We hear lots of talk concerning the shift from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0, but a similar shift is taking place in the sub-component of the Web: media strategy. There is a very clean line being drawn that designates the shift from 1.0, to 2.0 and into the 3.0 stage of media strategy, which revolves around the differences between placements, analysis and optimization.
Media Strategy 1.0 was quite simple; it was driven by reach and focused its dollars against large Web portals and ad banners. The questions surrounding Media Strategy 1.0 were about reach and volume and whether or not you could speak to a significant audience size using online. That question has long since been answered; any person with modicum of digital intelligence knows the answer is a resounding "Yes!" Size does indeed matter, but it is no longer an issue with the Web. Optimization during this stage was based on click- through rate, because it was the best metric we had at the time.
Media Strategy 2.0 was driven by context. Brand managers became interested in understanding the environment where their ads would be running. The focus for media planners was on the rapid growth of search, which is the ultimate form of contextual relevance, and the debate of the long tail and ad networks as being a viable means to reach a large, targeted audience.
This stage of media strategy is not dead yet by any means, but it is quickly becoming a standardized component of media planning. The average media planner works with no more than four to five ad networks. Planners tend to allocate dollars based on past experience, performance and personal relationships that translate to effective campaigns. Advertisers and brand managers are still interested in context, and as a result they are attempting to place safeguards in their efforts that ensure protection against inappropriate content.
The issues with UGC media are indicative of this stage, as well. UGC offers unheard-of volume, but context is driving consideration and inclusion in media plans. Optimization against contextual relevancy was still based on click-through rate, but engagement started to rear its head and work its way into the discussion.
The 3.0 stage of media strategy is being driven by targeting technology, requiring fundamental knowledge about marketing to define the opportunity and to further define the standard measure of engagement. The media planners who've not been formally schooled in marketing are going to be left behind, as stage 1.0 and 2.0 were (unfortunately) filled with people who "were winging it": getting by on what the people around them were doing.
As we enter this third stage and combine the merits of technology with concerns for contextual relevance, we are going to have be well-educated on tools and their respective benefits, and be able to convey the pros and cons of each against true, strategically sound plans using the tried and true marketing lexicon. Clients are getting smarter and campaigns are becoming more complex; we need to speak the same language as traditional marketers so that we can be compared on an even basis.
This third stage is about the balance between targeting, which reduces waste and increases campaign efficiency, and creativity, which takes into account the message and the placement relevance. Just as in traditional marketing, our goal is to reduce the waste against an untargeted audience and focus dollars on the audience that is most likely to resonate with the message. The difference is that digital media has the capability to get to a 100% targeted effort, whereas traditional media does not.
This stage of media strategy requires data, and data is something that we have in abundance. The issue is not whether we have the data, but how we use it to be effective. There are numerous ways to slice the data, but the most important metrics are the ones that correlate to actual increases in consideration, intent and sales.
Marketers -- especially brand marketers -- spend money to make money; they do not spend money just for the sake of doing so. For our business to continue to grow, the targeting technology companies are going to have to prove their value to brand marketers. The targeting companies are great at improving a direct response campaign, but they need to become educated in the ways that consumer packaged goods companies measure results. Once the targeting folks can speak that same language as the CPG folks, they'll be well-positioned to succeed.
Media Strategy 3.0 appears daunting, but if our industry takes the time to take a deep breath and evaluate our preparedness for it, I think we can continue to grow and improve. As always, it comes back to training and the perception of our industry being a mature business that is rooted in fundamentals. If you are looking to the future, be sure to look internally and make sure that your team is ready to make that journey with you; otherwise you set yourself up for failure.
What are your thoughts regarding the next stage of media strategy? Comment on the Spin Board and let me know!