Taking a Different Tack to Marketing

As businesses shift from old media to new, are we asking the right questions?

According to Forrester, US interactive marketing spend was about 19% of all US advertising spend in 2011. The research company is predicting this figure will increase to 35% by 2016 (subscription required for full report), or $77B, which will be equal to the current spending on TV.

A big marketing shift
Lots of people in our industry ponder how quickly this shift will occur. This transition creates wonderful wind at Fathom’s back as a top 25 firm in the interactive space. We are fortunate to have enjoyed growth rates 2-3 times the industry rate, which is important to us because we feel anyone can go as fast as the wind, but only the best sailors can exceed it.

Enough about us. Back to the question of how quickly online & mobile will displace traditional. I’m not going to get into all the reasons why this is a matter of when and how fast, not if, because that has been well documented. If you need further proof, the next time you are in a room with 20+ people, ask them to raise a hand if they’ve received a direct snail-mail piece in the last 60 days that led to a purchase. Then tell them, “Raise your hand if you have used the Internet in the last 60 days to research and/or complete a purchase.” Clearly this shift is well underway, so what I’m really interested in is: Are we even asking the right question?

Lessons from China: Advertising trends
Thanks to a recent chance meeting, what I think we should be asking finally became clear. I had the opportunity to discuss Chinese advertising trends with Professor Zhao Zizhong, a visiting dean from The Institute of Digital Media Research at Beijing’s Communication University of China. Our discussion was fascinating. He said 15 years ago, people in China generally didn’t even know what advertising was. We got into a discussion about the speed of the transition from traditional to digital in the US and China. The conclusion we came to was the question is not how quickly will advertisers adopt the search, social and mobile platforms of today (Google, Facebook and iPhone), but rather, “How quickly will advertisers adopt the things that are going to replace Google, Facebook and iPhone?” The recent and rapid adoption of Pinterest as one of the top online social networks in terms of time spent on site is a case in point: Pinterest seems to have come out of nowhere.

Here today, gone tomorrow
Google and Facebook seem ubiquitous today. However, talking to my new friend from China reminded me of my high-school days (not that long ago!) on the electronic typewriter and my first email account on the ubiquitous AOL. How times have changed as I compose this article on my MacBook Air. Can’t wait to see what happens next!

And regardless of what specific digital landscapes we encounter at any given moment, we are so excited at Fathom to continue to be the simple interface that allows our clients to turn the massive sea change that is underway into big-time revenue for their businesses.


Photo courtesy of John en Elza Bakker Fotowereld via Flickr.

About Scot Lowry

Scot Lowry is the president and CEO of Fathom. He is also the president of PromiseONE, LLC, a Beachwood, Ohio-based investment company whose partnership with Fathom coincided with his arrival. Prior to joining the company in 2007, Scot gained leadership development and management experience with diverse service organizations, including real-estate development, construction management and health care information systems businesses. His experience is with companies ranging in size from start-ups to $100+ million private companies. Scot is a graduate of the University of Florida and the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University (MBA).

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