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The Digital Mirage

By V. Subramaniam (Subbu)

Image courtesy: taivasalla

Only 3% of traditional agencies excel in digital says this survey across 277 client executives in the US. I shudder to think of the results if a similar survey were to be conducted in India. Not only traditional shops in India do not get digital but also the so-called digital agencies. And I cringe when words like social media are uttered by these agencies (and guru’s alike). In all fairness, the results will be equally disastrous were one to check the level of understanding of the digital medium amongst clients.

Digital is a mirage. It will continue to be so for traditional agencies as long as their idea of digital is creating another profit centre and adding few slides at the time of a business pitch. There is need for considerable investment (‘expense’ in traditional agency lingo) For example, hiring people unique to the discipline like interaction designer, creative technologists and many like them costs money. Since this is not so, almost anyone with an email and Facebook account passes of as a digital expert. I won’t be surprised if my college-going-nephew who is into gaming and downloading God-knows-what (bonus marks for porn) is considered a CD material.

Why is this so?

India being a traditional media market, the creative types and agencies do not see any glory beyond the 30 second commercial and print ads. The client too is looking for a solution that is tried and tested. This coupled with lack of understanding of the new media, creates an inertia that is hard to surmount.

More importantly this lack of understanding has resulted in ‘us vs them’ debate between traditional and digital (emerging media). This debate is completely wrong. Digital is not something alien. What is required is to understand how consumers actually interact with media, brands and one another. Thereafter, design a compelling experience (and communication) by extrapolating it to the real world.

The survey mentioned above says it very well.

"Simply doing social and digital, such as creating Facebook accounts and developing banner ads, isn't going to be enough as marketers get hungrier for better direction -- and results -- in the digital/social world. The agency that can help clients understand how to use social/digital and how to integrate these [media] effectively into more traditional initiatives will, in the end, win the day."



V. Subramaniam (Subbu)

When people ask me what I do, I drop in words like experiment, creative, strategy, technology and intersection. I surely don't know what it means. If you have figured it out, do let me know. I am not complaining though, as I have done some interesting projects for Wipro Technologies and continue to do so for equally interesting clients like Nu Street Technologies, 3dSoc and so on.

In my previous avatar I was an adman, marketing bloke and brand specialist. It so happened that agencies like Ogilvy and JWT were foolish enough to let me handle all kinds of brands - from large ones like Unilever, BP to small local brands. I stumbled into the world of marketing during the internet (dotcom) boom days. If you have reached here, you must be surely curious about me. Why don’t you drop in a line?

**Subbu writes blog regularly at http://www.thefreeunion.blogspot.com.

***Views Expressed here are personal. The writer can be reached at subbu@thefreeunion.com

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