My Guideposts for the Digital Journey

As Found Through My Talks With Five Different Clients

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Colleen DeCourcy Colleen DeCourcy
If strategy is the direction and scope of an organization over the long term, I'm hoping it's perfected by its application under duress. Will it hold up? Is it malleable? Can it stretch to take on new problems? Does it create problems of its own? I realize I over-complicate things in my desire to solve everything at once.

I haven't been home in weeks. Istanbul is a memory at this point. I've been in one country pitching new business and then in another testing that pitch against an existing client's needs. It's been really gratifying, but let's just say duress is abundant at this point.

I need more than a strategy. I need guideposts to remember what hill I'm taking and I'm sure the troops do too. We need some hill-to-hill principles.

I've spoken now with five different clients about their comfort levels around Big Agencies delivering big digital projects and three points are becoming abundantly clear. I'm using them as my guide.

More content, more platforms, more speed
Clients don't really want silos for their communications. But they have found that traditional integration can mean a drag on digital ideation and speed to market. So they have separated the service lines to build debate into the relationship between the two. They are putting digital outside the agencies to ensure a series of checks and balances on ideation and as a way to be sure digital isn't subjugated by more established media. Why? Digital moves faster and is more fluid than big traditional forms of communication. In the words of a client, it needs to be 365 digital. Currently, ad agencies don't work that way. We don't publish 365 days. So, when the digital is attached 100% to the campaign we lose speed and volume.

When is an idea baked enough to start creating smaller digital objects? When is it OK to arrive before the grand narrative and warm up the party by telling the smaller human tales? I am starting to think that this isn't about digital or traditional. It's about differing perspectives on how fast we need to move and if we all have to move together to be integrated.

Best ideas, best technology, best delivery
Every time I say it, the client gets it. Period. It's not about attention, it's not about innovation, it's not about data. Clients want us to deliver ideas. They want to know that when it's the right thing to do, a digital idea can sit at the center of the room and all other things can move around it. Clients want us to deliver the absolute best in technology. They want the latest, the most effective and the most efficient. They want the most beautiful -- and they're more open than we are about what constitutes beauty. Client's want it now, they want it predictably, they want it cost effectively. They want the best.

Clapton played guitar, not Guitar Hero
Beyond "the big idea" and where it comes from, clients want to know: Can you deliver? Do you understand the parts of digital that don't relate to your campaign? After all, clients are having to think about digital in a broader context than just your campaign. Do you have a methodology for development? Can you create and enforce a technological infrastructure for deployment across partners and campaigns? (That's not unlike your ownership of "The Brand.") Are you craftsmen and not just ideators? Do you play guitar, young man? Or do you just prance around to music?

On a parting note, my funniest moment this week was sitting down to dinner with two fantastic creatives who are the first digital men on the ground in one of our most interesting offices. I asked them: "So, what does it feel like for you, day to day?"

They stared at their plates until one of them finally said

"We call it digital Jesus."

More on that next week.
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