Monday, February 27, 2012

Branding and Digital: Part 3

+Part 3: The battle between digital and traditional

 Digital and traditional each held their own ground for a few years. Traditional was the lead dog, and digital was just there to translate (read: resize) the creative and ideas from TV and print into acceptable formats for the web. Digital was seen as the extension of something like direct mail, not broadcast. In some ways, this is a correct view, and in others, it's just wrong.

But, then, something started happening. Brands started to put more money into digital.
This meant that the websites and online experiences were given more credit as a real channel and it began to see more leeway in creative freedom. At least a little bit.

But traditional wasn't too keen on this.

People started seeing that the campaigns were happening in silos. Was there a connection to the way in which the campaign lived as a 30-second spot vs. a mircosite? Was that OK? Did it degrade the brand? The campaign? The message?

As brands started to reach out to digital only shops to do their interactive work, traditional agencies saw money that they thought was theirs going away. So many added in digital to their offerings to provide a full-service experience for their clients. In some cases, this worked. In others, brands still went to find other agency partners. Today, many brands have different agencies handling their different channels, including broadcast, print, POP, PR, promotions, digital and much more.
What that has lead to is increased competition between the different agencies.

Because the traditional folks have owned the branding side of the business for so long, clients are accustomed to going to those partners first to get the big idea. But sadly, this shouldn't always be the case anymore. Great creative minds have transitioned from the traditional to digital side and have the same grasp and understanding of branding and campaigns as their analog counterparts. The computer programmers and analysts began to be more balanced by the creative types moving into the digital space. And with them, they brought their background of branding and way of thinking.

Today, everyone in the business wants a piece of the digital cake, as it were.

Earlier last year, the folks at Forrester published an article titled The Interactive Brand Ecosystem. It recommends putting digital at the center of things, vs. TV, like in the good old days. Here's a snippet from the blog post about the article:
But the conditions that made TV the de facto heart of our brand messaging no longer exist. Today, interactive marketing is ready to lead your brand campaigns, for four key reasons:
The Internet has the scale to match any other channel. Eighty-three percent of American adults are now online (compared with 96% who watch TV), and online users spend marginally more time online each week than they spend watching TV. In total, I estimate that for every hour the average American spent watching TV in 2010, they spent about .9 hours online. I expect that when we get our 2011 survey data back, the channels will be neck-and-neck. The Internet has the depth to beat any other channel. Marketers no longer have to limit themselves to the quick brand impressions made by TV spots or billboards; their websites offer them all the depth they need to convey complex brand attributes and engage users. And consumers actually want brands to offer them this depth online—it’s why so many users go straight to Google to learn more about the brands they see advertised offline, and why the Internet is consumers’ most trusted source of brand and product information.
The Internet is more trusted than any other channel. What’s the marketing channel customers trust most? It’s not your TV ads, your print ads, your direct mail or even your Facebook page—it’s your own web site.
The Internet is a richer storytelling medium than any other channel. I love TV’s ability to tell a story—it’s the reason we still remember classic ads and taglines, and the reason I’ve dedicated much of my career to developing online video ad formats. But online goes a step further than TV, adding interactivity to the picture and offering marketers their single most compelling creative channel.
What you get with digital is the ability to meld different media types into one larger story. It's one of the things that I personally really like about it. But rarely is it used in that format (whether it's due to budget, agency fragmentation, or whatever). Digital now has the chops to take the lead and be the cornerstone of campaigns, instead of the ugly stepchild sitting in the corner with the dunce cap on.

I'm curious to see where all of this nets out in the next couple years. Brands are still trying to work it out with their agencies. Some clients want them all to play nice while behind the curtain the agencies are each vying for control.

Go back and read Branding and Digital: Part 1 and Part 2.

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