Let’s Define Digital Advertising. Please and Thank You.

Cannes_narayen_v20 004 (2)Yesterday, we read this NY Times article – Biggest Advertisers Are Sending Their Dollars to Digital – and it sparked some debate in the office. I highly respect the NY Times and its journalistic standards, but this article wreaks of inconsistencies and lack of clarity – and I’m not sure that’s to fault the writer.

Our industry continues to dance around the definition of digital advertising. Just after a quick search we found more than 15 different definitions of what is digital. And with so many forms of advertising popping up on anything internet-based – phones, websites, smart TVs, etc. And so many options within that realm – mobile video, native advertising, display ads, PPC, Facebook ads. The definition of what is digital advertising continues to get muddled. And ultimately, creates inconsistencies in categorical data, reporting and analysis.

So, if you read this NY Times article, please don’t start slashing ad dollars and reallocating all of your advertising to digital. Let’s take away the big picture here and help inform our advertising strategies, keeping an open mind about our mix. Here’s some food for thought:

  • Ad spending was on the rise in 2014, but we continue to shuffle the deck when it comes to diversifying our mix. Ad spend is leaning more towards the digital side, while other “traditional forms” are flat or declining.
  • Digital advertising (used loosely by the writer) does not necessarily mean less expensive or even mean more effective. It’s important to determine goals, strategy and measure results just as we would a “traditional” advertising campaign. While the “ad unit” may be less expensive (or it may not), it’s important to ask ourselves how do we leverage the advanced capabilities of digital in our creative to really make an impact – and deliver even more ROI?
  • We should expect to see traditional advertising mediums continue to incorporate digital into offerings and opportunities for advertisers.
  • If advertisers are cutting ad-budgets, it does not necessarily mean they are saving dollars. To support digital, they could be reinvesting those dollars into more interactive, big ticket digital creative. While that is speculation, it is important to consider the possibilities. And hey, if they are reinvesting and developing digital creative that is more engaging and driving better results – then, even better!
  • With a shift in data-driven decision-making, digital lends itself better to providing clear, distinct results. The facts don’t lie, right? But how can we compare digital apples-to-apples with traditional mediums if we can’t measure with the same granularity? Who is ready to develop some type of sensor/device that delivers the same data for radio, print ads, billboards, etc. so we can really compare?? Call me!
  • Push publishers, networks, etc. to define the results their digital recommendations deliver.


Take some time with your organization to define digital advertising as it relates to your marketing mix. While the industry may not have a solid stance on it categorically, at least you can measure and manage expectations internally.