Media for the Online World: The New Mantra of Accountability

Every few years there comes a new mantra in business. One of the most memorable is "Greed Is Good." This Wall Street quote seemed to epitomize the ’80s, and was briefly resurrected in the ’90s by the dot-com boom, but now it would appear that a shift has occurred — we've moved from greed to accountability. As consumers continue to be bombarded with marketing messages each day, how can any responsible company continue to spend excessive amounts of dollars with no true read on the effectiveness of those expenditures? If the Internet bubble can burst and not return, what makes us think that the ad-budget bubble will start to fill back up again? As a result of this past recession (or whatever your favorite business-news source may call it), most companies have reduced their ad budgets. It’s been two years, and a number of credible sources are saying to brace for the return of these dollars, to start staffing up and preparing for an increase in ad budgets. My opinion? Don’t get too excited just yet. In this new accountable economy, the ad budgets will only go where they are most effective and can be proven to be so. As the CEOs are increasingly held more accountable for their actions, don’t be surprised if they become a little gun-shy about increasing those marketing budgets quickly. The world is scrutinizing their every movement and will barbecue them for any wrong moves. What this means for you and me, the people who rely on these ad budgets for our sustenance, is simple. We need to work harder to evolve the metrics to prove that advertising is effective. Traditional forms of media need to work in concert with new media to determine the correct mix that results in the achievement of key metrics (sales, market share, etc.) That said, traditional metrics for brand building are still important, but primarily as a means to an end. A strong brand will always help in the achievement of key direct response metrics, and direct response metrics will need to evolve so that more people understand the concepts of view-through or increased propensity to buy at a later time. Gone will be the days of brand awareness as a sole key metric for advertising campaigns. These ideas are tied to the concepts of message media vs. supportive media. These are the breakouts of media within a campaign plan and how they are utilized. This marriage of brand and DR metrics explains how a company will utilize media in this market as the attention span of the general consumer decreases to levels that even MTV cannot achieve. Traditional agencies have already begun to recognize these facts. They’ve positioned themselves in various ways, and it will take time to determine which of these formats is best. Will it be the behemoth media buying agencies, or the resurrection of the nimble boutique shops that can react faster to this media maturation? My guess is that both will have their place. This is not an "all or nothing at all" world, to quote the Chairman of the Board. The problem will be whether the old dogs in the agency environment have the time or the patience to learn some new tricks.
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