Well its been a busy couple of weeks for me, as have been preparing some new thought process and analysis around how we measure online – how we have come to where we are, and where we are going – which I have already presented alongside MSN at Innovate in Oslo, and now sharing it with key media agencies and clients.

How to make a good impression:
A user-centric approach to advertising
(Powerpoint Presentation – 7MB)

This is work in progress, not a fait accomplis – and is a starting point for discussion and challenge. What is clear from all I have bounced this around with in the industry so far is that there is going to be a lot of re-alignment of our thinking to date and a lot of re-education of clients ahead. But change is good and healthy – it’s not so much an evolution as a return to the passion and promise of what was originally created.

In essence let me summarise my thoughts when I define ‘truth’ in relation to digital advertising and see if you agree with evidence of insight.

The promise, the lie and the fall from grace

The promise of a personal relationship and communication between individuals and brands was quickly ceased upon as ‘Data equals Power’. The original capital investment in online was all based upon the thought that online was going to replace all other media and the promise of ‘data’ providing a power for wielding commercial success. The problem was with all the data collection, we did not know how to turn it into immediate hard cash, money was as ethereal as the net itself, and panic withdrawal of investment funds led to the dot.com crash.

The rise of a saviour

Arriving as a simple and humble servant – a search engine for categorising data, and having nothing of a creative majesty about itself – the plain vanilla ‘Google’ quickly rose against the tide of slow, graphically rich providers of the day and offered us simple access to the truth of the online world. Beyond that it also found a way of commercialising this online data with the launch of ‘pay-per-click’ which quickly afforded businesses of all sides a real manageable alternative to other media by making itself scalable and accountable.

Establishing and defining a religion

We have approached online advertising as something linear. Assuming that users ‘see-then-click’ resulting in all brand awareness campaigns becoming nothing more then re-badged direct response campaigns – even calling them ‘brand-response’ to ease our consciences and justifying it by reducing conversion cycles as a result of immediacy. This was based in online looking to ‘the click’ as the only way of measurability of the media and this has been used to fit even such branding mechanisms as video into doing nothing more then providing a vehicle to response. The promise of digital and personal relationship has been lost within a subtle lie.

Voices calling in the wilderness

There are certain success stories where they broke the mould of assuming users must work the way I tell them, into finding ways of encouraging them in their personal journeys. Amazon worked with users who searched then sought further information and turned them into purchasers. Ebay empowered the individual, allowing cottage industries a platform to become commercial success stories. Rehashing offline brochures online never did work, embracing the medium for what it can do was the key to success.

The rise of the beast

The lure of the power of data seeks to control the consumer, but dictation will cause a revolt and the dictators must ultimately die. Web 2.0 showed that users had a voice and were not going to accept being controlled anymore, no matter how loud you turn up the ads. The reviews on Amazon became blogs and users became critics and creators of content and could potentially destroy a brand online as quick as the marketers create it. The individual’s free choice is the key to continuing the consumer conversation.

The second coming

Conversation will ultimately end up in conversions, and these converts will not stay silent and will end up sharing the good news. They will wear the brands on their tee-shirts and send virals to their friends. The new world has seen huge investment by the humble servant, Google, becoming the potential master of all. The business model for digital response has finally challenged the most established brand medium of all, TV. The spate of investment this year into advertising technology reveals a confidence in a new business plan, where data does indeed have a commercial outlet and it is to be found in user profiling and cross-channel media convergence. Behavioural advertising should be about asking a person what they are interested in and then feeding them the information in sequence and giving them the tools to be able to make an educated and informed decision for themselves – forming a bond and relationship. Each part of this process can be measured, but not by a mere single response alone, but learning and listening to what the metrics are saying – they are spending prolonged time investigating, they are assimilating information, they are discussing with peers, they are building up a positive perception until they are ready to make a commitment – these are important building blocks and are powerful and potentially measurable, but it starts with individuals who collectively make up the mass.

The new dawn

The presentation I offer reveals some key case studies and tangible inaugurations of leading global brands defining the present and the near future for digital advertising. The Sony Ericsson campaign this year following a user, who breaks out of the browser and onto the desktop, it is the start of cross-channel advertising in a real and measurable sense. To go a stage further and following that same user from the browser to the desktop and onto the mobile to the TV to the digital billboard, is just adding an extra channel – and a graspable achievement as all media becomes digitally enabled.

This is the start of the revolution against the lies and I ask you to join in the fight alongside me.

This article also appears on iMedia UK