Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Is Digital The Be All And End All?

I was surprised to learn that one of my candidates, a bright, articulate and forward thinking young account executive, had left one of the major Procter agencies after only about 14 months as an account executive.  She had been working on one of the definitive P&G brands and I understand she was well liked, respected and moving ahead quickly.  The agency tried to keep her, but a recruiter had approached her to work at a small digital agency on a package goods account.  When I asked her why she did it, she responded that “digital is the future” and she felt that she had to learn digital while she could.

There is no question that digital is here to stay.  And it is really important.  So working at a digital agency is probably a good idea at some point.  But to give up on Procter prematurely was, in my opinion, a huge mistake.  There is a huge difference between the marketing disciplines of package goods, especially P&G, and the executional tactics of digital.  P&G training is the best there is.
If this account person had given it time, she could have had both.  To rush into digital is a mistake.  There are plenty of great package goods accounts where digital is an integral part of the marketing and any account person who works on those accounts gets ample digital over time.  The account person I am referring to should have waited another year or so and then would have been in demand as a marketer, not just an account person.

Creative people may be different.  Many of the television art directors and writers still turn up their noses at digital.  They shouldn't.  Digital will become a part of their life, if it hasn't already.  There is still no substitute for the excitement of a great commercial on broadcast television, but with the advent of social media, the internet will catch up fast.

What is fascinating and ironical is that, the digital agencies are now trying to become more “general”.  The general agencies are moving more into digital.  Over time, it will all even out.  Digital is and should be an integral part of advertising communications.
My candidate’s statement that “digital is the future” is only partially correct.  I believe that a better statement would have been, “digital will become part of mainstream along with broadcast and print.  Good advertising people will learn it all and become far more media neutral than they are now.


  1. Digital is not the future. It is the present. But, it's only part of the present. We are living in a multi-platform communications world. Great strategy and brilliant consumer connection both lead platform choices and direct them. There is no substitute for learning the fundamentals and applying them with insight + innovation

  2. Agree. The key is consumer behavior today, and in the future. Track it and channels fall into place. And of course most consumers are deeply immersed into all things digital for virtually everything. Proctor gets the consumer as well as anyone so my sense is you are right about the training. The pendulum typically swings to far in the industry. And yes there is a race to the middle for digital and "general" agencies. As it has always been best insights and ideas (cross platform) will win.

  3. Great read.

    Digital is a medium and a tactic, just like TV or print. Clients will expect their agencies to work well across all disciplines. That's while digital shops are becoming more general and vice versa.

  4. I think the most interesting thing here is that she wanted to "learn digital." I think the only way to learn how to use digital media is to experiment and see what works and what doesn't. Digital media is something you can teach yourself. Strategy, planning and account management is something that you can only learn through good mentors and experience.

    I "learned digital" by experimenting online in college which landed me a job where I now work on P&G accounts. While I could learn the digital landscape on my own I would have never learned everything I now know about the inner workings of PR and P&G without this position.

    Everyone makes digital media sound so glamorous and mysterious.

  5. Cassie, that is a great comment and insight. There is no substitute for experience.


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