July 2011 Archives

When a trillion impressions aren't enough


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There's a much ignored side effect of the social media phenomena. A side effect that has immense ramifications for the marketing world but gets no attention whatsoever. An effect that we as an industry must pay much more attention to. Otherwise, we're at risk of trivializing what we do, hurting each other's interests whether that be advertiser, agency, publisher or consumer related and wasting millions in marketing dollars.

I call it the trillion impressions problem. Largely thanks to the social media phenomena, we now live in a world which has many billions more (if not trillions) brand related media impressions that can be monetized in some form or the other. Most of these additional impressions are driven by the fact that consumers now are the ultimate marketers endorsing brands, advocating for them and talking about them across the social networks. It's a because customers are creating customers. 

But there's a problem with these trillions of media impressions about brands. We don't know what they're worth and we're not putting enough thinking into understanding their value especially as triggers for deeper engagement. We're not putting enough effort into figuring this out. Instead we have every media company and startup trying to selling brands a new kind of impression without anyone helping companies understand their worth.

For example, I cannot accurately quantify the value of a Pepsi display banner advertising impression versus a paid search impression, a mainstream news story about Pepsi impression, a FourSquare check-in impression at a Pepsi location, a Get Glue impression of a Pepsi branded sticker,  or a Facebook edge ranked surfaced newsfeed impression of something the brand is doing. I'm not even sure if the Pepsi target consumer is seeing these impressions. I also don't know exactly which is more important, how do they influence brand affinity and which drive purchases the most. And this is just the beginning of it. What I do know however, is that every publisher, technology company and many an agency wants to sell me a lot of these new brand media impressions that are now in our ecosystem without anyone knowing or assigning an accurate relative value to them. 

And that's the problem. Marketing budgets haven't grown at the same pace, and we have no way of qualifying the relative value of one type of brand impression in the media ecosystem to another. We also do not have the tools in place to tell us which type of impressions lead to the greatest consumer engagement and do the most to drive brand equity, brand health and sales of products.

Just because there's a lot more to buy, it doesn't mean we can or more importantly, we should. Let's not forget the basics. A trillion impressions are worthless if they don't move a business forward.

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