Do marketers understand digital?

Over half of marketers lack confidence in digital ability, a recent study reported by Adobe concludes. To suggest that Adobe “would say this wouldn’t they”, runs counter-intuitive. Surely they want the world to believe that we are all worshippers at the digital alter. But in what looks like a professional survey of 1,000 marketers across the USA, the headlines are startling:

Only 48% of marketers feel proficient in digital marketing.

Few have any training, with 82% saying they learned the subject on the job.

Only 40% think their company’s marketing is effective.

And only nine percent strongly agree that their “digital marketing is working”.

Given that 41% of UK advertising is now digital, the highest proportion in the world, by some way (The Western European average is 25%) , somebody somewhere should be worried. Fortunately I’m not a shareholder in Toyota, Standard Life, P&G, Unilever et al.

No one doubts the incredible power of the internet to connect people.  But marketing, which is what most marketers do, is about a lot more than connection. It’s about engagement, persuasion, conversion and transaction.

Which is why companies such as Google, Microsoft, Dell, and others invest in display advertising in Newspapers and Television. Like Coke they know that the virtual world is a very good thing, but is hidden from the consumer’s horizon.

Within this situation lies a great opportunity for publishers, which is being reflected in the revenues of US publishers where growth in digital consulting and delivery services rose by over 90% in the last twelve months according to the NAA.

While I’ve never been sold on converged advertising sales, because it is important to realise that each medium serves a different purpose, it is the case that newspapers enjoy a strong respect from local traders, and can help traders overcome the concerns that are expressed above, by providing sophisticated solutions, that in particular local traders could not develop themselves. In addition the concept of a local network of local traders within one virtual mall, has enormous potential.

What is getting lost in all this digital hype (or not), is that marketing is a layered set of objectives, messages and channels. The marketing guru Philip Kotler defined the product at three levels: Its core proposition, the supporting benefits, and the ancillary elements such as distribution. One leading media buyer explained to me recently that his company now plans around sixteen different channels, each with a different objective. And each must reflect the overall brand concept, while demonstrating the (dreaded) ROI to the client. One of the attractions with digital is that is measurable, but one must ask (and this is part of the challenge being put up by the marketers) is that anything is measurable but are we measuring the right thing. Fantastic that 10% of users click through, but if the number of users is only 20% of those that could be reached through conventional means, does the math ad up?

I may be an old curmudgeon but it strikes me that too much of the advice that is going out to the marketers who confess to being out of there depth, is coming from a new generation of low grade media graduates, who can only talk digital speakish, but wouldn’t know what a newspaper is if it whacked them on the head, and whose only knowledge of TV is that it is something on which their parents watch Coronation Street.

I keep hearing people rejoicing that the UK has the most vibrant digital economy, but I can’t help wondering if this is reality or virtual reality.

Jim Chisholm has advised companies in 40 countries on their media strategy.;rel_id=2851


One thought on “Do marketers understand digital?

  1. Thanks Michael, the next phase should be fascinating. Murdoch has a habit of getting himself out of trouble. Do you think hsi situation is past any chance of redemption, or will he weasel his way out of this one, too, do you think?

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