It's officially summer time: The package delivery guys are wearing shorts, there are a lot more kids cruising around the mall, and no one is in the office on Friday afternoons. And digital advertising is going traveling.
Just like many of you, advertising will be traveling, leaving its normal confines to see if it can find some efficacy and returns in some new corners.
Here's a quick rundown of where you'll find digital advertising in the next three months and -- if things work out -- well beyond.
Let's Go: Outside!
An April news item announced that Long Beach, CA, has approved plans for six new digital billboards to be placed along roads and freeways. This is no small feat. Cities have a love/hate relationship with outdoor advertising. They appreciate the revenue generated from the signs but often feel they obscure views or upset a city's beauty. Plus, there's often a reluctance to engage in something specifically designed to distract people driving cars. Imagine their trepidation, therefore, at digital billboards, which are designed to be flashier and more attractive.
Billboard manufacturers and advertisers have been smart about what they create on the billboards, however. Little animation is used, and the boards tend to show the same content as their old-school ink-and-paper brethren. But that content can be keyed to change based on dozens of parameters: time, day, weather forecast, even news items. The bottom line is that digital advertising in the real world is becoming a reality, not just a novelty. Expect more cities to follow Long Beach's lead and put up more digital billboards.
Let's Go: On the Phone!
Mobile advertising has been around for a long time...as a concept. Certainly there have been some good executions and campaigns, but these tend to be elements connected to bigger campaigns, such as providing a short code on a print ad, directing consumers to get more information, or offering a coupon. There have been very few complete mobile advertising campaigns initially planned and performed on the cell phone. Mobile comes into the media play only at the tail end.
That's about to change, thanks to Google and Apple. Maria Mandel, executive director of digital innovation at Ogilvy Interactive, said of Apple's latest iPhone release: "What's going to start evolving is applications for more of a content device, rather than more of a communications device. It opens up applications for advertisers." That's right: Ogilvy, one of the original advertising agencies is talking about creating software.
From Google, there's the impending release of Android, an operating system for mobile devices. It's a bit tough to write about Android because it hasn't been released yet and has been shown only a few times (notably, a showoff of a cool version of Google Street View). The important thing here is that Android is an operating system designed for mobile phones and other devices from a company that has made a zillion dollars from enabling new advertising platforms. A mobile strategy no longer means sending text messages to unsuspecting consumers. It means providing some crazy new functionality, uniquely enabled by your brand.
Let's Go: To Video Games!
The Sony PlayStation is one of the most popular video game systems ever. It hasn't captured the buzz of the Wii, but it has been a consistent presence in and driver of the video game market for the past 14 years. And last week, Sony made a major announcement, creating a deal in which in-game network IGA will serve dynamic ads into PlayStation games.
This isn't the first announcement of a deal that will slide ads into games (in fact, there's every reason to believe that PlayStation will soon announce alliances with several other networks). But it further increases the ability and potential for working within video games. Specifically, the development of network alliances helps advertisers with two things: the community and its norms, as well as the ability to create reach.
The first is no small factor. The blogs are ablaze with Sony's announcement, seeing it as horseman number one of the gaming apocalypse. A real challenge with video game ads is advertising in a way that doesn't destroy the experience. The other is also significant, but from a back-end perspective. That is, advertisers can be efficient in the creation, trafficking, and measuring of advertising inside of this space.
Let's Go: To Events!
Event marketing has very quickly evolved in the last few years. A tactic that generally rested in the sales department -- where weary reps stood for hours in cavernous conference halls, handing out literature and T-shirts to all who passed -- has emerged as one of the prime ways for brands to connect directly with their customers. The definition of an "event" is really changing, and that's what has catalyzed this shift. That is, brands previously waited for someone to put on an "event." They would then show up at said event and do their thing.
Today, brands are cutting out the middleperson and putting on their own events. Sometimes it's a simple sampling in the street, sometimes it's a gathering of just their users. Whatever the case, getting out of the office and connecting with consumers is a big deal for many brands.
Digital advertising is a natural part of this. Great big chunks of the Internet are being dedicated to the technological promise of connecting people to one another. Capturing leads from events may be more along the lines of having people add your brand as a friend on MySpace than giving you their e-mail address. That means the relationships and connections generated at an event have a real opportunity to continue to live in an online, socially connected space.
Let's Go: Somewhere Else?
Quite a travelogue, huh? Someone once said that any content that can be digital will be digital, and that clearly applies to advertising. Are there other stops on the tour that you are expecting? Definitely send a postcard, I mean e-mail, when you get there.
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Gary Stein is SVP, strategy and planning in iCrossing's San Francisco office. He has been working in marketing for more than a decade. Gary lives in San Francisco with his family. Follow him on Twitter: @garyst3in. The opinions expressed in Gary's columns are his alone.
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