Digital Beyond Borders.

It was in Montreal, chatting avec des nouveaux amis at CloudRaker, that I was reminded of one of the most intrinsic principles of the digital space.

Here I am, traveling from country to country around the world, aiming to gain a regional perspective on the state of advertising and more specifically, on how digital and social media have affected the industry, and yet there is a key (perhaps even blatantly obvious) contradiction therein that I have yet to acknowledge.

Digital content may have regional distinction that is attributable to the environment where it is created, but the creators of said content cannot possibly anticipate who may see it or where it may ultimately be consumed.

Digital has no borders. No matter where content is created, it has the potential to spread to every corner of the globe where internet access exists.

As digital dissolves borders, it creates an international common ground. One where regional slang is vernacular understood on the opposite side of the planet and humor, once so specific to a small network, now makes sense far beyond its origins. We have become, and continue to grow into, a global community that seeks to find one thing: useful connections.

“Useful” can be defined and determined in many ways, from simple entertainment value to truly utilitarian applications that consumers can’t wait to share throughout their communities.

So does it matter where the content was created, and the context and environment in which its creators live? If digital is creating one global community, does that mean that we should develop strategy and creative that tries to appeal to the lowest possible denominator and greatest possible audience? Should we create diluted messaging that tries to anticipate every viewer across the world, foreseen and otherwise?

No. It means it is more important than ever to work with laser-sharp focus to construct a digital ecosystem for clients— including a digital brand voice and content— that resonates with their specific target network. If it spreads beyond this network, great. If not, well, you still hit the most important mark.

Do your research. Know your target network, who they are, what’s important to them and what offends them, what would add value to their experience with your brand and lastly (but crucially), the potential for them to share your content, value and brand story with their personal and professional networks (which, in today’s world, could reach to any city, country or continent). Don’t set out to “create viral content,” that’s a distraction. Rather, be aware that your content could, and probably will spread beyond your intended audience and focused target network.

Think about your most successful digital effort and what made it a success. Not the most successful digital effort that you have ever come across, but your own success story. What determined its outcome?

Your home base, whether it is South Africa, Toronto, Montreal, the West Coast of the United States or anywhere else around the world probably did not make the difference. The level to which you resonated with and added value to your target probably did. Yet regional specificities do matter. We are all competing on one global stage from very different regional vantage points.

When you consider your most successful digital campaign, take it one step further to consider the environment you work in. For instance, what tools are at your disposal? How digitally-savvy and capable are the consumers in your country? What are the daily realities of your culture (such as personal sense of safety or access to human rights) that affect not only how you work and live, but how your consumers work and live their lives as well?

What allows Damon Stapleton and the team at TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris in South Africa to create the Zimbabwean campaign, or Steve Mykolyn and the crew at TAXI Canada to come up with the MINI Canada work? What motivated Montreal’s CloudRaker to create a hugely popular Cadavre Exquis for Tim Burton, and what inspired William Gelner and his team at 180LA to concept The Sony Rocket Project?

The work has to begin somewhere and within one frame of reference. Where it ends up, well, only the consumers across our global community can determine that.

To what degree do you think regional peculiarities affect the efficacy of ideas and the potential for them to spread around the world? Are the two mutually exclusive, or do regional peculiarities contribute to the holistic environment of the global community? Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments, via Facebook or Twitter, or post a blog response (on your own blog) and send the link to

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