The death of advertising has been long foretold but much delayed. Having moved from the ad industry into the PR industry, I notice that no one seems to be making such gloomy predictions in this neck of the woods.
This is not to say that the rise of all things digital is not exercising the minds of PR companies. But I don't see much signs of panic - or indeed complacency - just a gradual embracing of this emerging world.
Looking for some precedents, over the last decade, advertising agencies have pursued three broad strategies in response to the rise of the "digital" phenonemon.
One response was to largely ignore it. Perhaps your holding company would buy a digital agency, or back a few cheeky chappies to create one. But apart from dutifully trying to cross sell the occasional client to your (distant) sister company, "digital" was not something you did. For those of you who believe that digital is a real and present problem for mainstream agencies, and like therapy terms this can be taken as the "denial" phase.
The second response was to create an internal unit, department or subsiduary (DDB and Tribal DDB is a good example here) with specialist "digital" skills and people. This unit would (or at least should) work in a joined up way with the mainstream agency but things often got a bit messy and fractious. This is the "bargaining" and maybe "anger" phase.
The third response (and there is a tinge of the "fear" phase in this one) is to make your whole agency "digital" and so everyone can (or should) do digital communications. Let's all go interactive!
As in all good therapy schemes, after "denial, bargaining, anger and fear" comes "transormation" and there are probably some agencies who have got to grips with digital and are sitting there "clean and serene" (and profitable).
There probably are many ways of making sense of the digital thing. Perhaps the role of the mainstream "creative" agency is to create the "Icons" while the role of other people is to do the "Interactivity". After all, a bog standard 30" commercial on Sky is made, transmitted and viewed "digitally" its just that most of them are not interactive (which is one of the main consumer benefits of digitalness).
But back to PR.
Will our troubled minds go through the same stages :
"Let's buy a digital PR agency! No, lets set up an internal specialist unit! I know, lets all do it!"
But maybe the key issue here is not digitalness but the interactivity. We are entering a new (OK, digital) era where more people are interacting with each other, more interactive media are being created and more interactivity (transparency?) is expected of brands and corporations.
PR people have always been good at interacting with other people (see my earlier post on their ability to see communities where advertising agencies see target audiences). Perhaps we all just need to extend our minds of who we have to interact with (yes, we need to do bloggers) and how we are going to do it (on a lot of digital platforms).
So maybe unlike the tortured advertising agencies, our transformation can be relatively quick. We shall see.
Next week - a Freudian analysis of the digital phobia....