Online Is Not Offline – Visions From Vision 2007

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It hit me when I was on stage presenting in front of over four hundred professional Marketers at Vision 2007 – the British Columbia AMA – American Marketing Association – today in Vancouver. British Columbia. It’s probably something I’ve mentioned over one hundred times in the past, but for some reason, this time it struck a chord.
Online is not offline (are your eyes rolling?). No, I have not been taking part in the in-flight bar service. There are two interesting angles Marketers take when approaching the digital marketing landscape:
1. They try to port the traditional channel to the online world.
2. They assume that people act the same way online as they do with other media channels.
These could be the two deadly sins of traditional marketing agencies selling digital marketing programs.
Ever notice how you will watch the last fifteen minutes of a TV show, even if it’s not that good? I don’t think any of us know why we do it. I’ll accept reasoning like, “I made it through the first forty-five minutes, so I might as well see how it ends,” or “I’m not really watching… I’m just relaxing and the TV show is just wallpaper.”
Have you ever done that with a website? Do you ever catch yourself reading additional content on a page that is boring to you or just to pass the time?
Once you add in the interactive element (and multiply that by the ability to participate) all bets are off. It’s an intense and personal experience that has no room for interruptions or being sidetracked.
So how do you produce advertising that can compliment that type of environment?
You can’t… yet.
That’s why we’re trying all of the offline tactics in the online channel with little long-term affect. Sure, search engine, email and sponsorship opportunities are retuning impressive results. Sure, we’re seeing nothing but hockey stick-like projections for online advertising this year, but how we’re advertising has got to change and adapt.
We’re in the consumers’ playground now. The mouse could well be the most powerful voting device ever created (that’s a paraphrase from something I heard Jean-Pascal Lion of Yellow Pages Group say to my CMA – Canadian Marketing Association – eMarketing class last year) and consumer are ruthless if they’re not interacting with something that resonates for them.
So, what’s a Marketer to do?
I just saw this statistic from the WOMMA – Word Of Mouth Marketing Association e-newsletter:
“70% of Americans Aged 15-34 Use Social Networks… Social networks have changed the way that people interact with each other and with media, according to an April research report released by Fox Interactive Media. The research found that the 70% of Americans aged 15-34 who engage in social networking activity are doing so during the primetime hours.”
The days of surfing the net (like you would surf TV channels) are rapidly fleeting.
Don’t treat online like offline. Don’t treat your consumers as passive receivers of your messages. Give them a voice, a playground and the ability to connect… and realize that this is going to take a lot longer to develop and execute than any campaign you’ve ever launched… and this one may (no, should) never end if you do it right.