Alex Hesz: Ritson is wrong – ‘interactive’ and ‘digital’ mean very different things

Alex Hesz

The premise of Mark’s article is that digital and interactive are synonymous, and that after ditching the first (correctly) we have ‘replaced’ it with the latter.

On both counts, that is not the case. The two words demonstrably mean very different things. Digital is, as Mark quite rightly says, omnipresent. It’s like electricity. Everything that is web-connected is digital, and hence almost all marketing surfaces from digital six sheets to YouTube mastheads to SMS retail offers fall under that definition. So the term is useless. On that, I entirely agree with Mark.

But interactivity is not omnipresent. Interactive, to us, means an experience that requires and allows the consumer to participate in order to alter the outcome. They are a protagonist in the experience.

Therefore escalator panels are digital, but not interactive. Netflix series are digital, but not interactive (in any serious way). Podcasts, digital 48 sheets, pre-rolls: all connected to the web; none of them interactive. I would even argue that much of the digital display inventory brands typically buy is digital but not interactive.

Conversely, there are plenty of examples of the reverse being true; point of sale, for instance, is frequently interactive but not connected to the web (think of the green discs at Waitrose), so too product design, service design, customer service. All intensely interactive, in that consumers are able and indeed required to alter the experience, but not necessarily connected to the web.

Of course, a great majority of interactive work is web-connected, so ‘digital’, but so too is a great majority of display and film. Hence digital is an unhelpful delineation, because almost everything is, but interactive (as opposed to display or film) is an extremely useful one, because so many things aren’t.

At adam&eveDDB that’s how we have decided to order our work: under film, display and interactive. The reason we have retired the word ‘digital’ is that it is not a helpful delineation. It’s not separate to film, display or interactive. It’s across them all. To simply say, then, that we have replaced the word ‘digital’ with the word ‘interactive’ is neither true of the meaning of the words (at least how we see them), nor an accurate summary of the structural change that we have made.



Mark Ritson: Replacing ‘digital’ with ‘interactive’ is a mistake

Mark Ritson

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.


There are 4 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Tess_Alps 25 Jan 2016

    Hi Alex. I’ve placed a comment under Mark’s original post that is meant for you as much as him. But just wanted to add that I’m disturbed you think TV, video and film mean the same thing and, if you let me, I’d love to come and explain why they’re not. Or someone else from Thinkbox maybe. Cheers.

  2. Just came across this (rather late) and I agree with Tess Alps’ earlier comment.
    I also agree with Alex that digital is an unnecessary qualifier these days and interactive means something different. I’m curious that not all your work is interactive though – in fact most of it seems not to be interactive. Have I misread that?

  3. Robin S 29 Jun 2016

    Mostly agree. Interactivity is not the same as digital at all. It does involve a responder to qualify as interactive.”They are a protagonist in the experience.” Well, a participant if not a protagonist,ok? I don’t know what an escalator Panel is but an elevator button is certainly interactive at it’s most basic level. A person can be interactive without clicking a button, but if a tree falls in the woods and we don’t know it then it doesn’t count in a fiscal way. Unless you are TV. That’s why we moving away from “guess-metrics” coined by Robin M. Solis 062916 02:50PM PST. I just now made that up!! I know you can’t copyright a phrase but what to do other than time stamp the first use?

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