Just a little more than 10 years ago, the way we measured a user’s engagement of a specific ad would likely have involved a call center lighting up for the 15 minutes following the broadcast of a direct-response commercial. (It probably ran in the overnight hours on a second-tier cable network.)
But in the late ’90s, the idea of advertising designed for user engagement took a monumental leap forward. What became known as ‘the click’ did two things:
*Revolutionized an advertiser’s ability to interact with a user and
measurement of that interaction.
In an interesting turn of events, the industry quickly became infatuated with the latter and has all but ignored the former. “Interaction" quickly became a tactic to be measured, rather than a part of the strategy to be incorporated.
It is ironic that while this movement toward measurement -- at the expense of creativity -- has arguably slowed the ascension of digital advertising to the favorable status of ‘brand builder’ enjoyed by its more traditional cousins, the focus on measurement actually grew to offer a stark distinction from those media of the past.
“They may be your brand-building tools,” digital might have said in 2000, “but just try to measure the ROI of your last TV
A decade into what has clearly been its coming of age as a legitimate advertising medium, however, digital has encountered the predictable downside of its metaphorical deal with the devil.
Digital sold itself with the idea of measurement being the end all, be all. Now, if it is going to make a run at the proverbial branding table, it must do its own version of a
high-profile rebranding initiative. It must convince Madison Avenue that it can, in fact, bring something unique to the branding table.
If digital looks back at its roots, this new narrative should not be too hard to pull off.
The truth is that the interactivity offered by digital media provides advertisers the chance to completely rethink their brand strategy. What
began with ‘the click’ has grown into complex rich media engagements that can wrap a user in a brand-experience, collect volunteered information about interests, and illicit declared and
evangelized brand fan-hood. Aren’t these the very things that advertisers would have given every one of their Clios for in the age of Mad Men?
But how do we (the digital advertising industry) pull off this pivot of perception? I believe that rather than pitching digital against traditional media, we must start thinking more about how digital and interactive media advertising can play a role alongside traditional media in the overall brand strategy. We must start talking more about how digital can work to magnify and complement parts of a campaign that are executed across the traditional outlets of TV, print, radio and outdoor. The goal should be to trigger interest offline…and engage interest online.
By thinking about how the interactive nature of digital advertising can lend itself not only to unprecedented levels of measurement but also to new levels of brand engagement, the industry will open itself up to the true promise of the digital revolution.
Ultimately, the industry will be best served when digital is given a seat at the table at the beginning of the process and incorporated in the planning stages of cross-media campaigns designed to increase both brand favorability and brand revenue. Isn’t that what brand building really means?