Digital Media is No Longer the Rodney Dangerfield For Promotion Spending

Legendary comedian Rodney Dangerfield is best known for his line “I don’t get no respect.”  For many years, digital media seemed like the Dangerfield of promotion spending. Marketers tended to tread lightly into digital media or shun it altogether as they were not convinced this space held value.  However, it is becoming more apparent the use of digital media for marketing promotion has now reached a level of respectability that places it on par with other forms of promotion, including television advertising.  While placing image and text ads on websites has long been considered an acceptable digital media option, the real growth in spending appears to be coming from social media and mobile apps, areas that some marketers were convinced would never yield an attractive return on their promotional investment.

Social media, while once thought to be little more than a fun way to communicate with friends, has now risen to the top of most marketers’ list of what will be the most important influences on marketing over the next few years. We had seen this evolution take place beginning 2009, when many wondered if social media was a viable business model, up until a few weeks ago when we discussed how social media is now critical for launching new products. In between we noted other elements that have made social media a powerful force including how it now dominates public relations, how corporations are establishing social media command centers and how older people are now embracing social media.

Unlike social media, since the early days of cellphones marketers have considered mobile to be an inviting target for promotion. Unfortunately, it took much longer for this to happen than was predicted, primarily because the necessary technologies for delivering promotions had not evolved until smartphones were introduced. Today, no one can escape promotions on mobile phones and tablet computers.

This week, more evidence of the growing influence of digital media has emerged. First, Facebook’s appears to have made a dramatic statement of the power of social media when it reported its quarterly net income exceeded $1 billion. Certainly this will get marketers’ attention. Even more eye-opening is this story from Business Insider. It discusses how Unilever, one of the world’s largest consumer products companies, is now directing 24% of its worldwide promotional budget, over $2 billion, to digital media, and more than 50% in “digitally advanced markets” including the U.S. and China.

Allocating this much to digital media means other types marketing promotions will be losing out, with the most likely casualties being traditional forms of promotion, including television and print advertising, and sales promotion methods, including printed coupons.

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