt a place you hard sell, that this was a place people had total control, and when you take that away from the customer, they don’t like you much.
Today there are people om top who know as much digital as my mom does, and she doesn’t know much. But these people take calls on the talent, the idea, the strategy of what they think is ‘digital’. That rut is why brands waste millions of dollars in misguided surefire failures. Whether it’s Kendall Jenner offering Pepsi, or literally any local campaign. There is no focus on innovation, because how will i explain Twitch to a 60yr old with technological insecurity? How will you? How will anyone make that person, who spent his or her entire life watching, selling and praising TV, to wrap their heads around influencer marketing that is not simply paid promotion dressed in fancy vocabulary. It’s not possible. Even i have gotten too old for digital. I really have. It’s a young person’s game, because it comes easy to them. Digital is dead, because the old guard never left their post; and now we are all screwed. An entire vertical, a very impressive new phase; it’s all gone to hell in a handbasket made out of that old furniture i was talking about. It’s trendspotting after the trend has already gone mainstream, it’s the unwavering dedication to riskless, idealess concepts that were already dead on arrival. Just like the prime of ‘digital’ in this country, which never got it’s due, because you cannot teach an old dog new tricks, and neither can you bring about real change if you are too scared or weak to clear the way for it.
Digital is dead. Long live digital.
Guest Editor: Mr. Abhishake Das – Founder, Creative Director – Orwellian Dreams