By Paul Mead, Managing Director of VCCP Search
1. What has been the biggest change to the digital landscape in
Probably the phenomenal growth of social networking sites like Facebook and Bebo.
2. What are the biggest opportunities it presents to marketers?
The biggest opportunity it presents is the ability to listen and understand consumer perceptions about your brand (if you're being talked about) and how these perceptions change based on your marketing, your communications and how you behave as a business.
3. What are the biggest challenges it presents to marketers?
If, when and how to engage in this space. Sure the audience is huge on sites like Facebook but they are not there to have conversations or relationships with brands!
4. 2007 has seen an explosion of social networks. What is the best
way for marketers to best reach their users?
The most important thing is to listen, to monitor what's going on. If you're going to get involved you need to think very carefully about what your brand is doing there and why someone would engage with you. What's the value exchange?
5. What is the biggest change digital user-generated content will make to he media landscape in 2008?
The biggest change will be in the way the social web challenges advertisers approach to this channel in terms of their digital strategy.
Everyone is being lured by the big audience numbers but we know that the traditional digital creative formats whilst still effective have declining engagement rates.
The challenges for the social networks, for the advertisers and their agencies is to work out how to effectively use this space.
6. How will the UGC 'right to reply' on the net impact most on advertisers messages in 2008? What should advertisers be most cautious of?
Advertisers must understand the influence of 'social media' on their brands and its potential impact on their reputations. We've seen lots of examples this year of negative social media content being ranked very prominently on search engines for brand keywords.
Consumers are well aware that if they have a gripe they can make a video about it and post it on YoutTube, set up a blog, an online petition or a Facebook group.
If other people out there think the content is engaging (like the Comcast technician who fell asleep on a customers sofa) or they share that gripe (like the HSBC Facebook student protest) its potential power is enormous.
Advertisers need to have the resources or partners to monitor this space very closely, to use the data to inform a strategy and be ready to respond quickly and effectively when required.
7. Spending on digital media has been phenomenal in 2007. Can we expect the trend to continue in 2008?
As the channel matures you would expect the rate of growth to reduce but there is no doubt that 2008 will be another huge year for digital media.
The budgets being spent on digital are still a long way from reflecting the percentage of media time spent online.
If the pundits are correct and 2008 is a tough one for the UK economy this will also be a driver for digital as budgets flow towards the most efficient and accountable channels.
8. Mobile marketing has been tipped as the 'next big thing' but actual take up has been minimal. Will 2008 actually deliver for this platform?
The progress of mobile as a channel has been fairly slow but the potential is huge and its simply about getting the platform and content right first so that the user experience is positive. As this improves the audience will follow and the products for advertisers will develop much more quickly.
Google has made some interesting moves in this space this year and I think we see significant growth here over the next few years. Like many new channels its potential is probably over-estimated in the short term and under-estimated in the long term.
9. What most excites you about the potential media landscape in
What most excites me about the media landscape for 2008 is how digital is bring together different disciplines to help create a more integrated approach to marketing and communications.
The old way of doing things meant that a brand used an ad agency to make the ads, a PR agency to get press coverage, a web agency to build a website, a media agency to plan and buy the campaign.
Digital touches every point in the marcomms mix and we are seeing skills like PR and Search fusing together in new offerings which help brands make sense of the social web and develop an effective reputation management strategy.
I see this as most exciting development in the industry as digital changes the traditional way many of the largest advertisers approach their marketing and communications.
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