Nick Pahade
Monday, August 1, 2011
These are exciting times in the digital media industry. Digital ad spend is eclipsing traditional mediums and generating billions in sales. Technology trends such as the explosive growth of tablet and mobile media device usage open new opportunities — and present fresh challenges.

For example, digital media advertising offers a profusion of data and immediacy that was unthinkable in the past. But the range of display options, abundance of 3rd party data providers, DSPs, DMPs, analytic and measurement companies, data suppliers and so on offering a confusing array of services and indiscriminate ad placements present marketers with new dilemmas.

In the past, marketers selling apparel to women could reach their target consumer simply by placing ads in fashion magazines. With the rise of web advertising, digital publishers attempted to offer a similar service by selling site sponsorship and banner placement ads across multiple pages. This created an inventory glut as well as ad context issues.

Advertising technology companies offer new ways to target users, and the ability to layer in an abundance of data and measure customer and prospect interactions offers obvious benefits. But it can also drive digital media marketing practitioners to focus on metrics to the exclusion of the creative and emotional aspects of advertising.

Successful digital media marketing will fuse art and science together, combine great creative with a type of programmatic buying solution featuring recommendation engines connected to optimization rules to help advertisers buy more efficiently. To do this, the savvy digital media practitioner must stay a step ahead in a rapidly changing landscape and increase engagement and return on investment by delivering emotionally compelling creative via technology and human insight.

Build the Brand or Make the Sale?

Since digital media marketing offers unprecedented opportunities to generate response metrics, perhaps it is natural that the preponderance of digital advertising spend flows toward direct-response marketing initiatives rather than brand-building campaigns. Some estimate that up to 80 percent of digital media ad dollars are spent on direct-response campaigns with just 20 percent devoted to brand-building, whereas the percentages are reversed in the offline marketing space.

However, as the digital media marketing industry matures and new tools emerge that enhance advertisers’ ability to gauge brand impressions in the online space, experts are beginning to rethink that balance. A partnership with a sophisticated digital media agency can allow companies to innovate, automate and simplify their messaging to achieve both brand-building and sales objectives, i.e., branded performance.

Innovate to Stay a Step Ahead

Success in the digital media space requires constant innovation to meet changing demands. As clients move beyond the desire to merely establish a social or mobile media presence and begin to examine the returns, agencies must be prepared to demonstrate value as marketers demand it.

One way to stay ahead of the curve is to follow and establish partnerships with start-ups in the digital media space. Start-ups are innovative by nature, and they are eager to test their business model in the real world to demonstrate their ability to drive returns. Innovation is how companies such as Groupon or Living Social morphed from start-ups to enterprises valued at more than a billion dollars in a short period of time.

Another way to stay ahead through innovation is to filter clients’ digital media choices through the lens of their ultimate objective to create real value. A client’s stated goal may be to achieve a certain quantity of “likes” on Facebook. The smart digital media marketer digs deeper and establishes metrics related to sales and branding or consumer interaction, with social media as the tools used to reach those objectives.

Deepen the Connection through Automation

It may sound contradictory — automation connotes the absence of conscious response. However, deploying digital media ads that engage users, convert them into customers and generate returns relies on preconfigured interactivity. A key differentiation is how to use inspiring creative to make the connection.

Digital media partners can work with a variety of engaging graphic treatments across multiple publishing venues. The mission is to deliver copy and images that grab the user’s attention and deliver brand-building and sales-generating messages, many of which today can now utilize human insight and technology to deliver these messages dynamically!

Digital media messages should also acknowledge the fact that users have lives beyond the screen. It can pay to link the auto-generated, online message to the real world, and there are a variety of ways to achieve this. For example, the connection can be deepened with an offer that drives customers to retail locations for an onsite event/interaction. In this way, automated messaging can facilitate direct human contact or purchase.

Simplify to Meet the Challenges Ahead

There has been a revolution in the digital media industry over the past five years. Online ads require research, negotiations, service, tracking, analysis, optimization, billing and reconciliation. With all of this innovation, the space seems to be suffering from more and more fragmentation with limited opportunities to take advantage of targeting, segmentation, data layering, etc ., with scale. Managing all these facets of each transaction used to require complex tools or a tremendous amount of labor. Today, platform technology allows users to manage digital media campaigns without as much manual analysis as in previous years.

This would seem to be triumph of simplicity over complexity, and in some ways, it is. However, platform technology simplifies the tools of the trade, not the practice of it. The bottom line still depends on using the tools effectively. That means choosing a partner who can serve as a digital media operating system. Advertisers once believed that the rise of the web meant they should place their ads across multiple sites. The reality is that while users spend more time online, they spend it in fewer places. This has put the sites where people spend their time — Facebook, for example — in the driver’s seat, enabling a return to a premium model of access to users that Google + hopes to mimic.

Savvy digital media agencies are addressing this new reality by building innovative tools and partnering with technology companies to combine the creative and data-driven aspects of modern marketing. In this way, they are offering a greater degree of simplicity to their customers and opening up a variety of new ways of interaction.

The Fusion of Art and Science

Advertising media company GroupM predicts that digital advertising spend will exceed expectations in 2011 and will top $100 billion worldwide by 2012. And although the digital media industry is approaching its second decade, it is still beset by numerous challenges, including data integrity, scalability and spending vs. true cost considerations. There is still a bit of a Wild West feel online, and navigating the territory requires an experienced guide.

Digital media partners can provide the necessary guidance by streamlining the media planning and buying process. But it’s important for companies that are looking to make a splash in the digital media space to remember that for all the emphasis on data, creativity is important too.

Sophisticated marketers must keep in mind that the goal is to deliver an emotionally compelling user experience, which drives both brand recognition and sales. It is sound interactive creative that makes a connection with online users and converts them into customers. That fact should not be lost in the emphasis on data that currently drives so many digital media marketing practitioners.

Successful digital media marketers know this and strike a balance between art and science, giving each aspect its due. By using technology to innovate, automate and simplify communications, you will find even greater success in the digital media space.

The auther is CEO, Traffiq.

Share on LinkedIn