Thoughts on ‘Digital’ job titles

Aka: ‘Creating noise where there was no signal in the first place’

Back in January, associate professor of marketing, brand expert, and Marketing Week columnist, Mark Ritson, published a piece on the ‘death of digital’ job titles.

It went a little something like this:

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 21.26.31

If you’re familiar with Ritson’s column, you can pretty much imagine the rest. I’m not one to bite when bait is so blatantly waggled in one’s direction but this is something that I’ve been niggling on for a while and, the other day, said niggle floated to the surface…

Via what some of you might refer to as ‘a mini Tweetstorm’:

Oh wait, a bit of background first. In case you missed it, Ritson’s piece came in response to another huge piece of industry news (January’s a slow news month) and that was [ad agency] Adam & Eve DDB’s move to ‘axe’ said D word from all job titles.

Ritson said:

The news that adam&eveDDB has dropped the digital designation from all its job titles came as no surprise last week. Despite the prevalence of the D word and the omnipresence of digital planners, digital strategists and digital marketers under every lamp post, nobody in the know ever doubted that the prefix would eventually become an anachronism.

And, unsurprisingly, the article (and the ‘news’ it referenced) became the talk of the town (which, when you think about it, is a&eDDB’s raison d’être).

And now everybody’s talking about it.

What I actually meant was #PredictionsBreakfast (hey, I was grumpy – I got it wrong). You know the event I’m talking about, right? It’s the one where I said this:

Someone in the audience (I think – it might’ve been Andy Oakes challenging us) asked the question ‘Are digital job titles dead?’ – I think my response was something along the lines of a big sigh, laughter, and then ‘no’.

Which is kinda how I got to the next bit –  

And I’d say that’s a fair enough comment. The term ‘digital’ means so many different things to so many different brands, agencies, publishers, partners, vendors – the list goes on – to simply ‘do away with it’ because it seems on trend is quite possibly the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.

That said, I mean what I say: it could become redundant one day, maybe a generation from now – when the entire marketing job suite fully understands and gets what it means (and to whom). But that’s not going to happen this year and I very much doubt it’ll happen in the next.

And…

Which means that for the brands, campaigns, and projects that we work on, digital is a core component to nearly all of them. Do our partners need a experts? Undoubtedly. Do they feel more comfortable knowing they have a specialist on the case? Definitely. Would they give two hoots if we dropped it completely? Probably not.

But in the same way that products are designed to meet a consumer need, so are jobs created to meet client demand.

A small correction on this point. If you only read the headlines, you’d be forgiven* for thinking that a&eDDB had killed ‘digital’ only to replace it with the word ‘interactive’. The truth, as always, is slightly different. What a&eDDB have actually done is recategorised media into three areas: film, display, and interactive (more on that later).

So yes, replacing digital with interactive is a mistake – but let’s be clear: that is not what has happened here.

What has happened is that someone’s kick-started an intelligent debate about how we move the industry forward – and that a great thing (and should be commended).

Mark Ritson loves a rant (and I love him – sincerely, if you ever get a chance to see him lecture, GO), but on this there is a simple response: the industry just isn’t there yet.

…which means we’ll continue to have digital strategists, creatives, directors, etc… whatever’s required to get the job done.

Because ultimately, isn’t that the most important thing?

Thanks for reading.

JW.

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APPENDIX

– aka, related Tweets that I could find commentary for but are still worth your time.

Also

And my personal favourite…

 

*By ‘forgiven’, I mean ‘not forgiven at all’ – you should work harder at knowing more.

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2 thoughts on “Thoughts on ‘Digital’ job titles”

  1. Having some “thought leader” declare that a prominent part of most people in a given industry’s job title is “dead” isn’t new, nor is it limited to digital. Welcome to social, where “social media managers” have been “dead” since I started doing it 6+ years ago.

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head – this is a really poor way of kickstarting an intelligent and legitimate conversation about the types of things that a given person should and shouldn’t be doing in their role (or whether aspects of that role should be proliferated throughout an organization.

    For instance, in my social example, the argument is that *everyone* in an org should be thinking socially. That’s a fair statement, but the typical “social media manager”‘s role isn’t just to “think socially” – it’s to execute on the social tactics that the strategy calls for – actually publishing tweets, responding to idiots on Facebook, and applying filters on Instagram or rainbow barf on Snapchat. You certainly wouldn’t want everyone (or just anyone) in an organization to do that sort of thing.

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