In reaction to Mark Ritson intervention on the 2015’s media forum

Background: the rise of “digital marketing”

Nowadays, “digital marketing” became so relevant and important in the eyes of brands and marketers that it is usually considered as apart of the “non-digital” common marketing standards.
Lots of brands even split their strategies, budgets, and call different agencies to plan on one hand their “non-digital” marketing strategies and on the other hand their “digital marketing” strategies.
It (might) seem normal and clever, but is it really? I mean, Is what we call “digital marketing” so different from traditional marketing? Would it justify such a split?
Does “Digital marketing” change the game? And of course: is it really better than traditional marketing considering effectiveness?
To sum up: Is this separation a good approach or is almost everyone wrong about it?


The false brightness of social advertising

During his intervention on the 2015’s media forum, Mark Ritson analysed the effectiveness of social advertising, which is considered to be one of the best digital marketing technics. He makes up three major points during this presentation:

  • Social advertising is not as good as we like to consider it
  • TV marketing is not as dead as people say
  • There is absolutely no reasons to separate digital and traditional marketing

To illustrate his first two points, Mark Ritson takes the example of an ad, posted by Oreo on twitter during the super bowl blackout in 2013. The reaction online was massive. Everybody agreed to say that the idea from Oreo has been kind of the best marketing move for a very long time. That simple Ad produce a massive Buzz on the Internet and a lot of digital medias did relay it telling how brilliant Oreo was.
Mark Ritson explains that this is a mess. Considering a realistic data analysis, this ad might have touched 63,000 people which is quite ridiculous.
Ritson compares that example to the case of Budweiser. During the same Super Bowl, Budweiser did diffuse an ad on TV.
Using the same kind of data computation, we may consider that the ad did reach 50,000,000 people. Not a word in press mention how brilliant Budweiser was to push this ad. In fact, this « non-brilliant » and « non-digital » ad by Budweiser did touch close to 10 times more people than the « awesome / brilliant / digital » ad from Oreo.
This comparison shows that, in fact, the Internet is auto-promoting itself.
Digital happenings are promoted, transcribed, and amplified but only on digital medias. After all, its impacts are only loud and noisy on the Internet, and represent quite nothing in the « real-life ».


mark ritson presentation

Mark Ritson presentation- 2015’s media forum (screen-shot from youtube)


I feel a bit sceptic about this conclusion from Mark Ritson. I think he forgot to consider the echo of the Oreo ad on twitter in a huge number of digital media. I mean ok, it only existed on the Internet and reached only 63,000 people at the time it occurs. However, the repercussion of this ad was still massive. Nobody read about Budweiser and its TV commercial, but lots of people heard about Oreo weeks after the post on Twitter.
I agree with Ritson on the fact that social media advertising is overvalued. It is too much promoted considering what it really is, but I think it still is very powerful in terms of brand awareness.


A new way of ROI appreciation

Considering this point of view, which is well argued by Ritson, and seems to be not so far away from the truth. We may ask ourselves the following question: what does digital marketing bring to the game?
In marketing, ROI is a big deal. Return On investment: those three words sound like the bible to many marketers hear. In traditional marketing, ROI is not easy to compute: we miss some massive parts of data. We know how much we invest in the marketing strategy. We also know the sales before and after, but it is impossible to be certain of the impact of the marketing campaign. Even if sales increase after the campaign, it can be thanks to some other criteria that we do not control. When Apple spend billion on transport advertising, they know approximately how many people will see the ads, but they cannot define how many buyers did buy after seeing the ad.
Digital marketing bring a huge answer to that matter, and it stands in one word: tracking.
On the Internet, we can track customer’s behaviour before purchasing. We can know if he comes from display advertising or a social media campaign. Google even sell ROI on Google AdWords tool: they say « invest X get Y transformation ».
This ROI and effectiveness control is for me the biggest input of what we call « digital marketing ».


Digital as a misunderstood change

We have seen earlier that TV advertising is not over. It is also true for all the traditional « non-digital » marketing channels as radio and magazine advertising: people are not passing all their time on digital media. Considering this point, it is clear that digital is an addition (‘a plus’) to the game and not a transformation of it. That means « digital marketing » should not replace « traditional marketing » but come as an addition to it.
There is also a question about the audience: we can easily consider that the audience on digital media is not the same than on traditional ones. Nonetheless, TV and radio audiences are not decreasing. That confirms the fact that digital medias are coming like an addition. Massive part of digital native adopts the multi-screens behaviour. That means those targets continue to watch TV. They just do it with an IPad, a laptop or a phone around. Consequently, digital and social marketing should exist together and why not completing each other and make sense with each other.
Ritson concludes his intervention by saying digital technics of marketing should be considered on the same level than traditional ones. He considers that there is no distinction to be made between its budgets and planning.
I agree to this point of view, and would like to add an opening to it. Ritson says that a good marketing strategy stands in the brief and the trust in the agency that will drive it. I would go further: it stands into the « design thinking » process of its building.
Design thinking is a process of innovation. It stands into the rebuilding of idea production processes. It is emptying a concept of its nature and rebuilding it considering a new and customer oriented point of view. Marketers are not far away from this spirit when they say « do not forget that you’re not the customer ». In their language it means that, while building a marketing strategy, man must stay focus on the target behaviour and way of thinking.
I think brands should apply the same model when defining their marketing strategies: they should stop, bereave, and look at it from far above. What is our target group? What are we selling to them? When was the last time we did discuss about our 4 Ps?
Cause yes, the choice between digital and traditional marketing is out of the point. Actually it is exactly the behaviour of people that do not understand the digital transformation.
Lots of brands are thinking that they are doing great with the digital transformation and are actually completely out of it. I think people make the same mistake with digital marketing. Digital marketing is not doing anything as long as it is on the Internet. The actors of those transformations need to ask themselves: what is the digital input for us? If it is just the same thing as traditional but done differently it has no sense. It should bring a new way of thinking and doing.


To conclude, I would say that a good digital strategy has to be part of a global marketing strategy. Digital marketing is surely not more effective than a traditional one. Digital marketing add something new without replacing traditional marketing.
Traditional marketing is not dead, and its audiences are barely the same than the digitals ones. Digital medias are only new medias. They are not transforming anything. That is why I think there is no reason to separate digital and traditional marketing.
Furthermore, and to finish, the best digital campaigns are the ones that are related to traditional way of marketing: marketers should make some links between those strategies.

Lomig Coulon – 2016