Blogs & Comment

We need to accept that the ad industry is a symbiotic organism

Ramsey Naja is chief creative officer at JWT MEA

“I think it is time we took a deep breath and examined where we are vis-à-vis that word ‘digital’. Until now, for many established agencies, it has been a word associated with either: a) panic, b) a recruitment drive of biblical proportions, or, c) both. Meanwhile, in the real world, digital is not so much a new territory as it is a reality that people live with, interact with and, frankly, take as much personal interest in as they do with the quality of their laundry.

And yet today, there are companies who refer to themselves as ‘digital advertising agencies’ and, worse, others who desperately yearn to be just that. Well I have news for you, guys: whilst you may have ads that use the digital medium, there is no such thing as digital advertising. There, I said it. We simply need to accept that the ad business is a symbiotic organism, which adapts itself to whatever environment it is needed in. That environment is now the digital sphere – it is that simple.

Ask a consumer about an ad they like and, I swear that if he or she mentions anything like a ‘digital ad’ then you can call me Tron. Why? Because we don’t make anything digital. If we did, then we would be instruments makers and that is what we should then be called. Indeed, there are people out there who make the most fantastic instruments, digital or otherwise, which transform the day to day into something easier, cooler and less stressful. And then there are people who will sometimes ask them to apply their genius into the dramatisation of brand ideas. Well, that’s us. I remember people used to say “creative is not a department; it is a state of mind”. By the same token, digital today should neither be a department, nor an agency, and certainly not a label we can stick before a title. And the more agencies invest in digital infrastructure rather than the ideas and people who can make use of it – and the training that demystifies it – the poorer our industry will be.”


the authorCampaign Staff
Campaign ME is the Middle East edition of the UK’s leading magazine for the advertising and media industry.


  • Agree wholeheartedly that digital is an ethos. Ideas are, at the core, the currency of any agency. What I’d like to offer is that all too often ‘integrated’ through-the-line agencies – often those belonging to large networks that shout that they are 360 and digital – fail to deliver on their promise of digital for one simple reason -> they have no digital infrastructure. I cannot count the number of times that a gem of an idea falls flat because it comes from people who do not know to build, leverage, or promote it.

    Ideas, important as they are, are one piece of the digital puzzle. Understanding how they can best be applied into a more and more complex digital ecosystem is another. I hope that the idea people that we need to hire also understanding how to build it. With ‘build; I am not only mean that they understand how to programme it (though that alone is a major issue), but how to develop the online experience around a digital idea, or worse yet how to effectively utilise media, content and channels to enhance, drive, or push/pull to that digital idea.

    For that you need people that are digital – I mean actually digital. Experience running display format production and ‘doing some web’ does not count. You need UX and interface design resources, you need high level technical expertise, you need analytics teams, and you need dedicated digital media teams across performance video and display.

    A core difference between digital and other channels is that at the end of the day, we have to build something. Something works across IA, UX, content, search, inbound landing, conversion, social value, and of course relevance and meaningfulness.

    You need infrastructure.

    Otherwise you’ve got a really interesting idea that may never drive the metrics, that’ll be a shadow of the initial idea, or that may never see the light of day. It happens all the time.

  • While I agree on both of your comments regarding structure and ensuring great ideas are realized across all mediums (whether ‘Digital’ or not)I still think there is a place digital specialists within agencies.

    Ideally we would all staff our agencies with these brilliant, multi-faceted superstars which look beyond classifying ideas as Digital, TV, Print however this training, recruitment and development sadly won’t happen overnight here.

    We will always be playing catch up here, anything we do is a reaction or response to what other markets have done – the faster we learn to do this, or preempt developments the better shape the industry will be in.

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