Big Data; Small Screen
The preponderance of "Big Data" makes one thing abundantly clear with respect to direct marketing: Not only are DM tactics here to stay, they stand to vastly increase in usage as data becomes more readily available and costs to acquire, maintain, analyze, and utilize continue to drop. That’s not to say that general advertising is going away but rather the central elements of direct marketing – messaging based on precision targeting, the presence of a response mechanism (800#, website URL, discount codes, etc.), and measurable/trackable campaign metrics – will continue to permeate what has traditionally been considered ‘general advertising’. This is not a new trend; brands have been slowly implementing direct response tactics into their general advertising for quite some time. Consider the ‘infomercial’ (which, not surprisingly, is now "Direct Response TV"), which has fused direct marketing tactics with general advertising reach; components which are now practically ubiquitous within any ad campaign (e.g. how many TV commercials or magazine ads do NOT offer a web URL within their content???). DR Radio has achieved ad serving precision by harnessing our online surfing habits for “web radio” pre-roll and streaming ads (e.g. ads we're exposed to while listening to Pandora or some other player, strategically chosen based on our online activity learned via cookies). As more and more content is accessed online, the use of such direct response tactics within traditional advertising will continue to blur the two disciplines.
The latest 'direct-meets-general' innovation involves THE bastion of commercial advertising: the 30/60 second TV spot. Soon to hit the masses is 'Addressable TV'. Marketers will soon be able to target households via TV with tailored messages based on geographic, demographic, behavioral and (in some cases) self-selected household preferences. The enabling technology is Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) delivery systems and set-top boxes (STBs). What this means for marketers is that yet another facet historically reserved for direct marketing channels such as direct mail, email, telemarketing – the ability to customize offers based on advanced targeting and segmentation data – will soon find its way to the ‘little screen’. Soon, the TV ads we see will be tailored to our interests in a way that has never before been possible for the medium that is the vanguard for general advertising – television commercials.
Lest we lose our footing vis-a-vis previous marketing breakthroughs promising smarter targeting or lower cost (see: Ad Serving - Social Media) where we ignored direct marketing fundamentals, it bears mentioning that pennywise/pound-foolishness can quickly slow the effectiveness curve of this burgeoning tactic. In contrast, take for instance the case study of the mobile marketing channel. Providers wisely constructed tight rules of engagement requiring firm opting-in to mobile messages to prevent the scourge of e-mail marketing… spammers. Accordingly, the mobile channel thrives today as one of the highest converting direct tactics available to marketers.
Here’s hoping that the advent of the next breakthrough in marketing – the ability to target households with different TV ads based on individual preferences and behaviors – is prudently governed and executed with direct marketing principles. Doing so will transform THE premier conduit of traditional advertising into a medium able to reach the largest, most responsive audiences made possible by precise targeting beyond today's program content demographics.