Digital Disruption! An Appreciation of Hand-Written Letters and Traditional Holiday Cards – Brian Jacobs

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And we're back! Welcome to 2015; may it bring you every success and happiness. And I hope you stay with me as I attempt to deliver another year of insightful, infuriating, irritating Cog Blogs.

In amongst all the Christmas and New Year festivities, I received a letter. It was not formatted, nor was it from the taxman. Rather it was hand-written, from a good friend. It made me feel really good, not just its content but the fact that in this day and age of emails and Facebook posts someone had taken the time and trouble to sit down and write me a letter.

One of the remarks that most resonated with me from 2014 came in Sir John Hegarty's interview at Cannes when he coined the phrase "The Digital Taliban." Hegarty's point was the sense that if you don't agree with the digital Messiahs you are at the very least due some form of public humiliation. Not perhaps the most PC of remarks but he's right in suggesting that there does exist this sense that anyone not up-to-speed with the very latest gizmo, platform or technique is somehow marked down as inadequate.

A couple of LinkedIn posts over the holidays illustrated this rather well. First, The Coca-Cola Company decided to do away with voicemails, citing a need to increase productivity in the workplace as the reason. There's nothing wrong with that, of course.

Andrew Grill, a thoughtful blogger (and a prolific one it seems given his claim to have "170 blog posts currently in draft that I am hoping to finish over the Christmas break") promptly leapt onto LinkedIn (you can read his post here) to explain that he hasn't used VM since 1991. He says he got tired of having "to spend literally minutes getting to a message then having to WRITE DOWN [ his capitals] the number of the caller."

Once I realized that this was not written ironically; and, having thought about it for a minute, and came to the conclusion that as a matter of fact I find voicemail to be pretty useful, I became quite Hegarty-esque. Why should the Andrew Grill way be posited as the best way?

Digital evangelists are all very well -- after all, someone needs to evangelize about the many new tools and techniques out there, even if only so that the rest of us don't have to spend hours bored rigid at trade shows. But there's a difference between being enthusiastic about something and spreading the word for the greater benefit of all, and sneering at those who I suspect the worst offenders see as those whose opinions should be discounted as they clearly "can't be bothered to keep up."

The letter I received brought me much pleasure, rather more than if the exact same content had been contained in an email or FB post. I also admit to the charge of sending out Christmas cards, in the mail, and to gaining pleasure from hearing from friends via their cards. Certainly old-fashioned cards are more gratifying than those endless e-cards most of which I deleted without even looking at them. We also had a real Christmas tree, although I suppose we could have put a giant TV with a live, streamed picture of a designer-decorated tree in its place (and if that service doesn't yet exist then I bet it will by next Christmas).

I also gained a great deal of value from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, streamed news services, websites, emails, blogs and the rest. Even voicemail messages have their place. After all if you travel often it's nice to be able to hear your children's voices whenever you want to.

The point is of course that different communication channels are good at conveying different messages and stirring different emotions. As channels, devices and vehicles proliferate we increasingly need to understand the power that comes from linking a great idea to the most appropriate channel.

2015 will be a year when ideas come to the fore and techniques and gizmos are seen to be just that -- the method by which ideas are given form. In other words, 2014 may have been the year of the digital trader and the middleman; 2015 will be the year of the planner.

Brian Jacobs spent over 35 years in advertising, media and research agencies including spells at Leo Burnett (UK, EMEA, International Media Director), Carat International (Managing Director), UniversalBrian JacobsMcCann (EMEA Director) and Millward Brown (EVP, Global Media). He has worked in the UK, EMEA and globally out of the USA. His experience covers shifts from full-service ad agencies to media agencies; from traditional single-commercial-channel TV to multi-faceted digital channels; and from media planning to multi-disciplinary communication planning. Brian can be reached at all Brian Jacobs' MediaBizBloggers commentaries at Brian Jacobs.

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