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Is Digital Marketing Dead?

May 17th, 2019   ||    by Gary Milner

Back in 2014, at AdExchanger’s Programmatic I/O in San Francisco, I presented a brand view about programmatic marketing. My thoughts were that all media would eventually be bought through software, therefore digitally enabled.

Halfway into 2019 and eventually into 2020, it is clear that we are approaching that point. As TV starts the inevitable turn to being digitally bought and eaten like PAC-MAN over the next few years, the term “digital marketing” just might be obsolete. Why? Because everything is digital, so, it becomes just marketing. According to e-marketer, total US media spend in 2019 will be $238bn, of which $200bn is TV and digital, digital alone $129bn (54% of media). We only have a short way to go to a full digital spend.

Attending this year’s Digiday Future of TV Summit, what were the opportunities and considerations that marketers seemingly need to journey down as the TV media business changes?

Overall, the quote from Kait Boulos, VP of Strategy & Partnerships from Varick summed up the change in media buying related to TV, “it’s not about how much, it’s about how wise.” This related back to the traditional TV mantra of reach and supposed frequency versus more refined targeting and measurement that will be possible with digital TV.

Here are a few elements that relate back to the wise thoughts for agencies and brands as we move toward a digital buying universe:


  • Existing siloed organizations won’t allow fluid movement of budgets to where the opportunity is. Because of this, measurement and growth will be hindered. Brands will need to integrate internal media resources and agencies will need to think more clearly on how programmatic arms and traditional planning work, to invest in the future, rather than protect the past. Brands will also need to be wary of having competing agencies planning what needs to become integrated.


  • First party data is increasingly the holy grail for marketing. If a brand doesn’t have a data strategy for the new digital media universe, then there is an issue. If you’re not on the DMP path, work with a DSP that can offer a “DMP like” alternative to help data collection for media.

AdTech – “is about the 3D’s” – DMP, DSP and Data

  • There has been a tendency by brands and agencies to proliferate buying technology by using multiple DSP’s, ostensibly to improve reach. This only leads to bidding on the same audiences, raising bid prices, increasing complexity in customer journey management and overall worsening efficiency. You probably only need one; two if buying YouTube programmatically (but that can be bought direct).
  • Find a DSP supplier that is tuned into the OTT space. Ask questions like, what direct integrations do they have with planning, buying and measuring providers?
  • Beware of any ad-network arrangements where the DSP is just repackaging inventory, which only increases the price to the brand buyer with more middlemen involved.
  • A large majority of TV is still linear, local making up a big significant proportion of TV budgets (19bn in 2017). Consider leveraging local TV buying software, like Videa, that will help integrate linear local. With 161 markets, 48 states, 613 stations, an average 90% reach across 83.9M households and 1.4T annual impressions a more complete buy is achievable with an online marketplace like Videa’s. Almost 18% of households are using an antenna so local will be with us for quite a while.

Customer journey marketing

  • Digital TV allows an ad to be served to a prospect (awareness ad) and leverages the data to then retarget on or off TV with an e-commerce message. The follow up could be mobile by connecting the data dots.

Ad fraud – don’t assume there aren’t any issues with fraud

  • Specifically, fraudsters are abusing the widespread use of “server-side ad insertion” (SSAI), which is used in 38% of all CTV/OTT programmatic ad transactions. When SSAI is used, Pixalate data shows that it’s fraudulent 26% of the time (Mediapost, May 15).


  • Ensure that the ad plays properly. A rather scary article in TV News Daily said that 47% of digital TV ads may not be delivered properly. (Conviva’s Q1 “State of the Streaming TV Industry” report found that as many as 47% of ad attempts — between ad requests, selection, creative requests and delivery, and playback — were not delivered to consumers as intended).

Digitization of TV creates opportunities for creative context solutions. Some examples:

  • Hulu explained the concept of the palate cleanser watcher, an audience that watches serious content, like The Handmaid’s Tale, and follows up with comedy. A perfect example of adopting creative rotation of an ad against the content type.
  • AdPods in OTT ads can be dynamically served in the pods, allowing a sequence of creative across the variety of pods that the user experiences.

Or, the pods can be totally taken over to tell a longer story.

  • Creative context solutions are appearing. For example, Hulu talked about pause ads when a user stops a program. Amazon has already introduced static screens on FIRETV that turn into video ads on scroll over. Disney has used this to effect and presumably significant scale with Dumbo and the Avengers movie. I certainly noticed the Dumbo and Avengers creative so that worked, but it is not a traditional TV execution, but is on OTT.

So, with the wise is a mix of many things, and I didn’t even talk about measurement. Enjoy the TV journey! It’s going to be quite a ride the next few years. How I see it, digital marketing will be dead, and all marketing will be digital!


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