In Defense Of Digital Media

Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Barbara Connors, director of retail media at 84.51°.

Digital advertising spending outpaced TV in 2016 for the first time. And yet, we still use the term “traditional advertising” in reference to digital’s predecessors, such as TV, radio, newspaper, magazines and billboards.

In an era where consumers and marketers have long been shifting en masse toward digital devices, why is digital still often treated as the new kid in town? And why are there still such polarizing views about its role?

Some view digital with fascination and unbridled hope, imagining it as a unicorn that will “programmagically” solve the obstacles that have plagued marketers for decades. Others still keep a safe distance and look at digital with suspicion as if it’s only a passing fad.

Over the past few years, rapid growth in the industry has led to four emerging trends. Brands are shifting their investment into digital. At the same time, retailers are getting serious about digital because they’ve recognized the value of media and their data as an asset.

Agencies are diversifying by leveraging consumer data to compete with brands and retailers, while simultaneously providing value to them. And walled gardens continue to rise as technology platforms jockey to dominate a growing market.

If we take the glass-is-half-full view, we see all sides of the digital ecosystem innovating and raising bars. Unfortunately, this has also created an increasingly complex landscape for advertisers to navigate, resulting in their justifiable frustration and distrust of many providers.  The rate at which innovation and competition have grown has also incentivized lack of clarity, overpromises and underdelivery. It’s no wonder marketers have such wide-ranging experiences with their investment and innovation in digital.

Digital media is neither a passing fad nor a “programmagical” unicorn. It is an extremely effective medium for delivering reach and amplifying the same messages over time. The fact that we spend nearly as many hours a day consuming digital media as we do “working” also enables us to leverage digital to also drive the same message home, over and over to the same people.

It has also provided new calls to action that simply didn’t exist before. No longer are we limited to delivering a message on one channel and hoping consumers take action elsewhere. With digital, marketers can actually keep their target consumers engaged within the platform, literally bringing them closer to brands.

Finally, digital provides a feedback loop that we never had before. This enables marketers to not only learn more about what works and what doesn’t within campaign execution, but also to actually engage consumers in a dialogue and amplify their voice.

However, for as much progress that’s been made, digital is still young with much untapped potential. We have yet to make the most of existing technology and capabilities, but we are already expected to test into new and emerging changes.

We need to approach experimentation in the right ways and flip many current practices on their head. Rather than innovating behind closed doors, we need to build cultures that champion testing and learning through collaboration, partnership and transparency across companies.

In an environment with such fierce competition, these words have often been uttered as empty promises but is exactly what we need. Providers that deliver on them will earn the trust of the advertisers they are trying to woo, innovate faster and be the first to unlock new benefits that digital media can provide.

Follow Barbara Connors (@Cincy_Babs), 84.51° (@8451group) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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1 Comment

  1. Randall Tinfow

    Great article.

    The retail business has historically been built by mercantilists and merchandisers. Collaboration, experimentation, and innovation are not the cultural norms.

    The entities that adapt will survive and possibly flourish.