2004: The Year Digital Media Rebounded

When we look back on the evolution of interactive marketing, we’ll view 2004 as the year digital media bounded back into the mainstream. Our brief history has witnessed hockey-stick growth and an equally precipitous fall from grace. Now, we’ve had a year or two of significantly steady growth, fueled by search, broadband, and a variety of rich media technologies.

Let’s take a quick look at some of what I postulated this year to see if the issues are still relevant and if they promise to remain hot in 2005.

This year, I started off describing the dynamics between buyers and sellers in the interactive industry. Although it may be a little overly optimistic to say, we’ve made some significant progress in this area during the year. Sure, I still hear sales people whining about the lack of time given for request for proposals (RFPs), the lack of clear direction given from agencies, and the lack of adequate feedback after a plan has been submitted (I think that will happen until the end of time). On the whole, though, people have moved into a “just get it done” mindset. We don’t have the time to whine anymore, we’re simply too busy!

During the first quarter, I looked at the proliferation of digital media options outside the Internet, including interactive TV, gaming, wireless, and the “digital outernet” with “The ‘On-Demandification’ of Popular Culture,” “Planning for What Matters Now,” and “Metadata: Our Savior.” There couldn’t be a more meaningful trend to keep our eyes on as we enter 2005. It will take two to three years before video on demand, DVRs, and addressable advertising become meaningfully mainstream, but many marketers will dip a toe into other digital media options in 2005. There’s simply too much to lose with a TV investment to stand by and watch as their audiences erode.

In March, I looked at the jockeying and positioning taking place prior to the annual television upfront. Many of us on the sidelines hoped marketers would finally put their money where their mouths are and refuse price increases as audience declines. Instead, the upfront defied all logic. It was one of the strongest in recent years. There aren’t many businesses that can continue to charge more money for less product, so I tip my hat to the network sales community. However, I think the gig may soon be up. It’ll be fascinating to see what happens around the upfront next year. I predict at least one major national advertiser will pull out of the upfront completely, which will send a strong message to the network community.

In June, I looked at “The State of Interactive Research” and concluded many areas need work if we’re going to build a credible research infrastructure for this industry. Sad to say, many of the issues raised six months ago remain with us today. Though we’ve had meeting upon meeting to discuss the issues, we aren’t much closer to resolution. Uniform naming conventions, impression standardization and certification, syndicated panel data approximating server data, and accurate reach and frequency measurement remain works in progress. Let’s hope some of these issues are tackled and resolved in 2005. It’s a little embarrassing a $10 billion industry can’t get some of the basics right. Shame on us.

On a more positive note, we rounded out the year with “Broadband in Our Pockets“, “The Future of Media, MIT-Style,” “A Gold Medal in Convergence,” and “Digital Media: To Compliment or Complement Traditional Media?” — to name a few. Undoubtedly, we’re doing many things right in the interactive media space. The future looks equally promising with whole new forms of communications not far off. We must remain focused and conscious of past mistakes and not repeat them. As we learned the hard way, we’re running a marathon, not a sprint. We’re poised to be significant change agents in the years ahead.

I want to wish each and every one of you a happy holiday season, and a happy new year. 2005 is going to be an awesome year. I look forward to sharing it with you.

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