The marketing industry has been focused — and somewhat obsessed — with digital for the better part of the last decade. The result is a massive shift in resources and investments toward digital marketing. For instance, total digital media spend increased from $16.9 billion and 6% of total media investment in 2007 to $83 billion and 36.7% in total media investment in 2016, according to eMarketer.
But this shift has been more than a reallocation of media investments away from “traditional” channels like TV, print and radio. There has been a digitization of media channels and media consumption behavior. Television ad space can now be purchased and delivered programmatically. Out-of-home (OOH) has gone digital. Print content has moved online.
Consumer media consumption behavior has also significantly shifted from traditional to digital platforms. Long-form video content consumption has shifted from broadcast and cable TV to streaming platforms. Terrestrial radio listenership has shifted to streaming audio platforms like Pandora and Spotify. This justifies most — if not all — of the shift in media dollars online.
The shift to digital has been more profound than media. There has been a sea change in marketing strategies from top-of-funnel broad reach to bottom-funnel targeted marketing. This has been facilitated by the massive amounts of data digital technology has made available to marketers. Starting with “big data,” this shift towards personalization has been buoyed by the introduction of machine learning and artificial intelligence and the proliferation of CRM technology.
However, as with so many disruptions that occur in industry and society, the shift to digital has potentially gone too far. In my experience, many marketers are completely eschewing traditional marketing and any focus on awareness generation with a whole-hearted faith and focus on digital marketing and technology. This overcorrection has negatively impacted marketing effectiveness.
The reality is that digital may not be the solution to all marketers’ problems. Too much digital may hurt marketing effectiveness. A couple of key reasons include:
Some types of analog or traditional media have become more powerful in this new digital world. It is common for marketers to view “attention” as the central currency of modern marketing. That is because people are inundated with communications. The average consumer is exposed to 10,000 brand messages a day. Moreover, as media consumption has shifted to non-ad supported platforms (e.g. Netflix), media consumption has increasingly been time-shifted (using DVRs).
As ad-blocking software use grows, it’s becoming harder and harder to “interrupt” and get people’s attention, particularly online. The irony is that while digital media provides unparalleled targeting capabilities, it is failing to get the user’s attention as well-chronicled by the “banner blindness” and the eight-second attention span, Microsoft found in 2015.
While a shift to earned media and owned content marketing and creating valuable, opt-in experiences is part of the solution to the issues above, many of the paid media options available to marketers are increasingly ineffectual. Except, I would argue, many offline formats. That is why Super Bowl TV ad rates (and any advertising on live sports) has increased in cost and value and why OOH media has moved up the paid media food chain and is demanding record CPMs. Maybe it’s time for marketers to reprioritize traditional media.