Posts Tagged ‘Digital Marketing’

The Rodney Dangerfield of Digital Marketing

August 2, 2010 Leave a comment

What would you say to a digital marketing medium that reaches 7 out of 10 U.S. residents per month?  Has more people watching it than the number of people watching video online, having a Facebook profile, or a smart phone?  Can deliver a digital video spot resulting in twice as many impressions as Super Bowl XLIV?  Already has a proven ability to target audiences and “precision market” by demographic, geography, life pattern, and trade area?

Most marketers would drool at these prospects, but when the medium in question is digital place-based advertising, in the words of the immortal Rodney Dangerfield, it’s “No respect – no respect at all”.

Indeed, in the midst of our fascination with other platforms and tools based on social media, mobile, location based services and the like, the use of networked digital signage to broadcast place based advertising seems to hardly create a blip on the marketer’s radar screen.  Yet it’s had to imaging a medium with more proven ability and potential that creates less buzz and gets less respect.  So just what is it about this platform that makes it such an enigma?

A good part of the answer to this question was addressed at a recent Webinar from the Digital Screenmedia Association, The State of Digital Place-Based Advertising.  The panelists included Diane Williams, Senior Media Research Analyst – Arbitron; Jeremy Lockhorn VP of Emerging Media – Razorfish; and Peter Bowen CEO – SeeSaw Networks.  They presented viewpoints based on industry research, agency, and service provider perspectives. 

Williams and Bowen provided compelling research data, capabilities, and case studies for digital place-based advertising, and Lockhorn acknowledged that consumers today in the U.S. spend twice as much time outside the home as they did 30 years ago, confirming the medium as an attractive option. 

However, in the midst of their collective reasons to consider digital place-based advertising, it was Jeremy’s identification of “hurdles” to widespread adoption that caught my attention.  These included:


  • Hundreds of networks, all at different points of evolution (from nascent to mature)
  • Same inventory often available via multiple outlets
  • Inconsistent stories, audience descriptions, value propositions

Lack of ad format standardization:

  • Size, shape, bit rate, length, etc.

Questions regarding production:

  • Repurpose TV spots?
  • What about audio?
  • Localize?
  • Budget?

Of these hurdles identified by Jeremy, I believe that fragmentation represents the key obstacle facing digital place-based advertising today, and that the others (ad format standardization and production questions) are actually bi-products of this fragmentation. 

To me, the industry’s fragmentation starts with a lack of a clear identity.  This starts with several industry naming variations, including “digital place-based advertising”, “digital out of home advertising”, and others.  It continues with differing agendas among industry associations like the Digital Screenmedia Association (DSA), Digital Place-bases Advertising Association (DPAA), and the DPAA’s European counterpart, the Out-of-home Video Advertising Bureau (OVAB).  Finally, and perhaps most unfortunately, one of the biggest strengths of digital place-based advertising – its sheer versatility in terms of configuration, content, format, and deployment options – is the same thing that often works against it, contributing to the fragmentation that causes confusion and slows adoption among potential users. 

There is still no doubt in my mind digital place-based advertising will continue to evolve over time and become a powerful force in digital marketing.  As this evolution continues, what do you think it will take for it to “turn the corner” and finally start getting the use – and respect – that it deserves?

– Jim S.


What’s Next for the Chief Marketing Technologist?

If you have an interest in understanding how marketing can successfully harness technology in your organization, you’ll care very much about what Scott Brinker has to say.

If you haven’t heard of Scott, don’t worry – you will soon.  He is the President & CTO of a digital agency called ion interactive, and he has recently produced a great piece of work entitled “Rise of the Marketing Technologist”.  Originally presented back in April at the Search Insider Summit, and since featured in, his message has struck a chord with many of us in the industry who want to see the powerful combination of marketing and technology reach its full potential for businesses.

Scott’s basic premise is that marketing must control its technological destiny, and that the introduction of a new role within the marketing organization – the Chief Marketing Technologist – provides a key to success.   Here is a link to his full SlideShare presentation

Rather than analyzing or critiquing his work further in this post, my intent is to amplify the message and help “get the word out” to those people and organizations that can benefit from Scott’s comprehensive approach to marketing technology.

I had the good fortune to speak with Scott last week regarding his thought process behind the creation of “Rise of the Marketing Technologist”.  It was obvious that a great deal of his motivation came from his passion for business, marketing, and technology done right. 

Just as importantly, Scott is keenly interested in soliciting feedback and inviting discussion as a way to refine this overall concept.  I had the chance to express my viewpoint that extending the idea of a Chief Marketing Technologist role to agencies can create a greater sense of expertise, trust and respect between those agencies and their clients’ IT organizations that so many times seem to be at odds. 

Scott and I talked about where we this type of approach seems to work (and not work).  While case studies and true success stories are still works in progress, Scott sees many encouraging signs of commitment, including GE CMO Beth Comstock’s recent comments at June’s Business Marketing Association (BMA) conference in Chicago, regarding GE’s efforts to “marry” marketing and IT.  On the flip side, we agree this type of approach falls short in instances where organizations elect to throw lower-level technology “doers” into the mix as opposed to C-level leaders and strategists.

Finally, we discussed the desired target audience for the “Rise of the Marketing Technologist” concept and best ways to get the message out to it.  Scott’s view is that CMOs are the target audience.  I personally think that CEOs, COOs and CIOs would also be good additions to the mix. 

As for best ways to deliver the message, Scott’s initial presentation and subsequent sharing via social media have provided a great starting point.  However, we agree that live marketing events that attract CMOs and other C-level execs can ultimately provide the biggest exposure.  As Scott points out, more opportunities to present at these types of events will likely occur as high profile case studies continue to develop. 

So what’s next for the Chief Marketing Technologist?  If you agree with the concept in principle, what do you think will be the best ways to “advance the movement”?   Who out there is willing to step up with an idea, or even better yet, a great case study?  Please be sure to provide your feedback to Scott via his Chief Marketing Technologist blog, or to me in the form of your comments below.

I’ve got a feeling we’ll be coming back to this topic soon!

– Jim S.

Add Measurement But Don’t Sacrifice Innovation

April 21, 2010 Leave a comment

The tough state of our economy has had a profound impact on all aspects of business.  Most corporate budget areas are being challenged, threatened, and outright slashed, including marketing.  Gone are the days where great, innovative marketing ideas and a gut feel were enough to justify budget.  Now, marketing – especially in all of its digital forms – has moved into the crosshairs of corporate scrutiny, and the demands to measure its effectiveness are increasing.    

Indeed, whether via the web, through social media, mobile, or other platforms, digital marketing does present ample opportunities to be measured.    As I’ve preached from the measurement pulpit myself in prior blog posts, there are far too many good analytical, listening, and monitoring tools & resources for us to ignore in the digital space.  It absolutely makes sense to try to measure and monitor results wherever possible. 

However, instead of adding measurement to a balanced “tech marketing blender” mix that already includes a healthy amount of innovation, I’m now feeling like measurement is often being added at the expense of innovation.  In many cases this is causing us to miss out on the huge opportunities for growth and other benefits that innovation can provide. 

In my opinion, there are simply too many things that innovation and creative ideas do for a brand that are not immediately measurable, but ultimately provide longer-term benefits.  There are also too many new digital marketing channels and tools with demonstrated potential out there that are begging to be explored.  This exploration requires experimentation and discovery that often defy measurement (and yes, sometimes logic, too).  As important as measurement has become in the digital marketing world, it is equally important not to sacrifice innovation and all that it offers.  If we do, we’ll ultimately end up measuring inferior results.

What do you think about this?  Do you feel that the pendulum has now swung so far to the side of measurement that any reasonable sense of digital marketing innovation and creativity has been lost?  Are we still giving ourselves enough opportunity to explore, experiment, and discover new and better ways to reach audiences?  As always, I’d love to know your thoughts…

 – Jim S.

Technologists are Vital to Agency Success

Can agencies be successful without strong technologists?

Many digital agencies are quickly coming to terms with this issue.  Even the best of traditional agencies would have to admit that it is very tough to realize true success in digital efforts without significant technology capabilities.

The sheer number of digital technologies has exploded.  Looking at the expanding landscape of programming languages, tools, application types, and rapidly growing new delivery channels such as mobile & digital signage, combined with increased demand for analytics and measurement on all fronts, and it is easy to understand why agencies must look to take a more holistic approach to technology.

Gone are the days where great creative resources leveraging simpler, visual web development skills were enough to get the job done.  In addition to creativity, it now takes the ability to work across multiple technology platforms and apply skills such as technical feasibility, strategy, architecture, integration, reusability, innovation, and good old-fashioned R&D to thrive in today’s tech-laden world.

Strong technology capabilities are not something agencies should merely outsource and call upon on an as-needed basis.  They must be in-house and involved early in the creative process.  A recent AdWeekMedia special report, The New Tech Heads, underscores how in-house technologists are helping to transform agencies.  With titles such as “Creative Technology Director”, these resources complement agency creativity with IT-based production and problem solving skills.

The bottom line benefits of technologists to agencies and their clients include better ideas, more innovation, less production headaches, and ultimately a much better digital experience for audiences.

Do you agree that technologists are key to agency success?  Disagree?  I’d love to hear your opinions.

– Jim S.

Where are Virtual Events Headed?

September 22, 2009 10 comments


The idea of “virtual events” has actually been with us almost as long as the web itself (well, OK, maybe not all the way back to ARPAnet, but you get the point).  Through the years, online chats, webcasts, webinars, videoconferencing, and podcasts have offered us with options to carry on seminars, meetings, and conversations online.

Today, comprehensive “virtual event” technology platforms support entire conferences, trade shows, private exhibitions, product launches, job fairs, corporate training, and just about any other type of event you would hold in person – conducted online using only a web browser.

These environments are often based on the model of a corporate campus, convention center or exhibit hall replete with booths and sales staffs, an auditorium for breakout sessions, and even a lounge where attendees can ‘chat’ with each other.  The providers of these environments have done a great job at combining several interactive and content delivery elements into one nice neat package. 

Among the largest and most successful virtual event technology platform providers to date include companies like 6Connex (who provided the sample virtual event image above), UnisFair, InXpo, and On24.  Several other large corporations and early adopters on the client side have also begun to develop their own custom in-house virtual event capabilities.

It’s not hard to understand the growing attraction to this technology.  There are a lot of business, social, and economic factors drawing marketers and clients to virtual events.  Just a few of these include:

  • Corporate budget & travel constraints
  • Large geographic distribution of event attendees
  • International events with multilingual content requirements
  • Extending the length of time to reinforce marketing messages
  • The “green” movement (reducing carbon footprint, paper use, etc.)
  • Ability to leverage existing digital content and assets
  • Demand for detailed event metrics to demonstrate ROI

So who are the key influencers that have shaped virtual events as we know them?  And, just as importantly, what impact will these influencers have on the continuing evolution of virtual events?   

My take is that early on, event marketers and their clients have had most of the influence on virtual event platform development.  Most technology platform providers initially set-up events in a “virtual trade show” format, with multiple companies displaying their products and services in booths that resided in exhibit hall environments.  Event marketers and their corporate event marketing clients quickly related to this model because of its familiarity.  They also understood its ability to extend the reach of live events, appeal to new audiences, and more clearly measure event ROO and ROI with detailed web metrics.  Since event marketers have been among the earliest and most prominent adopters of virtual event technology, their influence has spurred a continued refinement of virtual event types, formats, features, interface variety, and content management capabilities, while retaining (for the most part) a foundation of standalone events with a definitive “shelf life”.       

More recently, web and digital marketers, along with their corporate marketing clients, have begun to exert their influence in the virtual event space.  In the interest of creating customer “communities”, they have naturally gravitated to supportive technologies like social media, and are now becoming similarly attracted to virtual events.  Their impact is being seen in the push for integration of social media into virtual events, as well as the idea of more “persistent environments” with a much longer-term existence.  Virtual event technology providers have in turn responded by expanding their offerings to include these features in their platforms.    

Another emerging influence will soon be coming from virtual event attendees.  As they become more experienced and discriminating, they will also become more vocal with their feedback, and will have an increasingly larger impact on the future direction of virtual event evolution.  While the jury is still out on this group, my bet is that accessibility, responsiveness, usability, content, and overall quality of experience will be their hot buttons.

I think this combination of event-centric, community-centric, and user-centric forces shaping the direction of virtual events is healthy.  It will continue to drive technical innovation and ultimately deliver greater business value to the users of virtual events and environments.  What do you think? 

Will virtual events eventually fade off into the sunset, as just another passing fad?  Will they remain as standalone event web sites with a defined “shelf life”?  Will they become permanent virtual business environments?  Could they even become a replacement for the cookie-cutter corporate web sites that we see so often today?  Or, like most evolving technologies, will the best features of virtual events end up somewhere – and everywhere – in between?

– Jim S.

Do we fear measuring Social Media?

September 9, 2009 3 comments

FearI smell fear.  

In spite of overwhelming evidence of its impact on people’s perceptions and opinions, as well as numerous examples of its prowess as an effective marketing tool, it sure seems like there are still too many marketers with a real fear of measuring social media. 

OK, I’ll admit that fear is not the only reason.  Far from it, there are several other reasons that we don’t measure. 

Regardless, this lack of measurement is preventing us from demonstrating the real value social media brings, and it may ultimately slow its adoption rate in the corporate marketing world. 

Please understand that I’m not suggesting that we should apply the same method of social media measurement to every situation.  Since marketers bring anything but a “one size fits all” approach to social media use, it would be unwise to apply a single approach or finite set of metrics to its measurement. 

What I am suggesting is that as professional marketers, we carry a responsibility to demonstrate the value of any tools we use, including social media.  While we may need to look at each situation on a case-by-case basis to determine a specific method of measurement, it is critical for our clients to understand what goes into it, and what they can expect out of it, in order for them to buy in.  Our ability (and willingness) to measure tools like social media is also critical in getting clients to understand our value as marketers.   

Perhaps a different way of looking at things is to ask what we should fear if we don’t measure social media to demonstrate its value.  Some recent examples:

  • In “Social Media Denial”, a recent Web Business  blog post, author Ken Burbary points out that  “…there are many people who either don’t agree, don’t understand or haven’t yet taken the time to learn about social media”.  He also provides an example of a long-time communications professional that clearly doesn’t get it.   
  • In a post called “Have kool-aid drinkers totally screwed the social media space?” from The Viral Garden blog, author Mack Collier laments that we may be part of the problem in inadvertently creating an environment where clients often don’t understand the value that we provide via social media consulting and services.   
  • In his Social Media Explorer blog, author Jason Falls states in a post called “Social Media ROI? Traditional Is Still More Accepted” that we already face an uphill battle, as social media isn’t (yet) valued as highly as other more traditional, but even less measurable, marketing methods. 

Ultimately, my opinion is that when it comes to measuring social media, we still have a window of opportunity to demonstrate its value, with so many great minds, powerful tools, meaningful metrics, and vast resources at our disposal.  However, if we “pass” on this opportunity, whether due to fear or other reasons, that window will close on us quickly. 

So how about it – what do you think?  Do we fear measuring social media? How are you measuring it?  Or, if you aren’t, why not?  I’d love to hear, and would welcome your comments.

– Jim S.

We’re “Goin’ Mobile”, but are we already behind?

September 2, 2009 1 comment

TheWhoSometimes, an important realization can creep up on you slowly.  Other times, it can hit you like a two-by-four.  Last week, let’s just say one hit me like an entire fleet of lumber trucks. 

Our agency had just completed a successful weekend-long live event activation at several cities across the U.S., where we were able to capture several thousand qualified sales leads exclusively via mobile devices. 

Shortly afterward, I attended a presentation by Abhi Ingle, AT&T’s VP of Mobility Application Solutions, entitled “The Future of Wireless”.  On top of a number of other equally provocative statistics, he cited a forecast that one billion new users worldwide will soon be having their first web experience – on a smart phone, as opposed to a PC. 

Finally, the “trifecta” came at the end of the week, when I encountered this little nugget from the Silicon Valley Insider, forecasting that smart phone sales will overtake PC sales by 2011: 


What really hit me was not so much the realization that, in the immortal words of The Who, we’re “Goin’ Mobile” – instead, it’s the realization of how fast we’re going there, and what it means to us as digital marketers.   

We are entering a pivotal period where the rapid shift to the mobile (devices & web) will have a profound impact on our digital marketing strategies and tactics.  Nearly everything that we’ve been used to delivering via the “traditional web” will need to be conceived, designed, and executed in a much different way. 

Make no mistake – since our early mobile digital marketing efforts, which consisted primarily of relatively simple WAP sites, forms, and text/SMS based interaction – we are definitely making progress.  However, advancements in connectivity, hardware, and software applications are rapidly making consumer tastes more sophisticated.  We will need to shift our digital marketing skills and approach even more quickly just to keep pace.

I have a strong feeling (not unlike that of another lumber truck barreling down on me) that we’ll be returning to the topic of mobile soon in this blog.  In the meantime, the question remains: How are YOU “goin’ mobile” in your digital marketing efforts?  And, more importantly, how fast are you going there? 

Please chime in with your comments and thoughts.

– Jim S.