My name is Ray, and I’m making this up as I go

(Reprinted from the Zazoo blog): I was listening to an interview recently with the head of Razorfish, one of the world’s largest digital agencies (If you want to keep up with what’s happening in the digital media, I can recommend Susan Bratton’s Dishymix program, it’s very informative).

It was both surprising and refreshing to hear this fellow, Clark Kokich, frequently use phrases such as “none of us know anything” about digital media, “we’re actually inventing this as we go along” and “there are no experts”.

If the head of an organisation that is billing hundreds of millions a dollars a year in digital media is prepared to admit this, it’s time for all of us working in this space to come clean. This is the guilty secret of digital media “experts” all over the world: no one really knows what consistently works. There are a few principles to be applied, but unlike traditional media – be it advertising, marketing or publishing – there is no established framework that ensures a certain level of response to a program or campaign.

If someone tells you they have a fool-proof way to engage your customer base and turn ordinary customers into raving fans, guaranteeing huge exposure and profits, they’re bullshitting you. We’re all still experimenting with clients’ money.

So why on earth should customers take their money out of traditional marketing and advertising budgets and give it to online? Well, one big reason is that traditional methods are becoming less and less effective as the world’s embrace of online irrevocably changes their life habits (you can hear more about this in a Zazoo-produced podcast interview with Ad Age colunnist Bob Garfield published on the HotHouse blog this week. Be warned, this interview is not for the faint-hearted.). You need to find alternative ways to reach your customers, or else your competitors will get there before you.

Ready or not, your world is changing. Finding your way in the dark with someone who has a torch, however dim, is more effective than sitting there cursing the dark. And those torches are getting brighter all the time.