Gwyneth March

Digital Up Skilling: Like Death and Taxes

7 June 2012, Gwyneth March

My agency decided we would nail digital training for good in 2007.  Like many a WW1 General, I believed that one heave and we’d be over the top and away…

Our learning objective was clear – all client facing staff (130) would have to be digitally confident and credible with clients.  Our moral obligation was also clear – to leave no man behind as it was obvious that anyone who could not hack digital would be unemployable within five years.  It would be like a creative saying in 1973 that they couldn’t do a telly script.

We ran interactive online orientation days, we sent people en masse on external talks, we invited in key guest speakers for massive beer evenings, we added digital talks to our welcome programme and the new business academy, we provided specialist courses for creatives.

And it seemed to work: we got great feedback, the scores on the staff survey for digital confidence measures rose significantly, digital revenue rose.  Frankly I was pretty chuffed, knackered and ready to go onto new challenges.

So it was a shock when the digital strategists broke it to me gently that there was a lot more to ‘digital’ than banners.  To keep up with opportunities to communicate for our brands we’d need to have knowledge of search, social networks, mobile, virtual worlds, advergaming, digital print, blogs, wikis, metrics…an endless list.

Digital Evangelists

We decided to get a team of young enthusiasts – ‘digital evangelists’  – to do their own research plus go on specialist talks and workshops.  They would then put their learning into films  – we taught them to edit too – which could then be shown to the agency.  This was a palatable way of educating en masse, but being honest I’m not sure that anyone who saw the films – however visually fun and short – retained or used much of the information.  But the evangelists sure did learn and use – nothing like being made to teach your own subject to get you up to speed!

By now we’re well into 2008 and I’m looking forward to putting this to bed once and for all when the digital gurus say that not only is this stuff still evolving but that some of the basics are still nowhere near good  enough.  Apparently a few workshops and a little experience had not finished the job, we had to keep investing.  We developed highly interactive workshops like ‘The bedrock that is banner’ for account men and creative services.   ‘How to design for the web’ was to encourage creatives to stop selling layouts to clients that can’t work.

Clients are not sitting back

When I left the agency, I started to Chair the IPA Training Forum and also be an assessor on the CPD Gold panel.  To my great relief I realised I was not alone.  Regularly the Forum would vote to discuss digital.  The opportunities are evolving so much, so rapidly, you can never rest on your laurels.  And clients are not sitting back and waiting for us to bring them ideas, they are learning all by themselves.  At the IPA Creative Pioneers Conference on 2nd May a guest speaker remarked that he had to work much harder in meetings with clients than with agencies when he sold his wares…because clients are pretty good at the tech stuff.

So like death and taxes…digital up skilling will always be with us.