"Ad Agents" is a column written by the agency-side of the digital media community.
Chris Tuleya, vp of Direct Response at Underscore Marketing, a boutique, digital marketing agency.
Everyone who works in our industry has been in this situation before; you get a call from the client/agency/boss that they want your big ideas. And let the scramble and creativity begin! Having worked in both traditional and digital media, I must say this request is significantly more challenging when looking at the digital landscape.
It’s almost counterintuitive, but when it comes to the Big Ideas marketers ask for, perhaps some constraints to help focus our thinking would help rather than hinder.
It can be tough to fashion an executable Big Idea in the digital realm. It’s not just digital innovation that's moving at the speed of light. Timelines move unbelievably fast, too, and many marketers don’t allow enough time to fully think through new and revolutionary digital marketing ideas. There’s no secret recipe for creating a Big Idea, regardless of what an agency will tell you. It's not that it isn’t feasible to come up with a Big Idea in digital, it's just that having the freedom of a conceptual blank canvas has implications:
- Measurement invariably becomes the subject of debate, as the discussion focuses around what to measure and how to measure it.
- Predicting success is a challenge
- The consumer’s online voice can make or break a Big Idea faster than ever
In traditional media, no matter how big the dream for the Big Idea, it will come with a conceptual framework for measurement and execution. Want to wrap a building in the middle of Times Square? You can find someone that can do that, and you already have a general idea of how you would measure its effectiveness based on how Out Of Home has been measured for decades. Want to rent a blimp and have it run up and down the east coast? Same deal.
In digital, the ideas are limitless, but the execution is significantly more challenging. Even the things that aren’t unique may have custom executional elements that make them unique.
Take a YouTube channel for example. It is a great way to get your videos or commercials out there in front of a mass audience. Even when we focus our time and effort largely around one property, it’s difficult to make a big idea work. Sure YouTube has the vast majority of the video views, but is a YouTube channel really a Big Idea? Or is it a tactic within the Big Idea? I would argue the latter. If your Big Idea centers on distributing video assets, you can’t stop at a YouTube channel. Unfortunately the lack of consistent assets and specs across digital partners and platforms make it significantly more challenging to implement a cross platform Big Idea in a timely fashion.
Once you overcome the challenges around implementation of your Big Idea, you must determine how you will define success. This can be tricky. Do you let your Big Idea live or die via consumer engagement tools as a proxy, or do you look to offline methodology and attempt to apply traditional metrics to a platform that is anything but?
In addition to properly defining success, a Big Idea has to factor in the consumer voice, which is louder than ever. The movie industry is a perfect example of just how loud this voice can be. Between 1982 and 1999 the #1 movie stayed atop the charts for an average of 2.1 weeks. Since 1999 (the year Rotten Tomatoes launched), that number has dropped to 1.3 weeks. Some would argue the movie industry doesn’t produce the same quality product they did back then. I would argue that the digital age and advent of social media has resulted in early deaths for movies at the hand of the newfound consumer voice. After all, Tootsie spent 14 weeks at the top of the box office; I can’t believe that movies produced today could be much worse. This consumer voice just adds to the complexity of planning and executing a successful Big Idea within digital.
It’s not that a digital execution of the Big Idea is impossible, but it is unpredictable. What worked one time, may not work the next. The Big Idea can take any shape or form and requires all stakeholders to have an open mind about what the next evolution of the digital Big Idea may be.