Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: You Get What You Pay For

Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: You Get What You Pay For

Article excerpt

Digital's more accurate ways of measuring effectiveness appears to have passed some brands by.

A long time ago, I sat through a long meeting as our client's chief executive threw scorn at the rough cut of an ad that had just been shown to him. 'That young man's hair is completely unacceptable,' he said 'Our brand is wholesome, respectable; we can't have people like that in our advertising.'

The creatives in the room groaned inwardly. The ad was aimed at teenagers, a nation entirely alien to this guy. He knew nothing, but felt compelled both to have an opinion, and to impress his authority on these upstarts.

As Charlie Dobres, who co-founded i-level with me, used to put it: 'The thing about advertising is, everyone approaches it with an open mouth.'

When we started our agency in 1999, we were excited by the prospect that digital could move us on from these prejudices. We could start to make decisions based on data, rather than just opinion, and while creativity, insight and spark would still be a vital part of the business, it could now be informed by real understanding.

We could tie our success to that of our clients, working to objectives that were aligned, rather than spurious measures like discount against station price. We could demonstrate uplifts in sales, account for them, and clients would pay more if this justified it.

It would be nothing short of a revolution. Digital offered the opportunity to reinvent agencies' relationship with clients - from cost to value.

So, has this turned out to be the case?

Some marketers and their procurement departments get it. They have seized the opportunity digital presents, and drive relentlessly for effectiveness. Yet there remains a sizeable part of the business that is solely influenced by cost - either because they lack the means properly to measure success, are personally incentivised otherwise, or are simply unwilling to share in that success with anyone else.

In recent weeks, Belgian agencies have protested against unreasonable pitch demands, News International Commercial chief Paul Hayes has called for agencies to stand up for value, and leaders have appeared in the trade press criticising abusive agency relationships.

All this has been focused on offline media, where it has always been harder to measure real value. Perhaps we can expect it there, but what's surprising is how common this is in digital, too.

One company I know has the sales target sitting with the head of online, while the search budget lies with marketing. …

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