Razorfish Digital Outlook Report 2009 – the brief

Ben Shepherd writes: It’s worth reading this in full – http://digitaloutlook.razorfish.com/publication/?i=13617 – but for the more time poor amongst us here’s my key takeouts.

Yes, I am aware that this is a report written by a company that flogs digital services … so it’s not entirely impartial and there is no doubt some agenda in there … but the majority of it is interesting and important.

– CEO Clark Kocich talks about the move from ‘Saying Things’ to ‘Building Things’ and how this alters the role that the ‘adverting’ or communications agency play and the role they provide in their clients and partners businesses. “Digital has the chance to re-imagine a consumer connection or reinvent a business model.”

– One topline trend they touch on is advertisers turning to not only measurability during a recession, but differentiation. SO true …  and I think differentiation isn’t really being looked at as much as it could be … for both publishers and agencies. Another is that ‘mobile will get smarter’ … this I also agree with, it has to. Right now the measurement is basic at best and there’s no real research on the incremental benefit of the channel. At the same time there’s a mountain of potential and some great examples of ways to use it in an interesting way. Financial realities will help mobile evolve.

– It’s interesting to see where Razorfish are investing client dollars. Search is the biggest chunk, followed by Verticals, then portals then ad networks. The trends they identify are increasing reliance on ROI (true), movement away from the portals (true) and fragmentation in the ad network market – ie, too many groups offering the same basic service (true).

– The spend analysis across verticals is very interesting. Sure, this is dictated by your client base but it mirrors my own thoughts. Entertainment is the dominant vertical … followed by Community and then Health, Business and Travel. Sport is not really a big event … which mirrors Australia as Sport here isn’t a big deal digitally in terms of ad spend (but has solid user numbers). Sport was down year on year despite 2008 being an Olympic year. This figure surely would worry local sports sites as they attempt to monetise their large audiences.

– 2009 will be a challenge for Search. Why? The economy. But think about the opportunity this creates for those who stay in the game and are smart … less competition in SEM is good for everyone (except Google) due to the auction model. Also, this increased scrutiny will lead to better evaluation of metrics … cue the need for custom attribution models and less reliance on last click. Qual and Quant coming together to create deeper insights. Razorfish don’t seem to believe that 2009 will be the year of mobile search but are optimistic about the space due to developments around product and handsets.

– In 2009 the web will become more ‘live’ …  “the worlds events will form an instant digital pulse.” This will be driven by realtime search (Twitter), live video (YouTube, Qik) and also will be relevant for site analytics (ie what is happening on my site right now … there are some great tools around this including one piece of awesome Aussie software)

My only criticism is this report fails to address how digital channels work with other media and communications channels aside TV (and most of that is focused around the digitisation of the medium not how it’s working in the here and now) … which is a huge issue across the board. Digital isn’t a silo, and I am sure Razorfish know this, but then they fail to address the holistic comms environment in their report. How does digital work alongside and enhance other media. How can social media work with traditional channels and how do we measure it all?

That said, this report is such a good resource and a great read. Cannot thank the Razorfish crew enough for making it publicly available and would love to see similar groups (groupm, WPP, Publicis etc) nail this kind of data and analysis.


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