Tom Asacker--author of A Clear Eye for Branding, and moderator of the panel, who pointed out that e-mail remains the most highly used online tool for marketing followed by targeted display and keyword search--nonetheless said that next year's panel shouldn't suggest there's a separate practice called online direct marketing, separate from branding.
But, as Unilever's head of media and entertainment Babs Rangaiah expressed it, there will be no revolution in which everyone will wake up tomorrow and find the 80% of online marketing dollars devoted to direct marketing has suddenly dropped to 40%, with the lion's share devoted to branding or other efforts.
"I think once you start to see more examples of marketers succeeding you'll see that," he said. "But big brand marketers have succeeded in big ways via a specific model for many years. There won't be a big transition moving off of it. There will be a shift, and even a small shift means a lot of money. There won't be a huge sway."
And he characterized digital video as "transitional." "Marketers think in terms of sight, sound and motion, and we can use assets we have; we can leverage video for online marketing and branding efforts. So that's the first thing you'll see money shift to. But the beauty of the Internet is you can do both direct and brand-oriented efforts."
Shane Steele, director of emerging media and online marketing at Coca-Cola, said the company has not merely moved video assets online, but in both directions, moving its Super Bowl advertising online and taking an online campaign for Coke Zero offline. "We brought that into the broadcast environment; we are trying to experiment and challenge agencies to work in all environments."
David Karnstedt, head of U.S. sales for Yahoo, said that the mobile space has been a focus for his company. "From a consumer standpoint, a lot of products that were all PC-based have migrated to the mobile phone. So, we have spent last couple of years launching products made for handsets, and we've seen audiences respond. It's a real heavy testing environment for us because there's a fine line between obtrusive and usefulness."
The company is also wrapping its search and display divisions under one umbrella group. Karnstedt said that marketers are less interested in discrete products. "And we have been organized by products, and are now far more interested in solutions that are holistic; that's what's behind our restructuring."
To further the holistic theme, David Edelman, executive vice president and leader of strategy and analytics at Digitas, argued that making a distinction between branding and direct marketing would be a mistake. "When you decide arbitrarily that a brand is 'touchy feely' and on TV, and direct is something else, you limit yourself. The brand has to work across all media--whether via mobile, online, video broadband or social media."