As with all things new, when digital technologies became mainstream in our lives mass confusion reigned in our industry regarding who should do what. Should only digital agencies do digital? Could traditional agencies do it too? Could digital agencies become mainstream?
Now, as the move towards integrated communications forces such debates to conclusion, a new trend in consumer behaviour and marketing is adding layers of digital depth to our real world surroundings. Welcome to ‘Post-Digital’.
‘Post-digital’ is a term coined by planner/blogger Russell Davies to describe the way in which smart online behaviours have begun to make their presence felt on real, tangible objects. Take FIAT’s Eco:Drive application: a USB stick and application that you plug into your Fiat to learn tips on how to drive more responsibly and save money. As interfaces evolve, just imagine what a car manufacturer could do with, say, a mobile phone app as opposed to a USB stick.
Meanwhile, Nike’s ‘chalkbot’ enabled cancer survivors and cycling enthusiasts to chalk their own messages of support at the side of the road at the Tour de France, regardless of whether they could attend the race in person. Messages were submitted via Twitter, SMS or on wearyellow.com, and automatically etched onto the road in washable chalk, thus opening up the time-honoured tradition of chalked messages on the open road to a much wider audience.
It doesn’t stop there. In the UK, Cadbury’s constructed an ‘online pop-up shop’ - a widget that appeared on various different websites and was chased by fashionistas eager to bag one of a run of limited edition scarves conceived by designer Giles Deacon. Once you claimed your place in the queue, you were put through, via a satellite link, to the real world pop-up shop where a glamorous assistant took your address and posted your scarf.
Schweppes in the CEE coordinated a short film festival online inviting directors and copywriters to create content containing a ‘Schhhh’ moment, and screened the films online, on TV and at real world film festivals.
Previously, online communities such as Twitter were accused of a kind of hollow activism. A 140-character tweet is cheap, and costs the writer nothing. However, Facebook application Farmville’s recent charitable initiative to raise money for the people of Haiti would suggest the power of these digital gatherings when leveraged in the real world. The community of Farmville and parent company Zynga raised $1.5m dollars in five days by buying specially created virtual goods, the proceeds of which were donated to Haiti relief efforts. Digital and real are now inseparable. Isn’t it time we started to think about them that way?
Richard Pinder is chief operating officer, Publicis Worldwide