2003: The Year in Review

This my last column of the year. I’ll reflect on some of my 2003 musings and see if they’re still relevant as we move into 2004.

In March, I wrote about the expanded purview of e-marketing professionals in “Digital Media: It’s Not Just the Internet Anymore.” Though the Internet is still clearly the center-of-the-plate offering as it relates to interactive services, our world has evolved into understanding all things digital, including iTV, wireless, gaming, and the Internet.

This trend is certainly still true today. We see non-Internet based discussions popping up at all the major trade shows and industry gatherings. 2004 will be the year of iTV, and although wireless may still need some time to mature as a true marketing player, the gaming industry also looks poised to continue its meteoric growth.

I began April on a soapbox, discussing our collective inability to resolve the definition and standardization of an ad impression as well as creative inefficiencies still inherent in the business (“Enough Is Enough!“). We’ve made significant strides in both of these areas during the back half of the year. We’re well on our way to making this business “legit” (“One Step Forward, One Step Back“).

April was rounded out with a discussion on streaming video and some concrete steps to make digital marketing easier (the process, compensation, publisher harmony, etc.). Looking ahead to 2004, we can safely say streaming video will become a significant player in the digital marketing space. Not only is broadband enabling the proliferation of streaming content, but we have seen several of our clients use streaming ads to great efficacy, in both the brand and direct response space.

I saw a great deal of passion in the industry in May and June, with all of your email reactions to “The Perfect Storm: Marketing to Youth” and “Creating the Agency of the Future.” The storm is still brewing, and the stars continue to align in our favor (as we head into the 2004 TV upfront market). The number of questions our clients ask leads us to believe there’s hope for changing the system. Ratings instability, the rise of PVRs and ad skippage, broadband proliferation, and CPM increases just aren’t going to cut it anymore. If we don’t see substantive changes in next year’s upfront, I propose we all pack it up and go home.

In July, I wrote a two-part series on the tools in our toolbox, from ratings services to competitive intelligence. A tremendous amount of energy has been devoted to this topic in the past six months, and the press is giving substantial space to some of the underlying issues. Most refreshing is we’re starting to apply the same level of accountability to some of the traditional industry monoliths (read: Nielsen) as we have in the digital space from the very beginning. This will be a juicy topic that will continue to unfold in the coming months.

Through the dog days of summer and into the fall, we looked at what it means to live in a digital world (especially in light of the Northeast blackout), demographic targeting, and traditional media cannibalization.

October was full of excitement with a trip to Korea, captured in “Postcard from Korea.” That trip was fascinating, especially looking at the digital development of the Korean tech infrastructure and culture. We can learn a lot from our brethren around the world, particularly about market segments in which they are substantially more advanced than us (e.g., wireless marketing).

The year drew to an end with some discourse on the 800-pound gorilla lurking in the minds of all media and marketing professionals today: traditional advertising skippage, accelerated by technology. In 2004, this will remain a nascent area, but it’s one we need to learn more about. Time-shifting will happen for the masses. When it does, we must be adequately prepared.

I want to wish everyone a happy and healthy holiday season. By all accounts, 2004 is going to be a watershed year in our industry. Let’s make it count.

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