Over the past few years, I've often asked the question: "What does it take?" for major marketers, traditional media and agencies/PR firms to NOT dismiss digital as a rounding error. "What don't they understand?" For some of the larger publishers, it may be too late even for panicking - a 40% drop in your share price within 12 months will do that - because moving at Internet speed just is not in their DNA. The next phase of valiant, yet inevitable online flailings by the local print and broadcast gatekeepers probably won't happen until '09. The obligatory expectation to salvage '08 through Campaign and Olympic dollars will keep the denial alive for another year. While the agency holding companies, to score some semblance of relevancy, are knee deep in getting healthy in the online channel, whatever the cost. For those digital specialty firms weighing offers from suitors dangling ridiculous multiples, happy holidays.
I've tended to give Consumer packaged Goods companies a pass for one simple fact: they can't sell their wares directly online. As much as many of us in the business have expected CPG's to monetize their digital efforts in indirect ways, by design or default, it hasn't happened. Some recent activity borders on the cartoonish, stengthening the belief that there really isn't much of a reason to go to a toothpaste, cookie or soft drink Web site. But that's not to say that these big spenders can't package up the best nuggets and let them be shared across the Web. As the use of social networks expands to all demographics, I believe CPG's will start to embrace Widgets as vehicles for trackable Word of Mouth brand endorsement online, simply because the numbers are too large to disavow. The plummeting performances of FSI's and TV, coupled with the advanced viral analytics of Widget campaigns, will force CPG's to make a significant commitment to digital marketing in '08.
Sadly there is still too much fiefdom building by amateurs who own the online P&L - the 20-year Direct Mail or Call-Center vet, the ceremonially appointed print exec, or the back-end operations manager looking to round out a resume. Especially on the Marketer side, this problem is rampant. I can't really fault the people stepping into these roles - I applaud their ambition and recognition of a changing business landscape. No, the worst transgression is letting this ignorance continue. It's an admission by senior management that the Web really isn't that important to the company. Most hypocritically for firms that actually sell Internet-based services, would this on-the-job training be allowed if the roles were reversed? Could a Web designer, for example, be expected to run TeleSales in his spare time? Hire some professionals who have done it before and give them the reins.
Here's to a great 2008!