You’re Doing It Wrong: Botching the Beautiful Potential of Digital Marketing

The promise of online marketing–all that immediate access to the pertinent information you want, served up within a context of relevant content, targeting to dayparts and geographies–even climate conditions or news events–all that promise still exists.

Unfortunately, it exists in the same reality as miracle diet pills: a wonderful idea we have yet to realize.  Which may explain the dismal findings of a Zussi Research survey prepared for this weekend’s ad:tech London, a series dedicated to next generation digital marketing.  The key finding was that consumers consider most online ads ‘annoying’ and ‘ill-constructed.’  In comparison, they found traditional advertising more informative, entertaining and necessary.  Nearly 70 percent believed traditional advertising was relevant, compared with 45 percent for online.  Worse, among 25-34 year olds, that gap widens to 81 percent for traditional versus 53 percent for online.  And perhaps worst of all, annoyance over advertising on the web is twice as high online as offline; consumers say that digital ads represent a bigger unwanted distraction for them.

Whoops.  That wasn’t how it was supposed to go.Dennis Ryan, Chicago Advertising, Element 79And yet it makes perfect sense.  Consumers don’t get caught up in platforms and communication methodologies: all that matters is relevance and engagement.  You can deliver that on a matchbook cover if you have the right idea.

The real reason behind this eye-opening reset of assumptions lies in execution.  Or more specifically, over-execution.  ComScore says the web was littered with a little over a trillion banner ads last year.  A trillion!  That’s 1,000,000,000,000: a Federal Government sized number.  You couldn’t count to that in a year.  And Facebook alone places more than 50 billion of those banners…each month.

Which means advertisers are foolishly substituting tonnage for quality.  Even the most ideal digital context can’t salvage a lame idea, not in a world where our greatest surplus is distraction.  And when advertisers resort to pop-ups, pop unders and other annoying tricks, they’re just driving away their potential market.

The promise of online marketing is still very, very real.  The affordability, the targeting, the possibilities for deeper, more meaningful engagement have been brilliantly tapped by a few, but the majority lags far behind.

Either because they don’t have a clue or a particularly worthwhile idea.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


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