It seems like eons ago now, but anyone who attended ad-tech in Sydney in February may have come away thinking that we were all there talking to each other.

The point being that there appeared to be very few marketing, ad agency or ‘media’ people… it was digital people talking with digital people. And if you’ve ever had one of those conversations, then you’ll know how quickly the topic spirals out of control as we all try and cling to reality and practicality against a backdrop of highly dynamic evolution.

On return to Melbourne we decided to convene the inaugural frankiedigital forum to assess the true state of play in the real day-to-day marketplace, speaking with digital publishers, digital representation companies and digital creative companies regarding the reality of digital in Australia.

Much of the discussion revolved around the following criteria, and where digital currently ‘sat’ against the criteria:

  • digital’s position at the decision-making table
  • the scale of digital’s quantifiable yoke
  • the quality of digital creative
  • the level of client/industry digital understanding
  • the need for education
  • the level of digital fragmentation, and
  • the emergence of holistic thinking.

As a whole, the following points prove to be a major concern by many stakeholders in the digital industry:

  • digital is not at the ‘top (decision-making) table’ in the majority of cases, it’s merely treated as a ‘bolt-on’ to traditional thinking and media
  • the prevailing selling mentality for digital is arguably too focused on high volume impressions (x-millions) and coupled with heavily ‘discounted’ rates
  • digital needs to unburden itself from the yoke of total-empirical accountability only; there’s a thing called branding – not everything is measurable, sometimes advertisers have to look at the bigger picture
  • creatives can be more daring… go beyond just running pre-existing 30-second ‘in-the-can’ solutions to exploit more complementary cross-platform thinking – make sure the content has been developed with digital in mind and start every ad with a clean piece of paper
  • very often there is a significant lack of understanding among clients regarding the specific objectives of an online campaign; they believe they should have some digital action as part of their overall communication program, but are often unclear as to why and how – even clients who actively seek to be online are often unable to marry their investment with back-end ROI effectiveness (e.g. banks)
  • there is a need to educate and simplify the concept of online/digital to clients and the marketing community as a whole
  • measurement continues to cause problems for both new and old players; there is newcomer confusion about online quantifiable measures (clicks, hits, impressions, etc.), while from more sage heads there remains a need to standardise tracking, such as unique browsers (UB) versus unique visits (UV)
  • post-click tracking – whose responsibility is it? All the major publishers have an adserving system (Eyeblaster, DoubleClick, Accipiter, Atlas, Symphony etc.) so why isn’t this provided as part of the service/sell?
  • silo-less holistic companies that have a firm grasp on communication strategy and digital creative solutions coupled with ROI business thinking will drive the future
  • the earlier stage movers from the big buying groups are emitch, MindShare Interaction, Optimedia and Starcom (this is, however, likely to be because of their client bases, tools and resources rather than standout strategic thinking)
  • part of the longer-term solution and opportunity is to reduce the digital fragmentation in terms of the number of strategic ‘decision-makers’ involved – too many cooks…
  • campaign expenditure varies from $5000 to over $1 million with $50,000 regarded as ‘average’
  • there should be common ROI goals established between the client, communication planner and creative at the outset, as each is not working in a vacuum, and
  • avoid data/definition overload.

Previously in ‘Sound Off’ I talked about ‘new dog, old tricks’, discussing the warning signs that the early digital players are attempting to corral this new horizon in the ways of the traditional. The attitude is one of oligopoly not democracy; solutions focus on discount from ‘rate card’ rather than business results, volume-led arrangements prevail, and crucially, this all occurs within a long-held framework of thinking where digital is relegated to a silo alongside TV, print, radio, above the line, direct marketing, below the line and so on.

I’m thinking we, as an industry, need to become more client-facing as opposed to internally-facing. I’d imagine there are a number of marketing directors, brand managers and product managers out there who are just hanging out for one point of contact in this maelstrom.

Wouldn’t it be ideal if there was a company structure that could sit at the top table and manage the multidiscipline process, not unlike the old full-service agency, but with a revised core service offering?

Any marketing directors, brand managers, product managers have a point of view?