The New Digital Experience

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So, which were your favorite Super Bowl ads from this past Sunday?

It’s the time of the year when brands are glued to their social media analytics to try and decipher if the millions of dollars spent for a thirty-second spot was extended, enhanced and otherwise optimized by the traction that it may (or may not) have received in the social media space. Media planners the world over are neck-deep in Excel spreadsheets trying to show the extended reach of these spots by counting up YouTube views, tracking the numerous blog posts critiquing the line-up and drilling down into Facebook and Twitter to see which ads got the proverbial nod by getting retweeted, shared, commented on, plus one’d, liked, friended, followed, etc…

It’s still fairly traditional, isn’t it.

When marketing professionals talk up the merits of digital marketing and/or social media, there is a common trend to regress back to the traditional metrics that advertisers have been leaning on for far too long. As deep and as rich as the new analytics truly are, we’re still looking at all of this dynamic media with a fairly traditional mindset. We’re wondering if people noticed, saw and cared about our messages. We could spin this in a myriad of ways (by using the words like "amplification" instead of "reach"), but in the end, the majority of brands and media companies are still looking for that quick hit and big uptick in sales while making some kind of splash.

There is a new digital experience in town.

Well, it’s not so much "new" as it is an "untapped reservoir of opportunity." Instead of showing things (in an ad), brands can actually do things. But, the mass majority aren’t. What’s a "thing"? Think about it this way: a brand can advertise on Huffington Post or a brand can create their own publishing platform like Huffington Post. Pushing this idea further, if the future is all about a brand’s ability to have a direct relationship with the customer (and yes, I believe this to be one of the major forces that will decide a brand’s fate moving forward), how will that brand manage to survive if all of their media it is creating is driven through a third-party? We live in a day and age when any brand can put a thing out there in the world. The thing could be a mobile app, a service, a publishing platform, a place to collaborate with their consumers, a true utility, a dynamic loyalty program, etc… And yet, with all of this opportunity and ability, we all sit idly by on a Sunday evening, once a year, to either applaud or lament the creative work of a brand and their representative agencies. Don’t get me wrong, I love a great ad like the next person who claims to hate advertising and skips all ads on their TV, but this is a great moment to look at all of these ads and push beyond what the sentiment was on Twitter and ask ourselves a very tough question: if it’s getting harder and harder to get consumers to pay attention to our brands and convert that into a sale, what are we truly doing to connect with them? Not in an advertising kind of way, not in a "let’s get them to sign-up to our email blasts" kind of way, but in a deep, meaningful and connected way.      

What does a "thing" look like.

It could be a Nike Fuelband, it could be the SitorSquat app by Charmin. The point is that some brands are pushing their marketing thinking out beyond the realm of advertising into a world where they are creating meaningful things (or, at least, attempting to make them meaningful). For my dollar, this is the moment in time when marketing can start to truly get interesting if brands can get over themselves, tone down the narcissism and begin to think about what it means to be a brand in a world of hyper-connected and untethered consumers that are engaged with their own social graph in ways that nobody could have ever imagined (something tells me that late at night, in the darkest of nights, even Mark Zuckerburg must be amazed by what people are willing to share and connect to on Facebook). It’s not that brands and marketers are squandering this opportunity. We’re just not capitalizing on it. It’s hard to get out of the daily grind that is our jobs. It’s hard to challenge the brands we represent to be brave and to try daring things. But, here’s the thing: what were the best two ads you remember from last year’s Super Bowl? Any idea? Did it roll off the tip of your tongue? Are you currently a valuable customer of theirs? Now, think about the brands that truly mean something in your world today. Is it all about their advertising or are they doing more? Amazing, isn’t it? Advertising is not dead. Advertising still does the job it was always meant to do (inform a public). Let’s just be sure to remember that as brands we can now actually create things. Meaningful things. Valuable things. Not just meaningful and valuable messages, but actual things that consumers would use, would share, would connect to and, who knows, maybe even pay for?

The new digital experience will be about the things that brands create. So, what are you waiting for? Start making things.    

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for the Huffington Post called, Media Hacker. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online here:


  1. Seems the ads this Super Bowl focused on “positive ASSOCIATIONS AROUND the product” rather than identifying and magnifying “positive properties OF the product”. Is that what advertising is now? If you use a premier website company you’ll get “tongue from a gorgeous blond”, or if you eat Mexican food it’s OK to drive irresponsibly, or if you train a horse the beer you consume will taste better? It’s advertising “info fixing” where it’s agreed NOT to provide data for the consumer to make an educated choice.

  2. I’m not a sports fan or tv watcher but if I had to guess, the superbowls ads were meant to compete with each other as to who had the best ad and hopefully start a buzz around the commercial, after all these are all recognized brands. I agree and don’t think digital marketing is the end all of advertising rather just another channel you need to tune into. Most exciting aspect of digital experience is being able to connect to a certain brand you care about through online communication.

  3. “Start Making Things.”
    That what it comes down to. Whatever excuse people use to hesitate in the changing landscape of advertisement is really inexcusable. I doubt we’ll ever see the end of the spectacle that are the Superbowl commercials because the hype around those commercials have been integrated into the NFL tradition and tradition is very much apart of the NFL DNA.

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