Friday, January 21, 2011

Is online marketing losing its mojo? Nigel Hollis Milward Brown

Could 2011 be the year the wheels come off the online bandwagon? While my colleagues cheerfully prognosticate about the future of online marketing in their 11 Digital Predictions for 2011, I can’t help feeling that the future is less than rosy.
Maybe I am just cherry-picking the items, but several of the predictions I have come across suggest online marketing is losing its oomph.
Last year comScore and Starcom USA released an updated “natural born clickers” study, showing a 50 percent drop in the number of U.S. internet users who click on display ads.
In the month of March 2009, only 16 percent of U.S. internet users clicked on a display ad. What is worse, only 8 percent of internet users now account for 85 percent of all clicks.
Of course, this should not really count as news. When was the last time you clicked on a display ad other than to close it?
To be fair, the comScore press release does go on to state:
Online display ads generate significant lift in brand site visitation, trademark search, and both online and offline sales among those internet users who were exposed to the online ad campaigns – whether they clicked on the ad or not.
And, as research by Dynamic Logic continues to confirm, online display ads can have a significant effect on brand awareness and attitudes. All good things. But equally, all things that other media can do as well, if not better.
Ah,” you say, “but Nigel, online is social now. Tweets are the new clicks.”
Well in one respect you may be right. Looks like they might both be equally ineffective.
Now I know this is not hard, quantitative evidence, but this post by Megan Garber certainly makes you think.
She reports that Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, authors of Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks & How They Shape Our Lives, sold precisely four extra copies after their book was promoted in a series of tweets that reached over 2.7 million people.
Christakis is quoted as saying:
I’m not saying that Twitter is useless, but I think that the ability of Twitter to disseminate information is different than its ability to influence behavior.
And I think that is what marketers are really grappling with. Online was originally touted as direct mail on steroids.
The trouble is, no one has figured out how to make it really live up to the promise. The ground keeps shifting from one engagement model to the next, but none of them live up to the hype.
Right now a lot is being made of the ability for brands to use sites like Twitterfoursquare and Blippy for social engagement. Since we are, by definition, social animals online or off, this makes sense as far as it goes.
Too many marketers, however, are failing to identify a real reason for their brand to interact with people in venues like these. Their fall back is to resort to bribery as the only way to engage people. You know what I mean: check in to get 25 percent off, tweet this to get that, more likes get lower prices.
Right now it seems like social media interaction is worth more than making a real sale.
If reading this post leaves you depressed, don’t worry, there is an alternative. We can all climb on the mobile bandwagon instead. After all, prediction number six from 11 for 2011 is More Mobile Eyeballs.
Yes, yet another way to interrupt people and offer them discounts rather than figure out a meaningful way to engage with them.
OK, your turn. Tell me why I am wrong.

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