I Tried Digital, And It Didn’t Work
I spent 20 years of my more than 30-year career within the radio advertising business. During that span, the number one objection of customers and new prospects was, “I tried it once, and it didn’t work.” This objection is a hard objection to overcome. But to make it in the radio business as long as I have, you must truly know how to overturn this objection to earn a new piece of business. And truthfully, a medium that does not usually work is because either the provider or the buyer had no clue what kind of powerful marketing weapon they were dealing with. It was typically sold as a cheap, get-rich-quick package bundled with a terrible ad message.
Then in the early 2010s, when digital media was firmly gaining traction, I recall so many comments from advertisers who claimed to have been ‘killing it’ in digital media. The ‘I tried it once…’ objection faded, and it was replaced by ‘I’m killing it…’ Advertisers were killing it on Facebook, killing it in e-blasts. It was a gold rush! Paid search, SEO, and web funnels entrained an industry full of marketing buffs with new tools and avenues where advertisers could park their budgets and see significant returns. But, of course, no one objects when there are significant returns.
Soon, the radio and TV stations got wise and bought in on the digital bonanza. And now, digital marketing is beginning to appear as a simple, ‘buy our digital package…’ sales event. Now, unfortunately, I am beginning to hear the drumming of a new objection, ‘I have tried digital. It’s not working.’
“What? Heresy! Blasphemy!” I say.
There’s an old adage that says: “It’s not the medium; it’s what you do with it.”
From my expert perspective, all mediums work. Every time. They (the medium) never not works. When campaigns fail, they fail from a combination of preventable elements. Typically, it is the expectation that fails, or perhaps the lofty goal/objective that is falsely promised. But moreover, I have found that it’s the message that fails, followed closely by the execution strategy. Or lastly, it is the negotiation that fails and creates a deal construct that does not produce a win-win for both parties.
Silly advertisers. History doesn’t repeat; we humans repeat history by not looking back to see the events as they unfolded and learn from mistakes and best practices. Today, we all realize that business moves faster and faster every day. Every one of us wants immediate gratification.
And we want it cheap. We want first-class, but we pay for coach. We want water, but we don’t dig a 100-foot well; instead, we made one hundred 1-foot holes and can’t believe we can’t find water. It’s the same amount of digging.
I am a business owner too. We have payroll, we have tax bills, and we need to market. We want to grow. We have dreams. We can’t cut corners.
In any industry, in any business, there are capacities, there are limitations to growth. There is optimization and saturation. There is all of that, whence creative ideation is also limited.
So digital inventory is filling up and becoming a crowded space. CPM’s are rising, and impressions are fragmenting. There are 1000’s of places to consider. What do you do? Do you quit because it didn’t work? That would be a limited decision.
The answer is: Do Digital Right. The business advice is: Do Not Quit.
Digital marketing is complex. But it will only grow bigger. And more complex. The advancement of media and the evolution of marketing has always been a passing parade, not a standing army.
Philip Gabbard is a partner at Fat Unicorn Society, El Paso’s leading digital media company. In addition, Philip is an author, speaker, and multi-media thought-leader. For questions or comments, contact Philip at email@example.com.