For days, weeks, months, years — decades now, actually — I’ve watched digital media’s minute-by-minute emergence with a mixture of wonder and dismay. The wonder is wrapped up in the inherent magic of the medium itself, which, as it turns out, is, in fact, “a series of tubes” (see page 46). The dismay is mired in a fog of questions about what it all means, and how, exactly, it is changing our lives.
Are digital media making us smarter or dumber? Are they making us more efficient or are they wasting our time? Are we better off now than we were 15 years ago?
The easy answer to all of these questions, I think, is an emphatic “yes.” As marketers, however, the questions pile up like dirty plates in a sink and the answers are anything but easy.
The one thing that seems clear is a nearly irresistible tendency to shoehorn old tactics into these new media. This has been true from the very beginning; when the internet first burst on the scene, many viewed it as just another channel for television commercials. Now that mobile devices are all the rage, the vision is typically no larger than that of a Jetsonian coupon dispenser.
There’s no stature to it. This mind-blowing, Big Bang shift in the way we live our lives is too often whittled down into a series of small-bore tactics. The breakthroughs will come, but not until we grasp digital as a network of understanding about the way we live our lives as opposed to a channel for our marketing messages.
The medium may still be the message, but it is also the insight. The opportunity to use that insight to make a difference is as big as the bang itself.