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What Do We Say When ‘Digital’ Has Lost All Meaning?

by Tony Quin, IQ / May 26, 2013

Note: This blog entry is available in English only.

I am the CEO of a digital agency. I also chair the board of an association of digital agencies. My problem is I don’t know how to tell people what I do.

It’s not that I don’t know what I do. I just don’t know how to describe it in terms that people will understand. The problem is that the word “digital” has become obsolete. Every time I hear it or use it I cringe.

What isn’t digital these days? TV is digital, you can’t even get the old kind anymore, whatever that was. Photography is digital. The old days of film are so gone, but do you see Canon trumpeting their digital cameras? Digital vs. what? So here we are, professional marketers, and we are using a word to describe what we do that has no real meaning anymore.

The association I am involved with is called SoDA and its letters originally stood for the Society of Digital Agencies. But our great acronym is already in trouble. Some of our members say that “digital” is an irrelevant word because everything is now digital, and so it’s a distinction without a difference.

Of course, there was a time when being a digital agency was a clear differentiator, a opposed to being a non-digital, or dare I say it, traditional agency. Those were the days when digital agencies like mine used to run digital rings around the traditional agency behemoths. But then the big guys woke up and before long were digital agencies, too. Now every agency has to be digital if it wants to stay in business. Digital in all its forms has changed so much of our business, that the old Mad Men concepts of advertising seem quaint; and I don’t know many agencies that want to be considered quaint.

Take my own dilemma. I call my agency a digital-advertising agency. I thought about dropping the word digital but I just can’t let it go, because without it we are just, God forbid, an ad agency. I was tempted to use “next generation” for a while, but it was too pompous even for an ad guy. I toyed with “an advertising agency for the digital age” or “an ad agency with digital at its core”, but they felt at best clumsy and at worst buzz-word noise. One agency I know just gave up and called itself “an experience company”, which is so vague it could be an escort service.

The bottom line is that we need to find a new word or words to describe what we do. It’s almost as if we’re a new industry and we need a new name. Suggestions?

Side-note: For a humorous take of the sometimes absurd world of buzz words in our industry, you might also want to take a look at “The SoDA Buzz Word Launcher” that debuted in the first 2013 edition of SoDA’s biannual trend publication, The SoDA Report.

This article was originally featured on Agage

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