What a long, strange trip it's been.
There are many who think that advertising as we have known it to date is going to rapidly change in our new media world. There are days when I feel this way (and you've read about it here), but there are days when I think to myself that if advertisers get it right, the opportunity going forward is bigger, better and more opportunistic than ever before. The only way to capture that opportunity is to be ready for it. The challenge with that is that marketers are woefully bad at grabbing these new opportunities and really running with them. For an industry that is littered with creativity driven by being culturally relevant, it's (somewhat) shocking to see how long, hard and slow it is to move the proverbial needle. It's no longer even about being ready for it, consumers are fundamentally ahead of the marketers and the brands that they represent, so while it would be nice to have some advertising agencies at the bleeding edge, it would be nice to have just a few more at the leading edge to get our noses just a bit further ahead of those hyper-connected and highly untethered consumers.
So many more channels, platforms and places.
TV, radio, print and even out-of-home advertising was never an easy business, but it was very simple in its architecture. If you wanted your advertising to be seen by as many people as possible, you stuffed your messages where the people were (primetime TV, the Sunday paper, the morning drive, etc...). With just a handful of strategically placed ads, you could plaster the market, rinse and repeat. It's a model that worked for decades. Today, there are many more platforms, many more channels and many more places. Fragmentation is often a word that seems trite by description in today's marketing vernacular, but it's still a massive shock to the advertising system that has yet to be reconciled.
The proof is in the spending.
My good friend, Avinash Kaushik (best-selling business book author of Web Analytics - An Hour A Day and Web Analytics 2.0 - along with being the Digital Marketing Evangelist at Google), posted to his Google+ page a graph that was taken from a February 20th, 2012 news item on The Next Web titled, Advertisers are spending way too much on print, too little on mobile. The main frustration that he expressed (and I'll happily echo) is that there is a massive mismatch between where advertisers are spending their money and where consumers are spending their time. It's such a basic equation and yet it is completely upside down when you look at the data.
Will this shock you?
From The Next Web news item: "...money continues to be poured into traditional mediums like print, radio and TV, despite the fact that Web and mobile platforms appear to be far more engaging with highly trackable and measurable results... the most valuable demographic behind the emerging potential of mobile advertising. The study shows that men and women between the ages of 18 and 34 are predictably most desired by advertisers. More specifically, women between the ages of 25 and 34 with an income of $60-80k are the most valuable of all." In a nutshell, the people are there, the time spent is there and advertisers are still fumbling around, finger's crossed, that this is all just some bad nightmare. That the Web is a fad, that Social Media won't maintain itself as a viable channel and that mobile is simply too nascent.
It's not too late... but it's not too early.
We can debate back and forth as to whether or not digital advertising can deliver at the same level that television can. It's a debate and discourse that takes place on every channel (online or otherwise), but that's not really the big issue or the big challenge (in fact, I'd love to take part in a debate that discusses if television advertising today can deliver at the same level that television did prior to the Internet). What this news item highlights (and it's something that I've been banging the Blog drum about for close to a decade) is that the advertising money isn't moving fast enough over into the channels where consumers are spending their actual time. And, because of fragmentation, even capturing those moments in time are becoming increasingly more difficult to do. So, while it's not too late to get moving in the right direction, it's also abundantly clear that it's not too early either. The trick (as is always the case) is in doing right. And, until brands cowboy up and agencies up their game in terms of competency, it will be a game of dragging feet, finger pointing and general malaise when it comes to the marketing results of the bigger organizations. It's a tragedy that can be easily averted if (and when) brands and the agencies that serve them, wake up and realize where their consumers truly are and the types of interactions they're genuinely looking for (think marketing not advertising).
Treating Digital Marketing like a second-class and ghettoized citizen just isn't going to cut it anymore... is it?