As tonight's ceremony will mark the 10th anniversary of The Drum Awards for the Digital Industries (which, mercifully, we soon learned to shorten to Dadis) the milestone got us thinking about how the digital industry has changed in that time. Only 10 years ago, Steve Jobs was still putting the finishing touches to the first iPhone, Nintendo was making gamers out of grannies with its Wii and Bebo was the most widely used social network in the UK. Yes, Bebo. Twitter, alas, still had its training wheels on.
An editor’s letter from a contemporaneous edition of The Drum sums up the heady excitement of the time: “While Web 2.0 sites Facebook, Myspace and Bebo continue to grow databases of loyal social networkers, the 3D world of Second Life is upping the ante and taking the internet into the realm of Web 3.0.” And it wasn’t just our predictions that were peculiar. The Drum was still documenting these wild pronouncements in the form of Print 1.0, publishing the latest developments in digital in our quaint sister supplement CyberDrum. Those were the days.
Ok, so we may have got it wrong about Second Life, but in that sticky summer of 2006 (you remember the heatwave?) there were stirrings that we did know something about this digital lark after all. Phil Jones, already seen as the doyen of digital as the founder of the legendary Podge lunch, was conscripted to assemble the judging panel for the first Dadi awards. And he performed the job of chairman so well, we’ve invited him back to do it every year since.
So it’s safe to assume Jones must have seen some amount of growth and upheaval in the industry in that time. “The changes are too numerous,” he says. “Certainly the big agency groups have snapped up many of the smaller entrepreneurial businesses and some of them have thrived under better management and others have found the transition both painful and hurting their pockets.”
And then there are the new entrants to the market. “Major corporates like IBM, Accenture and Capita have joined in the fun and working with intermediaries have invested in specialist digital agencies who add value to their overall offering." Though not always for the better. "I saw recently that the share price of a large print group which has acquired several agencies took a massive tumble and this must play havoc with the agencies they acquired over the last year or so."
Phil Jones, centre, hands the chairman's award to Glasgow City Marketing Bureau at the first Dadi Awards
Yet the more things change, the more they stay the same. A decade ago, Tony Foggett was entering a CD-Rom into the Dadis as the boss of Manchester’s Code Computerlove. A year later, they were crowned digital agency of the year and 10 years on he’s still Code's chief executive. So, bar the CD-Rom becoming a dim and distant memory, what shifts have had the biggest impact on business? “Social fundamentally changed the relationship between brands and consumers along with the hierarchy of the entire media landscape,” Foggett says. “Digital was suddenly no longer a bolt on and as a digital agency we found our clients were leaning on us to make sense of this change.”
But of course, there is one technological leap above all others that has had the most profound effect not only on the digital industry, but also the way we live our lives. “Undoubtedly the launch of the iPhone,” says Ross Sleight, a judge of the first Dadis when he was head of marketing at Virgin Games and now – sign of the times – heading strategy for mobile firm Somo. "We become blasé about disruption in this industry but the iPhone fundamentally changed how people engage with digital products and services."
So accustomed have we become to having our smartphones in our hands that it is easy to forget just how drastically iPhones and their like have transformed the way we communicate and consume media – and by extension, how the digital industry develops websites, products and services. "The smartphone revolution which has happened in the last decade has been astonishingly fast and furious," Sleight says. "How we conceive, develop, build and consume products and services has been transformed. It felt to me like the dawn of the web in 94 again as we opened our eyes to a whole new vista of possibilities."
And new possibilities emerge all the time. The Dadi Awards of 2016, held in association with Medialets and sponsored by Shazam, contain categories for video, branded content and even best use of virtual reality – something that was still the preserve of science fiction writers 10 years ago. A decade from now, who could possibly predict what this industry will look like? Better consult CyberDrum...
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