The design community is a better home for digital groups than ad agencies

The situation at Digit goes wider than the departure of directors Andy Chambers and Daljit Singh, shocking though that may have been. It questions the appropriateness of advertising as a home for digital design (see News Analysis, A dash for freedom).

The full story has yet to emerge as to why they left the consultancy they founded following shifts at JWT, its ad agency ’host’ within WPP. But we hear from other digital quarters of unholy alliances between ad agencies and digital groups whose cultures run counter to each other.

The problems are two-fold. For years we’ve heard of ad agencies giving away digital work for free to clients that retain them – thus devaluing the medium. But there is also a fundamental difference in approach, with advertising geared to selling brands and services, and digital design at its best more about engaging with people and enhancing their experience, whether of a brand or a cultural or educational pursuit.

The two could coexist, given the digital prowess that realised the ’big idea’ behind, say, the award-winning Surfer ad for Guinness created by Jonathan Glazer, Tom Carty and co at AMV BBDO, but not, we suspect, without greater respect in adland for digital design and appreciation of its scope beyond creating online banner ads.

Design in general is arguably a better home for the digital community, given its empathy with the user. There is also the greater inclination in design to collaborate with, rather than to own, groups from complementary disciplines. ’The big idea’ is still important, but so is customer experience.

Creative industry luminaries see digital design as key to the future of communications and commerce, so it is important that it is allowed to flourish in an environment that pushes the boundaries of experimentation. We urge the likes of WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell, who is on target to make digital 27 per cent of the business, to take account of this as they strive to achieve their goal.

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