Reconciling Our Digital and Analog Lives

IMG_0634I had an interesting conversation with Rishad Tobaccowala of Publicis/Vivaki/Denuo. By way of background, Rishad and I started our careers at Leo Burnett at a time when agencies did advertising, period. It wasn’t exactly the Mad Men era, but advertising in 1983 probably had more in common with the business as it was 20 years earlier than it has with the business 25 years later.

Despite our handicaps (no word processors, email or FedEx), somehow we managed to create a lot of value for our clients. Because I was there, I can attest that Rishad was among the first to forsee the power of the Internet to disrupt advertising — and just about everything else. He still has his headlights on high beam and spends a lot of his time enlightening big companies about what lies ahead.

One of the more intriguing parts of our conversation concerned the impact of digitization on people. Today we have more information, more choices, more sheer empowerment than ever before. But we also face the challenge of balancing our digital and analog lives, of ascertaining what is real and what is ephemeral.

It’s troubling.  It’s easy to feel off balance — in either direction. I rely heavily on Twitter, Google RSS, email, Blogs, IM, GotoMeeting, etc. to communicate my services and get work done. It’s a daily struggle to strike the right balance; between electronic and in-person socializing; between Internet reading and book reading; between in-person research and online research.  If I spend too much time reading social media blogs and newsletters I start to feel like the digital world is the only world that really matters. If I spend too little I become anxious about what I’m missing out on.

In my opinion, much of what is happening in social media falls in the ephemeral camp. What do some of the ‘experts’ actually do to create value for their clients or their brands? Is there a reality behind the talk? For that reason, I like to follow people who I know are on the front lines, not just observers and pundits.

Millennials seem to instinctively understand the need to balance their online and analog lives. They understand there is a difference between their ‘personal brand’ and their authentic selves.

Edward Boches, Creative Director at Mullen Advertising is the originator of The Next Great Generation blog. Last  Sunday, I told him via Twitter how much I enjoy the new blog.  Here’s his reply:

Edward: thanks, but it’s all the writers and editors who deserve the credit. I will pass it on at tonight’s editor’s meeting

Me:  You actually meet? Like in person?! How analog of you.

Edward: yes, but as Gen Y has explained to me, digital is just an extension of their analog lives, they actually have analog lives.

The acknowledged expert on personal branding, Gen Y’er Dan Schawbel offered this insight in an interview for The Next Great Generation: Your online brand is the part of your life you choose to project to others.

TNGG: Should everyone try and create his/her personal brand?

Dan Schawbel: In most cases, you brand has already been created for you. Your friends, family and co-workers label you and each first impression you have determines your fate with that individual. It’s not about creating a brand anymore but rather about how to manage it so it works for you. Since perception is greater than reality and the online world is the cheapest and most effective way to distribute your brand, you must have online assets that can project the brand you want others to see.