Executive creative director, Andrew, reflects on how the introduction of digital made the impossible, possible and what it meant for agencies.

When I first stumbled into marketing back in 1996 it was through an interest in computer graphics and design into the wild west of web design. We spent the first half a decade or so explaining to people either what the internet was, or trying to convince prospective clients that real people were actually using it.

How times have changed. 2014 was heralded as a watershed moment when even your Gran got an iPhone. The internet had not just managed to become a thing, it was an all-encompassing thing that you carried around in your pocket.

My journey had taken me from Javascript, GIFs and MIDI files, through the emergence of YouTube back to my first loves of video and animation. And one way or another our intrepid group of web pioneers soon found ourselves in a proper advertising agency. But there was still a strange divide. We weren’t exactly “new” media anymore, but we were still different from “traditional” media.

Enter social media

Around 2010, with YouTube well established and the emergence of social media proper, it seemed like everything was in crisis.

The digital agencies wanted to make ads, the creative agencies wanted to do digital, the PR agencies wanted to do content and media agencies wanted to do everything.

Almost everyone became an “integrated” agency.

The road “digital” has taken over the last 20 years couldn’t really have been rockier. The backdrop to the world-shaking impact of technology and the communication revolution has been the dot-com boom, bubble and burst that proved to be the cautionary tale for the global financial crisis.

The definition of “Digital” has become so strange that the worlds of UX/UI and Social Media, both of which are beasts that emerged from “Digital”, can often look across the room from each other wondering what they’ve got in common.

Via my digital life, I’ve found myself producing paperback books, printing physical models and building real-world devices. And, through the industry, making TV commercials, press ads, posters and radio ads. All in an agency that also runs heavy UI/UX jobs, mobile and web projects. We’re even making TV content.

Let’s get physical

Our ‘departments’ aren’t so much disappearing or merging, as cohabiting and collaborating. And even when they do lead as a specialism — be it PR, shopper, social, content, media or “digital” — they tend to operate in similar areas to each other. Or, at least, there’s a whole heap of cross-over in the Venn diagram.

This all gets interesting now in the crossover between the physical and the digital. And in ways that digital technologies cross over into traditional practices and through wider communications. Whether that’s using digital to create the previously uncreatable, film the previously unfilmable, or connect the previously unconnectable.