While the creative and data-driven camps remain disconnected, marketers must deal with yet another reality.
The Internet Advertising Bureau is establishing an ad lab - a place for digital marketing and media professionals to collaborate. It's a smart move.
Interactive marketers still largely fall into two camps: those dedicated to data-driven approaches for reaching audiences and those working on creative campaigns that emphasize brand building.
To its credit, the IAB's annual leadership meeting this week delved into both worlds:
Advancing creativity: Under its Rising Stars initiative, the IAB introduced six new ad units that are designed to appeal to brand advertisers. "Before, the formats were sizes [based] on two dimensions: width and height. As rich media has become more important over time, we looked at how we could create a broader canvas for creativity to be unleashed," IAB CMO David Doty said in an interview before the conference.
Protecting ad tech innovation: By adopting a code of conduct, the IAB is trying to avoid having government regulation kill off data-driven advertising initiatives, including behavioral targeting. "Data is literally the fuel of our digital economy. It's that important," said BlueKai CEO Omar Tawakol, a supporter of the IAB's code. And Microsoft's Rik van der Kooi pointed out that giving consumers control over data collected about website behaviors could be good for business. Consumers might even share more information with brands that earn trust. "I see an economic opportunity to create more value for the whole ecosystem," he said.
Despite the IAB's best efforts, most discussions about advertising creative and data-driven approaches occurred in silos. The left brains and right brains are still not talking the same language.
While that challenge plays out, marketers are dealing with yet another reality: the growing importance of "engagement" in marketing thanks to the popularity of social platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.
Engagement: Marketing's New Currency
A longtime digital ad agency executive said marketers and publishers must change their mindset - and approaches.
"The fundamental underpinning of online advertising, the impression, is in trouble," said Deep Focus CEO Ian Schafer. "We'll soon find that connections…connections between consumers, brands and consumers…that is where the value will be."
Brands and publishers must determine the value of connections, such as "likes" on Facebook or conversations in a community forum. "Effectively define and measure engagement or be left behind," he warned.
Coca-Cola: Impressions vs. Expressions
Coca-Cola SVP Wendy Clark, also speaking at the IAB conference, elaborated on the role of engagement - and what it means for brands.
She defined "impressions" as a metric that serves as the backbone of measurement, but it's a passive metric. "Expressions," she said, represent engagement. "Someone takes time to look at content, upload content, engage in a dialogue," she said.
She pointed to the number of times YouTube videos featuring Coca-Cola are viewed. Out of 146 million views of those videos, 26 million views, or "impressions," involved videos created by Coca-Cola. The other 120 million views, or "expressions," involved videos created by consumers.
What's more, Clark said she also puts a lot more value on a "share" than a "like."
"Share by definition has a level of engagement," she said, adding that Coca-Cola has 23 million Facebook fans. And those people are connected to another 585 million Facebook fans. "For a business that has 1.2 billion servings a day, that gets very interesting," she said. Based on current growth rates, Coca-Cola expects to have as many as 60 million fans by the year's end.
"Who's driving the dialogue? It's not us. We have to participate, but the days of controlling the message are absolutely over," she said.
Not convinced? Look no further than this video by Jess Paul, a 20-year-old who runs Wrecked Radio, a YouTube music/news channel.
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Anna Maria Virzi, ClickZ's executive editor from 2007 until 2012, covered Internet business and technology since 1996. She was on the launch team for Ziff Davis Media's Baseline and also worked at Forbes.com, Web Week, Internet World, and the Connecticut Post.
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