AdAge asks, “Does Digital Sell Soap?” We’ve Got Some Thoughts

Taking the cover of Advertising Age magazine this week, the headline story, The Truth About What Works in Digital Marketing. They asked the big question, “Does Digital Sell Soap?” Though it seems like sport for trades to ask these kinds of polarizing questions, they’re always thought-provoking just the same. So, we asked our team to share their thoughts.

Ian Schafer, CEO

Brands, agency, and the entire industry have a problem with understanding the difference between ad spend and marketing investment. Digital can, and should, span both. But short-term ROI and long-term ROI are difficult to separate from one another. The one thing that will inevitably bring all of this together to connect all the dots? The maturity of mobile payments.

Ken Kraemer, Executive Creative Director

I quite enjoy the perennial “Does digital work anyway” diatribes the trade press loves to create every once in a while. What hasn’t changed in 17 years is that digital is still perceived as a direct-response medium; just because someone exposed to digital media can click and show an instant response to a message, it is assumed that the only measure of that marketing’s – and thus the medium’s success – should be that immediate response. And in turn direct sales ROI. Brands need to start seeing digital as a brand-building medium – the place where understanding, depth of brand story and indeed true affinity can be grown through engagement. Social context, understanding and advocacy are Digital’s sweet spots. I believe Media SVP Luis Di Como of Unilever gets it right in saying that digital – and especially social – is complementary to Tv.  They do different things. I think as long as marketers keep pinning their digital hopes on direct sales as an immediate metric, they’ll continue to be disappointed. Or at least befuddled.

 Lisa Baldini, Strategist

The biggest misconception with digital is that its power lies in a one to one relationship generated between the data (hand raises, interactions with ads) and sales ROI.  The power of digital is not just in data but the fact that digital is a part of our cultural fabric. We’re most likely to get our news, information, and have what used to be those water cooler moments through digital devices. The implication here is that where TV once triggered those behaviors more often, now it’s through the fabric of digital communication.  What brands need to focus on, especially in the case of the Millennial and Net generations, is looking at their consumer’s digital literacy, their potential purchase power and their expendable time to chart the right type of digital advertising strategy that results in pushing ROI.

Caroline Smith, Media Director

I agree with Luis Di Como statement that Digital and TV are different media that deliver different benefits for  brands. His comment on utilizing social media to provide “Social Context” to drive brand endorsement is important to remember when setting up campaign KPIs  Social Media should be looked at as a part of the overall marketing mix to drive advocacy rather than just awareness and should measured as such. Overall, the article makes a good case for developing better analytic and data tools to measure different marketing channels through different lenses rather than creating a one-size-fits all analysis.

Paul Colombo, Director of Technology

What’s curious to me is for all talk of analytical progress, there is little to no consideration given to the rapidly changing and varied nature of digital that has happened in the last 5 years, let alone 18.  The ubiquity of broadband and high-speed wireless connections, the quickly evolving social media landscape, and low-cost mobile devices have changed and diversified consumer behavior and expectations faster than any other medium in history. It’s all being shaped as we go, and this change is only accelerated with digital natives. Sure, the impact of a TV spot may be unsurpassed, but how much has the medium changed? So, does digital media deliver a better ROI than TV? You should ask yourself that every quarter, adjust the knobs, and ask again. That’s the only way to hit a moving target.

Dave Irons, Lead User Experience Strategist

If you were to ask a group of people under the age of thirty what they watched last night, you’d get a lot of different answers but very few of them would involve a traditional TV. Convergence isn’t some abstract vision for the future, it’s happening right now. Audiences are choosing to consume content in ways that blur the lines between print, TV and digital.  It’s sad that much of the industry continues to hold on to these artificial silos when the people they’re trying to reach, or at the very least, will be trying to reach in the near future, have rapidly evolved beyond them.

Michelle Barna, Director, Social Media Communications

It’s hard to comprehend that in 2012 digital/social media is still being compared to TV/print. That’s like comparing apples to, well, soap. Each is there for it’s own reason but cannot and should not replace the other. They work in tandem – and any individual (industry or otherwise) that feels like they can swap one out for the other let alone compare the results is doing a disservice to their brand, consumers and the overall industry as a whole.