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Diary of a displaced cat in a strange digital world

Just the other day, some account handler innocently enquired how, at my age, I managed to stay up to speed with all the myriad digital developments.

Er, at my age?

Somehow resisting the urge to dispatch the impertinent upstart to the account handler graveyard in the sky with a conveniently close hole punch, whilst at the same time reminding them of my director status and their impending joblessness, I instead found myself recalling a conversation I’d had a couple of years before.

Well, when I say ‘had’, what I probably mean is ‘skirted round the edges of’. During one particularly long internal meeting, just as I was beginning to master the fine art of dozing with my eyes open, I suddenly found myself in the midst of a conversation about breadcrumbs.

‘I don’t like them.’ Someone said.
‘I’m not a fan.’ Said another.
‘Don’t mind them myself.’
‘Take them or leave them.’
‘What the !?!$! is everyone talking about breadcrumbs for?’ I thought.

But on it went. Six people sitting in the same room as me expressing, with no small degree of animation, their respective sentiments towards breadcrumbs.

It took an uncomfortably long time for it to dawn on me that these ‘breadcrumbs’ were not of the small, crumbly, dough-based, invariably-found-down-the-back-of-a-sofa variety. The topic of discussion was, in fact, yet another of those digital terms that had, at that juncture, managed to avoid my radar.

And it wasn’t the only time it happened. As what you might call a traditional creative of many long years’ experience, whose sole remit had been to put large black N60 scribbles on nice clean crisp layout pads, this whole digital revolution had come as quite a shock. I know we’ve seen change before in our industry. Hey, life before Apple Mac anyone? But now, with digital, the pace of change, the extent of the ramifications for our industry, seems to grow exponentially each and every day.

You’d think I’d be more geared up than most for that change. After all, the HRO’C Group is, and always has been, full service, offering the whole gamut of marketing disciplines. Including a digital operation that’s been in place virtually right from the first moment that the world of website and email started to impact on communications. When you’ve got a thriving digital department one small flight of stairs away, you’d think, if only through a process of osmosis, it’d stand me in good stead for the digital challenge ahead.

And yet, even now, a couple of years on, there is still the occasional breadcrumb moment. I suspect that, for some creatives, the journey has been a difficult one with many feeling displaced by the whole process. Left behind. A creative anachronism.

Here’s the weird thing though. For me, the feeling has been just the opposite.

Far from feeling ostracised or like some quaint outdated unwanted advertising relic, this whole new digital revolution has actually given me a whole new lease of life.

How so? Well, the moment you stop fretting unnecessarily because you can’t tell your hashtags from your tweetups, the moment you cease to worry about what that latest digital acronym stands for, is also the moment when you stand back, see the bigger picture and realise that digital is not some inaccessible, impenetrable, esoteric universe.

Digital is, in fact, just another space.

Just another space to fill with a concept. Another space to fill with words and pictures. Another space to fill with a big idea. Just another layout pad to scribble on.

It’s also the proverbial moment of blinding clarity when you realise that our skills, the traditional creative’s skills, are in fact completely transferable.

And my job, the creative’s job, is the same as it ever was. But now I’m just as likely to be doing it for a website banner as I am for a double page spread in a home interest publication. I’m just as likely to be creating a viral film to spider out through the Internet as I am a TV commercial. I’m just as likely to be conceiving an email campaign as I am a direct mail piece. I’m just as likely to be writing for a website as I am for a brochure.

It’s not the technology that matters. It’s the interaction. The ability to move someone, make someone do something. That’s what really, really matters.

Mind you, yesterday I found myself in a meeting where, quite suddenly, everyone became rather heated on the subject of ‘mashups’.

I’d better go Google it.