Too Rich, Too Fast?

As marketers scramble to stay in lockstep with the dynamic shifts of their tech-enabled audiences, they strongly consider non-mass-market versions of their advertising plans. Until recently, few marketers went all the way with interactive in marketing planning.

We’ve been dabbling in rich media, streaming video, and other forms of interactive design. It’s all very exciting; each day there are more new ways to package an offer, brand, or message with interactivity, sometimes too many. Yet as online innovation marches forward, we’re still waiting for some clients to jump in.

Human tendency is to invent something, tell people about it, and move on. Applying what we create is much harder. It’s one reason we have interactive agencies; they take an idea or innovation and apply it to a client’s needs. Creators and imitators keep this medium moving, but we’re still dragging clients into it one project at a time. At this critical point in the industry, that’s just not the best way to prepare for growth.

Why do things move so slowly? Why do marketers inherently look over their shoulders when it comes to online? It’s getting old. We need a true commitment of not only dollars but of long-term online planning as well. In years, not in quarters.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dreaming about Champagne-slurped-from-slippers spending. I’m talking about strategies that look far forward and make some risky, but calculated, assumptions about how people will adapt and behave in the face of technology’s leveling force.

We know it won’t really happen that way. We’re more likely to see video and other forms of rich media used online as a stopgap. First, we’ll see a glut of video on the Web. Just look at the cost, production, and delivery methods for putting video online. It’s a lot cheaper and quicker than waiting for Flash banners to be trafficked. But Flash won’t be far behind. Flash 8 has feature improvements that will shorten the curve for most production timelines.

Internet technologies such as Flash are making great strides in satiating interactive shops’ production needs and traditional advertisers’ need for video-quality control. But what happened to the unique creative idea? And what happened to the user?

No, we haven’t abandoned all that lovely stuff for the sake of technology advancements. Quite the contrary, as technology is a partner in the creative process. Yet like all the other contributors, it can’t be the single solution.

How can we accommodate the mix of ideas, technology, and user benefit into a model that follows users’ patterns and leverages the best rich interactive ideas without looking like a portfolio-fest?

The creative big idea should be primarily shouldered by the traditional agency. Online interpretation and delivery should be produced by the interactive shop. Not ideal, but these things take time. In the past year, we’ve seen what a mix of the two entities has produced, and I’m glad to say it’s only the beginning.

Marketers comfortable with traditional ad and marketing forms must get a lot less comfortable to survive in this new, consumer-driven marketing world. Being too hasty to do something cool on the Internet will likely produce more mistakes than successes.

Adopting a major chunk of online into a marketing plan isn’t a big mistake. And planning to make the right mistakes with your online plan can inform your long-term marketing mix. Let’s hope the mad rush to throw money at online will be short lived and cooler heads will prevail.

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