Client structures and job titles prevent ‘calling bullshit’ on digital marketing narrative

There has been too much money and time invested in building digital structures in marketing departments and too much hype built up about digital in the trade press for anyone to “call bullshit” on the need for the word digital to be used at all, and the actual effectiveness of new channels versus traditional ones until now, a client-agency relationship consultant has said.

Talking at Mumbrella360 in Sydney, Nathan Hodges, a consultant at TrinityP3, was sympathetic to the views of outspoken marketing professor Mark Ritson, who in a series of recent speeches Hodges said has “blown the lid off” commonly made assumptions around digital, social media and the media habits of millennials.

nathan hodges - GM at TrinityP3

Hodges: ‘The term digital marketing officer is like cinema marketing officer – it’s that ridiculous’

Ritson told his audience at Mumbrella360 that the impact of digital had been “totally overrepresented in the media”, digital video measurement was a “new wave of bullshit”, and that TV would remain the dominant medium “everywhere” for at least another decade.

Ritson also took an axe to the phrase “digital marketing”, asking his audience to name one medium that hadn’t yet been digitised (someone immediately called out: “aerial” [advertising on zeppelins]. “The concept of digital marketing is about to evaporate as it doesn’t make sense,” he said.

Mark Ritson at Mumbrella360: “There are probably more people working in social media in corporates than there people who follow them on social media.”

Mark Ritson at Mumbrella360: “There are probably more people working in social media in corporates than there people who follow them on social media.”

In response to Ritson’s views, Hodges commented: “Too much gets invested in creating these structures, job titles and careers for anyone to call ‘bullshit’ on it. That’s the problem.”

As a consequence of “a load of hype”, Hodges said his consultancy gets approached all the time by clients, saying “the market has moved so fast, but I’m not sure our marketing structure or agency roster is actually fit for purpose at the moment, because we don’t quite know where digital sits.”

The problem with “digital marketing” job titles is that, Hodges said, there is a strategy and tactic “welded” in when strategy should come first, tactics later.

Mark Ritson m360“It’s like saying, ‘I’m chief cinema advertising officer for this company’. It’s that ridiculous. But yet that’s been done. And you’ve got a whole host of people who are only interested in being one of those. It’s just bizarre.”

A search on LinkedIn today using the words “digital marketing” revealed 2,706,940 results, 172,731 for the words “digital marketing” and “Australia”, and 5,256 for “digital marketer”.

Hodges, who has previously worked at Whybin\TBWA and Ogilvy, said that the digital marketing silo was more of an issue for the client-side than agencies, as there would always be a need for agency specialists across traditional and new channels.

mark ritson m360 smaller numbers graph“It’s a great time to be an agency because there are always going to be key areas that you can occupy across many rosters, because it’s inevitably more complex than it used to be.”

“The more specialists we have on the agency side, the easier it is for us to build effective rosters for clients, rather than agencies trying to be everything,” he said.

On the narrative built up around digital in the trade press, Hodges said: “The knee-jerk stuff about agencies being dead, advertising is dead, TV is dead, newspapers are dead – it’s just bollocks.”

The industry narrative that pervades at conferences and forums goes: “This is on the horizon, you must get real to this because it’s sure to overwhelm us,” Hodges said. “Will it go [the shift from traditional to new channels] faster than someone like Ritson is saying… I don’t know.”

“New technological advances do emerge quickly, but remember that there are still people who listen to vinyl records. People are driving electric cars, but there are still petrol-powered cars around.”

The response to Ritson’s presentation on Twitter:

The response to Mark Ritson’s m360 presentation on Twitter

In Ritson’s presentation, after pointing to data for a number of mature markets where television was still by far the biggest medium in terms of reach, he said: “TV is not dying in Australia or anywhere.”

Among the most surprising stats he presented was that Australian millennials watch five times the amount of video on TV as they do on mobile devices.

On ‘digital marketers’, he said they were “walking around with a hammer looking for a nail.”

He said it was time to “put down the ‘d’ word.”

“Digital marketers: you’ve created a silo and you’re living inside of it,” he said.

“The minute you say digital strategy, you make a fool of yourself. It’s time for strategy first, then we’ll do tactics.”

He also questioned the real value of social media to marketers, comparing the number of people who follow brands’ social channels with the number of actual customers.


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