Is Email An Also-Ran? CMOs Rank It As No. 4 Digital Channel

Email ranks a distant fourth as a digital channel, according to the 2018 Nielsen CMO Report. Social media tops the digital channel list, with 79% ranking it as extremely or very important. Search is next at 73%, and online video third comes in at 63%. In contrast, 59% say the same about email.

That could either mean that CMOs are devaluing the channel — an opening for those who don’t — or that it is simply not working for some. Or it could be that they feel they've mastered it, and that they need to focus on newer channels. 

Email is deemed so unimportant that it is not even rated separately as a channel in effectiveness. Social media and search are tied on that question, with both cited as extremely or very effective, by 69%.

Drilling down, 11% say email is not important. In that negative finding, it fortunately loses out to online display, mobile display and OTT TV/connected TV. Next is mobile, with 60% calling it effective, although only 56% say it is highly important — behind email.



Of course, email is part of the larger digital picture. And 82% expect their digital budgets to go up this year, with an average increase in the neighborhood of 49%.

But here’s the ringer: In general, CMOs are 48% confident that they can measure digital ROI, with 48% saying they are somewhat confident about this, 22% saying they are very confident and 4% saying they are extremely confident. But 26% are not confident, including 9% who are not at all confident.

And contrary to the myth that digital media now dominates the ad spend, 51% say they now spend less than 40% of their marketing budget on digital.

“Over the last 18 months, some of the largest and most in influential advertisers in the world have spoken up about their concerns with digital advertising, calling the supply chain ‘broken’ and pointing to high incidence of fraud and lack of brand safety,” writes Eric Solomon, VP marketing and strategy for Nielsen Watch, and lead author of the report. 

He adds that “the launch of GDPR in the European Union and related privacy challenges have added complexity to the collection and management of consumer data.

That said, the study shows that customer acquisition is the most important campaign objective, possibly fueling interest in digital, followed by brand building -- a task that favors traditional channels such as TV and radio.

Yet less than a third expect to add to their traditional media budgets in the next year. TV continues to be the most important traditional channel, with 51% rating it as extremely or very much so. Print and direct mail are tied for second, at 25% apiece. 

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