So Google for the second quarter running is unable to hit predicted analyst targets, resulting in a 10% drop in shares (according to a recent NMA article). I find this saddening in part, but optimist in another. Sad because I think it heralds an end of an era of how online advertising has come to be justified as effective, but as a child comes of age and goes through puberty, the excitement of becoming a young man, or woman, is a time to forge new ground and carve out a new place in the world. It is about what is ahead, not behind.
Seeing the web as a merely direct response medium as opposed to its true branding potential (especially when you evaluate entertainment content over information content) is something I feel passionately concerned in needing to address to ensure longevity for the industry. Online with all its branding potential is still justified by a response based metric, i.e. the “click”. We would not measure TV by the number of people making phone-calls unless the creative said specifically “phone this number now”. It is therefore creative dependent, and related to the require call-to-action. I would argue the same is also true of online video. New metrics need to be identified – and by that I am talking about time spend – as opposed to anything relating to a response from clicks or interactions.
Part of what I discuss in my presentations is how the dot-com rush was all based on spurious business plans surrounding data. In essence no-one really knew how to turn data into hard-cash, and when that was spotted, the carpet was pulled from under a lot of businesses by nervous financial backers and the dot-com crash was born.
It was people like Amazon, who embraced the customer experience, as opposed to a designer’s ego, who managed to save the day by stripping creativity and narrow-minded online brochure-ware into realistic businesses based around customer demand – from product search, to subjective experience to ease of purchase. It was also thanks to the simplicity of counter-creative Google who had managed to attract a lot of interest in the search market, and them taking a clever and timely marketing position to justify online investment.
“Put your toe in the water, it’s ok it won’t burn you. You only need to pay when you receive a response”. Sheer poetry in motion – and to this we own a great deal in restoring confidence in the online industry. But that was 8/9 years ago. Times have moved on.
YouTube, Facebook, GPS, iPhones… think about it. Where were they back then? Have they changed your interactive digital experience? Similarly metrics also need to change, and I dare say a lot of commercial business models for online, excuse me, “DIGITAL”, too.
Working for one of the key movers in digital advertising, the rich media concept was designed to break the clutter of the page and create stand out. That is no longer the primary case. It is more about delivering content to the user to enhance their experience with a brand, then merely a traffic-driving vehicle elsewhere – people just can’t be bothered looking around anymore, we expect things brought to us, where we are, when we want. Therefore digital advertising is finding itself moving from mere utility services to immersive entertainment – as all the best advertising should be. It’s about creating emotional experiences, and a timely and relevant thought which is at the heart of brand awareness. Only when a consumer moves beyond this into a conscious inquiry phase, i.e. research, should any kind of response other than that which reveals an emotional stimuli, be measured – and this alone would be a natural place in looking for a “click”.
It would seem timely therefore that as we shift gear from response to brand marketing with the likes of pre-roll and microsite ads as a pre-cursor of what is to come, that joining the dots should be a natural conversation piece. Cross-channel advertising in its simplest form seeks to ascertain the connection between brand and response. A user becomes aware of something, then seeks more information – question is would that be by clicking on an advert, by interacting with an advert or by seeking more information via a search engine. It’s about joining the dots of delivery methods, in order to find the true digital user experience for your brand. The question every brand should be asking themselves right now is not what is my click or interaction rate (which is even more spurious a metric) but what is an effective path to conversion for my users? Understand this, my friends, and we truly will deliver not just compelling experiences, but tangible results… then watch those share prices soar!
So come on guys, it ain’t over till the fat lady sings! And right now the conversation is just getting started…