When you look at where people have played within our intricate context, relative to browser wars; email and eCRM; the maturation of the search marketplace; advancing the mobile marketplace; video; software and development -- it's obvious there's no single lens on tenure. And it's certainly not linear.
But, as is often the case this time of year, when I spend concentrated periods of time among the digital brood at industry gatherings, client meetings or in tête-à-têtes, I realize there is a breed whose value sustains, year over year. To me, they are the Lions of digital.
Who are these Lions? Well, they are not self-professed gurus or fame-motivated lightning rods. They are a steadier, wiser sort: the progressives in our midst who know that making change doesn't always mean breaking glass. They raise questions and are the keepers of business ideals and sound marketing principles -- yet encourage ground-breaking and risk-taking as we develop our businesses.
Where do we most feel the heat of the Lion?
Shaking Off Vehicle and Channel Obsession
Often surrounded by digital fan boys, the Lion -- by action, if not by word -- will influence conversations about integration and convergence. The Lion discourages the silo. Lions remind us of the value of original agnosticism - that open-minded beginning, before we lay down the plan. The big idea is not always singular; it is often a well-orchestrated summary effect. Lions know this.
Getting Clear on Emergent Markets
Subtly forcing a reality check on "new" or "social media," these folk advocate our remembrance of humble origins. Amid fervor about the new-new thing, they remind us that listservs, message boards, CDROMs, chat rooms, auditoriums, file-sharing, instant messaging and Web diarists were the precursors to what we call new and social today. Something will always be new. So, why not drop that term altogether? All media is becoming social at some level. So, let's accept the standard. Campaign flighting means much less now than even two years ago. Welcome to the era of the continual campaign.
Intuiting the Importance of Deals
These are the folks whose takes on deal-making we trust across the rampant M&A landscape. It's great to have people around who are not fanatical about deal-size and valuation, but quickly and instinctively point to a deal's relevance to our progress as an industry. They convey why we should care about any given deal, and where we might sit in its aftermath.
These are the people who are watching, more closely than most of us, the possibility of more regulatory focus on privacy. But they are also providing very specific guidance on how to get out in front of this trend. In their writings, at conferences, over 10 minutes of chat, they express very specific ideas on where publishers might take their policies, what advertisers should know, how to talk to your advertising clients about behavioral targeting and personally identifiable information. The Lion cuts through the drama and breaks down what must be done over the next few months. More on this, coming soon. But it behooves us to listen.
So, if we are fortunate and also wise about the circles we travel, we rub elbows with smart and energized people every day. We bring out the best in each other. Just like our sphere itself, there is something to be said for steady and seasoned, versus the flash in the pan.
As we launch a new decade, I have been thinking about those I respect as the Lions of digital. Grey-haired or just fresh, unstuck and brilliant, they quite simply always know what time it is. Cowboys and dilettantes may be an exciting ride around the block. But that ride always stops, and the Lion saunters on.