Busting The Big Digital Media Myths

Whether it was unadulterated optimism about the growth of online media, or simply the fact that sunny San Diego can quickly erase memories of Eastern snow, the consensus view during the recent Interactive Advertising Bureau Annual Leadership Meeting is that our industry is finally entering its golden age.  A peaceful, harmonious, stable, and prosperous digital media marketplace? Based on myriad presentations and conversations with marketing executives, publishers and agency leaders over the past three days, it seems a fitting description. And best of all, it means that some of the myths bantered about in the industry over the past 12 to 18 months can finally be put to rest. 

Myth One:  Big brands still don't get the Web.  Frank Cooper, Chief Consumer Engagement Officer at Pepsi, introduced the main session with a challenge to anyone involved in marketing. Claiming that the current marketing system obscures the connection between people and brands, he challenged marketers to rethink, redesign and rebuild their brands by using digital programs as a core tactic. He further emphasized that social networks are the new center of gravity and shared how creating identity value with advertising will usurp transaction value as a new measure of marketing effectiveness.

Jeff Hayzlett, chief marketing officer of Kodak, described how the company navigated away from its film business (which shrank by a factor of 75X to under $200 million), while building a vibrant digital business (now over 80% of the company's revenues).  He proclaimed that Kodak Gallery is the third largest online social network, providing the company with the new ability to tap the emotion of technology.  And in convincing fashion, he debunked the myth that Twitter cannot be used to create rich consumer experiences (a two-word tweet can evoke a very emotional connection!).

Myth Two: Standalone, premium content is not a sustainable strategy for media companies. In presentations from The Wall Street Journal Digital Network and Adify, compelling evidence was offered that online publishers can survive -- and indeed thrive -- by introducing paid content to complement their advertising revenues. Citing principles from Hal Varian's book "Information Rules," Gordon McLeod of WSJ shared how free and paid content work together across the WSJ network of sites, and encouraged other online publishers to explore how to replicate this strategy in their businesses. Rather than losing readers to free content sites, WSJ has found that this has strengthened its relationships with their readers and created a more valuable advertising platform.

Myth Three:  Advertising on social networks is not measurable or scalable.An excellent panel session with, Yelp, Facebook and Twitter introduced two new phrases to the industry: "decimalizing" and "platformizing" media. Contrasting commercial intent with community intent, each panelist demonstrated how display ads with social content provide real value to consumers and perform for marketers.

Myth Four:  Agencies, publishers and advertisers are at odds about digital data ownership.Positioned as the Great Debate, this session included executives from GroupM, Yahoo, Turner and Audience Science, and it sought to answer the question of who owns the data used and generated in digital campaigns. Dissecting the process in great detail, participants pushed for more transparency, trust and self-regulation as a way to unlock brand advertising dollars that have yet to enter the online channel. Rather than assert ownership of the data, the preferred solution was to clarify appropriate usage rights for each of the parties. Per GroupM's John Montgomery, "this data all belongs to the consumer anyway, and we must do everything in our power to respect this."

As we emerge from the recession, it's hard not to be optimistic about the future of digital media. With advertisers, agencies and publishers working together to create new models for engaging consumers, we should indeed be entering our golden age.

4 comments about "Busting The Big Digital Media Myths".
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  1. Joshua Chasin from VideoAmp, February 26, 2010 at 1:39 p.m.

    Steve, if it's OK with you I'd like to keep this on the down low, but I always enjoy your columns and usually learn something.


  2. Dimarco Stephen from Compete, February 26, 2010 at 3:29 p.m.

    Thanks Josh. I promise I won't tell anyone. (and the feeling is mutual) SDM

  3. Michael Quintos from Digital Ad Agency, March 1, 2010 at 12:49 p.m.

    I would add; work as a team to make the end client successful. We are a digital ad agency; as an example we don't mark up any ad buys. Money is tight - being efficient and working with everyone as an equal is critical.

  4. Katie Smillie from, March 2, 2010 at 3:59 p.m.

    Thanks for the mention of's panel in Myth Three. You can check out the slides from that panel discussion on SlideShare here:

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