Discovered! The Antidote For Digital Myopia

NOTE: Originally posted on 6/13/2017


Back in 2013, I coined a term for the near-sightedness of many digital marketers: “digital myopia.” It reflected the increasing frequency at which I ran into digital marketers who had no deep understanding of how traditional marketing worked. They were enabled by their generational predecessors, who had a rich understanding of traditional marketing but seemed indignant about learning how the digital revolution was going to reshape their conventional logic.

Now, in 2017, I have seen an evolution (note, still not a revolution) in the minds and actions of marketers, digital and traditional alike. They are all endeavoring to understand how digital fits into the bigger picture–not with test budgets, but with substantial spending on platforms like Google and Facebook, making it clear they are following their consumers. As the budgets from these marketers point out, what is considered “digital advertising”–a broad mix of display, video, search, and email efforts across web, mobile, and social domains–is, as a sum, is equally as important to them as TV advertising.

Clearly, companies are driving business off digital platforms, and despite issues with agency transparency, waste, viewability, and consolidation of the main players, the digital ad landscape is a healthy option in the media mix. Injections of real business results in the form of return on ad spend (ROAS) have proved digital’s value.

That, in turn, has opened the eyes of their traditional counterparts. What I am most excited about is that digital provides a cure for traditional marketers to shed their similarly myopic thinking to become modern marketers. Digital thinking–rich data, efficient targeting, action-driven pricing models–has become the antidote to legacy tactics. This injection of digital strategy into all areas of marketing will have an outsized impact on marketing success that I believe will tower over “traditional digital” marketing in the next two to five years. Here is a sample of those digital infusions. (Full disclosure, I was on the front lines of some of these companies, and have received firsthand feedback from marketers on their value.)

  • Digital’s impact on TV: Imagine TV marketers having the ability to think of their audience as eyeballs, not audiences. The rapid (for TV) shift to data-infused, target-rich, pay-for-what-you-use, customizable, and minutely measurable TV ad buying is less than five years old. But across broadcast, cable, and OTT, TV companies, the growing ability and demand to target TV watchers as individual viewers is quickly becoming a reality. Open AP, Simulmedia, NBCU’s blend of digital and broadcast, and Hulu’s use of an SSP to present dynamic ads on their services all point to some digital serum being injected into former addicts of the 30-second spot. OOH advertisers
  • Digital’s impact on billboards: Did you know that OOH advertisers can attribute billboards and other out-of-home advertising to sales? Companies such as Placed and Cuebiq map the consumer path from the home computer or mobile phone, past the signs on Highway 101 or Interstate 95, into the physical storefront, and report on what impacts those three seemingly disconnected marketing channels have on sales. Location analytics are the digital cure to the malaise of unknown drive-by and footfall traffic that used to plague these industries.
  • Digital impact on direct mail: This is an interesting twist that no one was expecting. How do you take a bulk operation, laden with costs and commitments, and operate it at the speed of digital? PebblePost (for which I am an adviser) figured out that digital data used for retargeting could also generate a strong return by applying the same data to highly targeted mail that goes out nightly. Turns out, people keep interesting promos sent in print form, but rarely do they print out a banner ad. With trust and ROAS on the wane for display ads, applying digital thinking to change the way print promotions work turns out to provide a remarkably healthy inoculation of good, loyal customers.
  • Digital’s impact on digital: Remember, this starts with the realization that digital marketers have blinders on to old-school marketing. But their bosses, the CMOs and other C-suite leaders who need digital DNA to hold onto their jobs, are thinking more deeply about digital, too, as those budgets rise. The requests that P&G, Kellogg’s, and others have made to make the use of data, or programmatic, a core part of media buying is changing what it means to be a seller or manager of digital ad space as well. A dose of its own medicine, flu-shot style, is creating some malaise now that AI, personalization, blockchain, and mixed reality are strengthened by a new crop of fast-moving companies.

Much work needs to be done to eliminate the scourge that is both digital and traditional myopia and its narrow thinking. But as media firms, agencies, tech firms, and brands align on how to marry the two dominant strains of marketing, digital DNA will grow ever-stronger.

What do you think? Share with me on Twitter @minicooper.