Thursday, July 9, 2009

The next train leaves from all platforms

Years ago, when businesses were just starting to use the Web to connect with consumers, I remember wondering if the digital could ever be emotional. Would a Web page ever offer the same emotional impact as a movie, a TVC, or a book? Back then, the Web seemed functional, visually unengaging, and obsessed with detail. Those were the days when an animated banner ad seemed revolutionary! How things change. While the purpose of most Web pages is still to deliver information, the way they do it is becoming increasingly more sisomo (the powerful combination of Sight, Sound, and Motion) and interactive. Last year I could even talk about the emotional Internet and this year we have seen it come into full flower with the Susan Boyle phenomenon. The 110 million YouTube hits on her first breakthrough performance were driven by the pure emotions of surprise, delight, and joy.

The big lesson is that digital is a technology, not a medium. All the various manifestations – email, Web pages, video streaming, Twitter – draw from the same digital source. It’s the same relationship an architectural drawing, a self-portrait, and a handwritten poem have with a pencil. This is an important idea because it helps us to think about all these different digital communications as part of a whole that can be combined in many different ways rather than as a set of unique ideas. Even more, it helps us turn holistic inside out. Instead of the idea of holistic making us as marketers the orchestrators of media of many kinds, we have to start thinking about holistic as describing the experiences of viewers, users, players, and consumers.

There are signs of this major mind shift in some great campaigns. Two terrific examples have been for T-Mobile in the U.K. Not too long ago, the idea of getting a bunch of people to dance in Liverpool Street Station or to sing in Trafalgar Square would have inspired a television commercial. Set ups on this scale cost money, and B.D. (Before 'Dance') the only way to justify the cost was TV. Television remains hugely powerful because it is mass but with 'Dance', Saatchi & Saatchi used mass with agility. 'Dance' and 'Sing Along' on TV primed the pump rather than served as the main event. The TV exposure was small but the impact was huge because people chose to get involved. They shared, they commented, they entertained each other. And where did they do that? On the Internet.

The best news? We have learnt that human behavior is shaping our digital future. That might not seem such a revelation, but for a while there it looked as though technology was setting the pace and for people people (like me), the future didn’t seem a great place to hang out. It’s feeling a lot more fun.