What killer app will drive brand advertisers online?

[Posted by Shar VanBoskirk]

Within the last two weeks I’ve participated in digital workshops for two different globally recognizable CPG companies, each focused on promoting awareness and use of interactive channels among their brand managers.  And I’ll tell you, after all we know about the cost effectiveness of interactive marketing and the pervasive use of internet technologies by consumers.  Interactive is still a bitter pill for the brand marketers to swallow.  Now don’t get me wrong, these firms were definitely bought into the theory of interactive (I mean, they were hosting several day workshops just to promote its use within their companies).  My take was beyond the theory, interactive is just a tough, tough business for these types of firms to execute.  Specifically:

  • Its hard to stop with the TV.  You know that I believe television maintains a crucial role in the marketing mix even as we add more and more interactive channels to it.  Yet, there is also no denying that the role of television as marketing channel is drastically changing.  Accommodating this change is tough for brand advertisers who have been doing TV and doing it really well (both of the firms I met with are the number one companies in their respective industries in the world) for 30 odd years.

    Current organizational models create inefficiencies.  At one client, both the brand management and interactive teams were bought into interactive.  They even plan campaigns collaboratively for the most part.  However, the interactive team wants to keep an eye on new trends and execute on what is cool, while the brand team is tied to practical matters like media buying deadlines and budgets, sales bogies and staying top of mind in key brand metrics.  Consequently, executions of actual interactive campaigns are difficult to agree on and launch based on the two teams competing priorities.  Layer on here brand managers with different attitudes and skill sets toward interactive and you’ll find a situation similar to what the second client I met with has: a scattershot approach to interactive which is not only inconsistent from brand to brand, but also expensive since multiple agencies and technology partners are used corporate-wide.

    The value of interactive as a branding medium is not obvious.  Again, I’m the interactive advocate, so I can spout off case studies about the effectiveness of display ads and even search as a branding tool.  But, the reality is, that interactive channels are a lot easier to “get” as direct marketing vehicles (hello CPC pricing model!).  Brand advertisers are rightly trying to understand the best interactive tools and best applications of those tools to help them do what they already know how to do offline.

So, coming out of these meetings, my question is: What is the killer app that will move brand marketers to really embrace interactive?  Is there one?  Is it online video?  Social media?  Is it not an application, but rather a market condition that will act as this catalyst?  An economic recession?  Perhaps additional technology developments?  Or continued competitive movement in the space?  I think it is probably all of these forces continuing to push at all marketers that will foment gradual change – not a sudden switchover -- among enterprise brand marketers.  In the meanwhile, I think smaller, local manufacturers with smaller teams, a shorter legacy, and less to lose have an advantage over the big guys as they can easier flex to accommodate new media.


re: What killer app will drive brand advertisers online?

Brand marketers who have not yet embraced interactive media should probably find new jobs or retire.The "killer apps" have been in the market for years. Increased consumer adoption of the DVR is going to continue to disrupt the value of television commercials. There's also this thing called the "search engine" that actually displays relevant advertisements based on terms a consumer has entered into the system! Right message, right time.

re: What killer app will drive brand advertisers online?

I definitely agree that the bones of interactive marketing have been in place for a long time and that we are getting more "proof" of its value all of the time. But I also understand the brand marketers' conundrum with search. Since unlike direct marketers they can't typically sell product through a paid search ad, what is the best way for them to use keyword ads? How do they track the value of them?

re: What killer app will drive brand advertisers online?

Great post, but I think that the real question is the inverse of "What is the killer app that will move brand marketers to really embrace interactive?"I think Brian Haven hit this squarely in his post yesterday...by asking another question:"Is The Campaign Dead?"The killer apps are out there already and will continue to grow in number (iPhone SDK, etc).I have had the opportunity to pitch huge movie studios and brands on viral marketing/branded SaaS plays, and they are interested. However, until they reformulate the time horizon of their execution/measurement, the huge upside of pervasive/perpetual interactive marketing will be lost on them.Kind regards,Ethan Bauley