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It is still the Wild West out there…

When business woman, or business magnate as Wikipedia calls her, Martha Stewart called the digital world ‘Wild West’ on the first day of Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2013, she was reminding professionals that digital may be the third revolution in the history of the world, but it is still a lawless land. New rules are written and rewritten every day by the proverbial ‘kids from a garage’ and the new connected consumer who has brought stardom to these ‘garage kids’.

While the digital doyens from across the globe had many things to deliberate on with the delegates attending Cannes Lions  2013, there were two subjects that underscored most conversations – content and various versions of connect (connected, connection, connectivity).

For the digital domain, understanding and applying technology has been one of the key areas of focus for a while now. Subsequently, concepts such as Cloud Computing, e-marketing, Big Data and others such that use technology in innovative ways to offer solutions that either transform lives, help businesses or bring consumers closer to marketers, became the talking points.

The focus on new platforms, with the proliferation of devices such as mobile and other digital outlets, and the opportunity they bring continues to be of interest to advertising professionals today. But the conversation has deepened one more level now. Today, what is going on these platforms, to be able to create and maintain connect with audiences, is also important. As is the question: whose responsibility is it.

The content responsibility
The definition of content is rapidly including multiple layers. It is not just about creating matter that would attract an audience, it is also about what that audience is creating given easy access to publicly viewed platforms.

In an interview at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO, WPP remarked on the need for social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and others to also take responsibility of the content that was published on these sites. Since these companies essentially are technology led media owners, they are media companies.

Martha Stewart herself was posed a question on whether celebrity tweets that were encouraged by brands the celebrity endorsed, should be clearly differentiated, in the manner that a media house differentiates its editorial from advertorial.

Tumblr’s Founder David Karp too was asked about the porn content that was found on the site, which Karp said was something the blogging site treated with a firm approach of looking into and taking action against when content was flagged.

A different kind of concern came forth when many experts highlight the lack of germane content on platforms such as mobile due to which the uptake of the medium was at a much slower pace than expected. There also aren’t enough initiatives to see any change coming on this front. The caution there is  that until such content for mobile was not created, the medium would not pick up, in the manner that television had picked up.

A state of constant change
Connecting with audiences too needs to be seen with a different lens. At the Villa Brands hosted by IPG Mediabrands, Bill Buxton of Microsoft urged that professionals had to be experts or curators of experience to succeed. And technology is fundamental to cultural and creative expression. He said, “The hype of advertising points to the wrong track. When you are doing the same thing and have access to the same resources as others around you, how do you get the competitive advantage?”

Following a current trajectory will lead to failure. And exponential growth, by itself, is not sustainable. Professionals have to turn that velocity into something far more manageable and these are reasons why ‘humanware’ becomes important. The thought makes all the difference to the way people view ‘connecting’ with ‘connected’ audiences. Statements such as rapidly evolving consumers can take attention away from the change happening on the bigger picture, which may not be in similar speed – and there would be a need to find ways of managing these different paces.

DigitalLand may not be completely lawless but it is a land of new rules every day, rules that are co-written by consumers and companies that make an impact in the space. Brands were not part of this conversation but many have now managed to find a place in the equation, and it is only these who will survive the Wild West.

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