Let's move to accentuating the positive
Turner in discussion with journalist Dominic Mills at The Future of BrandsSponsor content It's time for the conversation around digital advertising to change, writes Newsworks' Denise Turner
With so much being written about ad fraud, questionable online measurement and social media’s impact on society, is the tide turning away from digital? That was the focus of a panel debate I sat on at Mediatel’s Future of Brands event last week and, to be honest, there isn’t a yes/no answer.
Digital is a nonsense and much-misused word in any case. The lovely Tess Alps from Thinkbox and I exchange regular tweets on this very subject, and many others chip in. I recently read a piece by McKinsey which had the very helpful explanation that “digital is less of a thing and more a way of doing things”.
All media are now digital in that respect. All media, from newsbrands to radio to OOH have embraced new and different ways of doing things, and will continue to do so as innovation continues apace. In the case of newsbrands, titles that have been around for hundreds of years have maintained their trusted heritage, but have evolved and adapted to the new media landscape and, in the words of McKinsey, have found new ways of doing things. Aside from remaining vibrant news sources, it means they are reaching more people than ever before, in more ways than ever before.
So back to the question: is the tide turning? On the panel - where we had 'tides', 'wolves' and 'pendulums' - we were in danger of drowning in metaphors. So I hesitate to do this, but I’d like to introduce yet another.
In the Bible there is the well-known parable of the sower. In the story, a sower sows seed and does so indiscriminately (sounds like that could apply to some digital marketing today). Anyhow, the results vary - some seed falls on the wayside with no soil, some on rocky ground with little soil, some on soil which contained thorns, and some on good soil. In all bar the good soil, the seed is lost or fails to produce a crop, but when it falls on good soil it grows, yielding thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.
Over the years, established media have been consistently providing evidence of the good soil that they provide for brands. Proof that being in these environments will deliver the results that advertisers crave. Yet it feels that the seed that have been sown have at best fallen on ground with some soil, and at worst by the wayside.
However, in the last year, things have changed. There is now much more of an openness and a receptivity to where seeds are being sown - that they are falling on good soil. Just as with planting, the fruits take time, but I am confident we will see the fruits for newsbrands.
Part of that receptivity has come from the revelation that all is not well in the world of online marketing. Direct Line’s CMO Mark Evans had a great way of describing the industry’s love affair with all things digital when he said at the event that the industry had “been away with the digital fairies for the last five years”.
In addition, Keith Weed’s speech at the IAB Annual Leadership meeting in the US last week (just over a year after Marc Pritchard’s rallying cry) highlighted consumers’ concerns over the ad industry’s role in funding fake news, child exploitation and terrorism. He called on the industry to stop ‘sleepwalking’ and collectively rebuild trust in advertising.
I believe though that this is just part of what is needed. There’s a song that was written by Johnny Mercer during the Second World War, when people were living in very difficult times. It was recorded by many people, including Perry Como and Bing Crosby. The words have a lot of relevance to the issues we are facing today:
You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between
Over the last year, the discussion around online marketing has been centred on the paramount importance of brand safety. In my view, though, brand safety is a misnomer - shouldn’t it rather be about illegality, about not appearing in places which actively fund crimes such as terrorism? Whatever you call it, brand safety or illegality, the industry has been focused on eliminating the negative and avoiding being in the wrong places.
While that is entirely right and appropriate, at Newsworks, we believe the industry now needs to add another string to its bow (another metaphor, sorry!). The conversation needs to change - and there is lots of evidence for that change when it comes to newsbrands, as well also across all established media.
The challenge for us all is not just to eliminate the negative, but to move to accentuating the positive. To properly understand and apply the benefits of being in an environment that enhances brands that appear there.
Denise Turner is insight director, Newsworks