Jason Heller, writing for Online Spin on MediaPost, asks “when was the last time you stopped to question some of the fundamental truths in digital media? Have you ever challenged common industry practices that may simply be riding the path of least resistance rather than fulfilling strategic imperatives?”
Unfortunately, we rarely have the time to slow down and ask the difficult questions. As the newest member of the Online Spin team, I plan on fostering conversation, or at the very least providing fodder for thought, regarding a series of important and even controversial topics within the digital marketing industry today. Momentum and a demanding business climate keep us moving forward at status quo until enough pressure forces us to rethink some of the fundamental driving principles, and elements of our day-to-day routines and processes that we once held as truths. Join me in a healthy journey to question everything we know — to confirm the approaches that contribute to business growth and to debunk practices that sustain mediocrity.
So here are a few topics on my mind this week:
Clients, have you hugged your agency lately? Agencies have been forced to compete in an environment where they are being paid to execute, and strategic thinking tends to be an expected value-add. Thus agencies are motivated to execute. Clients continue to blame the agency when the strategy and digital business planning doesn’t translate into effective execution. But very few clients are willing to take ownership of, and thus the responsibility associated with, strategic planning. It’s a vicious cycle. I’d argue that the agency model isn’t broken per se, but rather the client/agency relationship is broken — and there are two sides to that coin.
Agencies, clients are becoming savvier. Armed with a new generation of marketing staff, many recruited from the agency world, it is not unheard of for clients to be as knowledgeable as some of their day-to-day agency staff. Additionally, as agencies grow their client base and expand service offerings, it can be difficult to ensure that every hire is a homerun. Selecting the right agency team and fostering productive relationships can be taxing for clients, as every agency claims to have “the best people, processes and technology.”
In an industry full of data, we lack significant insights. Data and analytics can be fairly black and white for direct marketers. However, brand marketers have struggled to decipher a growing palette of shades of gray. While online advertising is indeed growing, large marketers need more research that models the correlation between digital ad exposure and marketplace sales. While econometric modeling is the exception and not the rule for most clients and agencies, brand marketers have one crude predictive model that has been universally accepted for traditional media. The GRP (technically TRP) is a metric that can predict a range of sales volume based on historic levels of media weight. While I am not an advocate of jamming the square GRP peg in a somewhat round digital hole, conceptually, marketers do need the ability to predict the marketplace impact of digital investments. After all, it’s just the Internet, not a magical parallel universe. Developing a media mix model that can be replicated is no overnight process. It takes leadership and commitment on both the client and agency side. I’d also like to see the IAB partner with several large agencies and brands to revisit a modern day-version of the XMOS studies that held so much promise before falling off the face of the earth in 2004.
As proud card-carrying digital champions, it is our responsibility to challenge the momentum of the status quo and to ask the difficult questions. We must take a tough-love approach to our darling digital media channels. In the long run, this will make us better marketers who develop and produce better marketing programs.
What are some of the burning tough questions on your mind?