Blog: Are we really still using the term digital?

OMD Canada CEO Cathy Collier says the term is meaningless, confusing and needs to go.

By: Cathy Collier

Digital? Really? Are we still using that term in the context of media? It’s time to eradicate the word digital because it’s now meaningless and confusing.

When “the internet” started, it provided a unique opportunity to employ metrics enabled by digital, thus the initial focus on digital and the necessity to have a new specialized set of resources. However, since 2000, when Google began selling ads associated with search keywords, the media landscape has evolved to be functionally digital across cathyCollierOMDall channels.

Digital, as a discipline, was important to treat as a unique and separate function in the early days. There were new metrics, new mistakes to learn from, a different planning set, new talent and entirely new currencies to evolve towards. As years passed, more and more mediums became connected to broadband, and the methodologies and principles used for digital have become central to all planning.

However, with everything having moved or moving to digital, where digital planning and delivery belongs at our core, there are still some antiquated nomenclature and digital function separation. That needs to change. We cannot operate in a two-tiered world with digital job titles, digital-only media agencies and digital ad revenue – it is a divide that is irrelevant and dangerous.

With the unifying of channel-strategy and cross-functional planning, there is a great hope that emerges. That hope is the return to focus on great ideas. For years, we’ve been focusing on how things work and explaining and over-articulating the mechanics of new media channels. We’ve lost track on the focus of ideas as in industry. Participation in a new channel isn’t innovation. An idea or set of ideas that can be applied and flourish in the new media landscape is what actually matters.

New media applications and hyper-targeting capabilities are irrelevant without an idea to power them. If you think back to some of the most successful marketing campaigns—Dove’s “Real Beauty,”  Apple’s “Get a Mac,” Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like,” McDonald’s “Our Food. Your Questions” —they were all successful based on strong consumer insights and the resulting creative ideas. Those are all great examples of how to function in today’s media reality. There should be and will be more of those as we look backwards, acknowledge what we’ve learned, and then embrace a new set of operating principles.

So let’s lose the differentiated language and universally embrace ideas powered and managed against data and the ever-transparent voice of the Canadian public.

Cathy Collier is CEO of OMD Canada. The column originally appeared in the 2016/17 CMDC Media Digest, a definitive guide to the business of media that has been issued for over 30 years, compiled by senior media professionals from CMDC membership.