Traditional Media Advertisers Need To Evolve

The advertising world is buzzing with articles about the impending death of digital advertising and even of the ad-supported economy. “Death of the Net, film at 11” has been an Internet meme for as long as the Internet has existed.

But we should not be too quick to dismiss the concerns. There are some significant challenges. Agencies need to adapt and do so quickly.

There are three things currently fueling this narrative.

Apple is adding hooks to IOS 9 that enable the creation of ad blocker apps for iPhone and iPad.Companies have jumped at this opportunity and are working to have ad blockers ready when IOS 9 ships next month.

At the same time, ad blocking on the desktop is on the rise. Ad blocking isn’t new. Internet Junkbuster was first released in 1998. By the early 2000s all the major browsers had popup blockers and Adblock Plus was first released almost a decade ago.



What’s changed is that according to a blog post on The New York Times, ad blocking jumped 41% in the past 12 months taking it from a minor sideshow to costing companies an estimated $20 billion a year.

The third thing is that the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has just released a new Do Not Track (DNT) standard for Web browsing. Like ad blocking, DNT has been around for a long time.

Due to limited adoption and controversies around Internet Explorer 10’s on by default setting and the Apache web server ignoring it by default, it wasn’t having a substantial impact. This time, though, it’s adding more fuel to the fire about digital advertising at a time when sensitivities abound.

But why is all this happening now?

In recent years, digital media advertising has transitioned from a broadcast to a direct marketing model. Data management platforms (DMPs) and programmatic buying mean that what used to be anonymous media buys targeted by region and channel are rapidly becoming individually targeted one to one marketing campaigns.

That shouldn’t be a bad thing. More well targeted advertising should mean more relevant (aka less irritating) adverts and a better user experience. The problem is that advertisers and the media agencies that support them have not made the shift from broadcast to direct.

There are two areas in particular where traditional media advertisers need to evolve.

The first is the switch from interrupt to permission marketing. Seth Godin introduced the term in 1999 as a response to consumer advertising overload.

The idea of winning people’s attention has been present in direct marketing for even longer. Whenever you don’t own or control the channel you must win people’s attention. Whether it’s obtaining an email opt-in, a Facebook like or getting a recipient to read your mail piece, direct marketers have been winning people’s attention for decades.

Broadcast advertising has been based on interrupting people and demanding their attention — eight minutes out of every twenty. Online we’ve had banners, sidebars, animations, pop-ups, pop-unders, overlays, and interstitials. It’s been an arms war between advertisers and browser creators.

The latest front is ad blocking and advertisers are losing.

The second area is data. Earning attention and permission means being relevant, timely and channel appropriate. It also means earning trust by being respectful of privacy and data. Here, too, direct marketers have decades of experience.

I’m not saying they’re paragons of consumer protection, but they’ve had long experience balancing consumer privacy with the needs of commerce.

The opportunity exists today to use big data and modern ad tech to create far more effective, seamless and yes, less irritating user experiences. This can be a great outcome for all involved but it has to start with recognizing that digital channels are direct marketing channels.

Some of them have had a brief interlude as broadcast channels but that time is over. Eventually, every channel becomes digital and every digital channel eventually becomes a one to one direct channel.

The future belongs to direct marketers.
3 comments about "Traditional Media Advertisers Need To Evolve".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, September 2, 2015 at 4:48 p.m.

    Derek, any reasonable person would agree with you that advertisers as well as a lot of others engaged in the media business should continue to adapt and explore new vistas. But when you launch into a direct response is the only way to go pitch you lose me entirely. There's a lot more to advertising than sending an an to a supposedly targeted consumer. For one thing, you have to let the consumer know that the product is out there and give him/her reasons for wanting it and, especially, a particular brand's version of it, in preference to others. That's called "branding" and it may me refined as the years pass----but it's not going away, nor will it be replaced by "direct". The two compliment eachother---they are not adversaries. Just my opinion.

  2. Derek Harding from Little Bee Consulting, September 2, 2015 at 8:58 p.m.

    Thanks Ed. Please don't think I'm underestimating the importance of brand or brand advertising. Far from it. At the same time let's not forget that much direct marketing has had a substantial brand component to it.

    What I'm driving at is that the traditional distinctions between brand and direct response are going away. Similarly broadcast is giving way to targeted and the coalesced model relies much more heavily on skills that have been honed by direct marketers.

    I completely agree with you on the complementarity though. In this integrated world there is much for direct marketers to learn from the media side of the house as well as vice versa.

  3. Stephanie Rogers from PARTNERS+simons, September 12, 2015 at 8:29 a.m.

    Great article, and it's fascinating watching all this play out.

    Another thing that complicates the issue is the perceived value exchange: in theory, broadcast advertisers have earned the right to interrupt your viewing experience because they are paying for it (free viewing thanks to ad-supported content). A direct mail piece, on the other hand, has no perceived value exchange unless it delivers a completely relevant and timely message/offer (making the reliance on data/customization more critical).

    The web is interesting because much of it still operates on the old TV model of ad-supported-free-content, which I think many online consumers have lost sight of (or have just become fed up with due to poor online ad experiences). The Washington Post has taken a nice approach to combat ad blocking with its intercepts asking readers to subscribe or follow them on social; check it out if you haven't already.

    Of course all publishers/advertisers should be focused on delivering fantastic UX and insight-driven creative; that's Marketing 101 regardless of channel.

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