RISE OF THE MACHINE
Arguably no longer a distinct channel, the network of digital marketing is evolving rapidly.
Digital is a tough channel to sum up these days when it’s seemingly everywhere and cross-stitched into platfoms that we now refer to as ‘traditional’ media. Every article in a paper has its online equivalent; every radio show can be streamed at leisure and even television itself is technically digital.
Colenso BBDO head of innovation and ventures Gavin Becker says we’re getting to a point now where digital is starting to eclipse traditional channels.
“I think we are seeing brands using [digital] more effectively. Not seeing it through one channel but seeing ways to look across the ecosystems or the connected systems of digital,” he says.
Looking at it this way, the word ‘digital’ seems a little outmoded, considering how embedded it is with traditional media and our daily lives, but Becker says for convenience’s sake, the term ‘digital’ still has its uses.
“Within an industry that is helping brands capitalise on consumer attention, it’s a helpful term to delineate between the physical and analogue world. Will there be a time when it goes away? Yes, I think it’s coming but I think we are still straddling two worlds.”
And as digital creeps up on traditional channels, ad spend certainly reflects this. According to IABNZ’S Q4 Ad Spend Report, interactive ad spend was at $923 million (including digital offshoots of traditional channels).
IABNZ has made changes to collection and formatting methodologies (meaning it can’t reflect ad spend year-on year variances at a granular level), but asked contributors to submit their 2016 totals using the new format, which brought 2016’s ad spend to $860 million, showing a seven percent increase for 2017.
One of the alluring aspects of digital for marketers is its ability for quick data collection and measurability, and therefore more attuned targeting and a fast response if their approach doesn’t seem to be working.
But, responding promptly and appropriately seems to be easier said than done, and is something that hasn’t yet been perfected by marketers. Many of us still have ads we don’t want to see following us across our devices.
“It’s funny to see how [digital] has evolved since the early days. Banners really are the equivalent of analog outdoor or billboards. The behaviours that have come along with that are old fashioned,” Becker says.
“It’s not enough to put something out in the world and walk away and hope it performs.”
Becker says though there is a lot of bashing of digital, there are plenty of marketers doing it well and the scope of digital is much larger than display ads.
“It’s not just one-size-fits-all on the serving of advertising.
It’s now this latticework of connected moments and there are some brands doing it really well here in New Zealand.”
A question of eyeballs
Digital isn’t the easiest channel to measure and the accuracy for ad viewability numbers on web pages has long been an issue. Some New Zealand companies have made moves to increase transparency - like Mediaworks announcing back in 2016 that its ads would be 100 percent viewable with the use of Google’s Doubleclick product.
IABNZ also announced earlier this year it’s been working with publishers, agencies and tech vendors to implement ads.txt, a global IAB initiative designed to eliminate counterfeit inventory in the programmatic advertising ecosystem.
ANZA chief executive Lindsay Mouat says traditional viewability standards are poor and current standards hamper the effectiveness of digital advertising.
“Global viewability levels associated with the Media Ratings Council’s (MRC) definition are not advancing particularly fast.”
He says recent global viewability benchmarks from the World Federation of Advertisers shows the global display market has edged upwards to a figure of 47.5 percent and that video has fared better, with increases of viewability levels for all but a few markets, taking the global level of in-view impressions to 60 percent.
“However we expect this to change as more global marketers prescribe a higher basic viewability threshold.”
Gladeye chief executive Tarver Graham says though there’s no doubt there have been transparency issues with digital ads, there is the same issue in traditional media.
“You can’t help but notice the awesome hypocrisy by ignoring the measurability and viewability flaws of other, more well-known, expensive channels such as TV, outdoor or print,” he says. “Just because it can be measured, it seems to go under the microscope when the other big boys at the back of the bus have gotten off scot-free.”
Back to basics
Hunch managing partner Michael Goldthorpe says the fundamentals of marketing strategy haven’t changed much at all.
“Go back to basics. Don’t think digital, think people. Who am I talking to? What’s the one thing I want them to think, feel or do? Why will they believe me or care? Once those are nailed, digital comes into play in distribution, reach and conversion. But too many people start with the latter, digital litterbugs.”
He says bad digital marketing is everything that’s bad about marketing in general. “[And] made worse by our passion for ‘click’ metrics rather than brand monitors or long-term sales results.”
Marketers have quickly rallied to throw their money behind digital, and rightly so, says Goldthorpe.
“There’s always a prize for first past the post and digital is a preferred sales and communication channel for many people. But I do think there is an over-investment in ‘digital how’ tools, like infrastructure, CRM systems and media and not enough investment in ‘what’,” he says.
Marketers need to refocus on the value they bring to the relationship with their customers, says Gladeye’s Graham.
“That means getting out of the board room and getting on the bus more often to listen, to
observe and to understand the real value gaps that your brand might be able to fill. Knowing where to find underpriced attention areas to tell your story and communicate your value will become clear.”
Customer is key
One of the key tenets of great marketing is a brand’s ability to serve the customer (or ‘add value’ if you want to talk marketing lingo). And marketers are seeing the massive potential digital has to offer over a variety of touch points.
One sector that is doing this particularly well and really thinking outside the box is the banking sector.
Software firm SAP’S annual New Zealand Digital Experience Report for 2017 shows the banking industry leads the way for digital experiences after polling 2,131 New Zealanders on their digital experiences. The insurance and air travel industries also scored well.
ASB created hype back in 2016 with the launch of its anticipated Clever Kash, a digitalised, anthropomorphic money box, incentivising kids to save and learn the value of money.
Becker says products and services like Clever Kash are an aspect of digital that brands are starting to wake up to.
“If you think of the notion of products and services, they can be put out in the world very quickly and optimised and made better seemingly overnight as we learn about people’s behaviours and what they love or don’t love. That’s territory we are working more in.”
Another brand in New Zealand using digital in creative ways is Spark, with its launch of ‘The Boroughs’ in Auckland, five basketball courts hooked up to Spark WIFI connecting ballers across the city.
Air New Zealand is also pushing the envelope in digital to please customers, recently dabbling in artificial intelligence in the form of Sophie (above), a 'digital human' created by Soul Machines to answer questions about New Zealand as a tourist destination and the airline’s products and services.
Goldthorpe says digital technologies can be brilliant at making efficient connections.
“Industries that make people’s lives easier through digital are winning. I love my Air NZ app. I like having access to the world’s biggest library through Amazon. And I’m happy to pay a monthly fee to watch what I like, when I like through Netflix.”
Digital is evolving at a rapid rate. And with measures to increase transparency issues in digital marketing, and considering all the advancements in this sphere, it’s an exciting time for advertisers and consumers alike. The industry has merely dipped its toe into the pool of digital and the potential of this channel (if it indeed remains a channel) will continue to be explored in exciting and innovative ways.