Adweek reports on a new McKinsey & Co. report, "How Companies Are Marketing Online" that says companies have been slow to move to online advertising because of "an absence of meaningful metrics and adequate capabilities."
Compared to what, exactly? Compared to running an ad in a newspaper or magazine and hoping that somebody looks at it--and having absolutely zero idea how many people actually do? Compared to placing a commercial on television or radio and hoping that it's on a program seen or heard by one of the few thousand people that Nielsen and Arbitron use to extrapolate the viewing and listening habits of millions? Oh yeah, that's really efficient, measureable advertising. (I'm not even going to begin to guess what they mean by "adequate capabilities.")
Indeed, online advertising allows targeted advertising far more sophisticated than anything in print and online—you can track activity right down to the click. That runs rings around the traditional advertising outlets these advertisers are clinging to. As I wrote a few months ago, online advertising is obliterating the old John Wanamaker paradox that half of ad spending is wasted.
What's really happening here, as Scott Karp brilliantly puts it on his Publishing 2.0 blog, is that advertisers—and particularly advertising agencies—are even more backward about adapting to online media than the stodgy, traditional media in which they advertise. "The reality is that the attitudes expressed in the McKinsey report are all a smoke screen, intended to protect vested interests and organizations adapted to static media models, which went unchanged for decades, and not the dynamic innovation of the web," Karp writes. "Billions of dollars still remain in traditional media because the advertising industry has to go through its own transition. ... It’s not that traditional advertising is more 'accountable,' but rather it’s more 'comfortable,' more 'familiar.'”
Exactly right. And of course, we've seen this story before, in traditional media's failure to quickly and smartly transition to the unfamiliar online world. Let's face it, online advertising is still largely stuck in a banner model that echoes centuries of display advertising, with only a few scattered examples of innovation that break the mold by reaching out and exploiting what's happening in interactivity, social media and other Web advances.
It's been an open secret for years that the ad agencies and corporate ad buyers are far behind in their thinking about how to market online, and this study proves that. Sure, there's still some mumbo-jumbo in how Web performance is tracked and counted. Tougher and broader standards for metrics would be welcome. But the ability to measure Web activity is still light years ahead of how print readership and broadcast ratings are tracked, and getting farther ahead every day. It's the advertisers that are the problem; not the medium. They need to catch up.