Hard Work And The Olden Days of Digital Media

I was reminiscing about the good old glory days of digital media recently.  I have been lucky enough to be blazing a path in digital media since back in 1994, when digital media was primarily email addresses and some basic web pages with lists of other web pages on them.  I worked for various digital ad agencies starting in 1996, and in 2002 was lucky enough to help manage part of one agency that helped that set the stage for the digital media consolidation we experience today.  From there I was surrounded by the best entrepreneurs and start-up leaders to build data platforms, AI assistants and communication tools that help power the way the world works. 

As I’ve said time and time again, I’ve worked extraordinarily hard to be this lucky.

In the old days, we worked hard because nobody had even done this work before!  We created search engine marketing, affiliate marketing and display.  We tested ad units and creative storytelling tools.   We stayed up late and we woke up early trying to craft reports and find ways to leverage data. 



These days there are dashboards and visualization platforms that make it easier to aggregate and review data, but creating them is still hard work.  We invented cookies and pop-up ads (we weren’t always right).  Pop-ups went away, and cookies are on their last legs, but they all had their place in driving us to where we are today. 

Video was just a twinkle in our eyes in 1998, and now we see the benefits of everything we thought would happen.  The growth of video was hard work, and that hard work paid off, too.

I remember when I could pick up the phone and call everyone who was buying digital media to organize a happy hour (and we could always get someone to pay for it).  That was easy, because there wasn’t that many of us.  We were excited when the agency world was spending $100 million in digital ads on an annual basis, and it was hard work to make all that happen, with printed and faxed insertion orders flying around. 

Now there is over $380 billion being spent annually in digital media. Brands like Lycos, Excite and Infoseek are long gone from search, replaced by Google (they worked hard).  Yahoo was a household name, as was AOL.  Now they are both associated with a bygone era of the web.

I recall when we named children IUMA in exchange for $5,000 worth of free music (yes, 11 people named their children after a nonexistent music website).  If you want to see what hard work beget in 1996, check out the Wayback Machine that hosts the Internet Archive.

2022 is sure to bring more opportunity for hard work.    We need to see changes in how we view digital media.  Too many people still see it as a demand gen vehicle and not enough people understand the impact of brand in digital. Too many people gloss over reporting and rely on old ways of measuring brand via surveys. 

I have spent much of the last six years in big companies, and people still do not fully understand how to use digital media.  Digital media can be the lead vehicle and it can also be a support vehicle.  I guess my point is that digital media still requires hard work to help people understand the way to use it in 2022.  Making video effective is hard work.  Understanding an audience across channels is hard work.  Getting a clean and clear view of the audience and how they engage with you is still hard work. 

Or maybe I am just being curmudgeonly.  Maybe all we need is a little bit of luck?


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