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The disruption to marketing in the digital world

The disruption to marketing in the digital world
Traditional media typically sits at the top of the funnel, driving awareness. So it’s a conversation starter, it’s an interest promoter, and it’s viewed typically as more of a blunt instrument in as much as you’re always going to get wastage. If I buy a billboard for a client trying to promote an MBA, since we’re talking about MBAs here, there’s going to be wastage - there’s going to be people coming through who are cleaning those offices, who are just coming through to visit their wife or husband for lunch, or people who are just travelling through and getting connecting trains - but we know largely our audience are there, so there’s still going to be a rationale for that site.
What it has the ability to do for a lot of the campaigns that we work on is, from the point of view of a potential customer, it just makes the campaign feel larger. It has a bigger market feel, makes it feel like there’s more of a buzz around a brand, a product, or a service, which is very difficult to replicate on those other channels. And it’s part of the reason why, yes, revenues have gone down for certain traditional media but they haven’t gone off a cliff. There’s still an awful lot of money being spent on TV - real-time, not necessarily video-on-demand, on billboard - traditional and digital formats, and airtime.
So obviously, from the point of view of marketers, it still plays a huge role and the proof is in the pudding as far as sales are concerned - people simply wouldn’t book them if they didn’t work. People still love TV. It is a big thing that is not really going away. What is happening though is it’s changing, and it is evolving, with new trends like video streaming - you have VOD that’s now been around for a little while. People’s consumption of it - that they’re wanting to have things on their phone, while they’re commuting, while they’re on holiday, even when they’re in the sky - you can now watch TV on some aeroplanes.
So we sit there and it can be very easy to think of ourselves and say, “yeah but I skip through TV ads”, and, “I only watch this online.” And that might be true but actually, at a macro level, there’s still enormous demand for channels like this, and it still is a really effective medium for actually driving brands and their sales. Radio is another one that, again, is still big and actually, has diversified a little bit. You look now and you have audio streaming platforms like Spotify, Pandora etc and now podcasts actually are a growing area as well. So things are changing their relationships.
You’ve got the DAX (Digital Audio Exchange), Bauer have got their own products, so there’s really good ways to get digital audio out there now. There’s whole networks you can buy through trading desks, and you can be served programmatically around audience behaviour, so you can buy your custom audience online, follow them around, serve them audio. Print has been a really interesting medium in that it’s never really recovered since the crisis and the financial credit crunch in 2008. And since around that time we’ve seen a decline in print sales that has been ongoing, and that has gone hand-in-hand with the rise and growth of digital and new devices, and how we interact with these different platforms.
What I do think, however, is that print is never going to go, it might just, again, change. We’re obviously seeing a lot of these publishers that are now moving online and becoming digital powerhouses in their own right. And it may also be that offline, actually you do get a shrinking of that, but you will then still have more niche publications, it will still be very relevant in B2B sectors, and actually trade press, and interactions like that. Where some of the traditional channels have done a really good job, is adapting to the digital world. So there’s much more in the way of digital panelling now, so a lot of the traditional paper and paste sites have come out.
And that’s wonderful for us as marketers, because we can say, “actually that site at Canary Wharf, there’s really strong rationale for it”, and they’ll say, “yeah but there’s loads of people coming through in the middle of the day, I don’t really want the weekend, nobody will be working there.” Fine, it’s digital so we’ll buy
the day part, I’ll buy a commuter segment - so I’ll only show it between, let’s say 06:00 and 09:30, and 16:30 to 19:30 - and then I’m capturing my commuter audience either side but I haven’t got that wastage in the middle. Also, the beauty of that and them adapting is it means we can do similar stuff that we’re used to doing on digital. If something happens that’s topical out there - we’re working with an airline and a plane tumbles out of the sky - take the ads down, or working with a pizza company who only want to serve ads at lunch, we’ll serve them then.
So we can switch out creatives, stop and start campaigns, buy day parts, all that kind of stuff. So I think, in a lot of instances it’s harder to ignore, if you buy the right sites for your audience. There’s a saying in our marketplace around ‘banner blindness’ - we get a little bit like, (sighing) “there’s another banner, alright”, it’s easy to ignore. And you only have to look at the industry click-through rate, it’s 0.1 or whatever for programmatic campaigns. I can serve three million impressions and I might be lucky to get circa three thousand clicks.
So that’s the reality of the market, so there is ‘banner blindness’ and I think a good audio campaign airtime, bought on a major station, a good national press campaign, or a good out-of-home campaign is harder to ignore, no doubt. You can circumnavigate ad blockers, which are big in the marketplace now, especially for some of the youth audiences we’re dealing with, so it’s a good way to reach out to those audiences who might be blocking you otherwise. Different channels have different roles to play, and different abilities in what they can achieve with people.
Cinema, for example, is a wonderful, fairly traditional medium you could say, that speaks to people in a very immersive way - people are so focused on that screen like pretty much no other screen nowadays, everyone’s on their phones and dual-screening. It’s an immersive experience, the lights are off, it’s a big screen, it’s Dolby mixed, it’s great quality, so I think that helps brands and advertisers bring something alive which, perhaps, is much harder on a very small banner, or a pop-up notification, or an MPU sat on a national press website or something like that. It just doesn’t compete, and it can’t.
So it uplifts the campaign, it makes it bigger to feel, it’s harder to ignore, but they’ve worked their socks off to make sure that they’re now fit for purpose in the digital world, so that you can now sync them up and make it feel integrated and interact with those other digital elements. As we are developing year-on-year, audiences and consumers are developing as well. Millennials are now getting on a bit - I’m one of them!
and we’ve talked about them as the ‘next wave’ of people for a long time, but actually we’re now looking at ‘Generation Z’, your digital natives, and actually people who, what’s traditional for them is social media, is mobile, is things that, for a long time, we’ve talked about as things to move into for brands, but are now requirements and standards. So not only are channels developing and diversifying, but actually the consumers are as well, so what we consider as traditional media I think will change very rapidly.
…the changing digital environment has potentially serious consequences for how marketing is practiced and for the marketing function as a subordinate domain of management.
(Quinn et al., 2016, p. 2125)
Indeed, technological evolution disrupts the traditional ways in which managers carry out marketing. Do we really understand the implication of these disruptions? What do they mean for our organisation? What do they mean for managers and entrepreneurs?
Watch the video in which Tom Dyer, head of strategy at Adgen, and Owen Lee, global digital strategy and partnerships director at OMD International, explain the impact of technological disruption on marketing and the transformation of marketing in the digital world.
You may wish to read the article by Lee Quinn et al. in the references section. It discusses how strategic target-market selection decisions are shaped, challenged and driven in response to the rapidly evolving technological landscape. It also evaluates the implications of these changes for the role of marketers and the organisational function of marketing.

Your task

Having watched the video, discuss the following questions:
  • In your view, why do we need to understand the transformation of marketing in the digital world?
  • Are you experiencing these transformations in your organisation? How do you see these transformations affecting your organisation – do these bring you more opportunities or challenges?


Quinn, L., Dibb, S., Simkin, L., Canhoto, A., & Analogbei, M. (2016). Troubled waters: The transformation of marketing in a digital world. European Journal of Marketing, 50(12), 2103–2133. Locate link (available to fee-paying students

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