The Net-Effect-Zero Revolution In Digital

Digital will change everything!

I was there. I heard it. I repeated it. I lived it. Yet after some 16 years of modern digital advertising we still rely on :30 second ads in YouTube videos and digital billboards at the top of web pages.

Let's face it folks, digital has changed nothing except the landscape. Even the billboards along the freeway are animated now. And you have to wonder if a 0.45% click-thru-rate is any better than the rate at which people hit your website after an ad runs on TV.

Yes, digital spending is up and it's an important media. I'm not foolish enough to claim it doesn't matter. But digital has not revolutionized advertising as it is often billed as having done. It has simply provided a new and important venue for those ads to run. 

Not even social media, the darling progeny of digital, is all that revolutionary. Despite the hype about conversation being the new way to market, Facebook is busy touting Reach Generator (which is just a way to do mass advertising) and the actual conversations that are happening are nothing more than faster customer service experiences and more convenient loyalty communications. It's cool. It's important. But it's not really all that revolutionary.

So we have to ask ourselves whether there really is a revolution waiting for us that we are just too blind or too stupid to take advantage of, or whether this is just a new media where we can run our TV commercials and print ads.

Now before you all go ballistic on me, yes I know there is really cool stuff being done in digital and social that is indeed revolutionary. Interactive video is super cool. I'm doing some consultancy work with Tremor Video and most of the agencies out there aren't even taking advantage of a fifth of what they are capable of doing. There's also very cool stuff being done in the transmedia space where stories evolve in the hands of the fans in a much more active and social way. But realize that these are the exceptions. Claiming these things as signs of digital revolutionizing advertising is like saying that TV is not a wasteland because there are Ken Burns films.

I do still believe that digital solutions can lead a revolution in how advertising and marketing is done. But we really need to decide to embrace some key changes to our thinking to make this happen. And frankly, the smart money is on us staying stupid.

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