The Internet advertising business is approximately 17 years old, depending on who you talk to. You’ve heard that with age comes wisdom, but I also think that in an industry sense, with maturity should come simplicity. But when is that going to happen for us? Cory Treffiletti explores the subject in a post first published on MediaPost that while it looks at the situation in the US, can give SA digital media agencies food for thought.
When the business was growing, and growing rapidly, you heard the phrase “building the plane while flying it.” That referred to the frantic nature by which we were creating standards for a business that didn’t previously exist and for which the blueprint was illegible at best, and relatively incoherent at its worst.
Now that substantial budgets have come to online, and more marketers are treating the medium as a core component of their marketing mix, it’s finally time to simplify the business.
Simplification may not be easy, but if we are to elevate the business to that next level of respect and spend, it has to be done. Spending money online is not an easy task, especially when compared to other media (simple fact — it’s easier to spend $20 million on TV than it is online).
The system for implementing an online campaign, which includes tracking and reporting with site-side tagging, creative trafficking and manipulation of inventory, makes for a very time-consuming, difficult undertaking. Ask any brand manager what she doesn’t understand about the online ad business, and she will uniformly say “implementation.”
Agencies are probably the one area where this can be fixed, because they have the leverage to create simplicity in the process. Agencies are the trusted advisers for most brands when it comes to online advertising, and agencies do almost all of this by hand. That is not scalable, nor is it practical — definitely not a recipe for success.
Of course, agencies are not solely to blame here. There’s a cluttered mess of vendors, partners and solutions for marketers created to execute online ad campaigns, with more popping up every day.
There is only one partner who has made it easier for marketers to spend their money online: Google. Google is effectively a one-stop shop for all your online advertising needs, so it’s no wonder they’re the “800-pound gorilla” in an otherwise chaotic, zoo-like landscape. Companies like AOL and Yahoo have an opportunity to present themselves as a way to simplify the process with their cross-platform solutions and mix of content and audience targeting, but they need to jump on that bandwagon quickly.
We need to make it easy for an advertiser to commit a multimillion-dollar budget to online. Right now, that’s just not the case. In traditional media like TV, a single media planner/buyer can easily manage $10 million to $20 million in spend. In online, a $10- to $20-million budget typically requires at least seven people to plan, buy, execute and manage that campaign, and that can be considered conservative. Anything less, and the team becomes overstretched and the work suffers.
How are we going to achieve this simplicity that should come with maturity? The industry itself must step up. We have more than enough conferences and governing bodies to address these issues, and I think it’s time to do so. We’ve been so hyper-focused against privacy for the last year or so, that we may have taken our eyes off the ball of simplification.
I think we can get back to that now. Someone (a group like the AAAAs or the IAB, say) should take a look at the process of implementing online media buys and begin to simplify the process, maybe offering endorsements of companies that make it easier, or even creating an industry task force to address simplification from a single platform integration. In TV, there is Donovan. In online we have Google and DoubleClick, but the free market has made structural integration with them a pipe dream. For those of you who remember the Aspen Group’s efforts to address Terms and Conditions, or the FAST group to address reporting and other items, it’s time for a similar effort. It’s time for a Simplification Group to address the business.
If you’re reading this article, please talk to those around you and help me try to create a groundswell around this idea. Share and forward the article, and let’s see what we can do to make it easier for advertisers to engage with online.
Trust me — you’ll be happy that you did!