This is going to seem like a somewhat farfetched perspective. But indulge me.
Digital is the equivalent of the female gender, juxtaposed against the maleness of “traditional” marketing and advertising.
Let me elaborate.
For the most part, digital is still conspicuous in most marketing thinking by its being an afterthought.
“And, oh guys, let’s make sure HR looks into the numbers and makes sure women are well-represented in the employee count.”
Digital is used to make a traditional plan sexier.
“Why do we only have men? This is not a stag party. Let’s get some women here.”
Digital is a prop to make marketing look more progressive.
“Let’s do a women-centric campaign. #WomenAreTheNewMen.”
Digital is never a default way of thinking. Even in a “digital” age.
Yes, birthing a child is impossible for the male to do (unless you’re a male seahorse), but rearing a child isn’t. So even a supposedly “progressive” mindset of allowing more maternity leave isn’t the same as having males lean in to child-rearing roles more. But hey, that’s not the default way either, is it?
“Media-neutral” is a nice sounding term in marketing, just like gender-neutral is in the real world. But in reality, neither is a reality.
Having men fast during a religious festival just the way women have for centuries does not take away from the inherent patriarchy in the ritual, when observed mindlessly. In the same way, putting a mindless hashtag in a TVC does not make it a digital campaign. Or media-neutral.
But much like feminism is mistaken to be a fight for women to have the upper hand, digital shouldn’t look to win over “traditional.”
In reality, feminism is another word for the perspective to see things equally, to do what is fair for both genders, where the balance has been tilted towards one gender more than the other for far too long.
The outlook in marketing needs to be similar. To do what is right for the brand, and more importantly for the customer, than merely what traditional marketing believes, or how digital sees it.
That’s when we’ll think of “birthing” an idea in digital and “rearing” it in traditional. And see it no differently than the other way round.
That’s when we’ll truly become media-neutral, focusing on the power of the idea, rather than the lens of the medium.
That’s when we’ll make the idea the default way of thinking, regardless of whether we’re in a digital age, mobile age, or, as seems more and more likely in a turbulent world, we bomb ourselves back to the stone age and depend on cave paintings for communication.
That’s when we’ll truly make progress with ideas, and not merely use digital technology to embellish the lack of thinking.
That’s when ideas will have both style and substance, and not lean on digital to make traditional look sexy.
That’s when the thought will count, and there will be no need for an afterthought.
Pipe Dream #7? You betcha. Too high a mountain to climb? I don’t think so. Minor plug here: at Dentsu Mama Lab, we’re taking baby steps to help brands connect intimately with moms, by helping see them as women, as individuals first. Those are hard shoes to step into, the shoes of moms, but we’re trying. And we’re doing that by connecting with these individuals where they are, and more importantly, understanding how and why they are the way they are.