According to recent research by Adobe, 50% of marketers lack confidence in their digital ability. The study — Digital Distress: What Keeps Marketers Up at Night? — makes for interesting reading because it confirms the complexity of inputs impacting marketing decision-making today.

I think it is perfectly understandable that anyone working in marketing communications today — regardless of experience in any capacity — would ruminate on the appropriate steps to add value. Broadly, there are macro trends impacting nearly every sector of the Australian economy.1 Communications networks are converging on the web rapidly. The supply chain networks of information, knowledge and culture in the information economy are disintermediating rapidly.2 And the rate of technological progress3 is obviously rapid — probably a function of Moore's Law more than anything else.

In my mind it is clearly not a stable environment to operate in.

So, when marketers must get granular and create immediate results — perhaps in the context of no long-term strategy — I immediately empathise.

My agency doesn't "get digital".

So with an empathetic mindset, I thoroughly enjoyed Mitch Joel's post dissecting digital marketing and advertising on his blog Six Pixels of Separation. Joel tells the story of a senior marketing leader unsure if his agency of record "gets digital". Joel continues:

Digging a little deeper, it became clear that this agency is skilled at taking advertising, spinning it for digital and creating highly effective digital advertising, but they lack any ability to do anything more than digital advertising. It may seem like semantics, but it's not.

Advertising is a servant, not the master.

The distinction between advertising and marketing that Joel is describing here centres on relationships. In an environment in which people are constantly connected4, it is valuable to develop an authentic relationship with a customer or user over time. This is because we continually and repeatedly interact with digital experiences throughout our lives. The question I believe the senior marketing leader in Joel's story is intuiting, is the extent an advertising mindset is central to digital marketing strategy. For my mind, there is unequivocally a role for advertising in that strategy, however it must supplement and co-exist with efforts to foster relationships.5 And unfortunately, I question whether a retrofitted mass media advertising business model — which incentivises firms to sell "inventory" rather than establish trust — will ultimately deliver value to people constantly connected.

1. For analysis of macro trends impacting the Australian economy I recommend Deloitte's Whitepaper Digital disruption - Short fuse, big bang?.

2. The best analysis of the impact of the networked environment on the supply of information, knowledge and culture in the information economy I have read is Wealth of Networks by by Yochai Benkler.

3. The definition of technology I like best is the definition Clayton Christensen sets out in The Innovator's Dilemma. Christensen defines technology as "the processes by which an organisation transforms labour, capital, materials, and information into products and services of greater value."

4. I will post more about connectedness in future.

5. I will post more about the role of digital advertising in future.