What's The Next Lofty Goal For The Media Industry?

I recently had a very strange experience. I’m betting many of you have had the same one — so I thought I would use this week’s column as something of a therapy session.  

Over the last few months, I’ve sat in multiple meetings with Fortune 100 brands discussing data and digital advertising. On multiple occasions I’ve heard brand execs explain how they’re using digital as an increasingly important piece of their media mix, in some cases spending as much as 25%-30% of their budgets for digital.  They detail how they’re using search coupled with display, alongside video and in some cases incentive-based affiliate efforts.  CPG brands are implementing digital-based shopper marketing.  All of these line items are layered with data for targeting and personalization.  

These meetings are literally a dream come true for those of us who’ve been in the business for a loooooong time.  It’s something most of dreamed of having happen, and its finally taking place.

Back in 1994 and 1995, we used to get excited when someone mentioned the “information superhighway” — and for the next six years, we spent all our time evangelizing the ways brands could and would be able to use the Internet to engage with their target audience.  We built presentation after presentation to convince them of the accountability of the medium and the ways they could tailor messages based on location and insight into the audience’s behaviors.  

Then the dot-com bubble came crashing down on us, and things got very difficult for a few years.  The business receded, but many of us held tight to our convictions. Things turned around within five years as the Web became more and more ingrained into the daily life of consumers, and the promise felt real once again.  

Now it’s 2015.  Many of my peers are in charge of mainstream brands’ marketing efforts, and those mainstream brands are embracing digital.  What’s even better: across the board, the CMO is completely supportive of digital.  As a matter of fact, the entire C-suite is now on-board.  Digital has become the lifeline for C-level executives as a clear north star for them to focus on in order to drive the growth of their business.  Their customers are there.  Their prospects are there.  The efficiencies are there.  

I can’t say I invented the business by any means, but I do feel vindicated for the work and time and effort and brainpower I’ve dedicated over the last 20+ years.  For a long time the running goal was to be able to explain what I did to my grandma.  Now it’s years later, and unfortunately my grandma is no longer with us, but I think she would “get it” now.

So where does that leave things?   What are we shooting for?  If the target audience of mainstream marketers is aligned with digital, and if more and more of budgets are being partitioned out for digital, what are we trying to achieve?  What’s the lofty goal our industry is shooting for?  

I think the goal at this point is integration across the board to enable true attribution analytics.  The TV industry is fast embracing the concept that TV needs to be digitized, and once that happens you’ll see more accountability than we see today.  Once the customer journey can be truly mapped and recorded across all devices, and once TV is a part of that map, the world literally opens up.  What’s funny about that situation is, too many digital-centric people spent too many years pounding on TV as a medium — and now those folks are going to have to eat crow and work with the industry they’ve rivaled or despised for many years.

I can’t wait until I sit in those meetings where some Fortune 100 marketer is telling me how they’re tracking across all channels and touchpoints.  That will be a fun meeting for me.  Good luck to everyone involved in helping us achieve this lofty goal!

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