Gokul Krishnamurthy
Oct 22, 2013

Opinion: Do we need an ‘app’ to understand digital?

Technology is not intended for exhibition. It is meant to enable and enhance experience.

Opinion: Do we need an ‘app’ to understand digital?

Slowly, now.
E-n-g-l-i-s-h: English.
H-i-n-d-i: Hindi.
See, it’s not that difficult.

Surely, for the sophisticated brains that pioneer technology-led solutions, basic communication skills must be simple enough to master? Not really, if we go by the number of summaries  of digital campaigns coming our way that need a ‘translation’.

Those that can think of and create breakthroughs in digital media seem to be woefully inept at explaining their concepts in human-speak, or their ‘interpreters’ are incapable of doing so. There’s a problem with the interpreters or the creators are not able to get through even to them. Even writing about this is beginning to look complicated.

A PR rep of a global FMCG brand sought a meeting to ‘take us through’ a digital campaign. When I requested them to mail the campaign instead, the response was, “It’s a little complicated. It would be easier to explain face-to-face.” Could there be a campaign whose objective, creative idea and execution, the client, agency and PR agency are unable to state, in words?

When looking at a campaign, digital or otherwise, I tend to inadvertently put on just one hat – that of the consumer. If I am unable to ‘get’ the campaign and its impact as a consumer, what is the campaign meant to achieve? It’s another story if the campaign is meant for a closed user group.
And no, it’s not just about media.

After two editions of convening the jury for Campaign India’s digital awards (Campaign India Digital Crest Awards), and witnessing the pain of jurors firsthand, I can say that several of the entries would have done much better if they had engaged the jury with plain marketer-speak. In a jury that comprises only marketers, the closer-user-group code fails amongst an overwhelming majority. Miserably.

So why can’t the tech specialists speak in English? Pop the question and pat came one reply: ‘The same reason why marketing folks can’t let go of jargon’.

But wait. Aren’t the most successful marketers the ones who have been able to transcend their ‘linguistic barriers’ and reach out to the consumer in the language consumers dream in?

A veteran marketer, who is possibly more in tune with what brands in his category can and are doing on FB, Twitter and the like than digital practitioners half his age, met me after a meeting with a digi-‘turk’ (not me, marketer-speak). He said he was reminded of the early days of multi-channel television, when an enterprising sales soul tried to impress on him the need for both reach and frequency, among other things, with there being nothing serendipitous about what was being explained – except for some of the terms used. He was bulldozed, he recalled, with so much about the medium and what it could do and why his company needed it. He left the meeting, he confessed, wondering if he had been selling condoms instead of mobile handsets, the pitch would have been any different. Digital today, said the marketer, is going that route thanks to some ‘evangelists’ inextricably rooted in the medium and what they can do with it rather than in what it could do for a brand. There might be a need, he added, to create intersections where consumer experience meets brand – rather than create more forums to educate marketers in tech-speak.

The day is not far off (I think it’s here already) when people ask you to cut the c***. Technology and its many marvels are not intended for exhibition. They are meant to enable and enhance experience. If you cannot articulate that experience, let stakeholders experience it. Digital practitioners would be doing the rest of the world, themselves and the medium a favour by not evangelising their wares in a language their community alone understands.

Gokul Krishnamurthy is editor of Campaign India

The article appeared in the issue of Campaign India dated 18 October, 2013

Campaign India