Merry New Year!
I've taken quite a few months off from posting - not due to any grand scheme, just sitting back and oberserving the dizzying string of events since mid '08 and finding that the dozen or so starts of my ramblings were rendered irrelevant 12 hours later. Not that there weren't a few "I told you so moments" - both well-publicized (Tribune, as well as the inevitable demise of most large newspaper firms) and less visible (long overdue forced exits, hollow business models exposed, et al).
My take on the legacy media/marketing carnage is that it had to happen. Decades of blind faith in specious audience delivery hit the wall just when budgets evaporated, period. And we're not done. Will advertisers magically return to higher CPM/lower viewed vehicles when there's more pressure on fewer dollars to drive measurable results? I can see 20+ well-known magazine titles disappear by this time next year. Not a huge leap, I've seen more dire predictions, but you have to admire the denial still in place. Admittedly, I like taking print media to the whipping post - multiple attempts at trying to right the Titanic tend to stick with you.
But consider this: Looking for a safe haven, even with fewer overall dollars, marketers will increase spending online in '09 but they will insist on locking up sure things, as best as possible. I believe we'll see an even greater split between quality inventory (trusted outlets with scale and superior operations) and "the pretenders". There will be much closer scrutiny placed on perceived CPM value at branded publishers which still treat digital as value add. And the speed at which the much-anticipated collapse of dozens, if not hundreds, of ad networks will be stunning.
However, the sheer volume of cheap online ad units will entice marketers to gobble up tonnage. The crime will be that too many advertisers will pigeon-hole these campaigns as narrow direct-response when they should be experimenting with brand impact in a low cost environment.
My hope is that after a tightly clenched Q1, savvy marketers will step back and begin to align their combined outbound executions with smarter site analytics to develop the right collective digital visbility instead of pitting one site, one creative unit or one keyword vs. another. Challenge Atlas, DoubleClick and Omniture to determine which combinations of search + social media + email + display translate into the highest value customers. Not just instant post-click e-commerce only customers, but latent online visitors (including existing customers) who could close across all sales channels.
After exhaling, that's what I would do.