The Self-Fulfilling Digital Media Ecosystem

“If you build it, they will come” is an iconic movie sentence from the equally iconic “Field of Dreams.” It has been used in many a business presentation, especially in the early days of digital. Initially, digital believers used it to try and convince digital skeptics that all a marketer needed to do was build a website that consumers would then flock to, creating commercial nirvana for said business. Later on, social media prophets would use the magic sentence to extoll the virtues of fans and likes in social media.

Now that we are all a little older and wiser, we use that same sentence to indicate the exact reverse of what we used it for 10 years ago: to explain that the idea of just creating a digital presence is no longer going to cut it. There are too many screens, platforms, channels and messages competing with each other, so now we need to augment our digital presence with digital advertising to avoid our wondrous digital efforts from going completely unnoticed. Mark Zuckerberg, Sir Martin Sorrell and all the stakeholders in the digital ecosystem, rejoice!



I was reminded of the history of the magic sentence while talking with a major global marketer who is also a good personal friend. She told me that in her global team the ratio of digital media managers and traditional media managers runs 3 to 1. Her budgets, however, are stacked very differently: for every dollar she spends on traditional media, she spends about 25 cents on digital.

This situation is far from unique. I see it in virtually all marketing organizations. As an industry, we have created an enormous digital marketing ecosystem within marketing departments, which in turn relies on an even more enormous outside digital ecosystem in the form of digital agencies, specialists and tech creators.

And here is where I go back to the “Field of Dreams” reference, but in a slightly revised way: “If you build it, they will keep on building it.” All people within the digital ecosystem want to ensure their roles are seen as important — nay, indispensable — since what we’re talking about here is their job security, 401Ks and stock options.

The bloated head of digital who sits atop a relatively small budget body (compared to other marketing investments) is first and foremost interested in survival. And I am not faulting anyone in the digital ecosystem for this — it’s true for every salaried person.  They want it clear that the survival of the company as a whole depends on them, right? “Trust me, Larry, we simply have to have a daily updated collection of carefully curated Pinterest pages for our newest offering of household cleaners.”

But if we step back for one second and look at a marketer’s malformed digital body, we must agree that it is exactly that: malformed. How come marketers will take a meeting with Facebook, Google or any other hot new digital-media platform, while they are hard-pressed to recall the last time they sat down with a major TV or radio station, outdoor company or — heaven forbid — print publisher?

I’m not saying digital is not important. It is. Especially so, if digital is how you sell your product or service. But at the same time, lots of other touch points matter as much as or even more than your latest agency-guaranteed, viral, real-time, programmatically bought, user-generated-content piece.

I think it’s time marketers put their mouth where their money is.

4 comments about "The Self-Fulfilling Digital Media Ecosystem".
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  1. Rick Falls from, July 6, 2015 at 12:39 p.m.

    I think the real story here is, It's ALL important, the real work is, figuring out which platform to align your offerings with, in terms of suitability, AND considering your investment of time.

    Those who would push "text mesaging" as "THE answer" (because they happen to be selling it), could wrongly take money from a "funeral parlor" who doesn't grasp the "message to marketing" connection (epic fail because 20 somethings aren't even vaguely interested), as well as those of us who (presuming we possess a good conscience) would.

    The increasing number of solutions, digital or otherwise, doesn't negate what might be thought of as "Old School", but we still ought to spend the effort (work) to find our own best options for increasing our respective customer bases.  

    It all works, IF and when it's applied properly. 

    Instant gratification that many seek, unfortunately doesn't exist in our world.

  2. Kenneth Hittel from Ken Hittel, July 6, 2015 at 1:40 p.m.

    When I was in charge of our company's digital marketing, I was able to argue quite sucessfully that what mattered was not WTF -- Web, Twitter, Facebook -- individually or as such, but our entire Digital Portfolio. But when I argued further that what REALLY mattered was our entire Marketing Portfolio, digital + traditional + non-digital innovative marketing -- well, let's just say I lost that argument. I wish better luck for others today.

  3. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, July 6, 2015 at 6:03 p.m.

    This post nails it... In fact, as we (a TV based agency) talk around the biz, we find that the number of people who have the experience and training to discuss traditional media is sadly decreasing. And, that their replacements lack the most fundamental marketing skill:  The ability to look at media options without prejudice.

    I find that today's marketing teams too often cannot even begin to accept that some things are better accomplished through other mediums.

  4. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, July 6, 2015 at 6:33 p.m.

    This post is in conflict with another one of MediaPost's posts today. It would be great if you 2 got together. There is no eco system here, just an infinity of places to put more ads with more systems with the ability to block them and squeezing the ability of smaller companies and real small companies to get their message out. Note: faster to read an ad that to watch one.

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