Looking ahead: The deal with digital

As we count down the days until 2009, digital marketers are already making their trend predictions. Executive editor Sharon Goldman chats with Adam Turinas, EVP of client development at agency Organic, about his thoughts on interactive marketing for the coming year.

Will interactive marketing continue to grow over the next year?

I’m not sure if it’s going to grow or just hold its own. In general, I think digital should be less affected [by the economy] than other media over the next year or so, because it’s so measurable and clients know how it works, as well as because digital is playing many more roles than it has in the past. What we’re finding now is clients who would have used digital mainly for low-cost acquisition, are more prepared to use it for brand-building and they’re using it across channels. Where digital has mainly meant the Web, now it will also increasingly mean mobile. It is also being used in retail and out-of-home. For digital agencies, that means you’ve got opportunities in two different ways: to contribute to your client’s bottom line by measuring everything you do and ROI, but then taking campaigns and efficiently stretching them out across different channels.

Can digital agencies handle this breadth of required skill sets?

It’s interesting – it isn’t actually hard, because we’re a reasonably large-scale agency, 450 people or so. Because of that it means there is a very broad skill set that we can deploy, that we can move around in a fairly flexible way. The way we actually approach any problem is in a holistic way. What I mean is we’ll take a brief from a client, a campaign strategy brief, come up with an overarching idea and figure out how to execute it across different channels. In some cases, skills are fungible – a really good interactive designer, for instance, can just as easily turn to developing an online ad or Web site to developing a really killer interactive point-of-sale that would run in Times Square. It’s really not that much of a stretch.

You’ve said that the “semantic Web” will become more relevant. What do you mean by that?

There’s the notion that there have been two generations of the Web. Web 1.0 was people interacting with information – brochures and commerce, basically. Web 2.0 is people interacting with people and doing somewhat more interesting things with data, rich applications and all that. Web 3.0, or the semantic Web, is really about a much more intelligent Internet. The idea is that you access lots of different sources of data, behavioral data, and you can present much more interesting solutions. So, for example, the way that might work is if you connected your Google search results to everybody in your social networks, you could actually get search results that people in your networks have been talking about – people like you tend to like this type of thing. I think we’re going to start seeing some manifestation of this in the next year or so. One example might be search engines that don’t just provide results based on relevance but on your buying behavior.

Do you feel that mobile will really take off this year?

I think 2008 sort of was the year for mobile because of the iPhone, which is actually incredible. When most people talk about mobile marketing the vast majority are still talking about SMS campaigns. While SMS has some value it’s a bit narrow and limited. With the iPhone, it’s more like a computer but it’s a computer you can do more stuff with because it’s portable, a physical thing that can detect movement. That means marketers can start to think about it as a tool for applications rather than campaigns. With the iPhone you can create applications just like on Facebook to build brand engagement or create a specific application to work as a customer service channel. People are already starting to think about the medium in a very creative way.

What about social media? How do you think it will evolve in the coming year?

The question for a lot of people right now is whether social media is a viable advertising platform. Yeah, it’s okay for presenting eyeballs, but it hasn’t really taken off the way they envisioned it – a lot of people don’t think the industry’s gotten comfortable yet. And I think the social media companies are going to have a tough time next year to come up with an advertising platform. I do think that in terms of demographics, social media has typically been for Gen Y and younger, but it’s now less so. The older demographic is the fastest-growing, but it’s starting on a lower basis. But you can use it to reach an older demographic now, just as effectively as younger groups.

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