David Armano at Dachis (still in stealthy mode with ex-Forrester analyst Peter Kim) and the author of the Logic & Emotion blog coined a winner when he describes stuff like web banners and paid search as “tradigital” tactics. Brilliant. Close to two decades of digital marketing, the banner ad is nearly 15 years old, and now it is time to segregate the traditional from the new. I was in a pitch from a major business site last week and found myself citing “tradigital” tactics – not scoffing at them, since they still have a big place in demand generation for ecommerce – but grasping at the next big thing in digital marketing, which I suppose some marketing futurists are going to label “social commerce.”
Tradigital hit a saturation point of sorts in 2007-2008 – especially in bare-knuckles segments such as commodity paid-search on generic keywords like “digital camera” and “cheap laptop” where the battle to recruit traffic is fierce. Click-through yields always head south over time in a tactic, never up; and after a few years search campaigns have started to show diminishing returns as more cash is stuffed into keyword arbitrage but less of the traffic converts, driving expense-to-revenue ratios lower. Blended tradigital and the rise of new metric and analytics approaches has given a new life to old tactics – retargeting/remarketing, look-alike modeling, behavioral techniques, follow-along, campaign stacking … it’s awesome to watch tradigital get revived by analytic ninjas.
Given that the only successful path in digital is perpetual beta, innovation-seeking is a core component of a digital marketers’ job description these days, with the race to get into a new tactic, master it, and add it to the arsenal driven by the inevitable fade-away of the tried and true. Has any digital ad unit held its own over time? I’d argue that email/spam will always have legs – why else does it continue to appear in nearly every marketing plan? – and display advertising is a “buttress” tactic that, run in context with keyword buys, will help the search terms convert a bit better than they would in the absence of banners. There are tradigital extensions that try to teach old dogs new tricks, such as Tumri multivariate ads and some of the intrusive page takeover units that live on like bad boomerangs.
The next wave of digital – the things I am keeping an eye on – include:
So how do publishers get in front of the next wave? It’s time for an utterly huge rethinking of the advertiser/reader relationship. Publishers have to get out of CPM and microsite mode, move upstream, and start enabling brands. Publishers should be building media, not landing pages, for a brand. What Federated Media did with American Express for Amex’s Open Forum site for small businesses is brilliant. This is publishing as an annuity – a model that will pay out for years to come.
David Churbuck is vice president of global digital marketing Lenovo. In a previous life, he was the founding editor of Forbes.com. He also writes Churbuck.com, a blog offering commentary on media, technology, marketing and clamming strategies from Cape Cod. This column is adapted from one of David’s blog posts, with his permission, of course.