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The Digiday Agency conference was a wealth of information on the ever-expanding digital ad world.

The Digiday Agency conference was a wealth of information on the ever-expanding digital ad world.

This week, it dawned on me that the world of digital advertising has become a morning commute from hell. I envision sun glare, tractor trailers overturned on off ramps, gaper delays, highway construction crews, crumbling infrastructure, and side streets not designed to handle the traffic they are swollen with.

What led me to that conclusion was sitting in on the excellent, well-attended Digiday Agency conference on Monday. Digiday assembled a sterling lineup of industry experts from the agency, publisher, and technology sides who made individual presentations, participated in panel discussions, and offered wide-ranging articulate opinions on the landscape of all things consumer digital advertising. I was probably the only business-to-business guy and one of the few creatives present, so I came to listen and learn. Here is what I came away with:

  • Things continue to morph faster than anyone can keep up with, let alone get ahead of. Digital now encompasses digital display, search, social, video/rich media, mobile, and more across a vast span of publisher and affiliate sites, plus desktop, laptop, tablet, and smartphones that accept advertising. Throw in TV advertising that leverages and attempts to cross-link digital, social, etc. and you have media planning that often collapses under its own cleverness and targeting potential.
  • Analytics and metrics are overrated. One of the more incredible statements of the conference was a derisive one about digital display advertising measurement being still stuck in the stone age — specifically, the continued importance placed on click-through rates. The speaker noted that the demographic of those most likely to click on display ads is populated with low/no income types, online gamblers, and assorted tire kickers.
  • Video, Social, and Mobile are the future. Pretty obvious shift driven generationally and by tablets and smartphones. Of course, by the time that the ad industry sorts it all out, we will be on to other new technologies and tools.
  • Remarketing (retargeting) via browser cookies of those who visit advertiser web sites is only going to get bigger. A number of speakers used the funnel analogy of awareness advertising at the top and very targeted, directed messaging at the bottom to catch buyers when they are now informed and ready to make a purchase.  The theory is great. I just don’t believe that ads relentlessly targeting people whom cookie data has identified as hot prospects is going to be ultimately successful or a great idea. I still believe that the average person is suspicious of Big Brother approaches and privacy concerns trump marketing opportunities.
  • Digital media buying has been reduced to an RFP process. Publishers spoke about how hard it was working with agencies in digital space because the media planning contacts are all junior people and there is a revolving door between agencies. Not much time or room for relationship building and value adding when it becomes a “give me your best deal” RFP request.
  • Agencies are being courted as digital advertising venture capitalists. That seemed like a completely foreign concept to me because running lean and mean continues to be the norm outside of Madison Avenue; however, a number of shops spoke very intelligently on this subject.

Ironically, a couple of days after the conference, I came across this article on Adobe investing heavily in traditional agency territory and challenging Madison Avenue in the data sweepstakes of this space. There were a lot of technology companies like Google present at the conference, but Adobe wasn’t one of them. I suspect they will be heavily discussed when Digiday holds the west coast version of this event in Los Angeles in early 2012.

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I often marvel at how advertising media planners never reach the saturation point. There is seldom a lack of worthwhile media options for an advertiser. There is almost always an overload of places to advertise on a limited budget.

As noted in last week’s post, that is definitely the case these days on the local level (any business with a well-defined geographic territory).  Even that is changing — for example, Mallon’s, a wonderful Ocean City, NJ bakery used to rely on summer vacationer business; now, it does e-commerce and I can arrange to ship its marvelous sticky buns to my aunt in Texas.

Matchbin is helping local media and local advertisers leverage digital.

Matchbin is helping local media and local advertisers leverage digital.

The other month I responded to a print ad in the Norristown Times Herald advertising a free online and search engine marketing seminar. I was curious about what a local newspaper might say on the subject. Turns out, a lot. They, and all of the Journal Register newspapers locally (Pottstown Mercury, Lansdale Reporter, Phoenixville Phoenix, West Chester’s Daily Local News, The Trentonianthe Delaware County Daily Times, and others) are wisely partnering with Bountiful, UT-based digital media company, Matchbin, to help expand their traditional media options to local advertisers.

There isn’t anything unique that Matchbin is offering that advertisers can’t find elsewhere in some form. It is the scope of content management system-based offerings that Matchbin has, enabling a local business to manage its marketing and online business across multiple media and outlets.

Through the Times Herald (and other Journal Register papers), advertisers can continue promoting via print, web, or a combination, plus get featured status in an FYI: Central Montco Online Business Directory. To this, these businesses can add a range of Matchbin tiered programs to match needs. To boost local Google rankings, they can create a templated landing page or mini web-site that through Matchbin’s network will put them on the first page of Google search, so local prospects can find them. If they want to promote via video, there’s a video package. If they want to launch e-commerce, there is an e-commerce package. If they want to set up and manage multiple social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc.) and business reputation, they can via one dashboard. There are additional options to set up blogs, to create couponing and special offers, to promote via testimonials, and to reach out to prospects and customers via mobile phone marketing.

The Journal Register papers can help advertisers find a Matchbin program that fits their needs and budget (the tiered programs are priced right). And local businesses can more easily manage their marketing and business-building without taking them away for extended “hands on” periods from their businesses. These are not one-size-fits-all solutions — they are well-thought-out programs to help local businesses that don’t have Coke’s global marketing budget to raise their profiles dramatically within their communities (geo and social).

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Before the Internet, before Facebook, before smartphones, local advertisers concentrated their ad budgets on TV and at least some of them felt they needed to work very hard to get noticed. Faux (or forced) insanity was the order of the day. The king of this method of advertising was Crazy Eddie, the NY metro area consumer electronics retail chain, that brought a heightened sense of urgency to take advantage of sale prices (and of Eddie himself) to everyone’s living room.

Not sure why the yelling announcer model became so popular, but it was employed by car dealers, restaurateurs, the Atco Speedway, and at least one local merchant in every city. In Philadelphia, Ben Krass made himself a hometown celebrity selling his Krass Brothers suits surrounded by a harem, usually in bikinis.  All of these “mad men” wanted to ensure that viewers didn’t miss their schtick by heading to the bathroom during program breaks.

It’s likely even then that mental illness advocacy groups lodged complaints about turning affliction into an attention grab. Most viewers, however, just found the spots obnoxious. Still, they did their job, created awareness and buzz for these businesses, and moved a lot of product.

Today, local advertisers would have to be truly loco to pass up the amazing range of online options for geo-targeting and reaching prospects and customers. They could save their vocal cords and save a lot of marketing budget dollars in the process. The array is dizzying. Local is the new focus of Google, which has hired local salespeople and repurposed its Local Business Center as Google Places. Businesses know that with so many spending so much time on Facebook, they need to be there with pages and ads. Yelp and Foursquare were ahead of the curve on helping advertisers build local followings. Groupon, Living Social, and in Philly Metro, Dealyo have bought couponing and promotions into the digital age. Then, with Microsoft Tags and QR Codes, retailers can build their own brick-and-click campaigns to generate sales with smartphone users.

Next week’s blog post is devoted to yet another local program/platform called Matchbin that gives local businesses a wide range of ways to connect with customers. So many choices for those looking for asylum from the crazy method of advertising.

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