The Principle of digital, and some trends for 2010

Integration of digital has always been a hot topic, from how you structure your agency teams to what role digital should play in advertising. In Campaign last month, they even ran an article on DDB Latina’s new creative “trios”, including a digital specialist alongside traditional art directors and copywriters. My favourite part is a small comment at the end by Steve Vranakis:

“… it’s the principle behind it that counts, not the trio …”

And of course he’s right. It’s the principle behind what you’re trying to do that is important, not necessarily how you get there. And I think 2010 is going to be the year of understanding the principles of digital.

Russell Davies wrote in UK Wired last month about the transparency that technology has given us, and how this has changed our lives. He was talking with reference to Government and Government data, but apply it to brands and business and it still holds true: what the internet has really given us is transparency. And what this results in is what Alan Wolk refers to as The Real Digital Revolution.

Advertising can no longer clever language and use flashy imagery to mask a poorly designed product or service. That’s because at its core, Web 2.0/Social Media/Conversational Media (your choice) are word-of-mouth recommendations that have been transcribed and made searchable. The result is that all of a products faults are instantly visible to anyone with an internet connection and the ability to use Google

And this is what the internet is, and this is how it changes communications. It forces people to be transparent. And you can’t just choose to try a little on the side and see if you like it. You can spend as much money as you like on advertising your brilliant customer service, but Google will tell me pretty much instantly if this is true or not. It’s Google as Planet-Sized Bullshit Detector.

I think transparency is the real principle of digital. And I think switched on people have understood this for a while, and this year I think we’ll see more people understanding this and better, more effective work being produced as a result of it.

Now, if you’re still interested, a few other themes I think you’ll be seeing this year:

There may be a wider understanding of the power of digital to affect business rather than just communications. Digital agencies will need to have a greater understanding of business strategy and ICT strategy. Agencies that can understand business strategy, technology AND provide cutting edge creative will be able to work for clients across more than just marketing, which will give them a distinct advantage. Perhaps Sapient’s (relatively) recent acquisition of Nitro lends a little credence to this theory.

Despite lots of other very clever people saying the opposite, I’m going to stick my neck out and say that 2010 will continue to be a year of iPhone dominance and not the year of the Google Phone. Based around the idea that the main reason to get a smart phone is the applications you can then put on it, and there is nothing slicker than Apple’s App Store. Note I didn’t say cheaper or even bigger. Just as iTunes is to me the home for purchasing digital music, the App Store will be the place to purchase apps, and therefore interest in the iPhone will continue to grow. In order to break it’s dominance, you need to build a better surrounding infrastructure as well as a better product.

Lots more devices will have internet connections – fridges, seat backs in planes, coffee tables, whatever. The proliferation of these devices will bring a much sharper focus onto interface design. Unlike browser-based design, there are no heuristic shortcuts available, no common way of interacting with the interface. Effectively, as yet, there are no defined rules. This makes it an exciting space and you’ll see some fantastic innovation alongside a lot of horrible failure as people establish these rules.

Finally, of course, don’t expect all that much to change. We are at heart a species that fears change, and this will mean you should probably expect to see a lot of what you saw last year, and probably the year before that too.