The Digital Push Pushes On

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You can bet I’m going to sound the trumpets any time online advertising makes an impressive move.

On January 19th, 2012, eMarketer dropped another stunning bomb for the advertising world in the news item, US Online Ad Spend to Close in on $40 Billion. Beyond the big numbers (40 billion dollars big) and the impressive growth (online advertising will grow 23.3% in 2012) came the news that "this year, US online ad spending will exceed the total spent on print magazines and newspapers for the first time, at $39.5 billion vs. $33.8 billion. And as online shoots up, the print total will continue to inch downward," according to the report. This is an incredible shift in the media landscape, especially if you consider that we’re only talking about advertising and not overall digital marketing spend (Web development, mobile development, Social Media engagement, etc…).

Will online advertising surpass TV advertising next?

Not likely (at least not any time in the near future). According to the report, "spending on TV, however, appears largely unaffected by the growth of online. As internet ad spending rises, so will TV–albeit more slowly, and from a larger base. eMarketer estimates TV will grab $72 billion in US ad dollars in 2016, $10 billion more than will go online." What we’re witnessing is the rise of active media as the dominance of passive media continues to do what it does so well (anesthetize the masses so that they can forget about the boring/terrible day that they had as it fills their heads with dreams and wants). The rise of active media (more on this here: The Next Layer Of Social Media) is where this gets interesting. Perhaps brands are no longer seeing this as a zero-sum game and are getting better (and wiser) at the notion of creating engagements that can be appreciated in both the active and the passive platforms.

Media is no longer a passive game.

There is no doubt that the digitization of media will continue to push on, The big shifts in the more passive media (TV, radio, print, etc…) will be in figuring out which of these media can actually morph into something that much more active (as consumers continue to become more and more comfortable with an active media engagement). The biggest and most telling move in this space will come from what both Apple and Google do with their pending television plays. According to the hints and whispers we hear about Apple’s television products, they could well be using the Siri platform for vocal commands (bye bye remote control) or we could see Xbox Kinect-like technology for more of a Minority Report like kinetic movement experience. The other interesting factor will be how Facebook expands and develops its marketing and advertising opportunities. With close to one billion connected people, sharing and creating content, the time is ripe for the engagement to go well beyond targeted display advertising real estate.

No boiling the ocean.

With close to two decades of a commercialized Internet, the rise has been both swift and disruptive. It’s going to continue. While some brands are struggling with the digital transition, it’s becoming clearer that all brands understand both the power and the opportunity that lies before them. While it’s never too late to transition to a digital-first posture, the brands that still attempt a "boil the ocean" strategy are usually the ones who are not being both strategic and iterative in their marketing mix and in understanding this developing opportunity for a new brand narrative. Ultimately, it’s exciting to see this transition, but even more exciting to be a marketing professional during this time.

The question is: will brands see this as the amazing opportunity that it is or cave in from fear and apathy?


  1. Spending stats are interesting but effectivess stats are even better. Ads have made TV unwatchable without a digital recorder and online ads…? Would like to see stats on the effectiveness of the small-time campaign, not the Apples and the Fords.

  2. With close to 20 years of a commercialized internet, many companies are just now getting started with digital forms of advertising. The time for experimentation is long over and those who haven’t started are going to spend a lot of time and money doing it wrong. Traditional-minded marketers are looking for digital trade shows and places to blast their messaging. What companies like this need is education and guidance.

  3. Mitch,
    You make an interesting point, but I wonder if we are looking at this topic the wrong way around. I am recently coming off a stint markering at startup focused on rental businesses (bike, tools, party & event, etc) I can tell you first hand that this industry is NOT online, running mostly on pad and paper. Slow to keep up with the times would be an understatement. The marketing done to this industry is mostly offline and traditional (we can argue the definition of traditional at a late date…)
    In my mind the “digital push” is simply a road running parallel with the O2O world (Offline to Online). Slowly but surely older industries (brands) are giving into the realization that if they are interested in growing their business, or keeping their business relavent in the consumers’ minds they have to transition online. The rental business is an $85 billion industry in the U.S. – an old guard behemoth that resists the fast talking internet age. In the meantime, the only way to reach this industry (and be reached) is through traditional means: TV spend, radio, WOM, event trade shows, direct mail, etc.
    As the old guard continues to topple I imagine we’ll keep seeing seeing money shifted toward digital from traditional mediums, we just have to remember the road running parallel that’s forcing this transition along.

  4. This can only be bad news for the advertiser-early-adopters. I have enjoyed an increasingly less cloistered market over the past few years. It is however good news for shops like yours Mitch as headlines like this should help sway even the most stubborn old guard.

  5. Sooner or later brands will follow the new norm but I am sure that till then we will be eye-witnesses of many unsuccessful social media campaigns not because of apathy or fear but because of luck of understanding of social media rules. Social media needs so much efforts, patience and consistence to work. Also Social Media demands from a business to be Social too. You can understand that there is a lot of work, surveys and implementations to be done in order for a company start giving up with the “old” media. Much effort has to be given in strategy,metrics and ROI as the ambivalence of them this is the most frequent argument of the “opponents”.

  6. I don’t agree, Ava. If people weren’t being exposed to ads, they would not be working… and they do work. I have seen the analytics. Brands that do only TV advertising see the sales up and they see them die when they don’t. Is the value the same as it was in the golden years of TV? No. Are they as effective as they were? It depends. Are there other new and interesting options to supplement, compliment and replace? Yes.

  7. I wonder how many potential opportunities for business development are lost on this industry. If you were looking for party rentals, where would be the first place that you would go? I’d go to search box and I would guess that I am not alone.
    Whenever I hear stories about this “old guard” in specific verticals, all I can think to myself is, “gee, I wish I had more hours in the day to start a new business and completely disrupt that industry.”

  8. Did online ad spending pass print spending on its own, or has there been a decline in print spending? I’m interested to learn if there has been a net increase in ad spends or if the dollars are just shifting around.

  9. We have all seen this shift coming. Now there are numbers to back up our gut feelings. I advise our clients to build their core marketing around online, inbound strategies. Then use print, tv, radio and magazines to support as necessary. As our clients, small-med businesses, grow they drop the traditional tactics because their online presence is big enough to support their sales goals. This is, as Apostolos said, the new norm. Any brands not in sync will wither and die.

  10. You will know much more about this than I do, Mitch, but is it possible, with cable, satellite, digital recorders, apple tv, and pay-tv, that *more* people are watching tv ads? And reacting to them? I just can’t believe it. Everyone I know who records shows zaps the ads; and those who watch live often switch stations to avoid their increasingly lengthy run times. I can see big-spend campaigns bringing in the clients, but do small-time buys, online or off, reach enough people to make a difference?

  11. I think some 20% of brands will see the opportunity, 80% will be driven by fear of missing out (and thus not knowing at all what they’re doing, it’s because “the competition is doing it”).
    This is also a part of what I see as brand darwinism (a concept Brian Solis has been developing so well lately, and drove me to write a little piece on my own:
    In short, brands who get this will thrive. The others either adapt… or die. It’s what one should expect… after all, it IS a revolution.

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