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Chorus grows against blind embrace of digital

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There is a false dichotomy between digital and traditional media and the majority of brands are likely to require a combination of both, according The Communications Council chairman Jaimes Leggett.

Mr Leggett, who is also chief executive of M&C Saatchi Group Australasia, made the comments during a panel discussion held as part of the launch of Deloitte Access Economics’ Advertising Pays: The Economic, Employment and Business Value of Advertising report.

The report was commissioned by The Communications Council, the peak body representing companies in the Australian advertising industry.

“I think the reality is we probably swung the pendulum a little too far (towards digital) and I think we’re starting to kind of centralise a little bit,” Mr Leggett said.

Mr Leggett said the digital and traditional media dichotomy was absolutely the wrong conversation to have, especially at a time when so-called “traditional media” like radio and newspapers, were also digital.

“What we absolutely believe is that there will be some tasks for some brands where digital should be all of the activity and equally some tasks or some brands where what we’re calling ‘traditional channels’ would be all of the activity,” he said.

“And probably more likely than not, a whole bunch in the middle that require a combination. So it’s not about supporting either one or the other, it’s just a recognition that there’s a different role to play at different points.”

Mr Leggett adds his voice to a slowly growing chorus of industry leaders lending confidence to “traditional media” and questioning the pouring of ad dollars blindly into digital areas like social media and video.

There is, however a clear upward trajectory for digital spending and audience generally. PwC’s Entertainment and Media Outlook predicts internet advertising (search, display, classifieds and video) will grow from 39 to 51.4 per cent of Australian advertising market between 2015 and 2020.

However, concerns remain about the effectiveness and level of engagement generated by certain platforms, such as the three-seconds used to measure online video views.

Last year, WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell also noted the pendulum had “swung too far” towards video and online content.

More recently, Melbourne Business School marketing professor Mark Ritson gave a brazen smackdown of marketers’ “obsession” with digital during the first of the Australian Association of National Advertisers Marketing Deconstructed lectures.

Prof Ritson railed against “dreary digital marketers”, the obsession with millennial, social media and the dodgy metrics associated with digital video.

“A fleeting three seconds of a video in the corner of your smartphone is not the same as spending 35 minutes reading a newspaper in which advertising has been included.”

“A fleeting three seconds of a video in the corner of your smartphone is not the same as spending 35 minutes reading a newspaper in which advertising has been included,” Mr Ritson said.

“Now the 35 minutes aren’t spent reading the ads, but the ads are welcome there and like radio, a  newspaper doesn’t have an ad-free zone because the ads are interesting, we read them, they’re part of the experience, especially the weekend.”

“It doesn’t mean newspapers are the superior medium; there isn’t one. But they’re underrated now. Everybody thinks so that knows what they’re talking about.”

Watch Mark Ritson’s full lecture at the AANA’s Marketing Deconstructed 

Executive chair of Clemenger Group, Robert Morgan, was speaking alongside Mr Leggett in the panel discussion and cautioned against “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” as the industry transforms.

He also said he did not believe “traditional media” can be oversold.

“It’s fashionable and seen on trend to be putting more and more money in certain directions when in fact the analytics don’t support it,” Mr Morgan said.

“Professor Ritson, many of you may have seen, has been very vocal on this matter in terms of the over emphasis on social media, the irrelevance of brands on social media and all of that. And so there has been an overselling, no question about that, and it’s interesting that the more he talks about that, the more he rails against the trend, it is deafeningly silent the people in response to that at every level.

“I think we have probably overarched in one direction.”

The Advertising Pays report examined the value and utility of advertising in Australia, touting a range of benefits for both the economy and consumers, such as increased competition.

The report found that in 2014, advertising benefits to the Australian economy was worth $40 billion, noting this figure nears the productivity value of the internet and digital technologies which was worth $45 billion in 2013.

It also found more than 200,000 people in Australia work in advertising and its associated professions. For every one person directly employed by advertising, around one person is indirectly employed in the supply chain and two more in the advertising supported sectors and occupations.

Advertising Pays also outlines six key insights from the report’s research and interviews, one of which is that “omnivorous audiences” thrive on a balanced channel diets.

“Businesses should not disregard the role for traditional channels, which continue to be effective in building a differentiated brand,” the report reads.

“The right mix will vary according to the strategic objectives of a business. Rarely will a one-channel strategy – digital or otherwise – serve a brand’s best interests.”

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