Barriers to the Phygital Revolution

I love that word phygital, I didn’t come up with it, and I’m not even sure it was coined by Momentum either (although they have trademarked it), but they seem to have optimised their site for this term and their positioning as An agency for the Phygital™ world.

But phygital doesn’t belong to just one agency. Phygital as it sounds is the combination of the physical and digital worlds and it is, IMVHO, the real sign of the coming of age of technology in the marketing world. As we move away from the days of a super full flash website, just because you can, or a mobile or iPad app that doesn’t really do much, but it feels good to talk about it in PR – to the real use of technology, usually alongside a more ‘traditional’ medium, to deliver a really engaging experience, this is we can see marketers who understand what technology can do and how it can work to further their cause.

This morning I was reading this article on Mashable: 10 Brilliant Interactive Billboards which shows some great examples limited to the use of outdoor, but showing how this very static medium is brought to life by interaction either with touchscreens or mobile phones.

Some of these really highlight the fact that a lot of the work that is classed as great communication today goes far beyond delivering a simple message, but it more about utility or entertainment for the consumer – think the Yell touchscreen which actually gives you the local information, rather than simply telling you about it.

So if this is marketing coming of age, why isn’t it happening everywhere? What are the real barriers to the Phygital Revolution?

There aren’t really any technical barriers to these executions; much as it is hard for the man on the screen to believe, technology is far more advanced that what we actually experience in out day-to-day lives; the examples shown here just need the right knowledge and partners to pull them together: A technology provider with a creative software developer and a media company, and bingo you have a real phygital execution.

Again, IMVHO, I think that there are two things blocking this revolution: (1) lack of creativity and (2) functional siloes.

Lack of creativity is not a critisicm of the industry but more a by-product of the speed at which marketing and communication is changing and the limitations of those within it to be constantly learning and working – this is why we tend to go to university/college at the start of our career and then go out into the workplace to put that learning into action. In a marketplace that is changing so rapidly this model no longer works and we need to look at how we can be on a constant learning cycle as well as implementing and evolving on a real-time basis… not easy.

The second point regarding functional siloes is my bête noire, if you read my blog on a regular basis you’ll know that I’m the digital guy inside the advertising business trying to change it from the inside (My Job is about Change – Agitating & Activating) – and you will have read that this has more or less success depending on the day; check out Media + Advertising = Strategy & Execution Success and Digital is not a medium. But I really beleive that the structure and process that exists today both within the communications business and also within marketing departments is a major barrier to being able to come up with and execute these solutions, since there is a turf war going on between those who want to be creative and those who feel that this is their territory and should not be shared. I wrote a while ago about how Marketing Services should have Acquired Advertising, because here was a skillset that truly was media neutral and understood more quickly than other groups the importance of the paid/owned/earned scenario; similarly between agencies there is still a struggle for who gets the cash and so there are mis-aligned objectives (which aren’t always in the interest of the client) meaning that they just can’t play nicely, and finally even within marketing departments there are those responsible for media, others for the brand and finally a whole other group whose responsibility is digital (do they handle the calculators and the new coffee machine too?).

So yes, we are on the cusp of a phygital revolution, we are almost there – the new generation of marketers who accept social, mobile and engagement as part of their everyday will finally be rid of the baggage and be able to think creatively once again. But until then, there are pockets of coolness popping up all over the world.

Some more links to other Phygital executions:

One of my favourite executions is the below from Google Video, in fact it doesn’t use any technology at all, but just some pure creativity that clearly had no limitations.


By Lex Bradshaw-Zanger

A digital native and integrated brand marketer with a passion for marketing-communications and product design, Lex has a truly international outlook and experience, having worked both in major marketing agencies and client-side brands across Europe, the US and the Middle East.

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