This two part series is a more detailed consideration of several themes and ideas that have been discussed on this blog previously, in a more logical and researched presentation.

This part two considers the role of advertising as well as presents an alternative solution. Part one considered the transitioning incentives of social media services.

Please feel free to contact the author Al McCann if you would like access to any footnoted references.

Advertising alone fails to develop relationships

In an environment in which people are constantly connected to digital devices, it is imperative to develop an authentic relationship with a customer or user over time. This is because we continually and repeatedly interact with digital experiences in modern life, and accordingly gravitate towards experiences that consistently meet our needs and exceed our expectations.

Unfortunately, an interruptive advertising approach alone does not provide people with experiences to cherish. If a Facebook user clicks on a sponsored post, their focus and attention remains with Facebook unless the advertiser can immediately present the user with a compelling reason to start interacting with its brand or product. There is unequivocally a role for advertising in lead generation, however it must supplement and co-exist with efforts to foster relationships.

The diminishing impact of search and banner advertising

There are four main problems with search and banner advertising on the web today1:

  1. Younger users engage with advertising less than older users;
  2. Ad blocking software is utilised by between 9% and 23% of web browsers;
  3. Click fraud is severe, amounting to $53M USD in wasted spending in the US in the first 6 months of 2013. A staggering 25% of ad spending may be wasted on fraudulent inventory2; and
  4. Over supply of inventory conflicts with limited attention of users.

Notwithstanding these problems, search and banner advertising is an effective lead generation or customer acquisition channel. Google advertising products have been effective direct marketing channels for years. However, any click-based effort must feed a content driven strategy for a story to emerge from hyperlinks and advertising banners, and resonate such that the brand can develop meaningful relationships.

Attention is the important resource

Under the mass media model in which advertising arose before the web was widely accessed, attention is essentially assured because there is no competition within the distribution channel. A TV operator owns and controls the cable or channel it distributes content with. Save for a few competing channels there is little competition in the lounge room for the attention of the audience. Accordingly, the mass media organisation can create ‘least offensive’ content that meets the needs of the maximum number of people without alienating anyone. Advertising is effective because people have little choice but to tolerate it.

In the networked distribution model of the web, the opposite is true. The cost of distribution is effectively zero and there is extreme competition within the distribution channel (the web). Everyone is creating and publishing content and messaging. This dictates that for content to capture and retain attention, the quality of the narrative and the quality of the story-telling itself must be amazing.

A converged media strategy as a response

A converged media strategy aims to bring together the digital footprint of a brand into a cohesive system that maximises the impact from all efforts. Central to this strategy is the concept of a community or audience controlled as much as possible by the brand or business. Social media is a component, but the focus is on communities controlled by the brand in order to develop richer more meaningful relationships with less platform risk.

Earned media is user-generated or shared media including word-of-mouth, reviews, forums and publicity. Paid media is advertising including outdoor advertising and billboards, TV advertising, search engine marketing, CPC and CPM internet advertising. Owned media refers to community brand channels including websites, blogs, YouTube channels, mobile applications and so on. Converged media brings together these elements in a cohesive and coordinated system to benefit people.

Thinking in terms of converging media allows for a consistent storyline, look and feel to be communicated to customers whatever stage in their path-to-purchase.

The importance of video content

Video content is a powerful component of the strategy because it can tell brand and product stories with emotional impact.

Video is an important tool across the path-to-purchase:

  • Video content increases online sales. Online retail shoppers who watch video spend two minutes longer on site and are 64% more likely to buy3;
  • Video content makes email marketing campaigns twice as effective as it increases the click through rate of email campaigns by 96%4;
  • Video content increases visibility and awareness, as pages with video are 53 times more likely than pages with text to appear on the first page of search results5;
  • Online video users are expected to double to 1.5 billion in 20166; and
  • Online video influences more than 50% of in-store sales, making cross-channel video campaigns for the omni-channel retailer more critical than ever. That number is expected to rise to 60% by 20177.

The importance of storifying your brand and product

Media consumption levels dictate a consistent narrative be created for audiences to connect with the brand on a deeper level. Storifying a brand and product creates a narrative to connect to. Instead of merely selling products, focus on telling your brand and product story in a compelling way.

Importantly, consumers are tuning into branded video content as brands and marketers continue to create video content instead of traditional advertisements. Audiences watched brand video more than 1.8 billion times in Q1 2013. Viewership grew nearly 40% between 2012 and 2013.8

The importance of mobile

Constant connectedness to smartphones means mobile is a key channels for communicating stories and creating communities:

  • There are now roughly 3.5 to 4B mobile phones globally, replaced every two years, versus 1.7 to 1.8B PCs replaced every 5 years9;
  • 38% of daily media interactions occur on a smartphone10;
  • 90% of people now use multiple screens or devices sequentially to accomplish tasks11; and
  • Online shopping occurs across multiple screens. 67% of people use multiple mobile screens or devices sequentially to shop online.12


The social media services prominent in Australia have evolved into publicly listed companies. There are now changed circumstances for businesses and brands seeking to access the audiences on these platforms. There are also platform risks associated with over-reliance on these channels, including increased advertising and distribution costs. (See Part I)

To mitigate these risks and to maximise relationships with customers beyond advertising, a strategy encompassing a holistic view of community and audience will yield success in the future. This strategy must take into account the opportunities presented by video content, mobile uptake and storytelling as a way to cut through.

Part one of this post considered the transitioning incentives of social media services.

1. Tim Hwang and Adi Kamdar. The Theory of Peak Advertising and the Future of the Web. 2013.

2. See this post

3. comScore. August 2010.

4. Implix. Email Marketing Trends Survey. 2010

5. Forrester Research. The Easiest Way to a First-page Ranking on Google. 2009.

6. See this White Paper

7. See this post

8. Visible Measures. Q1 2013 Branded Video Report. 2013

9. See this post

10. Google/Ipsos/Sterling Brands. The New Multi-Screen World: understanding cross-platform consumer behaviour. 2012

11. Google/Ipsos/Sterling Brands. The New Multi-Screen World: understanding cross-platform consumer behaviour. 2012

12. Google/Ipsos/Sterling Brands. The New Multi-Screen World: understanding cross-platform consumer behaviour. 2012