It’s a question that the industry has been pondering ever since Media Native founder David Brennan first posed it last year, so for the first in a series of articles DecisionMarketing has brought together a group of experts to try to resolve the big issues facing the industry today.
The common perception is that with digital media growing faster than a body-builder on steroids, traditional channels – and the years of experience gained through them – are being lost in the stampede to embrace the “new big thing”.
But, for our panel, the first sticking point appeared to be the very definition of the term “digital marketing”, as Google UK industry director Ian Morgan explained: “It shouldn’t be digital versus traditional media; it’s not digital marketing – it’s marketing in the digital age.”
He added: “We must start with the customer and then work out which medium they are consuming, only then can we make a judgement about which is the right medium to get the message across.”
But TNT Post group marketing director Melanie Darvall believes that the vast majority of people who work in marketing teams simply don’t have the experience in the traditional channels, maintaining that most young marketers need to be educated.
Her point struck a chord with St Ives Group group marketing director Helen Robinson, who claimed: “The trouble is, many haven’t been trained in traditional media. Part of the issue is that client departments are in silos. You have the CRM team, the data team, the digital team and the brand marketing team. It’s our responsibility to educate clients that there shouldn’t be such a distinction between all the disciplines.”
And for Robinson, this lack of understanding is actually hitting digital media, too. “You’ve got a lot of technological change, especially in terms of mobile devices; now consumers can do everything on their mobile phones but most companies do not actually have a mobile strategy in place.”
It is an issue that Acxiom European marketing director Jed Mole has witnessed all too often. “The way many companies are structured acts against a harmonious approach. Internal departments are often too busy trying to defend their patch – and their budgets – that often the CRM team won’t even talk to the digital team, let alone work together.”
This may go some way to explaining why Jacob Bailey executive director Lucy Stafford has witnessed a major disconnect within many organisations. She explained: “Some clients are dazzled by digital, others are way behind the curve. I pitched for some business last week and the client did not even have a digital strategy; for a retailer that’s actually quite scary. They know they’ve got to engage but they are quite scared by it.”
Stafford believes the answer lies in a more integrated approach: “I’ve sat in plenty of meetings when the search guys have stood up and said we are the most cost-effective channel, in terms of cost-per-response (CPR). But all channels have to work in harmony. It’s interesting when you turn off the other channels and just do digital how much the response falls away.”
Mike Cavers, executive creative director at The GIG at DST, reckons one major issue is that the technology is enabling companies to do things they have never been allowed to do before. “We all talk about the joined up approach but very few are doing it.” More often than not, Cavers maintains, clients see the rise of technology as an excuse to do what they deem to be the “clever stuff”, which simply doesn’t fit with the brand.
“For example, lots of brands are rushing into content because digital allows them to do it. But the reality is, do i really want a brand like Gillette to give me content? Probably not. Brands are not just dazzled by digital, they are dazzled by digital content. These days everyone wants it, but a lot of it is crap.
“The smart marketers are using digital to test hypothesis to quickly understand behaviours and how to segment their audiences. But there aren’t many of them around.”
Mole cited a project the company carried out for Citibank, designed to show which was the most effective channel for its marketing activity. He said: “They did digital, email, TV, direct mail and radio. And looking at all the channels, we worked out that radio was the most effective.”
TNT Post’s managing director of DoorDrop Media Mark Davies believes that the hunger to do everything digital means traditional media have dropped off the roster.
“Email is a fantastic example of a channel that has gone through all the growing pains of direct mail and doordrops; it benefitted by being cheap so companies just bombarded everybody – as direct mailers used to. The downside is that consumers vote with their feet and switch off, they have had to change the way they operate to ensure emails are more relevant and timely.”
Stafford added: “In traditional media you get people who specialise across the board, whereas with digital you get specialists in each area so clients aren’t necessarily getting a joined up view.”
“We are seeing a decline in budgets for traditional media like door-drops and direct mail into digital but clients and their agencies and suppliers have to work out the point of diminishing returns.
“I’ve seen it before when clients have said ‘my digital channels are working really well’, we should pour more money into them. But that’s a really bad idea because they’re not going to make any more money from it. They’re actually going to see a negative ROI rather than a positive one. They need to be thinking about where they can spend their money elsewhere to enhance that investment in the online channels.”
However, in Morgan’s experience clients are actually still dazzled by traditional media. “Most top-level marketing directors struggle to get their heads around digital, many prefer to keep to the traditional channels.”
So, there you have it. Unlike the man from Del Monte, the man from Google says “no”. Then again, perhaps that is no great surprise as it is his job to ensure digital is at the forefront of marketing strategies. For all our other experts, the buzz-phrase appears to be “eduction, education, education” to ensure the right balance is struck between traditional and digital media techniques…
Does digital measurement stack up?