The Internet Is Not Just Another Advertising Channel

Mitch JoelPosted by

**Advertising Agencies Have Got It All Wrong.**
It seems like an easy cop out. In fact, one could argue that it’s the most simple thing for a traditional agency to say to a client: *”don’t worry about the Internet. It’s just a channel to communicate a message to an audience, like every other channel.”*
**No, it’s not. The Internet *is* different (sorry).**
Maybe it was the wine. Maybe it was the winding down of a fun dinner. Maybe everyone was just tired and wanted to go home. I don’t know. It has happened to me countless occasions. I see this happen on [YouTube](http://www.youtube.com “YouTube”) as well, when I watch debates about what it takes to connect with a consumer in a very different world. To say that marketers are scrambling to get the attention of consumers – in a world where a message can be flicked away with complete ease – would be an understatement. But, just because it’s hard to get a message to resonate, it doesn’t mean that technology is just another channel.
**Validate your thinking by not thinking like a mass media mechanism.**
If all you’re looking for is attention, then the Internet can be used like every other channel in which advertising is seen. That is true. If all your brand would like to do, is shout a message to consumers (I think [Seth Godin](http://sethgodin.typepad.com “Seth Godin”), it’s easy to get frustrated and retreat to the position that the Internet doesn’t solve any marketing issue, other than how a message can be transmitted. Are we really still doing this? A very senior digital marketing executive recently pulled me over and suggested that – in parts of my presentation – I move beyond the, *”hey, did you know that this is how big digital has become?”* to the stance of , *”hey, this is an old story, already. It’s done, so this is how you can catch up!”* Fair ball. I recently blogged about this: [It’s Not My Job Anymore](http://sixpixels.com/blog/archives/its-not-my-job-anymore “Mitch Joel”). Still, after many conversations at dinner and watching a lot of the discourse online, we arrive at this strange place where everything a brand can do online is simplified into the soul-crushing nothing that it’s no different that TV or radio… or whatever channels we used in the past to convey a message to an audience… and the price we had to pay to access that audience was significant.
**When an audience changes, the message must change. When the technology changes. We must change.**
If you go back (more than a decade), this blog has had one macro message: using traditional advertising in new media is a massive mistake, but more importantly, an opportunity lost. For over a decade, we have discussed, dissected and debated this. Still, this is the ultimate stance that most traditional advertisers take when it comes to digital marketing. With that, some of them have been successful. They’ve had millions of views on YouTube and managed to get millions of friends on [Facebook](https://www.facebook.com/mitchjoel “Mitch Joel”). This smells like success. Wrong. This smells like advertising success, so let’s just call it what it is. When technology allows you to do more (connect, share, engage, sell, interact, create, collaborate, etc…) and all a brand does is benchmark itself against traditional advertising metrics, what is left to be said?
**Am I the only one who thinks like this?**
It is so easy to lean back in a chair and say that, *”in the end, it’s just another channel,”* but being this dismissive of something so transformational and disruptive is the kind of thinking that has led to the current state of vanity metrics (as my good friend and Google’s Digital Marketing Evangelist, [Avinash Kaushik](http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/ “Avinash Kaushik”), calls them). The expectation of more (from me, from you or from whomever) is not an idea that should be easily dismissed. If we’re all not looking at how to evolve our digital marketing to meet the needs of our company’s revenue, then what is the point? Since the early nineties, I have been active in digital marketing. It’s not about how long I’ve been banging a drum (and you have too), it’s about how much further we can go. It’s about using our advertising prowess as one component of a much more viable opportunity. To just dismiss it and chalk the Internet up to another place where people congregate and consume media feels like a disservice to the marketing industry.
**I’m not angry. Just passionate. You?**