The lack of ‘digital skills in adland’ (the catch all term for not knowing stuff about the internet and things) has been getting a fair bit of coverage in the marketing press of late. To be fair it’s pretty accurate, but I have to disagree with the majority of really unhelpful opinions that seems to be coming from various corners of the industry.
But the thing is, it’s always easier to blame someone or something else for a very diabolical situation – so let’s be honest for a change. Every one on the above list is responsible and I would even add the press and the very people who lack the digital skills in the first place.
Before I go on, I do want to make one thing really clear, that we all need to acknowledge. The advertising industry, as much as we don’t want to believe it, is not the centre of the universe. It’s not as important as it used to be and it certainly isn’t the most advanced industry when it comes to technology.
So one of the main reasons why adland lacks skills in technology, is because the people that really want to work in the field, probably don’t think about working in advertising companies or departments. Funnily enough, they want to work for technology companies with a track record in innovation. Now we have that out of the way, let’s move on to taking some collective blame.
Agencies because they still put short term revenue ahead of a better long term model built around technology, innovation and the training of talent. Don’t expect to attract and retain tech talent, if you just want them to do a shiny Facebook app to support your shit TV ad.
Clients for not embracing change quick enough and failing to reinvent marketing departments and processes. If you are set up to make annual TV advertising campaigns guess what? You get TV advertising campaign.
Industry bodies for pushing a very bias agenda that only worsens the problem.
The press for continuing to hold TV spots up as the holy grail of marketing, focusing on agency politics and even advocating some very dated opinions
Universities for not updating the curriculum in line with what is happening in the real world.
People for not taking ownership of their own career development. Shame on you for sitting there and waiting for someone to magically implant the knowledge in your head.
Let’s not use the economy as a scape goat either. Some of the first commercial websites were made in the 90s and we haven’t been living in some marketing depression for two decades. We have just chosen to ignore it in the hope it goes away.
None of this is new, we have all been shit. Let’s take it in the chin and move on.
So here is my contribution and tips for getting better at ‘digital’
One – Admit you are to blame and you need to do something about it
Two – Acknowledge that advertising is not the centre of innovation and creativity. If people want to work in innovation they will work at innovative companies. If you’re serious, become one.
Three – Act more like tech companies and start by not using the word digital – it’s vacuous. Use technology and/or innovation it’s more helpful and accurate.
Four – If you work at a company where your senior management team are still in denial about the Internet and still think that Millenials will grow up wanting to spend their time watching your ads and your ubiquitous product then leave now. It will never work out there.
Five – If you have tech experience and are thinking of moving to a company that has a ‘big vision for innovation’ only go if they have fundamentally changed their philosophy, revenue model and processes. If its only a recruitment drive for tech talent don’t waste your time. Technology and innovation never flourishes in these environments – it’s simply lip service to the problem.
Six – If you want to take technology seriously, have as many people on the Exec board with tech backgrounds as traditional. Give them the responsibility to make big disruptive changes.
Seven – Don’t just blow money on training if you aren’t willing to change how you operate. It’s like learning French and never going to France. You’ll never become fluent.
Eight – Adopt the processes and methodologies of technology companies and only then roll out a training programme.
Nine – Restructure your marketing department around technology and put more emphasis on the other three Ps. It’s about making things people want rather than making people want things.
Ten – Consider whether your lead agency is really just an advertising agency or genuinely innovative. Can they make your business better or just your ads? If not rethink who should be your go to partner – they may even lie outside of the advertising echo chamber.
Eleven – The Internet is a wonderful place to learn about the Internet. Seriously, start now, learn some code. Follow some brilliant companies and minds, but mostly importantly just do something and explore better ways of doing things.