Thursday, September 11, 2008

Wither Digital Marketing?

Every so often I like to stop for a moment and look at the stats for online marketing, broadly defined. I’m such a believer, that I need an occasional reality check, positive or otherwise. Today’s eMarketer newsletter asking “How Much Marketing is Digital?” suggested this was a good time. And the news in terms of continuing spending and future estimates is positive. eMarketer forecasts (newsletter, March 31, 2008) online to be 10% of all media spend in 2009. Will growth in online slow as a result of poor economic conditions? At least some analysts don’t think so. According to Karsten Weide, of IDC,A bad economy forces advertisers to save money by eliminating the least-effective forms, thus speeding up the adoption of new media advertising.”

Nielsen data for May (the most recent I could find) shows the Internet share at just under 7%. That’s a bit different from the eMarketer data, but there are lots of data sources, lots of definitions. There doesn’t seem to be any argument about the trend; it’s upward and the best argument seems to be the effectiveness one.

Today’s eMarketer article refers to the same Sapient study reported on by Marketing Charts on September 5. They quoted survey data that showed CMOs planning to spend more on digital with some of them inching up toward 50%. The main focus in this popular article was on agency relationships and the ability of agencies to meet digital needs. The CMOs surveyed weren’t confident they have that ability. According to the article: “More than one-third of marketers surveyed said they are not confident that their current agency is well-positioned to take their brand through the unchartered waters of online digital marketing and interactive advertising.”

What are the CMOs looking for from agencies? The article has a top 10 list, all worth considering. I’ll list just the top 4:

1. Greater knowledge of the digital space
2. More use of “pull interactions”
3. Leverage virtual communities
4. Agency executives who use the technology they are recommending

All this makes perfect sense, and agencies clearly have a major role to play in helping their clients navigate the choppy waters of new media, made even more difficult by economic conditions. Agencies have been struggling to service their clients in newest media and technologies (think direct and database marketing, for example) for as long as I can remember. And that will undoubtedly continue.

But it’s not enough to place the entire burden on agencies. Marketers have to understand the issues; they have to ask the right questions; they have to demand objectives and metrics that encompass the new media environment. Look at item #4 above; they want executives of their agencies to be users of the technology.

Marketers have to follow their own advice. I keep saying there is simply no substitute for using the media, trying out the technology for yourself. But marketing managers can go a step further.

I wonder how many marketing departments have any kind of a coordinated approach to who needs to follow which disciplines, newsletters, webcasts; who needs to spend some time on Facebook or MySpace or in relevant virtual worlds. None of us are going to learn to deal with the new media environment by staying in our comfortable traditional media cocoons.

More on that tomorrow.

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