Archives for posts with tag: digital marketing


Many agencies have added social to their list of offerings. Some have added new people with specific skills to support/activate and engage social platforms. Other agencies just added social to the responsibilities of the media department.

That’s a big problem. Because social and digital are not the same.

A digital skillset involves software programming, interface design, content management, data management, analytics, media planning/buying, etc. That doesn’t mean you know anything about social.

When you are adept in the ways of Social Media, it’s also likely that you’re familiar with the technologies that support these communications. You understand the rules of engagement on Facebook; you know how to create a refined social advertising campaign; you can hop on CoTweet and know exactly what you’re doing; you’re focusing on the right metrics and deliver. That doesn’t mean you know anything about digital.

In good agencies, digital marketing services are organically integrated with Social Media. It doesn’t make it any less distinct a discipline.

The biggest difference: the mindset.

Digital and interactive are primarily either one-to-one or one-to-many communication forms.

Social is many-to-many communications. And that makes all the difference.

In one-to-one communication, the brand (in this case) knows what it wants to communicate, and perhaps has some idea about who it is talking to.

One-to-many communication is the most prevalent form of broadcast with the hope that the message is something that the target audience will appreciate and take action on.

Social is many-to-many, and here the crux is uncertainty. Brands may assume that they know what they are getting into, who they are talking to but they can’t predict the reaction.

Digital does not require any internal attitude change or rallying of other divisions – it is merely extending the brands’ communication into yet another broadcast media.

Social requires a different mindset and the understanding that brands are just incidental to the conversation online.

Apples and oranges.


A few weeks ago, Digiday published a story titled “Mobile’s inventory glut grows”.

“(…) only 18 percent of impressions were filled by the top 20 U.S. mobile ad networks, representing a decline from the 19 percent of ad slot they filled between April and June. Worldwide the issue is even more pronounced. The average fill rate stood at 10 percent in the third quarter, representing an 8 percent decline from the previous three months, based on the 70 ad networks, connected to the Smaato’s platform.”

Gresham’s Law of the Web

Unlimited inventory, combined with an anachronistic understanding of advertising as “space” causes cheap ads to drive out the good.

This has clearly destroyed the design of content web sites, and is about to kill the content apps on mobile devices.

There are two solutions for this problem that has gripped the digital marketing industry since its inception:

– We need to reduce the number of ad positions dramatically.

– Publishers have to charge more for ads.

We have to get away from the ad network model (Ad exchange, DSP – whatever you want to call it) and, instead, create sponsor relationships with customized packages. To drive real engagement (not some imagined engagement) a package has to be interactive and fully integrated with the content. Why do I need to leave an app when I want to engage deeper with an ad? I’m there to access content and an advertiser finds a way to engage me deeply: Keep me in the initial experience, don’t just give me the option to leave the experience and end up on a brand page. Forcing me to restart the app or go back to the initial web site is a problem. Not a solution.

Responsive adaptability

There is no ad network or other company that serves desktop, mobile and tablet web ads at the same time, with the same insertion order.  Just go to the major publications (NY Times, WSJ, etc.) and see that all the ads are different on various  platforms. Some ads I can swipe away, some have close buttons, some are little bugs. And don’t get me started if I want to experience the sites on my smart phone. Ads are unreadable unless I zoom in. And, who does that? No cohesive experience, nothing really to keep me interested. It feels like litter and not the interactive experience customers expect.

The whole industry has to work together to develop a responsive adaptability model for digital marketing. What does this mean? It’s a model that adjusts the layout while staying on a grid, adjustable to any screen size. Since the industry moves slowly, the first order of business should be adaptability. Let’s worry about responsiveness a bit later.

Disconnect between publishing and advertising

Digital Marketing has followed the print CPM model: audience and impressions trump good design and reader engagement. Because that static litter didn’t work well, we created another artifact: Rich Media. Attention-grabbing, colorful and moving litter that was completely disconnected from the new design of sites (simple, direct, user-focused) that creates connection with customers. Just like Flash is fading away, we will see this litter discarded for CPM prices for 1/1000 of $1.

The print model for digital marketing is bankrupt. And, it’s time to destroy it. The fluidity of current digital design is battling with the fixed and standard sizes of web ads. It’s a legacy of a single-size page design, and the idea that a web page is “space” we carve up like an old newspaper. The value of homepage ads has peaked a long time ago when we moved from a digital portal economy to a digital link economy. A real sponsorship of content has more value and is more intriguing because it’s part of the overall content, no matter where I engage with it. And, that’s what we all want: Connection with the reader.

How to solve the digital inventory problem

We need to reduce the number of ad positions

Do I really have to explain this? Do you remember the 8 ads on Yahoo’s homepage? Or the 11 ads on NYT’s homepage?

We need to charge more for ads

That’s a tough one. Sometimes it feels as if the whole digital marketing industry has signed a Grover Norquist-like pledge never to increase prices. Cheaper, faster, less effective has been the mantra of our industry. We need to change it to “Pricier, more engaging and effective”.

Publishers need to focus again on sponsorships and stop littering their content with network junk. I’d be willing to pay more for exclusive sponsorships and positions through cross-platforms and supported by insightful analytics.

It comes down to good content and great stories. We have to rethink what worked in print and develop a new business model for the digital marketing community.

From hoarder to minimalist.

Good advertising is interesting and looks intriguing. Litter is never interesting and doesn’t look intriguing.

SXSW is overwhelming madness, as usual. I had 15 meetings already, more than 10 to go. It’s easy to google the person in advance or check their profiles.

The problem is, we tend to pretend to know others based on public information. What we share on social profiles is not really meant to be a real representation of ourselves. When you use the tools to create closeness and familiarity with the other person, you cheat just a little bit and try to trick your way into their emotional self.

It’s a common technique, used by traditional direct marketers. You offer a product/service based on previous purchases. Direct Marketers track the success diligently and optimize based on performance. When digital marketing took off, marketers tried to copy that direct response technique. Unfortunately, they were not as disciplined as their traditional counterparts and made bad assumptions.

You look at outdoor sports sites, let’s send you an email with a background featuring the great outdoors.

You visit a site for car enthusiasts and you’ll be considered one of them until the end of time. (Or until you delete your cookie.)

In real life, it’s often better to start a conversation without assuming anything, just being curious and open. In the digital marketing world, many digital campaigns don’t succeed because they are based on false assumptions.

If you want to be successful, you need to be sure that your assumptions are right. Or you better start out with a blank slate.


My daughter is in an interesting phase: She can read but she can’t comprehend fully what she’s reading. A picture book with a few sentences per page is perfect for her developmental stage. No, she wants to read a chapter book without any pictures. She proclaims proudly: “I’m on page 55.” When I ask her about the content, the answer is very sparse. When she gets her homework, she wants to get it done in a few seconds: “Easy peesy, lemon squeezy.” Once I note a mistake, she freaks out and never wants to touch any homework again.

Typical behavior for brands in the emerging marketing space

Many brands have not yet fully deployed all basic digital marketing tools. Instead of focusing on getting the fundamentals right, they rather develop a comprehensive Social Marketing strategy.

Others have deserted Facebook/Twitter/YouTube presences. Why bother improving these important platforms for their brand? Let’s just start a Pinterest page.

The fancy commercial not matching the dirty store layout.

The radio spot not matching the horrendous attitude of your employees.

The list is endless.

We should strive for innovation and amazing ideas

First, we need to clean-up the store.

Change the attitude of employees.

Get the fundamentals of marketing right.

Get the fundamentals of the business right.

Then, and only then, should you consider the newest platform aka toy.


When the Web was young and digital marketing in its toddler shoes, a common practice was to require customers to fill out a form before they could access a site. Cheered on by “Get all the exciting news from Brand A” or “Don’t miss out on the latest events”, many customers signed on. Once spammers started to get rich and marketers over-communicated with their audience, these forms quickly disappeared. You didn’t have to fill out a form before you watched a commercial, grabbed a brochure or visited a store, why should that be different when it comes to digital?

Some tactics never die

Marketers are rehashing that old formula, forcing people to ‘like’ the brand before they can see any content. Brands and agencies continue to be obsessed with aggregating as many ‘Likes’ as possible. In the beginning it was done through other marketing channels, social games and apps installations. Increasingly, this has been replaced by using the ‘Like’ click as the price of entry to interact with content or get special offers.

Wasn’t social about conversations, engagement and long-term benefits?

Social Media was this big party where we can interact in transparent and authentic ways, right? We didn’t like the screamer that just yelled at us. Or the “Look-at-me-guy”, right? Last time I checked, those are as annoying as the people I need to endorse on LinkedIn or praise them publicly before we can start to talk. Don’t I deserve a chance to explore what they’re all about before I endorse them to all my friends?

Don’t mistake a “like” for an endorsement

Studies show that 58% of US Facebook users expect to gain access to exclusive content, events or sales after “liking” a company, while 58% also expect to receive discounts or promotions. More insightful is what Facebook customers don’t want: Bombardment with messages (54%), access to profile information (45%), pushing things into friends’ newsfeeds (31%) and companies contacting them through Facebook (29%).

We all have busy lives. We can’t “like” every brand, we don’t have enough time and bandwidth. Does it make sense to “like” everything that’s in my closet, office, living room, garage and shopping mall?


The forced “like” tactic might be a good choice for brand advocates. But, they are already on your side.

Wouldn’t you rather start a conversation with people that have no defined feelings toward your brand, winning them over? Your forced “like” tactic might just result in the opposite.


Your digital campaign represents your company, it’s the public face of your company. Just like your website, your store, your packaging, your employees, your phone tree (Let’s hope you have none.) Your digital campaign might be the first encounter of a prospect with your brand. Or it might be a visit with an old friend. Have you ever looked at the personality of your digital campaign?

All brands and their agencies design campaigns with best intentions. Sometimes they succeed. Often they fail and end up where they never wanted to go. I’ve been part of those and I’m not proud of my personal train wrecks. Advertising intends to motivate behavior change. Can you be motivated by an unlikeable person to change behavior? Shouldn’t we all try to be more likeable to customers?

Well, let me introduce you to a few of these people brands create every day.

The cheesy salesman

His perfume is cheap and strong, his clothes outdated and loud, and his pitch is annoying and even louder. Whenever you see him, you try to run away as fast as you can. He tries to sell and upsell anything, as long he profits from it: He doesn’t care.

That’s the digital campaign with huge “Buy” or “Click” buttons, takeovers, pop-unders, scams to make you”like” the brand: Any trick in the book is good to make you buy. Or at least to make you show some interest. That’s the least you can do to keep the cheesy salesman employed.

The creepy guy

You meet him at a party, have a brief chat with him and he believes you want to get married to him. Wherever you go, he’s there: At the gym, at work, in your home. He continues to ask the same question: “Why don’t we close the deal?” He’s the guy that makes you feel uncomfortable, a Big Brother always watching. If you could, you would punch him in the face but he might take that as a sign that you want to close the deal.

As a digital campaign, these are the re-targeting slaves. Yes, I showed interest in your airline 1 week ago but that doesn’t mean you need to remind me on every page I visit, thanks to your massive ad network/retargeting buy. A friend might have sent me a link to your offer, I checked it out and didn’t care. Make me care even less by retargeting me 5,012 times. Maybe it works at the 5,013th impression. Who knows?

Paris Hilton

Ok, she looks good. But, ask her what time it is and she needs an assistant because her brain is permanently turned off. Ask her to do anything and she’ll answer with a frozen smile. She’s stupid, she can’t do anything, the world adored her at one point. Oh, did I mention she’s pretty?

As a digital marketing campaign, that’s the flashturbation campaign. So much Rich Media, you can pay the global debt with it. Too bad it doesn’t work on all devices, crashes your computer and serves no conversion purpose. Oh, did I mention it looks pretty?

The cheerleader

Who doesn’t love cheerleaders? Your team sucks, no one in the stands, it’s raining, they ran out of beer and the cheerleader is still smiling, yelling: Go team. They don’t understand why you don’t like their team, why you don’t share the same level of enthusiasm. No matter, in their mind the own team will always be the best. Even though they haven’t won a game in 10 years.

As a digital campaign, this is the campaign that doesn’t get why you wouldn’t “like” their Facebook page even though there’s no reason for you to like it. No value proposition. Why wouldn’t you follow a Twitter stream brimming with promotional messages? Why do you need motivation to change your behavior? Isn’t our presence  motivation enough?

The cheapskate

He’s the guy occupying the parking lot of Best Buy the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. He’s the guy that occupies the coffee shop for hours with an order of a miniature coffee. He’s the guy sitting next to toilet, the guy that gets the worst seat in the bar. He doesn’t care. As long as it’s cheap, he’s happy.

The digital campaign you don’t see. Cheap inventory equals invisibility. Banner ads below the fold on sites you don’t dare visiting because they look like malware-infested 1990 designs. The cheapskate loves the cheesy sales guy on the publisher site. It’s a mutual feeling: the sales guy sells garbage and the cheapskate sifts through it, filled with happiness.

Screen shot 2011-12-04 at 3.07.47 PM

I get this junk every day. ( I spared you the enlargement ads. I hope you don’t mind.) While I ignore this junk and all the dying people that send me millions of dollar, I think it represents fairly well what many clients expect from their agencies.

Brainwashing and hard-core selling.

Now, when you ask clients, they will talk about ’emotional selling” and “branding experience”. But when procurement knocks on the door and the sales spread sheets show a lot of red, they want the sell: benefits, discounts, knock down the competition, buy now.

Don’t get me wrong: Advertising should be about sales. Period. Good advertising motivates people, encourages them to take action and take out their wallet. But it doesn’t put a gun to their head, screaming: “Hurry. Try now.” Good advertising is not a bully. Good advertising is a charming servant.

Everybody is selfish.

We all want things that are in our best interest. Good advertising connects the emotional desires/needs of people with the commercial desire/needs of brands. It shouldn’t be that hard to understand but more and more brands are pushing into the bullying mode, trying to force people to action.





Oh, ok. Since breasts are the important assets of a woman, once she enlarges them, her life will be like a dream. Happiness all around. Joy to the world. Take some pills and you’ll be happy.

Oh, ok. Who believes that garbage?

I’m sure this product doesn’t work but I know for sure the advertising achieves the opposite what the brand wants to happen.

You can’t force people to react. People will turn away. Run away.

Clients usually ask for the hard sell, the in-your-solution because they are afraid to risk anything. In reality, they’re risking everything by cramming 3 product benefits in one banner ad.


15 years ago I was the digital expert in a traditional agency. Every time someone introduced me as such, a little piece of me died. I studied marketing communications, worked as a Creative Director for traditional media and still everybody pigeon holed me at one point as the digital dude.

The problem with being an expert is that it implies that a certain field can be serviced by one person. I was the digital dude when digital marketers had no seat at the table. Being a Social Media expert relegates you to the back room, to the place where no real decisions are made. As we know, digital marketing can’t be done by one person. The same is true for social. When it was early in the game, one person could service one or two platforms. In the future, social media will become everyone’s job and will be part of everybody’s job description. One way or another.

It’s not about social. It’s about business.

And it’s about getting serious. The objective is not to join the conversation anymore. The objective is to communicate with specific audiences to drive measurable business value. That audience might be on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or some niche platform but using those are just tactics not a strategy.

Nobody should be talking about social media strategies anymore. Instead, you need to talk about strategies that solve problems, based on an open culture with a focus on collaboration.

We have to stop talking about Social Media

We just have to integrate social into everything we do. Social is now as pervasive as digital. Let’s utilize to solve problems and move on.


Is it going to location-based marketing? Hyper-local marketing? Google+? Facebook’s timeline? Twitter ads? Social Search? What about the convergence of mobile and social? Touchscreen computing?

Clients ask me that question all the time and my answer remains the same:

Nobody knows what the next big thing is going to be. Nobody. More importantly, you shouldn’t be concerned about it. We haven’t even figured out the basics of digital marketing yet.

Let’s be frank here: The only working tactic working in the digital space is SEM. Measurable, scalable and tied back to your basic ROI. Once you leave the SEM area, digital marketers continue to work in the Wild West. We still haven’t worked out how to engage with customer through display advertising. Instead, we try to try work the attribution and measurement game:

“The metrics are all wrong.”

“It’s not about the last click.”

All true but it doesn’t instill any confidence in our clients when we sell our arsenal of digital tools with a major asterisk attached to them.

We need to fix digital marketing from scratch.

SEM/SEO? Check

Display advertising? Clearly, we need to start from scratch. We have optimized the delivery of ad units to customers but the creative side of the equation continues to be abysmal. The declining click-through rates are proof of that.

Social Media? Most companies have still not understood the power of Social Media. 95% of marketing efforts on social platforms continue to be megaphone-style, mass marketing efforts. Cutting down the power of Social Marketing to almost nothing.

Location-based marketing? Coupons are nice but they are not the be-all and end-all of location-based marketing strategies. By focusing on pure coupon play, you’re missing out in great opportunities.

The next big thing is already there.

Actually, there are many next big things. You’re just not using them properly yet. You’re not innovating enough using all these new platforms.

The majority of brands act like little children riding a bike on training wheels. After a few minutes, they get off the bike and ask: “When can I drive a car?”

Let’s try to ride the bike properly first.


I had coffee with the Creative Director of a prestigious agency. He just switched from digital to traditional, shooting TV commercials. He shared his newest commercial, a very creative work of art, destined to win awards. I asked him about his experience in the traditional advertising world: “I love it. Nobody nickels and dimes you to death. I used to have to fight for every penny in the digital agency, nobody questions budgets in the traditional world.”

While the digital media world is busy to get more efficient and cheaper, TV is celebrating a double digit increase in spending. TV commercial crews are busy re-shooting small parts of a commercial for $100k or so while digital folks spend sleepless sites for $20k with a profit margin of $0.02. And when you watch TV in the evening, you look longingly at the amazing production value of commercials while some crappy display ads hurt your eyes.

Don’t blame TV. Blame yourself.

Our approach to marketing and communicating the digital web was wrong right from the start: Cheaper. More efficient. Measurable.

We appealed to the left brain, to the penny pincher mindset. We’re not as sexy as TV but we are so much more cheaper. Our banner ad pales compared to a commercial but it’s so much more efficient. Nobody really sees banner ads but we can target your second cousin in Des Moines. Remember when people said “Social Media is for free?” Free never communicates value. (And it was never free, was it?)

Isn’t it fascinating?

The digital revolution has started to transform whole industries (ask music labels) and it’s already transforming how we connect with the world, changed our daily habits, the way we think. And, we’re just at the beginning of this revolution. Whole industries will disappear, replaced by innovative services and products. At the same time, the digital marketing world feels like a torn Valpak with discolored flyers full of misspellings.

We need to bring digital sexy back.

As infographics have shown us, data can be sexy. We need to communicate the sexiness of our insights better to our clients and internally. We have to focus more on value of digital communication and less on the cost-cutting promise. We need to give Creative Directors the freedom to produce more than just 300×250 ads and landing pages with a budget less than the catering for a one-day TV shoot. We have to focus on the long-term future of digital marketing and not the incremental changes of a DSP or Behavioral Targeting. We have to get excited again about the revolutionary changes we’re experiencing, the transformative nature of the digital lifestyle.

We need more passion in this space. Or we’ll never feel the love.