Yesterday’s breaking news carries the entirely unsurprising headline that digital adspend in the UK has grown another 14.4% to a whopping £4.8billions. It does not require any great insight to predict that the £5bn barrier will be effortlessly cleared in the next few months and that spend will continue power forward, largely to the detriment of more conventional analogue media such as press, outdoor and TV.
So far, this headline is predictable. But what is much more unexpected is the great reluctance of marketers to engage with digital media and to view it as an integral part of the everyday marketing toolbox. For close-on a decade now, we have been in the business of working with the bluest of blue chip corporate marketers to improve the efficiency of their marketing spend. Of course we have been in a privileged position to register the changing priorities of our marketing clients, like the decline of the importance of press production and an increased focus on establishing effective technology to manage material and improve process. Others prove durably counter-intuitive like the continued difficulty of even first-class organizations to manage their marketing print sensibly. But within this shifting picture a reluctance to get to grips with the “nuts and bolts” of digital marketing has remained a surprising constant.
One potential explanation can be immediately discounted. It is not as if being a newer and more transparent marketing medium makes the digital arena any more efficient than its more established stablemates. To the contrary, in our experience the situation is usually worse with an almost complete absence of competitive benchmarking, real difficulty in establishing what represents a reasonable “market rate” and a little digging often unearths some eye-watering mark-ups throughout the digital value chain.
…it is time for even the most analogue of marketers to smell the digital coffee and wake up to the paradox that the fastest growing category of marketing spend may be technologically 21st century but is usually commercially a way behind.
The reality is that many marketing clients are intimidated by the whole sector. This may be because they mistake “digital” for a single and homogenous medium in the same way as say, print-based advertising. The reality is that “digital” is made up of an array of different media from web-based, to mobile and social channels with the newly emergent variants still in a state of immaturity characterized by rapid change. It may be this that masks the reality that many areas within the digital fold are in fact well established and no longer experimental. These can therefore be subjected to the same rigour and analysis that deliver significantly improved transparency and spend efficiency as in any other marketing medium.
The painful truth is that many client-side marketers have unwittingly abdicated responsibility for ensuring that digital campaigns are commissioned and delivered with the same level of commercial scrutiny as they apply to other marketing channels. Axiomatically, many digital experts will have a vested interest in ensuring that that their specialty remains esoteric and outside of mainstream marketing with little incentive to simplify and explain.
So it is time for even the most analogue of marketers to smell the digital coffee and wake up to the paradox that the fastest growing category of marketing spend may be technologically 21st century but is usually commercially a way behind. They should trust their instincts and experience and ask the same questions as come easily in other areas such as “should we have a standardised approach to this activity” and “what are our competitors and peers doing” and even “show me how the money works at each step of the way”. Otherwise there is a real risk that they will become a victim not a beneficiary of the digital revolution.
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