“Where can I find experienced people to head our digital department?” asked the agency head. I was involved in a discussion a few days ago on the shortage of digital experts in the advertising business. It is comparatively easy to find people familiar with computers and able to do some programming. Anyone under the age of 25 probably spends hours each day on social media activities and has hundreds of “Friends”. The problem is, said the agency head, finding someone who also has an understanding of marketing and the consumer, someone who can work in a team within the agency.

It seems to me that, in the shock of the rapid changes brought about in our industry by the rapid digital revolution, agencies have placed too much emphasis on the means of delivering the message rather than the message itself. When television broadcasting starting it was equally revolutionary as a platform. After nearly a century of press advertising and decades of radio advertising, ad agencies had to learn how to create advertising for a medium that involved movement as well as sound. Did the agencies hire film cameramen to write TV commercials? Of course not, the copywriters continued to create ads that resonated with the consumers while the account people and the media executives worked out how to get the right message to the right consumer at a cost the client could afford.

A film production company was then hired to execute the idea. In my opinion, the agency needs, as always, people who have an understanding of how people think and feel. It needs people who understand marketing and can collaborate with others. Agencies are primarily in the ideas business, not the production business.

Yes, when you work in social media marketing you need to understand how that platform works and how you can exploit it for your client’s benefit. But if your 10-year old son or 65-year old grandmother can grasp it, surely any experienced ad executive should be able to understand how social media works.

Most of us are filming video clips or uploading photographs on our smart phones and sending them around the world to friends. We Skype to relatives overseas and communicate to friends via social media while we are “on the go”.

Our world is digital. I am typing this on a PC which has now moved from broadband to wireless to access the Internet. Soon, I won’t even need a keyboard to put my thoughts down. When I go out, I will take my iPad and my smartphone with me and stay in contact with friends and my business.

It is time we grew up and stopped seeing digital as something separate in the advertising arsenal. Most of us in developed countries have embraced this world. We need to see the development of “digital media” as just something that is useful in some instances and in some markets for some products. It sits alongside print ads, television commercials, radio ads, outdoor, promotions, point of sale, and loyalty programmes as a means by which we can promote our client’s products.

The chances are that this “digital expert” you seek is already within your agency. He or she is old enough to have experienced life and developed empathy for others. This person will have been in the advertising or marketing arena long enough to absorb research and grasp what it takes to develop, market and distribute a product and to maintain a brand.

Go on, get up off that chair and look around the office.

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