There’s no such thing as digital

Creative Director Matt looks back on an eventful Digital Week here at Oxfam House…

As part of the digital communication team’s series of talks for digital week, we were lucky enough to have a presentation about digital creative from one of our agencies, Proximity. It was a brilliant talk full of case studies of some fantastic work. A big thank you to both the digital team for organising it and to Proximity for making the trip up from London.

As I wandered back to my desk after the talk, I started to think about if the work was really great ‘digital’ work, or if it was just really great work?

There were a couple of projects in particular which led me down this train of thought. The first was the Monteith cider company who came up with the brilliant idea to put some stray twigs into its packaging and wait for people to complain, and complain they did. Once the complaints had gathered enough momentum on social media they issued an apology, basically saying sorry, but that’s what you get when you use apples straight from the tree rather than from concentrate like our competitors. It was an extremely successful campaign that utilised digital media perfectly, but it was a great idea at the beginning of it all that made it a success.

Another project for The Pedigree Adoption Drive tapped into the insight that a lot of dog owners look like their dogs. They used facial recognition technology to link up potential dog owners with dogs that looked like them, and used social media to market the system. Again, a really great idea played out expertly through digital technology, but again it was the great idea behind it that led to the success of the campaign.

It’s not the knowing how it works that’s important, but it’s the lateral creative thinking that makes it a brilliant bit of work.

There’s now so much technology around, and it’s changing so quickly, that it’s probably your imagination that’s the limiting factor in creating great digital work rather than the technology itself. This is illustrated quite nicely through Google’s project Re:Brief which brought ageing madmen-era advertisers, who knew very little about digital technology, out of retirement and linked them up with some of Google’s brightest digital talent. The teams revisited some of their old work and reworked them for our technology-focused society. Some of the results were fantastic, and again, it was the strength of the ideas that won the day.

All this left me wondering if categorising communications as digital is useful, or even still relevant? At a recent workshop with our social media agency Torch Box, we talked about the fact that for younger generations there is no ‘digital’. They don’t go online to chat to friends ‘digitally’, they just go online to chat to friends. By putting work and ideas into a ‘digital’ box, are we just highlighting a generation gap, and our lack of understanding?

It’s the difference between a digital native who has grown up using technology intuitively, and digital migrants who have discovered it later in life. Part of the process of trying to understand something is to categorise it, which it feels to me is why we hear the word ‘digital’ thrown around so much. It’s part of the process of trying to demystify it. Hopefully the more technology becomes part of people’s everyday life, the more we can move on from worrying about creating great ‘digital’ work, and focus on great ideas that engage and motivate people – wherever they are.