Emulating the traditional advertising could be the end of digital advertising. This is a new game that needs new rules
The biggest advantage of the digital industry is the lack of legacy. It provides all players an opportunity to define the rules for themselves and draft their own charter. However, I do notice that by virtue of it being clubbed with the advertising industry, a lot of the practices that probably worked in that industry are being forced on the digital industry as well.
In my view, that is probably one of the biggest challenges that the digital players face and the onus is on each of us to make sure we do not fall into that trap. While emulating might seem like the easiest thing to do, it will definitely not be the one that’s most effective. Imagine asking an industry, where all hell breaks loose over a typo, to be ok with the concept of perpetual beta. Tough. But if they really want to be a part of this change, there are a few things they would need to reconsider and re-look at.
The advent of digital has thrown open a new breed of talent who are doing things in ways never done before. This kind of talent doesn’t necessarily fill any job description or stereotype.
First of all, it requires a complete overhaul of the current culture where everything starts and stops at the ‘creative director’. Organisations need to stop building creative functions and instead work towards building a creative culture. A culture, where every individual is encouraged to contribute and make mistakes, without the fear of being judged or overruled. A culture where, feedback is not a one-way street and every individual is able to provide unbiased feedback, irrespective of whom the feedback is meant for. Building a strong culture is the foundation of any successful organisation. In the case of digital it becomes even more critical as it runs the risk of being overpowered by an existing (advertising) culture that in the current context, has a lot of inherent challenges.
Hiring is another critical pillar. In the case of digital, organisations need to understand and embrace a dramatic shift in who and why they hire. The advent of digital has thrown open a new breed of talent who are doing things in ways never done before. This kind of talent doesn’t necessarily fill any job description or stereotype. It is therefore important for organisations that are born digital to not just keep redefining their hiring policy, which allows them to attract diversified talent, but also revisit their retention policies. Hire people not just for the skills they possess and ensure that they do the work they’ve been hired for. Unlike the past, the biggest challenge for employers in the digital space is not competition but the inability to foster an entrepreneurial spirit within the organisation.
Digital organisations need to get over the advertising hangover. It is just a small aspect of what this medium can deliver.
The other challenge with regards to hiring is to attract the right technology talent. This is a tough task given that for most, joining a Digital Marketing organisation is not even an option. In fact, I would be surprised if majority of the tech graduates could even name digital players in India. Their preference still would be the likes of Google, Infosys, TCS, etc. It’s a massive task therefore to not just increase awareness for ourselves within the tech talent pool but also build systems within the organisation that allow them to lead the mandate, given that in most cases technology is the differentiator. It is important for all digital organisations to have a clear and strong tech/innovation story that helps them to attract this talent.
Digital organisations need to get over the advertising hangover. It is just a small aspect of what this medium can deliver. Today, more than ever, digital players have the opportunity to directly impact every aspect of the marketing organisation including CRM, loyalty, business intelligence and sale. In order to do that effectively, it is important to focus less on just competition and a lot more on collaboration. This includes collaboration in the technology space, with service providers who, so far, have probably been looked at only as vendors. This also requires a huge change in the internal team structures that makes the potential technology partners look at us as serious collaborators.
It’s time for us to recognise that experience comes with its own baggage.
For long, the industry has looked at itself as a services player. Today, we have the opportunity to move a significant part of our offering from a service to a product offering. That requires a fundamental change in how we define our life cycle, our revenue streams and our team structures. It includes a different mindset that believes in investing for the future in ways that have not been done before. It requires a stronger focus on prototyping and creating our own briefs rather than hiding behind one, or the lack of one.
Last but not least, it’s the leadership that needs to change. It’s time for us to recognise that experience comes with its own baggage. We need to reinvent our approach to leadership and encourage younger, fresher talent to step up and take charge in a manner that is disruptive and focuses more on changing the game rather than focusing on game changers.
The idea behind this article is not to suggest that whatever is being done is wrong but to re-emphasize the fact that a lot is changing. Unfortunately, the ones that are at the forefront of this change are not changing enough themselves.
It is time for digital to move out of the advertising fold in India and make a mark of its own. The organisations that provide that independence to their digital counterparts are the ones that will reap the benefits.
I am lucky enough to be a part of one.
A version of this article was published in Kyoorius 24.
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