Why is the Media Industry Applying the Same Metrics to Measure Digital as Traditional Media?

July, 2018

In the episode ‘Nosedive’ of Black Mirror Season 3, an extremely dark and disturbing, yet plausible future of social media is portrayed. For those who are unaware, I recommend you watch this particular episode right away. For those who know what it is about, won’t you agree that we are all headed towards an impending doom, with the tremendous emphasis we lay on social media validation? 

But what social media validation is to individuals, digital advertising is to brands and marketeers. Digitalization has brought about a drastic change in every sector and today, every brand more or less has a digital presence, irrespective of the product or service they are offering. Brands believe they need validation and seek it through the latest new toy that is available and this time it happens to be digital advertising.

While I most certainly endorse the business mantra of reinventing yourself to stay relevant and I can understand why brands have taken to digital advertising; it is important we recognize the role each medium plays in a consumer’s life and only then use it. Otherwise every advertising rupee we spend will keep chasing only one thing that we believe is the raison d’etre of every medium and that is - reach. And what a shame that would be.  

While traditional advertising mediums like television and print have been used for creating awareness and recall through reach, the aim of media like outdoor is of a reminder and of activation is, obviously call to action! Similarly digital advertising can do one thing which no other medium can do as well – which is to build segmented engagement. So how can I as a baby food brand, reach only new parents and then within that segment how can I participate in their journey through the early milestones of parent and baby-hood? And since I am with them through the formative years so to speak, can I expect that will deepen their engagement with me?

Unfortunately, both media planners and media owners alike, commit the fallacy of chasing numbers in the digital space rather than trying to figure out the unique need digital can fulfil in the media plan and in the consumer-brand journey.

The more media owners sell digital on the premise of number of page views and users, the more danger is that digital will end up competing with the traditional media in fighting for “whose reach is bigger” rather than offering a well-rounded media plan where advertising does what it is supposed to do – take the consumer from the initial stage of awareness to the final stage of post purchase conviction through placing the communication in a composite and well fused media plan!  And money will shift from one medium to another with no improvement in the brands’ quest to stay relevant. And what a pity that would be.