Digital decline

There are countless examples of companies who pertain to be 'digital first' thinkers but this merely amounts to them having a Facebook presence. Almost every company can boast of this now - even very traditional trades such as funeral directors or shoe menders! Simply having a digital marketing strategy is not enough to make a company innovative.

Having worked in construction now for nearly three years I've seen a very traditional industry commit to the innovation agenda by embracing digital pretty much across the board. This was no easy feat but now conversations all being by at least paying lip service to 'testing and learning' and 'user experience'.

But are companies with digital strategies actually implementing them properly? I've seen many examples of companies who have a very light-touch digital presence but still continue to be successful and forward thinking. Apple, for example don't even have an active Twitter account.

I've attended many meetings in my career where the internet has been addressed as a problem. It's seen as something which has to be addressed in the marketing mix but not in a positive way.

One to add to your bucket list!
Surely one of the most exciting periods to be a road planner must have been when the motor car was popularised. There were suddenly possibilities to design road layouts and infrastructure that never existed before.

This weekend we drove over 'the UK's first roundabout' in nearby Letchworth Garden City. It all seems rather ridiculous and quaint now but it got me thinking how the designers must have been very excited to see their new design finally come into fruition. It was a chance to innovate and really influence user behaviour.

Conversely, I've never seen a group thrilled by the prospect of the new canvas of mobile adverts or live video. Instead the default position is to take a small part of the advertising budget, re-purpose a creative execution from another medium and link it through to a website. Sometimes the creative execution may vary slightly, or a bespoke landing page is built, but this is the extent to the levels of excitement.

We know from the research conducted for our latest campaign that millennials are not hard to reach. They're surgically attached to their phones highlighting that we need to challenge everything that has been done so far. It's time to think positive, shake off defeatism and get excited by the new possibilities that are popping up all the time.

Of all of the questions I was asked at the CIM event earlier this month the one that stuck with me most was 'how long should I make my brand's videos?' What I should have said is that creating minute long case study interviews, or a series of 1 minute adverts, no longer gets me excited. Instead, it would be much more interesting to make 10 to 20 sequentially served 10 second adverts to tell a story.

Six second ads are hard, we can’t tell the whole story, we need to capture attention immediately, but what a great challenge. A story arch that peaks one second in, a handover to another unit that gives more information. A series of 10 or 20 units, served knowingly to individuals across screens, to hook them in and move them further down the funnel. Users who skip ads can be given a message to entice them in. Short ads are wonderful if we are to rethink how to earn and reward attention, rather than replicating the way old TV used to advertise.

This is one example of a change of attitude that is all too rare in how money is spent in digital. Instead we see countless examples of bad retargeting ("I've bought these shoes why are you still advertising them to me!") or adverts that aren't timely, relevant or just click through to a webpage.

Barry Parker and Raymond Unwin
By making things more interactive and immersive we cannot help but stand out and get excited about the opportunities new technologies bring. It’s been too cheap to pay attention to and too ineffective to spend much on media or production, we entered a spiral of decline that never worked for brands, publishers, agencies but most of all, people.

By raising our ambition we can then experience the excitement of Barry Parker and Raymond Unwin when they unveiled the UK's first roundabout in 1909!
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