Dave Birss on Digital (Part 1.)

A while back I read a blog post that really got me thinking. Written way back in 2007, by Dave Birss. The post explained Dave’s thinking on the evolving Agency model and generally what he thought on the Traditional Agency V Digital Agency debate. To save time you can read the original post in full here, but in a nutshell, Dave’s forward thinking on what he thought the future held led me to ask him a few more questions.

For those of you who don’t know, Dave is Head of Digital Creative at OgilvyOne and Creative Head of the Ogilvy Digital Lab (an innovation division within the agency). He’s been agency side for over 15 years with a long list of top agencies – Poke and MRM to name just two.  Listen hard and listen well.

Every agency under the sun seems to claim to ‘get digital’ at the moment – what are your thoughts on this?

I think that ‘getting digital’ is a bit of a red herring. What surprises me is how many agencies don’t ‘get people’. The old way of doing advertising was simply about finding an interesting way of communicating a client’s message. That worked in a broadcast culture. But things aren’t like that now. It’s not about digital technology – it’s how digital technology has changed people’s behaviour and expectations.
It’s easier for consumers to have their voice heard. It’s easier to find out the opinions of people who’ve used a product.  It’s easier to share information with your friends.  The agencies that truly ‘get people’ will be coming up with the most effective ideas. Bad ones will be creating work that gets ignored.

The post you wrote back in 2007 described three distinct approaches a digital agency could take in order to survive the future – do you still agree with this now?

My opinion hasn’t changed too much. But if I was to write that piece again today, I’m sure it would be pretty different. I’ve got a whole new swarm of bees in my bonnet!
To be honest, ad agencies haven’t adopted digital quite as well as I thought they would. I suppose the economic downturn is one reason for that as they’ve been concentrating on just staying afloat. But I still think a lot of them continue to suffer from ostrich syndrome, thinking the world will at some point start loving TV ads again like they did in the 80s. Good luck to them!

– I’ll post more on this interview later in the month.

Part 1 - Interview with Dave Birss

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4 Responses to “Dave Birss on Digital (Part 1.)”

  1. More rantings from an opinionated bugger « The Dictionary of Specific Generalities Says:

    […] He’s put up the first half of the interview, with the second half coming later in the month. If you’ve got the time or interest to read any more of my opinionated babblings, you can read the post here. […]

  2. Alastair Duncan Says:

    Good stuff. The answer’s still out there, isn’t it? Completely agree with the ‘getting people’ point. Isn’t it also about what Clients (think they) want? See post http://www.participationmarketing.co.uk/?p=9 (also from 2007, I think we’d just hired Dave at MRM 🙂 about consumer participation forming the agency model.

  3. Harryman@yahoo.com Says:

    umm… I am not

  4. Brian Says:

    I really enjoyed reading through this posting.Thank you.

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