Marketing in the digital era

Darryl Nelson/ Frost & Sullivan
15 Sep 2008

The media industry has long relied on audience measurement to validate its relevance for advertising. That measurement has always been about numbers or size of audience, but this is fast becoming a very poor measure of media impact. New ways of evaluating audiences are now required, particularly for digital media.

This audience measurement methodology has always been imperfect. What actually constitutes being part of an audience‾ Attendance‾ Subscription‾ TV turned on‾ Or would it be better to know that the person actually did watch, listen or read‾

Accepted wisdom in marketing typically posits that, at any given moment in a traditional medium, only approximately 2% to 3% of the total audience will be "in the market" for the advertised product or service. Direct marketing works against even lower audience reach expectations - typically lower than 1%. Traditional marketing has always been about minimizing wastage, in terms of lowering the number of irrelevant people reached by an advertising campaign.

The fundamental change taking place in digital media environments is the growing understanding that next-generation marketing strategies provide all the metrics necessary to evaluate effectiveness. Perhaps within the next three to five years, there will be three main strategic forms of advertising in digital media: information notices, performance-marketing and branded content.

The Web 2.0 generation is now very savvy at finding what it wants to know and sharing what it finds of value. Everything else is ignored. Products, services and brands are treated no differently, and the growing success of comparison shopping sites underlines just how rigorous this whole process is going to become for marketers in general. Leading edge marketers are now engaging their consumers with these rapidly evolving strategies, at least as part of the marketing mix, and the rest will have to follow soon.

Adverts that show ROI

Performance-based marketing, where advertisers pay only when an advert leads to a result of some sort, be it a click on the ad or an application form filled or an actual sale, is now resonating with marketers as a very astute way to conduct direct marketing. Search engine keyword advertising and cost-per-action marketing have both captured huge mindshare in the advertising industry over the past three to four years.

The huge advantage to marketers is not only the cost-effectiveness of only paying for a result. There is also a significant gain in evaluating return-on-investment. Because spend can be compared directly with a whole host of metrics available, including actions completed, leads generated, sales converted or abandoned, strategies can be evaluated and ROI effectively measured.

Marketers are also beginning to understand the importance of producing branded content -- where the advertising has innate "value" -- as the most viable way to reach generation Y which is resistant to almost everything corporate.

In the UK, for example, there is now a growing development of dedicated short films for online viewing. Great content online is shared, emulated, talked about, critiqued and assimilated. Most of all, it is valued by its relevant audience, and as such stands a good chance of becoming vital to the identity of that group.

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