Monday, 6 December 2010

The Obsession with Digital

The blindness in advertising and its surrounding rhetoric, is beginning to make me feel a bit sick. I read this article this morning on the ten best digital ad campaigns of, wait for it... the decade. One campaign that annoyed me a little was one where people tweeted messages during the Tour de France and the tweets would be painted on the road.

There's nothing inherently wrong with this idea, in fact it's kind warm and fuzzy. But there is nothing digital about it, certainly not enough to be a digital campaign of the decade. People like it is because it's tangible. And it certainly could have been done without twitter, seeing as they just picked out the cool ones to print anyway.

This is another example of a campaign that, rather than working by itself, relies almost entirely on being explained in Fast Company, not only to be understood at all but to generate the mass of publicity that is now expected from something where twitter is involved - beyond just the fans who came to watch at that exact point in the road. There is no mention of how much people liked it, or of its effectiveness in general. The story was posted because tweeting is (still) cool. Without an explanation that the messages were tweeted and that it is in fact for Livestrong, the campaign isn't much of a campaign at all. Put it this way, the only thing being retweeted (there is little original content on twitter) is the explanation of the campaign. Am I making sense? Only when people rewteet it because the content of the message moves them or such should it constitute good advertising, but the only thing being awarded here is the medium. The first half of it, in fact.

The idea that we need to separate digital advertising from any other advertising is the first mistake. Never forget that digital is a tool, not an end in itself. The paint in the road is what people want, not knowing that the paint was tweeted.

This also brings me to the idea of Digital Strategy. The way the term is currently being bandied about, people actually seem to mean channel tactics, or something similar. The actual practice of digital strategy is entirely un-strategic, it is tactical and reactive. Real brand strategy is pro-active - that is why it constitutes a strategy at all. Positioning, something which is not much affected by the latest fads and digital trends, is proactive, and what your equity is built upon.

Brand positioning IS the strategy, and "digital strategy" has nothing to do with positioning. So let's spend a little less time thinking about digital and more time thinking about the brands and what they stand for, which when done properly can be a lot more tangible and meaningful than a fleeting tweet.