“Digital Work” vs. “Work for a Digital World”


When everyone talks about the fact that agencies need to “go digital,” it doesn’t mean they need to tear up the TV storyboards and burn the print ads.

As many have pointed out, TV isn’t going anywhere. It’s still the best way to communicate to a lot of people at once.

Problem is, all too often we’re creating the same type of work that we would have made fifteen years ago, when there were very few ways to learn about a product or service. If a commercial told us that Product A got whites whiter, we pretty much believed it. (At least until we tried it ourselves.) Not the case anymore.

We don’t all need to create digital work.
But we do need to create work for a digital world.


In our digitally-connected world, people can choose what they pay attention to. It doesn’t matter what we want to say. Only what people want to hear.


People can get information from better sources than TV commercials. Sources they trust. Like their friends.

Heck, they don’t even need to be friends. Just anyone who’s NOT the brand. Sad to say, most people are more likely to trust an anonymous comment on a blog than what we say in a TV commercial.


Our audience can now talk back.

Yet, we keep talking AT people instead of WITH them.


Exhibit A:  How most people feel about a certain phone carrier.


Exhibit B:  What the phone carrier tries to talk about instead.


Exhibit C:  What people keep talking about anyway.


We no longer have control of our own brands. We’re now simply one of many participants in the process of creating a brand image. And if we’re not working WITH everyone else, we’re working against them.

A big part of advertising to a digital world is acknowledging what our audience already believes. Sticking our fingers in our ears and saying “la la la, I can’t hear you” isn’t working.


  1. Alexander Rea wrote:

    This is great. Maybe you could help me with a problem I am working on. As shop for vendors for a recent new opportunity for SKINNY I’ve discovered a disparity in community. There are production shops that are capable of creating deep immersive interactive experiences that ride the line between a content site and a streaming movie. Then there are classic production houses with directors that know how to shoot a 30sec spot or animate a title sequence but do not have any on-staff digital CDs or any interactive work that blurs that before mentioned line. Thus shops like B-Reel get first pick at great opportunities. This does not mean that the classic production companies are incapable of producing the same work. But when I show their reels all that anyone sees is essentially TV. How does a production shop enter the game? What is the barrier of entry? Because the production house can hire a “digital” shop but they could have a better margin if they staffed the people and cultivated the knowledge in-house.

    • timleake wrote:

      Thanks, Alexander.

      You ask a good question. It’s the same thing ad agencies are going through. Do we add all the capabilities in-house, or outsource? Specialists will always be better at their niche than generalists.

      Plus, it’s hard to get the best tech people to join, when they could be off creating / working for startups.

      Seems like a production company that wants to enter the game has to make a big investment. Plus, they have to work to change their culture. A software company thinks a lot differently than a film company.

  2. Naz Binisi wrote:

    Well said, Tim. :)