Wow but this fence is an uncomfortable place to sit. But it’s here that I find myself and inspired to write this short blog by, of all people Joanna Lumley.
Let me explain. I saw the fragrant Ms Lumley at the Cheltenham Literature Festival and she recounted how she often passes people on the street, wired into headphones and lost in a virtual world.
Totally divorced from their immediate environment, Joanna felt this absorption in a digital world isolates them from real interactions with real people and which, left unchecked, would eventually lead to the breakdown of communities and society as we know it.
I’ve made her sound more vehement than she was and, amusingly, she liked to disturb their zombie state by silently mouthing ‘good morning’ to each one she passed, who, too late, would whip off their headphones to reply as she disappeared behind them.
The inbetweeny thing comes from me having a foot in both camps. Too old to have grown up in a tweeting, trending and social networking world so it doesn’t come naturally but not so old as to not see the sublime beauty of iTunes, Kindle, TripAdvisor, Flikr, YouTube and having Ocado bring your lemon and coriander homous to your door with a highly recommended South African Sauvignon.
Professionally too, I occupy the same centre ground. I can appreciate the clamour for all things digital, for deeper engagement, more touch points and a transition from ‘send and receive’ to two-way customer conversations.
But equally I still believe traditional media have a powerful role and influence and deserve all the same attention, focus and skill.
Back to the Cheltenham Literature Festival and an audience with Sir John Hegarty, doyen of art directors and head of the agency behind amongst others, Audi and the latest and quite brilliant Yeo Valley ‘boyband’ ad.
Asked whether the divergent new media challenged the role of agencies, his view – standing in the middle ground – was that it still came down to great ideas – and they are media neutral. The new wouldn’t usurp the old but would add to the whole, making the future more challenging but also more exciting for all marketeers.
Maybe, just maybe, the healthy scepticism inherent in being on the fence isn’t such a bad place to sit. To judge and evaluate rather than adopt without question. To trust in the known but remain open to the fresh, new and different.
I just hope it isn’t only me that finds themselves in this position.