Digital Advertising. Past, Present and Future
Seth Godin wrote: “There’s a tendency to confuse the next big thing with the one, it, the last big thing, the end of the line … Most of the time, we’re dealing with a moment, a step in a trend. We fail when we fall in love and believe there is no next step.”
This sentiment is the thought – slightly guilty, slightly uncomfortable, and somewhat disappointing – that is left lurking in my mind having read Digital Advertising: Past, Present and Future.
The premise offers much more: a collection of essays from some of the top digital creative directors and business owners, extracted from, and promoting, their blog and their advertising ‘art’.
The book is broken into three sections, as the title would suggest. ‘Past’ actually provides some good insight into the evolution of the 12kb GIF banner, and some nostalgic reminiscing about the ‘glory days’ of personal computing on ZX Spectrums, C64s and BBC Micros… We all did it. Popped into WHSmith, headed to the computer games area and typed onto the demo computers…
10 Print “Hello!”
20 GOTO 10
‘Present’ is the largest section of the book, and the most diverse. Some of the essays/blog posts do genuinely provide food for thought. Some are intriguing ‘what ifs’ (what would Bill Bernbach think?) and some just interestingly bizarre (why Brazilians – the people! – or Swedes are so pre-disposed to digital advertising).
And in ‘Future’, the authors attempt to gaze into a crystal ball whilst discussing various aspects of where digital advertising is going.
The book is well written, and the essays are all of a length which makes this easy to dip in and out of while on the train or with 20 minutes to fill. But, still, I was left with the feeling that I was being preached at by over-enthusiastic evangelists just a little bit too hard.
The digerati need to temper their enthusiasm with a realistic understanding that the ‘old’ isn’t going away; it’s being added to, and it is changing, but the new isn’t going to completely take over the town (well, not that quickly).
Simon Green, Marketing Director Global Brands Ltd, reads Digital Advertising: Past, Present & Future and finds it an interesting read.
What Patrick Burgoyne and Daniele Fiandaca have done is collate and curate a selection of essays that inspire further consideration and some that don’t. It’s peppered with nostalgic references and humour which generated warm reflection, but also came across, at times, as rather indulgent. At the same time, there are also some sharp insights that challenge the way we should look at things.
The book is perfectly suited to those who want to pick and choose sections, as and when they have the time. Instead I took the chronological path of the book.
The essays that I took least from were about the Past. These essays are engaging but didn’t add to my understanding of discipline. Having lived through the evolution from BBC micro to iPad I am perhaps complacent of my knowledge. That said, the stories were quick and pleasant to read and helped to segue way into the more stimulating chapters.
Reading past the first section, there are lots of helpful pointers that direct marketers towards creating fan bases rather that shouting at crowds. There are examples of how others do this, which provides a launch pad for your own thinking. I’m sure I won’t be alone in benefiting from the nudge to think more carefully about social interaction.
The bottom line is we all need to create fan bases for our brands and embrace a future in which digital is a fully integrated part of normal life. This book can help to stimulate your thinking and planning to achieve this. It will also help you to avoid counting a growing tally of facebook likes as the ultimate digital metric.
Marc de Swaan Arons, Executive Chairman at EffectiveBrands, reads Digital Advertising and says if you want to reconnect with real digital thought leadership, this is the book for you.
Creative Social was founded in 2004 by creative directors and business owners who wanted to collaborate in the digital landscape. Twice a year 35 individuals, from the group of 150 members, meet to discuss, educate, and inspire advancement in this industry. Creative Social is a non-profit intended to promote the knowledge in this field.
If you want to reconnect with real digital thought leadership, this bundle of essays is for you. The authors together look back, describe today and project forward in a very compelling way.
From the past of digital, when early adopters were sharing their passion of new computer machines, which used 64KB floppy disks, with their children or grandchildren to 1994, when the first banner ad was launched on the HotWired website (for AT&T), to 1999 when people were primitively frantic over the potential world crash because of the Y2K bug.
Google launched search engine marketing (SEM) in 2000 which shortly led for brands to influence consumers through search engine optimization (SEO). You Tube launched in 2005 and Facebook opened outside of Universities in 2006. 391 million users joined Facebook from September 2006 to February 2010, that’s 305k per day. In 2007, Apple launched the iPhone and – boom – content is mobile.
In the Present, marketers are faced with the question, “is the big idea dead”? For the last few years we have all been taught of the importance of generating a big idea and making sure all channels were integrated, meaning they looked the same. Ale Lariu (McCann Erickson) believes that people missed the point if they think brands can solve their issues with a big TV ad and an integrated marketing campaign. Ale believes that brands need to adapt ideas to the different channels, since consumers engage with each channel differently, and that testing a lot of smaller ideas is the best way to land on the Holy Grail. People won’t listen at the shotgun approach of shouting at people through a TV ad. Instead, brands should look to experiment a little and not sink all of their dollars into one tactic. Experimentation can lead to better consumer understanding and once you have their attention make sure to refresh the content to continue active engagement. Personally, I do believe that it’s not just about the “big idea” any longer since “always on” communication is much more important in today’s digital world.
This leads to the need to focus on Branded Utility. This term is used to describe the need for “brands to make advertising that not only sells your product but also helps people get the most out of their lives”. Nike+ is a great example of brands adding value to their consumers. Runners could now track, share, and motivate people to run better and harder. Stadium also serves as a good example. The sports chain store launched a campaign called “The City is Your Stadium” where Stadium developed maps that joggers could find routes and tips of places to run and exercise (i.e. on a regular bench), check the weather condition, and store locations for any equipment or apparel needed. The brand massage, “live an active life”, was intertwined with the utility provided to their consumers.
Looking into the Future, Chris Clarke (Lost Boys international) suggests that succeeding as a social brand is as simple as “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”. His suggestion infers that the value exchange is the fundamental principle of the new marketing. The connectivity between brands and consumers has increased over the years and consumers will continue to choose those brands that provide added value that is relevant for them. Red Bull amplifies its “Gives You Wings” promise by not only sponsoring Formula 1 but also giving behind the scenes access as added content.
The Traditional digital advertising will become obsolete, “when was the last time that you types a URL into a browser?” The oldest medium to advertise will become the most relevant, word of mouth. Benjamin Palmer (The Barbarian Group) states that brands can’t miss out on the opportunity to get involved and becoming more like real people. Brands have to learn how to move from telling people “About US” to understanding how should they behave. A brand’s personality will become more than text on a brand key, and will continue to come alive through the need to interact with people. Moreover, social responsibility will also become more transparent as brand need to live what they stand for.
This book reinforces three basic factors that every brand must do to survive: have a clear purpose, provide a great product, and listen (understand) the consumer. I agree that digital advertising has to focus on education, entertainment, engagement, and exchanging values. However, it all starts with brands knowing what they want to stand for and offering a product that people need (and love to talk about). Without that brands will never have a story to tell – and content is king in digital. Shouting through 30s TV ads won’t work any longer. Consumers are out there, talking, about EVERYTHING, twenty four-seven, all over the world. This book is no guide to tactical execution, but rather an almost academic step back to think through why interactive and social are shaping the future of marketing.
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