What Happened to the Promise?

"Digital is different." That was the promise. Advertisers would be able to use the new medium to contact, engage and win consumers in ways they never could have imagined in the realm of traditional media. One-to-one targeted marketing, cutting-edge creative executions and new mutli-tiered strategies to wrap your brand message were going to be the future. But, a little more than ten years into this new world of digital advertising, advertisers are still slow to fully commit to the digital landscape. Why?

Let Digital Be Digital!

If digital is simply a new canvas on which to paint with the same old tools, then it can never live up to its potential. Imagine I told you that I expected brand new results, but was unwilling to do anything different than what I had always done. You would say I was insane. But this is exactly what advertisers are doing to (and expecting from) the digital advertising world. The idea that digital would usher in something new is actually based on the fact that it is inherently different from the mediums that have preceded it. The scalability, the ability to target micro-audiences and tailor customized messages to them in real-time, and the level of insight into results based on any imaginable metric are all certainly unprecedented in Print, TV, Radio or Outdoor.

The problem arises when advertisers and agencies decide to enter the world of digital marketing as a mere supplement to their other (much larger) budget plans. What they do not seem to understand is that a digital execution that is crammed into a strategic plan originally developed for traditional media is a disappointment waiting to happen. In order to engage the power of the new medium, advertisers and agencies must first embrace it. But in order to embrace the new medium, they must first understand its true capabilities. And they must be willing to 'let digital be digital!'

Strategy is the New Creative

The campaign development process still operates under a mandate that creative and messaging run the show. The classic "MadMen-style" agency bulked up on creative resources, while 'strategy' meant choosing stations and deciding how much to spend. The 'message' that came out of the creative teams may have been tweaked by format, but the primary look, feel and call to action remained static across the entire campaign.

Today, digital advertising allows on-the-fly modification of messaging and user experience down to a granular level. Would you like to put one message out to people who have purchased your product in the past, another out to those who have never been to your site, and a third to those who have started the purchase process but then abandoned? No problem. How about testing which aspects of your product users say are most important to them and then showing them versions of your message that speak directly to their specific answer? Again, no problem.

If an advertiser enters the messaging process with a fully developed sense of what is possible and then asks, "How can I use these cutting-edge strategies to achieve my real goals?", the truth is that almost anything is possible in the realm of digital advertising. When the difference of what can be achieved in a digital environment is fully embraced, strategy and creative become fused into one process. In a very real sense then, strategy is the new creative.

Join the Conversation

At CPX Interactive, we want to start a conversation. We know (from experience) that digital is still very much an after-thought. We hear it all the time. Agencies say "Sure WE understand what you are saying can be done, but our Client just wouldn't get it." Or an Advertiser says, "Well, if it's so good, then why isn't our Agency pitching it to us?"

We know that it takes some effort to change the way an industry thinks and we want to be the catalyst for that change. 'Strategy is the New Creative' is a workshop/conversation/forum/roadshow whereby we are starting the conversations that will bring about a new understanding of what is possible in digital advertising. We have run this workshop in numerous countries and formats and we are always pleased by the response we get and the willingness to listen.

To find out more about this initiative, take some time to review the dedicated website www.strategyisthenewcreative.com, or you can email us at SNC@cpxinteractive.com. To get involved in the conversation, search for related tweets at #strategyascreative, and feel free to jump on board.

We look forward to discussing it with you!

David Shay is the EVP of Marketing for CPX Interactive, a global online ad network. David came to the world of online advertising after a career as a practicing attorney. He joined the CPX team as the 13th employee in 2006. David can be reached at dshay@cpxinteractive.com.

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