In addition to understanding the millennial generation (which was covered in my first article of this series) and how important it is to any business’s marketing focus, the way we go about reaching that audience is equally vital. Many believe digital advertising is the “cure” for your businesses growth and success, particularly to millennials. Unfortunately, many companies often go off the proverbial rail in an attempt to follow that route. But is that really necessary? Please allow me to answer that question with a single word, “No.”

With so much importance being placed on reaching millennials, I decided to re-educate myself on this matter. I and my entire buying team attended a two-day digital advertising summit led by business and tech leaders, digital developers and software giants. It covered everything from email commerce and professional social elevation to font size and geo targeting.

Every speaker at the event had one common point; how to rise above the noise that dominates the digital world. Unfortunately, not only were their solutions inconsistent, some were down right contradictory. One person told us email is the greatest and most productive form of e-commerce with the largest ROI, while the next speaker’s topic was titled, “If email is dead, then you killed it!” I also learned that you don’t need a lot of money to create a ripple, while also being told that businesses need to make a significant investment if they wish to connect with millennials. Pure noise, and it didn’t stop there…

They showed us examples of cool social-branding with investment levels of $40MM to $100MM were spent. In one case, the investment was said to have been so successful it “created a lift for six whole weeks!” More noise!

These tech giants made some incredible claims. They implied that businesses can target the behavior of every consumer, pinpoint everyone’s location, and determine intricate specifics, including whether a person uses Charmin or Quilted! They explained ways you can completely irritate a consumer or make them fall in love with you.

There were folks there from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), and American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s). They all explained the digital advertising model and how it was going to continue to move and improve, but most likely at a steep price. Where there was once a cost per impression rate(CPM), a cost per click rate (CPC) and cost per acquisition rate (CPA), there would soon be a cost per engagement rate (CPE), which may cost you up to $100 per engagement. “But it will be worth it,” they assured us, “because you’ll have a bonafide lead!”

More than one speaker explained that businesses shouldn’t worry about profits; they should focus instead on making a difference in the world and helping the consumer feel better about themselves.  According to them, that’s the real way a company rises above the noise. But, they added a caveat, as well: You must continue to be mindful of profits, at least to some extent, in order to remain in business.

Now, I ask you, does any of that make sense? The fact is the only thing I found to be truly clear after hearing these industry professionals speak is that all this “noise” they were suggesting we “rise above” seemed to be coming from them! I realized as I listened that this isn’t noise at all, but actually a diabolical business model they use to create noise, corporate insecurity and which keeps all of it veiled in a cloud of uncertainty and it shows no signs of slowing down or becoming less profitable. It’s clearly by design! Businesses and agencies need to begin to rein them in.

According to these industry giants, there isn’t much they don’t know and can’t accomplish with digital advertising. But, ask any of them to guarantee something as simple as above the fold placement, where people will actually see an advertising message, and then all bets are off, unless, of course, you are willing to pay a premium for it. They have created their own self-serving guidelines, which mimics giving the convicts the keys to the prison. But don’t worry, they are all working on transparency! How do I know? They told me so!

There’s no dispute that the digital medium is powerful and necessary for a business to remain relevant into the future, but not at all costs! To be successful, your advertising should be a balance of strategically placed traditional and digital media, and its value should make it worth placing where it will reach all markets. It’s no different than making a good beef stew. You need a meat, various vegetables, and a little starch. Anything less than that and it will be a stew that looks more like potato soup!

In my next two articles of this four-article series I’ll cover how your company and the agencies need to independently and collaboratively work together to stabilize and strengthen their positions in the market with digital companies and the millennial generation.

Until then, I’ll see you around the water cooler app!

To read the next article in the series, “The Tail is Wagging the Dog,” click here.

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