For­give them, for they know not what they do

The Bulletin - - Opinion - CHISHOLJIJIM M Jim Chisholm has ad­vised news or­gan­i­sa­tions in 40 coun­tries on their me­dia strat­egy

MORE than half of mar­keters lack con­fi­dence in dig­i­tal abil­ity, a re­cent study re­ported by Adobe con­cludes. To sug­gest that Adobe “would say this wouldn’t they”, runs coun­ter­in­tu­itive. Surely they want the world to be­lieve that we are all wor­ship­pers at the dig­i­tal al­tar. Yet in what looks like a pro­fes­sional sur­vey of 1000 mar­keters across the USA, the head­lines are star­tling:

Only 48 per cent of mar­keters feel pro­fi­cient in dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing.

Few have any train­ing, with 82 per cent say­ing they learned the sub­ject on the job.

Only 40 per cent think their com­pany’s mar­ket­ing is ef­fec­tive.

And only nine per cent strongly agree that their “dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing is work­ing”.

Given that a quar­ter of global ad­ver­tis­ing is now dig­i­tal, some­body some­where should be wor­ried.

No one doubts the in­cred­i­ble power of the in­ter­net to con­nect peo­ple, but mar­ket­ing is about a lot more than con­nec­tion. It’s about en­gage­ment, per­sua­sion, con­ver­sion and trans­ac­tion – which is why com­pa­nies such as Google, Mi­crosoft, Dell, and oth­ers in­vest in dis­play ad­ver­tis­ing in news­pa­pers and tele­vi­sion. Like Coke, they know that the vir­tual world is a very good place to be, but is hid­den from the con­sumer’s hori­zon.

What is get­ting lost in all this dig­i­tal hype (or not), is that mar­ket­ing is a lay­ered set of ob­jec­tives, mes­sages and chan­nels. The mar­ket­ing guru Philip Kotler de­fined the prod­uct at three lev­els: its core propo­si­tion, the sup­port­ing ben­e­fits, and the an­cil­lary el­e­ments such as dis­tri­bu­tion.

One lead­ing me­dia buyer ex­plained to me re­cently that his com­pany now plans around 16 dif­fer­ent chan­nels, each with a dif­fer­ent ob­jec­tive – and each must re­flect the over­all brand con­cept, while demon­strat­ing the (dreaded) ROI to the client.

One of the at­trac­tions with dig­i­tal is that it is mea­sur­able, but one must ask (and this is part of the chal­lenge that this re­search ex­poses) if we are mea­sur­ing the right thing. Fan­tas­tic that 10 per cent of users click through, but if the num­ber of users is only 20 per cent of those that could be reached through con­ven­tional means, does the math ad up?

I may be an old cur­mud­geon but it strikes me that too much of the ad­vice that is go­ing out to the mar­keters who con­fess to be­ing out of their depth, is com­ing from a new gen­er­a­tion of low grade me­dia grad­u­ates, who can only talk dig­i­tal speak­ish, but wouldn’t know what a news­pa­per was if it whacked them on the head, and whose only knowl­edge of TV is that it is some­thing on which their par­ents watch Fox.

At the same time the me­dia buy­ers who are plan­ning across th­ese 16 chan­nels have lit­tle ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the per­sua­sive value of news­pa­pers. As I’ve said many times be­fore, a print news reader has 10 times the en­gage­ment with their medium that an online news reader has.

For the news me­dia in­dus­try, our chal­lenges are re-ed­u­cat­ing ad­ver­tis­ers in the value of print, while also re­al­is­ing that the mar­keters who de­ter­mine com­mu­ni­ca­tion strate­gies are con­fess­ing that they are not equipped to plan their dig­i­tal ac­tiv­i­ties.

This has to be one mas­sive op­por­tu­nity!

Of course, nav­i­gat­ing the labyrinthine prac­tices that global and ma­jor na­tional ad­ver­tis­ers adopt, is a chal­lenge. I sus­pect that point­ing out that mar­keters only be­lieve that 9 per cent of their cam­paigns are work­ing and that few me­dia buy­ers read news­pa­pers would not be good mes­sag­ing. But this com­bi­na­tion of is­sues is crit­i­cal, and can be ad­dressed through good com­mu­ni­ca­tion both to the buy­ers, and to the ad­ver­tis­ers them­selves.

How­ever, per­haps the ma­jor op­por­tu­nity for pub­lish­ers lies in sup­port­ing smaller ad­ver­tis­ers’ dig­i­tal ac­tiv­i­ties. In the USA the rev­enue from “dig­i­tal ad­ver­tis­ing/mar­ket­ing ser­vices” al­most dou­bled in 2012, and is con­tin­u­ing to see enor­mous growth, meet­ing the de­mands of smaller traders who are as con­cerned as those in the Adobe sur­vey.

Lev­er­hulme’s no­to­ri­ous state­ment that: “Half the money I spend on ad­ver­tis­ing is wasted, and the prob­lem is I do not know which half” still seems both naive and grossly op­ti­mistic.

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