There's been a few things I've read recently questioning the relevance of the word 'digital' in marketing, suggesting that in light of the digitisation of all media it is losing its meaning, that the days of specialism are over.
I think Marc Cridge is right when he says that 'digital' played to a different set of rules, and that social has now changed the game again, and that "you can’t simply take the old ways of doing things and apply them to any new medium in exactly the same way".
But I also think that the distinction we make is getting less meaningful. And as I've said before, people don't think in channels, they think in terms of entertainment, information, enjoyment, usefulness – being able to get what they want, when they want it. As content becomes unhinged from legacy devices, as media 'channels' become blurrier, so the separation between 'platforms' becomes less and less tangible.
As Mark Anderson has said, content is already at the point where it has few or no boundaries, where it is provisioned for every device, where it is increasingly less defined by its 'platform', and in that way becoming more invisible. By expanding, the web disappears.
Russell made the point that this all gets really interesting (or scary, depending on your point of view) as more products start emiting data streams, as objects start communicating and get more informationally connected, and that this is what advertising and marketing and media people really need to get afeared by: "All this web stuff is going to look like a picnic compared to the horrors that will be dealt to the agency and media businesses when every product has a communications channel built right in."
To quote William Gibson: 'One of the things our grandchildren will find quaintest about us is that we distinguish the digital from the real'
And yet the majority of advertising content is still provisioned by channel, media is planned and bought by channel, and I agree with John – it often seems that common sense is not so common. Or put another way, we can't afford to take for granted that the things that we take for granted are taken for granted by everyone else. If that sounds a little pompous, I don't mean it to. But the point again is that the view from inside the world of advertising and media is not necessarily the same as that outside of it.
I don't have the answer. But I suspect that the question ain't going away anytime soon.