Why Go Digital – to the Count of Three

Yesterday, I shared with you some thoughts about measuring payback on ad spending. Thoughts that I am collecting as part of a specific inquiry. Today, I jumped to a later chapter in my analysis for a little diversity and thought therefore, that I would go ahead and begin a fresh post:

Let’s jump ahead for a moment to the big picture. What is it my inquirer wants to know? In sum, she wants to get a handle on the dynamics of the ad market as it transitions from print to digital. She would like to understand why people are moving, why people are staying and how the different users of advertising as well as their intermediaries think about print vs. digital from both the intangible, e.g., business need/presence, and the tangible, e.g., better bang for the buck for banner ad, ability to market to a certain demographic.

The question presents itself to me therefore, which came first the tangible or the intangible? Personally, I think it was the intangible with the tangible playing a part in terms of low risk from a cost point of view. When a client asks me whether marketing dollars should be moved online or to specific new platforms, my reasoning is seldom led by efficiencies. True, the efficiencies are there, and I touted them heartily when writing a business plan for Campfire. (Remind me to share some.) But the reasons advertisers should, have and are going digital include the following:

#1 Your consumers, your customers, your audience is going online. You need to be where they are. As Rishad Tobaccowala once said, “I don’t know whether you are behind your competitors, but I know you are behind your consumers.”

Even if your audience is not quite there yet, I’d rather be there when they arrive than try to find them once I get there. It’s kind of like a party. Fashionably late is not as fashionable when you’re trying to make a good impression and get a jump start. Few marketers and brands are on foursquare. In fact, foursquare has only 750,000 people on it (albeit a 4-fold increase in the last few weeks). But those who were there first – Bravo, Intel, Zagat — have already made an impression, gotten the press and gotten an advantage.

So, number one, you need to be where your peeps are.

Moreover, you need to be where the puck is going, not where it is now. You may still have a critical mass of your core market watching tv, but what about tomorrow’s market? What about the young mothers who are going online for advice and community, spending more time consuming media on their laptops or mobile devices with less time to spend watching daytime soap operas – to the extent that they still exist? You need to get to know these women in their formative, digital years.

#2 Digital media allows for all kinds of targeting. Not just demographic but behavioral, social, key word, contextual and, eventually (once I understand it), semantic. Moreover, let’s think about the word demographic. With geo-location technology, it’s possible to target at the GPS-level. I mean, I mean, in the not too distant future – if not today – a marketer will actually be able to, finally, really, know that I am leaving my yoga studio and walking by the bakery. Good time for a shout out, no?

So digital targeting is not just specific and flexible, but it’s dynamic. With current prevalent print technology, an advertiser knows that I read “Elle” magazine, but does he know whether I, personally, also read “Wired?” Does he know what I do before and after I read my magazine? At what point do I go ahead and purchase the item advertised in the magazine? Not easily.

With the current geo-location analytics technology, a marketer will be able to know what my literal path to purchase is. He’ll know that I go from my house to work, to lunch to the subway to the gym to the grocery store. Now, how he uses that is a new question, but the fact that this kind of information is available is fantastic.

So, to review, the reasons to spend on digital media include:

(1) that’s where you’re consumers are
(2) there are incredible opportunities with respect to targeting and intelligence

#3 Why Not? Why waste the opportunity? If you are advertising offline, why not continue the conversation digitally. The incremental cost is probably not too big in the scheme of the campaign. It extends the impression – both in time and depth – and it offers an opportunity to capture information. It’s a move from one-to-many to one-to-one. “Thanks for coming to my party, now tell me more about yourself.”

Now that I have brought up this third reason, I’d like to go back to part of the original question, i.e., why are some people staying and some people going, and what is the dynamic of the market as it transitions from print to digital. Well, at the risk of getting touchy-feely, this third reason suggests that an advertiser extend his or her buy by adding a digital element. These platforms can and should work together. Is digital cannibalizing analog, or is it possible that the whole will be bigger than the pieces, yielding a bigger payout and thus additional dollars to fund the whole campaign. Well, that’s high math (and cost accounting) but certainly something to think about.

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