To kickoff the new year, we interviewed Rob Enright, our president our president at Dallas media firm, The Ward Group, to get his take on the impact of digital media on our industry. With almost 25 years in the media business, his career has evolved and changed along with the landscape of the industry itself.
Q: Technology has revolutionized how consumers interact with brands and companies. In your view, how has digital impacted the advertising industry the most in recent years?
A: I don’t think anything in history has had as dramatic an impact on advertising as digital has. And the impact goes well beyond the fact that an entire new media ecosystem has sprung up at warp speed. Beyond the creation of countless places for advertising messages to appear, digital media channels and the technologies that drive them have created consumers with very limited attention spans, even more limited patience and very high expectations for getting what they want, when and where they want it.
Along with it comes the ability to target, personalize, track and connect advertising to sales like marketers of the past never dreamed of. And it’s constantly changing as new platforms and technologies enter the market and others fall out of fashion. It’s fascinating to watch it all unfold and it really keeps you on your toes as you consider how to advise clients on their media investments.
Q: What is the one capability of digital that you wish would have been available 20 years ago?
A: Without a doubt, it’s the real-time feedback that is generated through digital campaigns; not only as it relates to sales or other conversion events that might be tracked, but also the learning around creative and messaging, audience profiles and so much more that can be revealed as you manage and optimize digital campaigns.
Q: What recent development in digital are you keeping a close eye on or what interests you most?
A: The thing that interests me most right now is attribution, especially as it relates to offline consumer actions as well as the impact of traditional media on online consumer actions. I think many advertisers have reached a point where they've became too focused on that final click prior to a sale and give that source too much credit. It is an easy trap to fall into because it is so trackable. But the reality is that it’s extremely rare for a customer to click on a digital ad and make a purchase without any other advertising influences.
Many advertisers have pushed too much of their budget allocation to digital and lost a lot of critical mass and brand recognition that is still best delivered through offline mass media channels. The marketing funnel is bigger and more fragmented than ever before, and it takes a careful balance within an appropriate media mix to maximize results.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many advertisers, and we work with some, that can survive on digital alone. But the consumer journey is complex, and they are influenced by a multitude of messages from a variety of sources, online and offline, prior to making a purchase.
Q: Television and radio have taken a hit, thanks in large part to all the streaming services and other content sources that are available today. Are TV and radio still good solutions for brands?
A: The audience numbers and time spent with TV and radio are certainly declining, but they are still very viable and powerful channels. Even today, no single medium beats TV when it comes to reach. I don’t think TV and radio are going anywhere, but they are evolving. They are quickly moving to digital, as we see with streaming audio, connected TV and all the apps that are available for consuming broadcast content.
TV and radio content is still being consumed at a very high rate, but how it’s being consumed is changing. Like I said earlier, consumers want what they want, when and where they want it, and that certainly applies to programs and content. I think broadcasters are doing a pretty good job of recognizing that reality and creating solutions that address it.
Q: Do you have any concerns about the state of digital?
A: Absolutely! I think addiction to digital devices is a real scary thing. It’s undeniable. The data is there to back it up. We actually have rehab facilities for phone addiction in the U.S. now. We have people who don’t communicate well verbally and aren’t comfortable engaging in face-to-face interaction. We've replaced emotions with emojis and reduced conversations to easy-to-text acronyms and hashtags. We have an epidemic of people on devices while driving, and consequently, we’re losing innocent lives at an alarming rate. We’re starting to see some of the affects, but we don’t really know where this is going. We don’t yet know what the totality of the impact is going to be on critical aspects of life and society as a whole.
The people that have never known a time without a device and Internet connection are only starting to come of age. There are serious concerns about how all the screen time is affecting brain development. We just don’t know. Like it or not, we’re all part of a giant science experiment right now and we can only hypothesize about what the ultimate outcome will be. The tech companies have a big responsibility, and we now see companies like Apple starting to get pressure to address it from large shareholders. It will be very interesting to see what happens because at the end of the day, more time spent with devices means more opportunities to serve ad impressions and that means more money.
Q: Can you summarize how the advent of digital has impacted The Ward Group’s overall strategic approach?
A: I think we are well-positioned to help clients take a very objective, holistic look at their advertising investment. We’ve been immersed in the Dallas media world since 1985, when about the only thing digital anybody talked about was an alarm clock. Digital has definitely had a tremendous impact on what we do, and we embraced it early on. For example, one shift we made some time ago was how we address TV and radio dollars in the planning process. We view them as video and audio investments, which encompasses a variety of media channels including broadcast TV, connected TV or OTT, online video, terrestrial radio, streaming audio, etc. Those are all options for audience consumption of the same forms of content and opportunities for advertisers to deliver the same forms of messaging. But you have to look at the big picture in order to effectively advise clients on the best way to invest their dollars to reach the greatest portion of their potential audience AND have impact.
In a sense, our approach really hasn’t changed much at all. We still try to put ourselves in the shoes of the customers our clients need to reach and walk along their customer journey. Our goal is to intercept them as they go about their daily lives with relevant messages that are delivered in the right place at the right time without being overly intrusive. Sounds simple, right? But we all know it’s very challenging and complex, and digital is a big reason why.
Q: What should advertisers be aware of when seeking to promote their products and services via digital media?
A: Well, there are plenty of buzzwords out there that speak to some of the pitfalls in the digital world; fraud, viewability, fake news, clickbait, ad blockers, transparency, and so on. But the key to addressing it all is no different than ever before. Make sure you align your brand with trusted partners who have a close eye on what’s going on in the industry and always have your brand’s best interest at heart. At The Ward Group, we call that stewardship, and we pride ourselves in delivering on that concept for our clients every day.
With over 30 years of experience in the Dallas media world, we've seen it all. To learn how we can partner with you on your next ad campaign, contact The Ward Group today!