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Guest Column: Does Digital Come First? – David Kenny

Guest Column: Does Digital Come First? – David Kenny

Author | David Kenny | Friday, Apr 03,2009 8:25 AM

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Guest Column: Does Digital Come First? – David Kenny

While it is nearly impossible to orchestrate a media mix that does not include digital in this day and age, the first component of every successful media plan is not digital. It is, in fact, the consumer. The consumer is where every successful marketing campaign should begin and end.

Consumers will tell us if digital needs to drive a campaign or follow other efforts. If we listen close enough, we can determine where the most important audiences are, what they’re reading/ watching/ listening to, how they want to experience entertainment and how they want to receive messaging.

I do believe that digital and new media touchpoints will often be a first point of contact, primarily because they allow us to reach and connect with people who are increasingly tailoring their own ‘my media’ environments, opting into the content and messages they prefer and opting out of the rest. They are watching their favourite shows on Hulu, re-connecting with old friends on Orkut and Facebook, chatting with friends on Skype – on their iPhone, as well as their computer, checking out new bands on MySpace, searching top racing bikes on Baidu and Tweeting about their favourite cricket team. Consumers are comfortable in these spaces and, if we interact with them in a way that adds value to the experience they are creating, people will tolerate and even engage with our messages.

In India, social networking has grown by 50 per cent in the last year. What’s more – among a population or roughly 32 million – 60 per cent of Indian Internet traffic is on a social network.* Social media is a huge, and growing, communications platform and the opportunity in India alone is staggering.

But to relevantly insert ourselves into these online consumer conversations, we need to first be curators of their behaviour. A consumer’s online media behaviour says more about them than any piece of research or survey ever could. The amount of data found online is astounding – every search is saved, every cookie taken into account and every user seems to be offering up more information about themselves online (that is, favourite brands, interests, movies, music, etc). Data is everywhere and everything. It informs context, it helps us map the best connection and it tells us when and where we are succeeding/ failing.

Our challenge is to leverage our consumer data and knowledge to provide mechanisms and solutions that enable clients to deliver relevant messages to people who are trying to opt in and out of commercial messages.

Mobile has been a difficult platform for global marketers to penetrate because of this reason – advertising to subscribers has been completely opt-in. We have to solve this mystery, because mobile phones have become as ubiquitous and essential to consumers as wallets and purses. They are a constant companion and a direct link to information for consumers. In fact, 64 per cent of Indians under 30 years of age say that mobile is now their ‘first’ screen.”**

We know that traditional formats don’t always resonate inside of new platforms, so we need to actively test new models, formats and distribution systems to help us figure it out. Digital absolutely demands fresh ideas and brilliant thinking, but it also demands new approaches to production and delivery of fast, iterative and addressable messages across platforms.

In today’s current, global economic crisis, digital has become even more important. As more marketers are cutting their advertising and media budgets, agencies have had to accelerate their innovation and transformation in the industry to meet the new realities of a digital world. On the consumer side, we have to monitor the impact of the recent economic crisis on their expectations and behaviour. I suspect the baseline will be reset on consumerism. This will require more sensitivity in a marketer’s approach, and digital has a powerful role in making a personal connection.

I do want to add that while digital may not always come first in the development of a campaign, it certainly cannot come last. It cannot be an afterthought, or an add-on. The role of digital will vary by market, by product, by category, and most importantly, by individual we are trying to connect with.

* ComScore
** Agency research

(David Kenny is Managing Partner, VivaKi, a Publicis Groupe entity that oversees the digital and media assets of Digitas, Starcom MediaVest Group, ZenithOptimedia and Denuo. Kenny leads Publicis Groupe’s overall digital and interactive strategy and is member of the Publicis Groupe Management Board (the Directoire), and the ‘P12’ Board Executive Committee.)

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