Is you Marketing on the Digital Highway to Hell?

Can you remember a digital advert that you saw this morning or yesterday? We asked this question to a room of over 100 marketers… only 2 could recall a digital ad from the previous day. 

Part of the issue is that we can all fall into the trap of valuing most highly, what we can measure most easily. We love the data behind digital marketing, but not necessarily the science of whether it’s actually working.
“Beware the man that uses data like a drunk man uses a lamppost - for support instead of illumination.”
Winston Churchill
A client recently advised us that they engaged a PR and digital agency for their campaign. On paper the results of this approach looked impressive, the digital click through rates were high and social influencers had been promoting their product… but the reality was their sales dropped by 6%. Crap that travels at the speed of light is still crap when it arrives.
The speed in which we are all working is a major part of the problem. As an industry the volume of creative briefs has tripled since 1990. It’s gone from 205 briefs per year, to an average of 1100 per year. Whilst the volume of work has gone up, the prices have gone down. We are making vast amounts of creative, that’s fast and cheap… in light of this, it is unsurprising that the quality of creative output is falling.

So, is your marketing on the digital highway to hell?? 
In order to understand more, let’s take a closer look at what the digital revolution promised:
  • Ads that are tailored to personal interests and behaviours, (more relevant, welcome and therefore more effective),
  • That brands could engage consumers as never before through social platforms,
  • And that programmatic media buying, would allow us to spend our dollars in a far more efficient way.
Now let’s look objectively at how the digital revolution has delivered on the promises above:
  • Every significant independent study shows people have less trust over ‘tailored’ content and find this type of advertising intrusive and annoying.
  • The concept of ‘conversations’ with brands is a fallacy. Who has ever opened their fridge and thought, ‘I wonder what Bega cheese thinks about the footie?’
  • Programmatic media buying has turned into a swamp fest - Dodgy bots, buying for clicks and brand safety are all major concerns. Procter & Gamble’s CMO recently cut $200 Million in their Digital Ad Spend. The cuts helped eliminate 20 percent of its ineffective marketing and increased their reach by 10%!
Regardless of this technological revolution, we need to understand what unites us, as humans. We still love music, we all have similar desires…and we still have somewhat short attention spans.
Brands must stop tinkering with tech and remember the human element behind these channels. Facebook doesn’t click ‘like’ by itself, twitter doesn’t retweet itself. It needs content that connects on a human level first and foremost.
Successful marketing taps into the fundamental elements that make us who we are and how our brains work. I was inspired to write this article whilst standing amongst 450 other guitarists, playing AC/DC’s ‘Highway to Hell’ in unison. We had gathered together, to break a Guinness World Record for the ‘Largest Electric Guitar Ensemble.’ I was struck by the attitudes that connect us, no matter if you’re 9 or 90.
Don’t let your creative end up on the digital highway to hell. Using digital isn’t a strategy, it’s a just tactic and a channel. A world view and collective attitude shared across audiences is what really counts.


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