Accelerating effect of technology is real

Back in the late 1990s, people talked a lot about ’internet time’. The idea was that, just as one dog year is supposedly equivalent to seven human years, time passed more quickly in the online world.

Like the dotcom boom’s ubiquitous put-down about people ’not getting it’, internet time was at least partly self-aggrandisement on behalf of internet industry insiders, and rapidly fell into disuse when the bubble burst in 2001. But what is striking about the contents of this edition of Marketing Week’s Digital Strategy supplement is the frequent appearance of the idea of business being accelerated by technology.

The most obvious example is in our feature on real-time bidding. Put simply, this brings the auction process familiar from search to online display advertising, but the crucial aspect is that the auction that determines which ad is displayed to the person visiting the site is carried out in real time. Likewise, one of the two key aspects of the appeal of location-based services such as Facebook Places is that they allow users to alert their networks about where they are in real time.

What is striking about the this Digital Strategy supplement is the frequent appearance of the idea of business being accelerated by technology

Other areas are also feeling the accelerating effect of technology. Marketers traditionally relied on reports delivered either monthly or at the end of a campaign. But in our Strategic Play feature on the WWF, the charity’s head of online, Adrian Cockle, talks about the value of constantly optimising its website, a process that has enabled the WWF to double its conversion rate between August 2009 and August 2010. And in his Viewpoint piece, Efficient Frontier’s client services director, Jonathan Beeston, talks about the endgame of attribution being a toolkit that allows marketers to understand the effects of all their tactical activity, and to optimise them in real time.

This acceleration is linked to another aspect of interactive marketing, that of media glut. In the pre-internet days, media was a scarce and expensive commodity. No one could afford to buy a lot of advertising space, so marketing communications happened in short bursts. Now we live in a time of massive oversupply of media, so the idea underpinning the advertising campaign has disappeared. At the same time, social media has made it apparent to marketers that their customers want to hear from brands when it suits them, not the brand. In the social gaming feature on page 61, Adam Yates of Wild Tangent talks about the importance of brands tying their use of social games into a continuing conversation with their customers.

The end result of combining real-time technology with a conversational mentality can be seen in the way Matthew Turner, BSkyB’s head of online marketing and sales, can now talk about display advertising as an ’always on’ channel. Real-time bidding has reduced the cost of media while enabling an unprecedented level of targeting and relevance. Modern marketing now exists at the point where those two trends meet.

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