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I was struck by the news that Adam & Eve/DDB has dropped 'digital' from its job titles.

Firstly, what a perfect piece of PR. But there's more to it than that; the agency is an early mover in the next stage of an ideological regression that has been happening for a while now.

There's a backlash against technology, against third-party solutions, corrupt ad models, poor creative and even content marketing.

Agencies want to get back to 'the work'.

If not 'digital', then what?

Adam & Eve/DDB has foregone the term in job titles, as well as dismissing the need for a separate digital department, in favour of the word 'interactive'.

This makes perfect sense, given that interactivity is the goal of all brand content.

Alex Hesz, executive interactive director, told Campaign:

‘Digital’ isn’t a subset of what we do here, just as it isn’t for consumers. It’s a part of every aspect of day-to-day life for us, just as it is for them.

Creative has to work with new technology, not in spite of it

At the 2015 Festival of Marketing, we broke a world record for the world's largest marketing lesson. Whilst the record was a bit of a gimmick, the subject matter was deadly serious.

Sir John Hegarty discussed the state of creative, limited not by too much technology, but by a lack of understanding.

A creative industry slow to embrace technology has perhaps led to the acceptance of poor quality and disappointing advertising.

If TV creative is simply tweaked in order to shoehorn it into online ad formats, the result isn't going to be the harmony of medium and message.

In short, perhaps obfuscation has helped to sell new media to clients, who are blinded by its brilliance but never sure of its effectiveness.

Dropping 'digital' allows agencies to sell the best creative, not the newest 'solutions'.

At the Festival of Marketing we saw a trend for experiential pieces (e.g. Carlsberg's beer-tap poster) that combined well with online campaigns and newsroom strategy. Expect to see more of this style of work.

carlsberg poster

Has content marketing lost its lustre?

In our predicted ecommerce trends for 2016, James Gurd raised the spectre of diminishing returns from organic search, as mobile begins to dominate browsing behaviour.

Google continued to make it hard to get free search traffic in 2015. There are more and more examples of SERPs where you struggle to see a genuine organic listing in the visible pane...

...This is having an impact on marketing teams thinking for long term acquisition and retention, looking at how they can build their audience outside the Google universe and reduce reliance on these clicks. 

I've heard many grumblings recently about content marketing and its inefficiency for some brands who adopted a publishing mentality over the past year or two.

There are markets where content is definitely still the best strategy, and others where it's time to admit that not everybody can game the same algorithm.

This shows the risk inherent in specialised agencies (e.g. content marketing agencies). Though they tend to be small and agile, they can be left looking a little dated as the technological winds change.

While not every agency can have every skill in-house, expect to see the emphasis in agency land to broaden out, focusing on 'design' and 'experience'.

Dramatic vs. programmatic

The recent debate about advertising, kickstarted by the rise of ad blockers, has led many (including the IAB) to suggest that ads should be scaled back, in favour of more targetted, impactful yet 'non-invasive' experiences.

For agencies, the task is of course to reconcile the programmatic (advertising smartly at scale) with the dramatic (increasing the the chance of a brand interaction).

Few campaigns have utilised dynamic video, for example, apart from the much-vaunted Romeo Reboot by Axe Brasil.

Solving this problem of user experience in advertising is a challenge for agencies, but approaching this part of a campaign in an oblique and creative way is essential, just as for every other part of 'the work'.

axe brasil rome reboot

What does Ashley think?

Ashley Friedlein, Econsultancy's founder, has previously argued that the Chief Digital Officer is a bad thing, saying the battle for digital had been won way back in March 2013.

Revisiting the topic in September 2015, Ashley argued that the transformer CDO (CEO in waiting) and ambassador CDO are forces for good in organisations embroiled in change, developing longer term strategies with technology as an enabler of new processes, products and revenue streams.

Econsultancy's positioning?

If the supposition of this article is true, where does that leave Econsultancy and its strapline of 'Achieve Digital Excellence'?

Maybe we're back to plain old 'marketing' again?

Ben Davis

Published 14 January, 2016 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is a senior writer at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (15)

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Pete Austin

Pete Austin, CINO at Fresh Relevance

I've never worked for a company that had 'digital' in job titles. Was this ever really a thing?

10 months ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Senior Writer at EconsultancyStaff

I think there are thousands of digital marketing execs and managers on the clients' side, and thousands of their counterparts, digital account managers, in agency land.

You must have worked for the more enlightened companies. :)

10 months ago

Chris Lee

Chris Lee, Founder at Silvester & Finch Ltd.

I faced exactly this same dilemma when setting up my consultancy just before Christmas. When - or when not - to use the term 'digital'. As you can see from this post, I looked at Google Keyword Planner to see that there was enough interest out there still when it comes to digital versus 'integrated'. http://www.silvesterandfinch.co.uk/pr-and-digitals-identity-crises-whats-in-a-name/

It reminds me of the debate we used to have when 'ecommerce' came around. "Some day we'll just call it 'commerce'," people said then. I guess it's the same with (digital) marketing.

10 months ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Senior Writer at EconsultancyStaff

Thanks, Chris.

I suppose digital is a much bigger part of marketing than it is of commerce. And marketing is more nebulous than commerce, so definitions/titles might be more important and more noteworthy.

10 months ago

Alexander Levashov

Alexander Levashov, Director at Magenable

My MBA marketing professor Mark Ritson also thinks that 'digital' is anachronism and digital marketing is redundant:

10 months ago


Chris Monkman, Web Developer at E-Dzine

I almost feel the urge to see if I can make a campaign around being an 'Analogue' company because if digital's a thing then why not?

I also wonder if in the mists of time if the first printed advertisers listed themselves as 'paper' marketing companies? But I digress.

10 months ago

Richard Hussey

Richard Hussey, Owner at RSH Copywriting

Interested by the assertion that content marketing is about 'gaming the algorithm.' If people seriously think that's what it's about then I can understand why they're not getting a return. Done properly it's the exact opposite of gaming the algorithm.

Otherwise the thrust of the article is spot-on. Whatever we call it and whatever tools we use, it's still just marketing. And if you don't know how marketing works it doesn't matter what word you put in front of it.

10 months ago



Interesting post.

As far as I have been observing things within Companies and Organizations, Digital departments remain separated entities focusing on Digital where other departments deal with Marketing, Media, or IT ... generating many overlaps or conflicts as you can imagine.
BUT, in the same time, within the same Organizations, 'offline' and 'digital' channels are more and more converging and people are developing Online to Store strategies (eg. click & collect) or trying to measure precisely the effects of offline advertising on online behaviours and vice versa.
Sales/Marketing Operations probably adapt more rapidly than Organizational Charts but I think that in a mid-term future, Digital will be fully integrated with other departments.

About Content Marketing, I would not kill SEO too fast, check my post on the weight of Natural Channels on http://areia.co/en/why-should-you-always-consider-natural-channels-when-analysing-your-marketing-mix/

10 months ago


Catch Any, Owner at catchany

"Interactive" is such an 80's term - reminds me of cd-roms, whiteboards etc. Please there must be something better out there?

10 months ago


James Hogan, Account Director at Momentum ABM

Dropping the word 'digital' from a job title makes perfect sense for roles that cross disciplines but that doesn't mean the term goes away. Sure, you can create engaging, 'interactive' experiences for customers but, in reality, they are going to be either physical or digital - or preferably a combination of both.

10 months ago


Jim Hunter, Consultant at VersionUX

It's definitely a change and impetus thing and the digital name helped get the focus but it's now so all-pervasive and accepted across most demographics it feels like the job is done. I favour dropping the term (not zealously) and talking about what is actually being done and stepping back from the technological detail - digital encourages too much focus on just doing things we think need doing rather than what fits. Customer experience (in-person, print, or 'digital') is where the orchestration of all customer-facing efforts should be. Mobile, digital and SEO strategies all risk further fragmentation: they should just execute a business strategy. As much as we owe ourselves a single view of the customer we owe the customer a single view of ourselves to form a cohesive and helpful relationship based on well understood interactions. CX all the way for me.

10 months ago


Scott McLean, Co-founder at The Intelligent Marketing Institute

I agree with Richard, to define content marketing as SEO is to totally miss the point. Without even getting started on the fact that content marketing is as old as the hills and merely became a 'new thing' because of digital, it's a discipline that is already stretching from simple editorial engagement to now encompass how to do successful customer journey management (content being present at every step of the customer's journey) and that is hugely exciting with enormous potential.

10 months ago

Richard Hussey

Richard Hussey, Owner at RSH Copywriting

Jim, I think you have expressed it perfectly: 'just execute a business strategy.' Otherwise we are back to the bleak 'we have to be on social media' mentality.

10 months ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Senior Writer at EconsultancyStaff

Hi guys. On the content marketing front, perhaps I was too brusque in the article. What I meant to convey is that many businesses (e.g. in ecommerce) have begun to churn out blog articles on related topics (e.g. fashion, baking) and have been told this is important.

However, some of these businesses have only a modest social following, aren't offering unique content, and don't have particularly good website in order to garner views and rank well.

In these specific instances, many need to appraise the business sense of continuing to publish content that nobody is reading and is not contributing to growth.

Yes, I understand this may simply be content marketing done badly (maybe consider other channels, other formats, other creators etc.) but actually I think some mistakenly believe it will come good in the end, or is already contributing more than it actually is.

In competitive markets, it's very difficult to succeed without big investment in content. I think some need to go back to basics and look at their business in the round, away from search silos, or indeed digital silos.

10 months ago


Scott McLean, Co-founder at The Intelligent Marketing Institute

Thanks for the clarification Ben and yes, that is definitely the case today. There is clearly a lack of understanding of what a true 'content strategy' needs to involve with too many people believing it is simply the process of getting a content programme and editorial production process up and running. Because of that, the real strategy of how you are going to build and engage the audience, sustain their interest and achieve commercial return is being woefully overlooked.

9 months ago

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