Marketing Fails When You Shift Instead Of Elevate

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What are you really doing with your marketing dollars?

Digital media advertising is now bigger than TV advertising. I didn’t make that up. It’s a fact. I’m sure there are some advertising executives who would disagree with the data. I’m also sure there are some advertising executives who know it’s true, but they’re doing everything that they can to hang on for a few more quarters. By the way, this doesn’t mean that people are watching less TV. I don’t believe that to be true (no matter what the data says). I believe we’re watching more TV than ever before. We’re just watching it in a ton of different places (like on Netflix or Amazon or YouTube). And, when we are watching it in front of the TV, we’re probably more distracted than when we’re watching it on the subway. It’s true. You know it. We watch TV on our couches with a laptop, tablet or smartphone nearby, and we shift our attention to whatever screen is the most interesting to us. We have screen ADD. When we’re on the go, we’re probably fixated on the only screen that matters to us (the one screen that is in front of us).

So, what does this have to do with media?

I spent a good part of my day today in Silicon Valley. I’d love to act all high and mighty and tell you all about the seriousness of these meetings, but (deep down inside), I’m just a kid. It’s crazy to me that my job involves going to places like the Google, Facebook and Apple headquarters, and getting to spend time with some of the most fascinating minds in the technology and media space. You can rest assured, I’m giddly like a little kid every time that I pull up to these beautiful offices. This is my job? Sure. I’ll take it. I could not be more grateful. In my journeys over the past few days, I uncovered a truth. A disturbing truth. I knew it existed, but I’m seeing it more and more as the years wane on…

All media is the same media. Just make it work.

That’s the real problem with advertising today. If you go back to the first sentence in this post, I wrote that digital media advertising is now bigger than TV advertising. I didn’t say that it was better. I just said that it was bigger. This is a problem. It’s a big problem. Technology and the Internet can do amazing things. I truly believe that the advertising that goes along with it should be just as amazing. Sadly, I keep seeing may brands doing nothing more than shifting their dollars, rather than trying to elevate all of their marketing initiatives.

Shifting is boring.

It has to be said. Big deal, you’re shifting dollars from one channel to another. Anyone can do that. What’s really interesting is elevating the entire platform. There is no difference between running a TV ad on primetime or running a pre-roll ad on a popular YouTube channel. There is a chasm of difference between running a pre-roll ad on a popular YouTube channel and creating your own, valuable and highly interesting YouTube channel. That, for my advertising dollar, would be the difference between shifting dollars to elevating them. In the past 48 hours, I heard countless senior brand executives from very popular brands talk about their challenges with everything from display advertising and search marketing, to online video and social media. With that, I took note of the brands. I went back to my hotel. I acted like a consumer. I searched for them online (mobile and laptop), ran some keyword searches, joined their e-newsletters, followed them on popular social media platforms and more. Do you know how icky it felt? Do you know how many issues, errors and confusing brand experiences I encountered? And, these were from brands that are spending millions of dollars online.

The money was being shifted. Not elevated.

Don’t get me wrong. I love me some good advertising. I love a relevant e-newsletter with great offers. Sadly, time and time again, I was faced with failed searches, errors, bad consumer experiences, stuff that smelled like spam, a lot of requests for me to provide additional customer information (even though I had not even bought from the brand yet). This led me to believe that if we, as a loving and caring digital marketing industry, don’t come together and start doing the much harder business of elevating the work instead of just shifting the dollars, we’re going to have a long, long road ahead. We’re going to be dealing with disengaged consumers and Chief Executive Officers that will retreat to the age-old mantra that marketing is a non-revenue generating expense to an organization. This, as we know, is not reality. Brands keep looking for things like white papers, ROI models and more. If you scratch (just a little) beneath the surface, you will start to see that the brands making the most impact online are not the ones who have spent the most money (or shifted the most dollars from TV to digital), but rather the ones that hunkered down and re-organized the digital experience to elevate their marketing.

We have an amazing opportunity in front of us: let’s elevate the brands and not just shift the dollars around.