Since Netscape, the first mass-market web browser, was released in 1994, digital marketing has evolved at a phenomenal pace. Email outpaced postal marketing and dented telemarketing activity. The evolution of graphics technology took web ads to a whole new level, from simple SEO and keyword terms for early search engines to banner ads, popups, and today’s native and interstitial ads loaded with photos and video. So what does the digital advertising landscape look like now? It’s more multi-dimensional than ever, trailing consumers wherever they go. Digital advertising is no longer limited to just a desktop computer. It’s all around us, much like traditional advertising was never limited to newspapers but could be found on billboards, storefronts, in your mail-box, and through your telephone line. Digital advertising is found on the websites you visit, the phone you carry in your purse or pocket, the shows you stream online, the music you listen to through digital radio services, embedded in the apps you download, and it still comes to you via email, SEO, and graphic ads. Some of the latest developments in digital advertising are still unfolding. Whereas, once, you might advertise for a particular ingredient in a cooking magazine and hope the customer returns to that brand, shopping trip after shopping trip, now smart refrigerators can remind you when you’re almost out of your favorite canned tomatoes. You can fill a shopping cart online from your smartphone and have your groceries delivered to your door. Delivery apps remember your favorite Chinese order, address, and billing info. National pizza chains let you see where your order is in process in real-time. There are more ways to connect customers and brands than ever before. Two especially exciting new frontiers in digital advertising are the Internet of Things and Big Data. The Internet of Things includes webconnected devices like smart home hubs that respond to voice commands to control everything from connected light bulbs to the front door lock to your thermostat. Some companies like Amazon are experimenting with small devices that will reorder house-hold staples like laundry detergent at the push of a button. Pet owners can monitor Fido from the office with a camera that communicates with their smartphones. All of that and more is powered by Big Data. Big Data collects information from customer interactions — not only what ads they click on and respond to, but what websites they were on when they did so, what their interests and buying habits are, and other trends. Some of the most successful forms of advertising are those that listen to the consumer the most and approach the web from their point of view. Big Data is the reason you start to see wedding industry ads on Facebook as soon as you announce your engagement. It’s how Pandora knows that if you like Bob Dylan, you might want to hear a song by Tallest Man On Earth. Big Data helps you know your customers as well or better than they know themselves. Armed with that information, you can make smarter, more precise choices about what ad formats you use to approach your customers, and at which moments. Instead of hoping your ideal customer will drive past a billboard on a certain corner, for example, you can meet her where she’s browsing online, positioning an ad before online videos she’s likely to watch, on websites she’ll probably peruse, and on apps other women like her have downloaded. Rather than hoping, say, a 30-year-old urban professional man will tune into a particular television program and won’t wander into the kitchen during a commercial break, you can be sure to post ads on the web forums he visits, on the digital radio stations he subscribes to, and in between episodes of the shows he watches online. To be sure, it’s still considered a success if 1-2% or higher of ad views get a response. But with millions of ads appearing before millions of viewers at any given moment, that probability is actually pretty reliable. Some of the most successful forms of advertising are those that listen to the consumer the most and approach the web from their point of view. Spam emails and popup ads are almost universally hated for a reason — they are intrusive. They are the digital equivalent of trying to talk to someone at a cocktail party only for a third person to physically insert themselves between you and your conversation partner and begin to talk about something irrelevant. There’s definitely a better way. Native and interstitial advertising, along with video advertising, have some of the highest rates of return precisely because they cause the least stress for the viewer. These types of advertising are either seamlessly integrated with the content the consumer got online to view, have a clear relationship to their interests, or easily go viral. At their best, they do all three. That’s because these types of ads mimic the kind of content web browsers are naturally attracted to. The most effective digital ads are informative, entertaining, and don’t stick out like a sore thumb. That might sound counterintuitive when advertisers worry so much about making sure their content is seen. You don’t want the customer to miss your expensive, carefully-crafted tree for the forest of clickable content. But you also don’t want your content to be a big obvious billboard in the middle of a national forest. In an oversaturated field of vision, customers appreciate ads that pack extra value. How much can you accomplish at once? An ad that’s just an ad is obvious and a turn off. An ad that also solves a problem, provides interesting information, or makes the customer laugh — such an ad multi-tasks and that fits right in with the whole of internet culture. To successfully go viral, though, you’ll need something old school. Something that no amount of money can buy. And that’s a deep understanding of your customer... One of the biggest struggles that digital publishers and digital advertisers share come from trying to play by the rules of print. But when you start to think like a digital native — that is, the customers who grew up getting online and are totally at home in a digital environment, you start to see new avenues towards making a positive impression. For example, simply by sharing relevant information presented in a style similar to journalism, customers might encounter and remember you as a reliable, trusted resource for information. An infographic that includes a map showing the states with the most breweries per capita, for example, might not specifically pertain to your beverage industry company, but it does establish you as an expert with a sense of fun. A funny video breaking down something complicated and often stuffy like, say, mortgage interest rates, could help younger or first-time home buyers see a bank or financial planning firm as accessible and relatable. And if your viewers like your content enough, they’ll share it with their friends. That’s the other great thing about digital media— if you play your cards right, your viewers will not only engage with your brand, they’ll do some of the heavy lifting for you. Word of mouth has nothing on word of keyboard. To successfully go viral, though, you’ll need something old school. Something that no amount of money can buy. And that’s a deep understanding of your customer — who they are, what they want, and how you can help them get it. But that’s also where you’re the expert. If you know your customer as they know themselves, you can’t go wrong — and you can craft killer digital ads that will strengthen your bond. All it takes is a little familiarity, and to think digital.
Published by AGL Media Group LLC. View All Articles.