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When we were growing up in the 1990’s, many of us “Millennials”—as the ad world knows us—fondly remember advertising in the form of jingles, raps, stupid fads, and awfully colorful commercials. I remember tuning in to an episode of Rugrats on Nickelodeon, only to be rudely interrupted about eight times in a half hour by insanely hyper TV commercials. They needed to be in your face and eccentric, because they needed to lodge themselves in your brain for a long time. After the show, they wanted you to run upstairs to your parents with that Bubble Tape commercial stuck in your head, yelling, “I want it now!”
Twenty years later, however, TV commercials are losing relevance, billboards are fading, and print campaigns are dying. Why? Because they cost a lot of money, offer no instant gratification, and are impossible to track. Digital advertising is replacing traditional advertising, and it’s doing so with a vengeance. To understand the benefits of digital advertising, consider this:
In traditional advertising, when you put your brand on a billboard, you expect people to drive by, acknowledge your brand exists, and then (if you’re lucky) they may walk into your store and even up to the counter. But unless you have a homing device or a private detective, you have no idea if that person who just made a purchase did so as a result of your advertising efforts. With digital advertising, you know exactly where your leads come from—but beyond that, you can learn how they are navigating your website (or in this case, your store), why they leave, what advertising is effective, and literally see the ROI in front of you.
Digital advertising has pushed the world of advertising to be smarter, faster, and better. So, what are the tools that have helped revolutionize digital advertising? First, we must look at how the website has changed.
My first interaction with a website was back in 2000. These were dark times, where Hamster Dance and Napster ruled the world wide web. Back then, things moved slowly, and capabilities were nothing compared to the advertising gold mines they are today. As websites developed—and with the help Google and Bing—the web started to change. People could find what they were looking for. Quickly. They could instantly find “what movie that quote is from” or “why Nicolas Cage chooses crappy movie roles.” (That one is still kind of a mystery.) But people started getting accustomed to instant gratification and the simplicity of the world’s library at their fingertips.
Technology improved, and soon, having a website wasn’t a luxury for a business—it was a necessity. In 1996, there were less than 100 thousand websites. In 2008, there were more than 162 million. Why did that happen? Businesses started to understand that this was uncharted territory and that they could expand their brand to the world by opening up shop on the web.
One of the most prolific ideas was that the web could be used for questions and answers. Google capitalized on this in 1998 when they started building the world’s most advanced search engine. They set out to “organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful”—and to “not be evil” while doing it. When people searched for information on the web, they started noticing trends. As we know in the digital world, anything can be tracked. So Google started becoming a pool of information, both externally and internally. But what could they do with all this data?
The answer was give it back. In 2005, Google Analytics was launched with the idea that data could be used to make marketing decisions and they offered it for free to anyone with a website. Google Analytics was a revolution in not only, how to track your website visitors, but revolutionized the concept of user experience. Google Analytics allowed business owners to see drop off points, inquiries on their site, clicks, form fills and even purchases. This revolutionized how business thought about their websites.
Along with Google Analytics came Adwords back in 2000. Google understood early on that people were always going to be searching for things, and businesses want to be found. Search engine optimizations is hard, so an easy solution is “let them pay for it”. Advertisers fight for a spot on the top of the google’s search engine to be found for specific search terms of their choosing. If you are a dairy farm that thrives off of milk sales, wouldn’t you want to be in that top spot of google when someone types in “where to buy fresh milk”? Google Adword allows you to do just that.
There are billions of other advertising methods that have dominated the web over the last 20 years, however in the interest of not making your head explode, we will focus on just one more. Social Media Marketing.
When Facebook was invented in 2004, it grew from a simple platform that showed off who you were friends with on campus to one of the most comprehensive data machines in the world. Thanks to the infamous like button, Facebook has been gauging your interests for a decade.
When Facebook decided to welcome advertisers, it conveniently had so much data on demographics, interests, buying behavior, and patterns that it instantly created one of the most extensive advertising platforms on the web. Twenty years ago, we could never have imaged a world where you could run a television ad—but only to people who happen to be female and enjoy wine and cheese. Those capabilities just didn’t exist. With Facebook advertising, you can segment to that and beyond.
Programs, ideas, and platforms will continue to change as digital advertising grows. There has never been a better or more interesting time to be in our line of work, as it’s more stimulating and creative than ever. Staying up on the latest is a challenge that we at Grue & Bleen will boldly accept, and we can not wait to see what is next!