Monday, March 17, 2008

Ad Age Special Digital Issue

Ad Age has released a "Special Digital Issue," and I can't help but ask, why do they need a "Special Digital Issue"? Considering how digital is now integral to virtually every brand, does it really only get one issue out of every 52?

Despite my peevishness about the "special issue," there are some great articles on today that should be of interest to every marketer (and not just digital ones).

Matthew Creamer has a great, provocative piece called, "Think Different: Maybe the Web's Not a Place to Stick Your Ads." It's brilliant! He notes there are "very clearly some misperceptions plaguing the marketing business today. First, there's the basic mistake that marketing is synonymous with advertising. Then, there's the underexamined assumption (that) the Internet's greatest use is as an ad medium."

His first point is, of course, near and dear to the concepts underlying Experiential Marketing (XM). Advertising is not marketing, and marketing that makes no impression on consumers is not marketing, either. While I wouldn't want to imply online advertising makes no impression, let me ask you: When was the last time a banner ad, interstitial, pop-over or -under, or non-search text ad encouraged you to click? (There are studies that claim that exposure to online ads positively impacts consumers' brand impression, but this value is difficult to measure.)

Effective online marketing is about creating function and experiences for consumers. A banner ad campaign can be part of an online marketing campaign, but the era of considering online marketing to be about buying online media died years ago. Which, in the point of Creamer's article, is why we cannot evaluate a brand's commitment to online marketing solely by it's spend on online media.

Interestingly, another Ad Age article misses the point of Creamer's article and mistakes online media spending for total online spending. The piece, "As Marketers Shift to Digital, Big 4 Keep Pace," notes that digital services in 2007 accounted for 12.3% or $4.7 billion of worldwide revenue for advertising's Big Four -- Omnicom, WPP, Interpublic and Publicis. It goes on to claim this means the Big 4 holding agencies are keeping pace in digital because "digital's share of revenue at each of the top holding companies is higher than digital's estimated share of worldwide media spending."

But as Creamer's article notes, spending on ad media is only a portion of the picture for online marketing. The online marketer's toolbox is hard to define and ever changing, but it includes (in addition to advertising) tactics like brand sites, microsites, blogs, social media, advergaming, online promotions, search engine optimization, email, mobile, and brantertainment. The article makes the mistake of comparing the size of all of the digital revenue at the Big 4 agency holding companies to the size of industry's online media spending.

I'm not suggesting the Big 4 aren't holding their own, but it seems to me an evaluation of the entire breadth of Internet marketing activities might show them still lagging behind the industry at large. (Or, maybe because I work at a specialty interactive agency I just think they may be lagging the industry at large.)

Lastly, on AdAge today is an interesting article about GM's marketing plans for the next three years. "GM Roars Forward Into Digital Ad Channels" notes that, "the country's third-largest advertiser is getting ready to shift fully half of its $3 billion budget into digital and one-to-one marketing within the next three years." Echoing the first article mentioned above, it is noted that GM's "goal is to go well beyond the banner -- GM spent $197 million in online ads last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence -- to encompass gaming, search, mobile and a broad array of interactive applications."

Lots of great reading this morning over on!

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