Commentary

It's Time We Educated Brand Managers On The Digital 'How,' Not Just The 'What'

  • by March 5, 2009
Amidst the flurry of news around bailouts, stimulus, broken banks and broke homeowners, our conversations of late seem to have moved from talking millions of impressions to the immense impact of the millions, billions and trillions of dollars needed to revive our national economy. And rightly so.

While Wall Street continues to dip, marketers have watched their share prices drop by as much as one-third to one-half their former value -- leading more and more to hold onto much of that precious cash once known as the marketing budget to bolster their balance sheets. Concurrently, the trickle down to the advertising industry looks like a standing order to deliver the same amount of TRPs or impressions we did in '08 for, let's say, 20% less spend in '09. And while you're at it, can you calculate the savings we'll realize since market pricing has dropped?

Are we having fun yet?

From a creative perspective, this also places the onus the ideas we generate to have even greater impact -- be even more breakthrough, more disruptive, choose your adjective of the month, then Tweet about it and make sure the cameras are rolling. This isn't just about getting consumer's attention anymore -- it's about breaking through the cultural context of current events. But like all forms of borrowed interest, even gloomy economic prognostications can be mashed up into a reason to "buy now" - despite the huge drop in the kid's college fund. The question is, will it work this time around? Or will our creative messages fall on deaf ears simply incapable of the liquidity to convert from awareness to purchase.

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Have we ever been here before? Holy incentives, Batman. Last week I bought a Buick just to do my part.

From a digital perspective, we face another important challenge: How to keep marketers learning lots more about HOW our digital ecosystem works in order to keep the spending curve moving in the direction of our more measureable media. You would think, at a time like this, that media more measureable would actually see an INCREASE of great proportion given its finite ability to measure return on advertising dollars spent. Yet, I suspect those marketers who were spending only 5-8% of their total media in digital BEFORE Wall Street imploded won't see 2009 as a year to lean in and leverage digital. But rather, they're more likely to retreat to their pavlovian TV schedules, a few print books, and oh yeah... I guess we'd better keep our Search budget intact.

For those marketers spending 10-15% of their total media in digital in '08, this is turning out to be a challenging year to continue the flight towards digital. Much as some have adopted "video neutrality" and lobbed online video budgets in with television budgets, most brand managers still question the ROI of trading television reach for online frequency. Which is just one dynamic that suggests that all of us pushing the digital rock up the brand management hill need to start pushing lots harder. Our client emarketers need our help! And that goes as much for creatives as it does for the media and publishing community. The IAB, OPA and digital confabs will only get us so far.

Note to digerati - Bob Liodice at the ANA needs our help!

Over and over again, we hear the same response from our emarketers: "It isn't that brand management doesn't want to be spending more in digital." It's that, we, as an industry, haven't shown them the "how."

So let's get busy. If we continue to rely on our now years-old lean-in audience arguments, XMOS studies, nano measurement and metric reporting "better thans," and contextual and behavioral targeting (how many CMOs know the difference?) tips, I fear we'll continue serving as just another search and "awareness" filler channel in the Great Media Mix Model in the Sky.

If we really mean what we say about moving beyond impressions to digital engagement with brand; ability to advance relationships through interaction; activation; sampling; trial offers; personalization, CRM and lead generation, then it's time we looked past the cultural context of current events that's holding the majority of our client marketers back. It's time we start serving up "digital immersion weeks" instead of "days" and "lunch and learns" to our client marketer brand teams. Or it's going to be a long road back to 10%.

As for this digital creative director, I'm off to speak at another client's Digital Day. Because for me, the budget path to client innovation starts with more digital education.

4 comments about "It's Time We Educated Brand Managers On The Digital 'How,' Not Just The 'What'".
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  1. Lisbeth Kramer from Identities, March 5, 2009 at 2:54 p.m.

    May I please, PALEEEEEEESE! help you spread this message! Clearly by engaging in as much info and individuals, I am ALWAYS in the "there's more to learn mode." However a pivotal issue I find myself making in assisting with business development, particularly with fabulous inventive minds and start ups is the paramount importance of the sell-in strategy. One dimension of that, is exactly what you present here! With experience on many sides of the table, intimately understanding many headsets,and impassioned by great integrated, connecting, engaging tactics and vehicles and HIGHLY analysis and ROI driven...I find one of the greatest obstacles is getting this point through....I don't even understand all the nano info of the inventive minds and Im pretty smart, but there are different languages to engage to deliver right end results and build brand's bottom-lines out there...particularly if the inventors of these new media vehicles that are so cool and so valuable particularly in these times as you say...the VALUE PROPOSITION and expressing that in UNDERSTANDABLE "I can deliever this to my management terms and be a hero"..analytics...that "these tools can maximize what I already even spent big bucks on so im not throwing that money out" language. This to me covers the gamut from inbound marketing for sites to on line video and its brand distinction, destination and repeated consumer affinity to determing if social media is right for the brand and if so, what strategy is right......and more.

    I SOOO hope you have won the ears of the growing, so growing community of innovative talent, and technology out there.......

    This is why I love it and as much as I love breaking through to brands and living that "feel good feeling" that OMG now they get it, they got it, it shows in their bottom line

  2. Kathy Sharpe from Resonate Networks, March 5, 2009 at 6:13 p.m.

    You are 100% right on education. If we don't give them a path to success then how can they see it themselves. Results and by that I mean real sales results are critical, and I'm not sure how many tweets or Facebooks friends that requires, or if now is the time to test that. Better to try to explain what we know works well, has been measured and will deliver. Good piece. Thanks

  3. Elizabeth Brigham from jive software, March 5, 2009 at 6:58 p.m.

    Hi,
    I'm currently a 2nd year MBA at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan doing research on how marketers can tap into 3rd party blogs and user-generated reviews. Part of my research involves putting together a "how to" for marketers to engage in this space, thus I'd love to have the opportunity to interview you to include more of your perspective in my paper. My research will be used to design a digital marketing class to be taught to blossoming marketers in the fall of 2009.

    Over my two years at Ross, I have immersed myself in the study of digital marketing and have tried to evangelize as much as possible through projects with Fortune 50 media companies and my board position with the entertainment and media club. Please let me know if you are available to speak next week.

    thanks,
    Elizabeth

  4. Jim Dugan from PipPops LLC, March 7, 2009 at 8:36 p.m.

    Good column - to lisbeth kramer - you get it - to all of the rest of you - we have developed instant changeable technology and it's ready for market. The first installment has begun. It's www.GripOffs.mobi and you'll find that you won't leave home without it. It's on your mobile device. All the deals in your area, created for you by the businesses that really want you to partipate with them. We're all here together. You want to support your local businesses that really care about providing you the best services or products that you want and need? What's so hard about that?

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