Over half of marketers lack confidence in digital ability, a recent international study reported by Adobe concludes. To suggest that Adobe “would say this, wouldn’t they” is counter-intuitive. Surely they want the world to believe that we are all worshippers at the digital altar. But in what looks like a professional survey of 1 000 marketers across the United States, the headlines are startling.
“Only 48% of marketers feel proficient in digital marketing”; “Few have any training, with 82% saying they learned the subject on the job”; “Only 40% think their company’s marketing is effective”, and “Only 9% strongly agree that their ‘digital marketing is working’”.
Given that a quarter of global advertising is now digital, somebody somewhere should be worried.
No one doubts the incredible power of the internet to connect people. But marketing is about a lot more than connection. It’s about engagement, persuasion, conversion and transaction. This is why companies such as Google, Microsoft, Dell and others invest in display advertising in newspapers and television. Like Coke, they know that the virtual world is a very good place to be, but it is hidden from the consumer’s horizon.
What is getting lost in all this digital hype is that marketing is a layered set of objectives, messages and channels. The global marketing guru Philip Kotler defined the product at three levels: Its core proposition, its supporting benefits, and ancillary elements such as distribution. One leading media buyer explained to me recently that his company now plans around 16 different channels, each with a different objective. And each must reflect the overall brand concept, while demonstrating the (dreaded) return on investment to the client.
One of the attractions with digital is that it is measurable, but one must ask (and this is part of the challenge that this research exposes): are we measuring the right thing? Fantastic that 10% of users click through, but if the number of users is only 20% of those that could be reached through conventional means, does the maths ad up?
I may be an old curmudgeon but it strikes me that too much of the advice that is going out to the marketers who confess to being out of their depth is coming from a new generation of low-grade media graduates, who can only talk digital speak. However, they wouldn’t know what a newspaper was if it whacked them on the head, and their only knowledge of TV is that it is something on which their parents watch Fox.
At the same time the media buyers who are planning across these 16 channels have little appreciation of the persuasive value of newspapers. As I’ve said many times before, a print news reader has 10 times the engagement with their medium that an online newsreader has.
For the news media industry our challenges are re-educating advertisers in the value of print, while also realising that the marketers who determine communication strategies are confessing that they are not equipped to plan their digital activities.
This has to be one massive opportunity!
Of course navigating the labyrinthine practices adopted by global and major national advertisers is a challenge. I suspect that pointing out that marketers only believe that 9% of their campaigns are working and that few media buyers read newspapers would not be good messaging. But this combination of issues is critical, and can be addressed through good communication both to the buyers, and to the advertisers themselves.
But perhaps the major opportunity for publishers lies in supporting smaller advertisers’ digital activities. In the US, the revenue from ‘digital advertising/marketing services’ nearly doubled in 2012, and is continuing to see enormous growth, meeting the demands of smaller traders who are as concerned as those in the Adobe survey.
That notorious statement “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, and the problem is I do not know which half” [attributed both to Lord Leverhulme, British founder of Unilever, and to John Wanamaker, the so-called father of modern advertising and a pioneer in marketing] still seems both naive and grossly optimistic.
Jim Chisholm has advised news organisations in 40 countries on their media strategies. email@example.com
This story was first published in the December 2013 issue of The Media magazine.