I have been drifting the last few months and my blog posts show! One of the things I drifted into was a small commission to manage a digital marketing effort at a startup social gaming/entertainment network based out and targeting south east asia pacific rim markets.
Digital Marketing today is a fairly evolved and complex set of activities in the visually connected and engaged space of the consumer’s mind. At one level it is simple Internet banner ads, networked digital signage but at another it is also complex socially networked media, people focus, crowd engagement, the collective user experience, blogospheres, sharing. At all levels it is pure and simple advertising, subtly or not you are trying to drive a message through and cause action; make people buy as it were. In the digital world – it is about increasing your “like” counts. Somehow like it or not – our lives and as are companies / organizations also – are being defined by the lingua franca of social networks like Facebook, Friendster, MySpace and many others before that.
A key point in the development of the digital advertising space was the design and implementation of search engine term monetization by Google – very simply put AdWords and the entire bidding related marketplace that it has spawned. Acquisition meant control over Doubleclick – a pioneer ad serving company in 2007 and before long the empire also had interest in mobile ad serving with Android and AdMob – another well-timed acquisition in 2009. For advertisers it meant a sort of implied granular control of their ad money spend. I insist “implied” because after one level – it all becomes blind and you really do not know what is going on. Some others have also opined against it and here is one.
Advertising the mainstream variety has always been inherently a “dark art”. A famous quote I recall was that “…half of my ad budget is wasted – I just don’t know which half…” You made a good ad, you bowed to creative urges and flashes and then you spend on media – a lot like shooting many arrows and hoping some of them stick. Internet advertising in the olden days was a lot like that – you had banner ads and you hoped some of them got seen. Then they did pop ups and pop unders and things got crazy for a while and standards got set up. A little bit of the relevance of this type of advertising sank with the development of ad blockers. Before long banner ads that ran java were also proving to be an effective malaware vector to infect using drive by downloads.
At a time like this search engine keyword/term advertising that Google brought in set the industry standard. Advertisers were intrigued and the prospect of granular payments for the number of clicks and clicks throughs set the mind of the marketer afire. Today about 20% of all advertising budget is thought to be going into internet advertising. and some estimates say that soon it will be 50% and one forecast has it that it will outstrip print advertising by 2015. Google’s system was imitated by the rest and anyone that has a search engine today monetizes it thus, including Bing – the other search engine. The system works pretty simply – you quote a price – a “bid” as it were for a set of keywords that best suit your product or service and that the average user would use to search for things related to your product and service. Every time that word, search term was used and your bid was not lower than everyone else’s your ad would be shown next to the search results. Google will help you with a keyword generator, a suggested bid that is an approximation of the bids and well you need a script that is ideally 100 odd characters. You can also use the search terms generated to advertise on internet banner ads on desktops and mobile devices inside apps, on the web through a browser. The advertiser gets charged every time some one clicks through one of the ads.
Like traditional advertising however – the guy with the most money is usually the one whose message gets out better and louder. The brands that are deemed the most social inevitably are also the brands that have the largest ad spends in the “offline”, traditional advertising space. Things get different when you realize that it is a self service “platform” – you log in to a web site which gives you a fairly complicated but tightly laid out options and mechanisms for your ad. There is telephonic support and you dial a toll free number to talk to someone who can guide you through the process and help you spend. There are of course agencies that will help you do this and increasingly they are traditional advertising agencies that develop a separate department or perhaps acquire some hot startup. But the beauty is the egalitarian nature, anyone with a credit card can advertise. This has specifically appealed to the small and medium business cluster and has unlocked advertising dollars that were not being spent.
This in a way is the early stage of internet advertising age, which itself cannot yet be called a long phenomenon. This is the stage before social came in to the picture and this is when one web site built an audience in the 100s of millions that soon become a billion. The good news was the audience gave the web site their personal details, location, preferences; you name it – a deep insight as it were into who the users were and well what they were doing. Facebook was suddenly the wonder child of the new internet generation with a young founder CEO and a dashing style built on openness and a Hollywood credo. When they finally rolled their advertising mechanisms out they offered unbelievably fine-tuned targeting of their user base without actually jeopardizing anonymity. On Google you advertised on Google’s and other people’s sites when you did banner ads or on Google’s or other people’s apps. The inventory of ad server space from the non Google Apps and Sites was more often than not sold between all the other ad server suppliers and there were quite a few there as even a survey and listing from 2010 will show here but on Facebook that inventory is all theirs. There are page posts, promoted posts, likes, installs, display on web site, on phone of android or iOS, everything they own, it is their ad inventory. It is also a bidding style self service engagement but there is a very deep level of granular segmentation possible that you can actually build a very strong motivated followers from the likes. Facebook also allows you a nice medium to show your wares through a Facebook Page – which is like a digital storefront at one level. The strength of the still new platform is that it can drive app installs at a well nigh unprecedented rate as has been seen.