Russell Parsons: You’re not over-investing in digital, as long as there’s a strategy to achieve returns

Are brands regretting devoting too much marketing budget to digital channels, as Sir Martin Sorrell suggests? That depends on whether they’re investing strategically to achieve objectives or tactically to follow the crowd.

Russell Parsons

Not a week goes by at the moment where digital marketing isn’t getting a kicking. Last week, perhaps the highest-profile boot was put in. Delivering his quarterly state of the marketing nation address around WPP’s results, CEO Sir Martin Sorrell pointed to the swell of questions over ad fraud and viewability, as well as Procter & Gamble’s recent admission that it was pulling back on micro-targeting on Facebook, as evidence brands are starting to question whether they have over-invested in digital channels.

Coming from such a high-profile figure that oversees agencies wedded to digital, it could be read as a damning indictment of digital’s future. It need not be. Digital media is integral to all campaigns and to the future of traditional media, as well as being a means to boost engagement at point of sale (as seen this week with Malibu’s ‘connected bottles’ launch). Growth in pure-play digital might be tempered but only because as a stand-alone measure of popularity it is increasingly irrelevant in an age where everything is digital.

This week, we ask the question “Are brands over-investing in digital?” “Not necessarily” is my slightly fence-sitting take.

Our columnist Mark Ritson has said it is misguided to ring fence digital when all media has at least some digital element, but moreover, he has argued the ‘tactification’ of marketing means brands are pouring money into digital channels that deliver award-winning, tech-driven creative without asking whether this is meeting strategic objectives.

This is the question P&G is now asking; it is the question Sorrell says procurement and finance departments are asking. The efficiency of digital is not in question, but its effectiveness is beginning to be, and that is because marketers haven’t always asked the basic question: ‘Is spending my money on this channel the right thing to do?’

The most cogent analysis I have read on this recently came from what might be thought of as an unlikely source, the CMO of YouTube Danielle Tiedt, who argued that a successful media strategy is about knowing and not assuming customer behaviour. If they are listening to radio, noting outdoor ads or watching TV, this is where you reach them, she argued. Digital or not, this should be a starting point for all marketers.

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  • Datvan 18 Mar 2017 at 5:29 am

    I’ve been using Messenger Bulksender to reach my Facebook audience privately and meet them up face to face.

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