In the next year or two, you'll be interviewing for a new job. So will I. So will your coworkers. So will your boss, your client and your competitors. Digital media is changing advertising so quickly, so radically, that we'll all have new jobs in a couple of years, and our careers will depend upon our ability to use digital media to our advantage. It's not just the creative department or media; it will drive how every person in the company creates and operates, from human resources to accounting. Today, digital is not a department -- it's a competitive advantage.
Bad things happen when people don't upgrade their skills. About 15 years ago, when computers entered the creative department, most art directors quickly adopted them. But some resisted, especially "senior" ones (read: those over 40), who continued to rely on the studio. Their argument -- quite noble in theory, actually -- was that they should be hired for their brains, not their wrists. Unfortunately, nobility doesn't live long in agencies. Within a few years, most had been replaced by younger (and cheaper) wrists/thinkers who'd never dream of art directing from the back seat.
Let's avoid that unpleasantness, shall we? Translating your skills and experience from traditional media to digital isn't as hard as you might think (at least, assuming you had strong ideas and strategy to begin with). Below, your guide to navigating this transition.
STOP RESISTING IT
It's happening. Or should I say, it happened. No longer is digital a "department" within an agency -- it's an essential competitive advantage for everyone in the company. Time to get on with it.
THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE, YEAH, BUT YOU STILL NEED A MESSAGE
It's not enough to slap up content and expect it to get hits. For every Dove "Evolution" there's a burial ground of failures.
Digital marketing is written in code, not stone. Constantly try new things, tweak formulas and take more risks.
GET READY FOR OBSOLESCENCE
Even as you launch a digital project, the clock is ticking on its countdown toward clichédom. Things change so quickly in digital space that 2008's breakthrough will be 2009's yawn.
QUIT BITCHING ABOUT FASTER TURNAROUND TIMES
Immediacy is a key advantage for clients. Make it your advantage, too.
STOCKPILE NEW SKILLS AND EXPERIENCE
Collect as much digital understanding as possible. Boost your learning curve by attending conferences (and not just for the boondoggle). The best way to turbocharge your worth in the digital marketplace is to work alongside the best, so work with digital superstars even if you don't get paid for it. As someone once said, "Aspire to be the dumbest person in the room."
LIMBER UP YOUR BRAIN
The most successful people in digital marketing can mentally multitask. Stay flexible. Don't get married to any one solution.
BE CONVERSANT WITH A VARIETY OF TECHNOLOGIES
It's always a bad sign when someone on a digital assignment isn't familiar with Facebook, SMS, Skype and other key digital technologies. Learn about the main players and understand their implications. You don't need to read the TiVo owner's manual to understand the implications of DVRs.
DON'T WORK IN A COMPANY THAT DOESN'T EMBRACE DIGITAL MEDIA
Your career will take a hit in a culture of Luddites. Digital media mirrors a modern career: Constantly changing, fast-paced, occasionally frenzied and always filled with new possibilities. If your company becomes outdated, your work for it will, too.
PERFECT THE ART OF THE SELL
As if selling great work to clients wasn't difficult enough before, now there's the added complexity of explaining unfamiliar media. If your client isn't fully versed in a recommended form of media, boost your odds of selling the idea by boosting his or her learning curve in advance of the presentation.
CREATE A "FIRST"
It was easier to discover new lands back in the days when guys like Christopher Columbus could accidentally bump into continents. Today, countless uncharted digital territories still await. Now's your chance to conquer one.
DEMONSTRATE DIGITAL PROWESS THROUGHOUT ANY JOB SEARCH
Find new ways to sell yourself. Describe case studies you've been part of. Have a website built and become active on LinkedIn and other professional social-networking sites. Creatives should have a DVD with examples of all forms of experience, including traditional media.
GET OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE
The best way to get smart about the digital space is to constantly expand into new forms of media by actually working with them. Take on assignments outside your area of expertise. Become a generalist in thinking, with specialist application as needed.
EMBRACE TECHNOLOGY IN YOUR PERSONAL LIFE
You shouldn't spend life tethered to a BlackBerry, but you also don't want to become known as the slowpoke who can't access e-mail out of the office. Don't allow personal resistance to technology to become a pain in the ass for the people you work with. In this case, it's not OK for the cobbler's child to go barefoot.
FINALLY, KNOW WHEN TO SKIP THE DIGITAL AND GO OLD SCHOOL
When sending a thank you, skip e-mail in favor of handwritten note. When giving a presentation, don't read PowerPoint slides verbatim; instead, tell stories. Get up off your butt and go talk to people across the office. Be a human. Not an avatar.
is a freelance creative director for branding and innovation. She sits on multiple boards for digital-media companies but still has a soft spot in her heart for TV and print. Read more on her blog at radicalcareering.com/hogblog