What is the future for advertising? Is the way forward purely to embrace on-line advertising and social networking?

Image credits: http://www.gapingvoid.com (thanks Hugh)
Scott Johnson (Owner and Creative Director of graphic design agency Liv Design Ltd) recently posted the bove question to a group on LinkedIn. It continues:

In light of current figures showing the decline of TV and press advertising, is web advertising the only way forward? Do we believe what the media tell us or do we continue to use the power of tried and tested traditional advertising media such as radio, magazine and outdoor?

Steve Everard (Associate Director Grant Thornton) responded:
not while most of us walk the earth everyday, buy stuff on foot as opposed to through our finger tips and allow our eyeballs to swivel rather than fixed on straight ahead! Remember that as the advertising dollar runs headlong to the relatively untested domain of the web that traditional channels are becoming cheaper as the competition for space reduces. You ever clicked through an ad from Facebook intentionally let along purchased something? Neither have I. Marketing professionals shouldn't adopt an 'us and them' syndrome. Question survey results in the light of your own experience. Budgets are down everywhere so the relentless hunt for lower cost ad space is on. Radio ad volume is up...

My response:
Traditional advertisers would do well not to bury their heads in the sand here. Social is successful but not the answer to everything. Yes I spent some time with Zappos and they used almost entirely social media to market themselves and went from zero turnover to being bought by Amazon last month for $1 billion. But you know what that model suited their business. People say that advertising on Facebook doesn't work, actually it does - I know this because it's how they make a living and allow the rest of us to use it for free. Oh you're right to be careful about advertising on there - the ad has to appeal to one person - i.e. very, very specific: http://www.colingilchrist.com/2009/10/latent-advertising.htm

TV advertising is buckling and learning to adapt - it needs to be more personal and create or stimulate a strong emotion, it will however if successful be more likely to viewed on youtube because of its imotive content.

Promoting products is becoming less about advertising and more about providing content, the advertisers are learning, but it's a slow process - they have every right to be scared though.

Steve responds:
No doubt advertising works for Facebook but does it work for the advertisers? Largely not I would proffer.You're right Colin that the message and the channel need to be in alignment but promotion without measurement is pointless. Whether above, below or through the line a strategy and its supporting tactics have to deliver on the objectives which should be carefully defined at the outset. Whether the channel is online or not is a question directed to the market demographics and the budget and not fashion. Broadcast or narrow, above or below - these are strategic questions that have remained with us since the earliest days of P&G

Scott responds:
Too true. Sites like Twitter, You Tube and Twitter are indeed exciting offerings for businesses. As with any traditional advertising avenue it has to be fit for purpose. Would I find for a supplier for my business on Facebook? No. But if I were a teenager would new drink or album catch my eye? Probably. You have to be strategic with any advertising and marketing. I think it's about getting the right balance of media coverage to cover every angle.

My response:
Scott, I'm guessing you're maybe not aware that the biggest audience on Facebook is 35 - 49 year olds; that the Salesforce plugin for Facebook for their integrated CRM system benefits multiple businesses in sourcing and managing clients, suppliers and sales processes.

Facebook is just one platform and not the answer to all social media requirements; a recent study showed the biggest growing group were female between the ages of 55 and 69, interesting none the less.

I would be careful how you make assumptions about these 'exciting offerings', having a strategy is one thing but basing it on qualified research would be a good idea.

Steve you are of course absolutely right, measurement of any campaign is essential to gain client trust and further investment into a succesful strategy. Fortunately anything online has a reporting schedule that delivers exactly that - TV, radio although proven to get results is not as easy to measure.

Social is proving a phenomenal way to communicate; Morgan Stanley carried out a report in 2008 on how long it takes to reach 50 million people:
Radio 38 years
TV 13 years
Internet 4 years (static websites)
Facebook added 100 million in 9 months.

As previously mentioned it's not the answer to everything - but if you know what you're doing (i.e. at Red Dress) you can achieve amazing results.

Scott Johnson:
Fine with me Colin. Interested in any perspectives you gleen. Good to hear your comments Colin. Figures are funny things. I've read many demographic reports by different companies, each claiming the oldest/youngest/most users/frequency of users etc of both Twitter and Facebook. Apparently 'teens don't tweet' either (!) if you believe some... The speed and power of the internet cannot be ignored.

I agree that 'new' doesn't mean 'best'. Social media for advertising is another option in the advertising arsenal, depending o what your aims are.

My response:
The Facebook figures I quote are from Clara who works at Facebook - not really in her interest to provide duff information.
You're right about teens not tweeting, in the UK 13 - 17 typically register and do nothing, they want it to come to them...

Steve Everard:
Hi Colin,
Yes part of the mix most certainly but not all of it. I'd love to know the origin of that 50 million quote. I have found it in a UN report in 1998 and I remember seeing in in a Michael Spindler presentation back in 1991. It is always unattributed and of course is moot. Communications and the access to devices is far different now than the early days of radio. As a pointer to technological change it has validity but not as a pointer to the compelling nature of a specific medium. My point is about relevance and reaching 50million people with the wrong message and/or in the wrong context will be met by a deafening silence. For all it's popularity and the number of advertisers allegedly fighting to get on-board I don't see anyone raving about the sustainable success of their business based on a social medium approach to marketing.
I remember smiling broadly at the supposedly clever money rushing to Second Life and the ghost town that remains. As marketeers we need a considered view of appropriate comms media for our messages and not to run headlong into the latest twit-fest proclaiming the second coming.

My response:
Morning Steve.
The 50 million is as you rightly say no way to communicate - where online works is connecting with one. I need to check my sources (in the wrong office) however my memory tells me it was a Morgan Stanley report released in July of 2008.

You quote: "I don't see anyone raving about the sustainable success of their business based on a social medium approach to marketing"

I mentioned I had spent a little time with a company called Zappos.com; they have used almost entirely social media as a form of marketing - they only employ staff with an online social knowledge. Their call centre staff (inbound) look you up on Facebook, LinkedIn... after the call to request whether they can be your friend and keep you updated of offers and deals.

Zappos started off selling shoes online - from a standing start they sold their business to Amazon last month for over $1 billion - almost entirely attributable to social media.

Steve I'm a fan of advertising, it has it's place and always will do, just consider the possibilities for your clients using online social.