MITX "Digital In The Downturn" Panel: 2009 is the Year of the Counting Dog
Yesterday morning I went to an excellent MITX panel discussion, "Utilizing Digital In A Down Economy". Here are some notes:
- The panelists were grim about the outlook. Jere Doyle predicted January will bring 1M (!) new job losses economy-wide. Guesses at changes in digital spending ranged from slightly negative to up 10% -- way down from the 20-30% digital growth rates we've become accustomed to.
- (One dynamic to keep an eye on: digital has shorter lead times (say, vs. catalog production or TV ads) and therefore the first to get cut; the flip side is it's easier to ramp up again)
- While the 2001-2002 bubble burst was worse, the landing for the industry was softer because the Fed pumped up the economy; this time our industry is healthier and the capabilities we offer customers are more mature, but there will be no soft landing.
- Old Media's really in trouble now.
- Measurable Media (e.g., paid search, email) closely related to conversion are faring the best.
- Digital advertising for branding -- e.g., display campaigns with 0.1% CTR's -- are really sucking wind.
- Despite all the evangelism of the past 24 months, social media per se won't attract spending (except perhaps as a content-generation vehicle), though specific, close-to-conversion solutions that leverage it (social graph-based extensions of things like Bazaarvoice) are still getting serious looks (I can verify this independently).
- Emily Green asked, "Are people more willing to trade information for value?" General answers: yes. More specifically, Ralph Folz talked about the "Value Exchange" concept, using Adidas' MiCoach as an example of how it doesn't necessarily have to be about price (see also this related post).
- Emily also asked, "Are we likely to see a new generation depression thinking -- a generation of recessionistas and frugalistas?" (Great terms, first I've heard of them.) Ralph: "Huge push in our agency to measure consumer engagement with brands, be more consumer-centric in our analytics, to figure out exactly how people are reacting" (So can we also coin analistas?) (See also this related post.)
- Panelists' advice for coping: "Cut deep and fast now -- don't be incremental"; "Sometimes the fish just aren't biting, so keep your powder dry"; and, the audience favorite: "Pursue the Cockroach Strategy -- there's always food along the sides!"
- I asked, "Top 5 adjustments you'd recommend clients make to their digital strategies in the downturn?" Answers: Ralph offered, "My 1-3 are measurement, measurement, and measurement." Others: "Think explicitly about how to create or highlight value for consumer in all digital interactions," and "Don't ignore global opportunities"
- Kiki Mills asked, "What will 2009 bring?" Jere Doyle: "2009 will be the year of Survival"; Ralph: "Year of Data"; Emily: "Year of Cash"; Jim Savage: "Year of Accountability"; and poor Tom Anderson, who went last and rightly tried to offer something different: "Year of Mobile" (to which the snarky refrain was "Isn't next year always the year of Mobile?")
- From the Great Closing Remarks department: Emily suggested reading Martin Seligman's Learned Optimism, noting optimists' belief in 3P's: "It's not permanent, it's not pervasive, and it's not personal."