Advertising '08 Outlooks: Digital Maybe, Local Maybe Not, Mobile No Way

Posted by: Jon Fine on November 6, 2008

PaidContent.org’s David Kaplan did a nice writeup of a panel on ad spending that I moderated for yesterday’s ad:tech conference, for which I am grateful.

Not just for the attention being paid to the excellent panelists—Quentin George, president of global digital strategy at Universal McAnn; Matt Spiegel, CEO, digital at Omnicom Media Group; Donna Speciale, president of investment and activation at Publicis’ MediaVest USA; and Bob Thacker, senior vice-president of marketing at OfficeMax. But also because, as I’ve said before, I’ve never mastered taking notes for a future article or blog post while asking a panel questions. (I know, I know: next time I should bring a recorder and be done with all this complaining.)

So, thanks, David, and here’s some of what he picked up on:

-- Following the money: In spite of tries to play down the traditional/digital dichotomy, Speciale noted that there will be clear losers and winners in this deteriorating economy. Surveying the landscape, Speciale said: “The local market, doing lousy for the last two years, are going to be decimated without the political campaigns. Print is suffering because of the lack of flexibility due to their long lead times. Marketers need their money in their hands right now and so that has been propelling the drive toward digital.

-- There is no “right metric”: While digital is benefiting, the balance is still very small compared to TV and print. Bob Thacker, SVP for marketing/advertising at OfficeMax, pointed out that “Mega brands aren’t spending at all on new thinking. These brands are dinosaurs. We’re more of an armadillo. Or perhaps a cockroach.” Without a standard metric, advertisers say they won’t increase their digital spend, said Quentin George, president of Global Digital Strategy/Marketing Innovation at IPG’s Universal McCann, invoking a familiar argument. Matt Spiegel, CEO, digital, Omnicom Media Group Digital: “There are so many data points. Behavioral data is most important. And we don’t tap into it as much as we should. But the real point is that digital has so much accountability. I’m of the school that while we need to compare apples to apples, I don’t think we need one single metric, like a Nielsen for online.” Speciale: “People keep talking as if digital ad spend remains too low. I don’t think so. We have added money in this space so quickly. Compare that to where cable was when it first took off. You couldn’t get clients to spend anything there. So I don’t see the problem.”

One theme of the panel which struck me--which I believe was first raised byeither Spiegel or Speciale--was that, in a time of stressed companies and shrunken marketing companies, experimentation is the first thing that will disappear, as marketers flee for the tried-and-true. This indirectly led to this exchange about mobile advertising, in which I, uhm, refined an audience question concerning the future of ads on mobile devices by asking if any panelist disagreed with the following (paraphrased) statement: Mobile has been a significant failure in the US, in terms of attracting ad dollars, and there's nothing in the foreseeable future that looks like to change this. Back to Kaplan:

"Any disagreement?” Not a one. Speciale: “In this economy, mobile is the priority for marketers. It’s still regarded as experimental. Spiegel: “Mobile will change how we market to consumers, especially overseas. But do I expect a substantial rise in mobile ad dollars in the US next year? No, but it will affect the way marketers and agencies think.”

The attenuation of experimentation, which argues against a big bulge of dollars going inot new digital initiatives, and the desire to get more done more cheaply, which argues for it, will be one of the central tensions within the media and marketing worlds in 2009.

Somewhat relatedly: Borrell Associates releases a report saying growth in local online ad spending will significantly shrink in 2009.

 

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