Growth at any cost?

Am I alone in thinking we currently view the success of digital purely in terms of revenue growth?

And yes, before anyone (Liam …) comes in and says ‘Well, der … that is generally the sign of a successful industry’ … I am aware of this 😉

The reason I bring this up is that some of my peers feel that anytime someone ‘digital’ is in a meeting or client session they are asking someone to get their chequebook out. There’s a feeling that digital = spending more.

Many publishers will publicly say a client ‘really understands digital’ only if they’re dropping a bomb on that network. Generally clients who don’t spend online are considered archaic and behind the times usually by the agencies that service them … let’s be honest, we’ve all been guilty of it.

This all consuming growth at all costs policy reverberates across almost all digital touchpoints.

The media want to spend more so they can continue reporting super growth to their shareholders.The digital media owners whose heritage is in ‘old media’ even moreso as they face tough trading conditions and need to show the market they have a sustainable future within a digital world.

Agencies both creative and media want clients to spend more as the margins are generally better. Most generally have global mandates to ’embrace digital’ as well so people need to be seen – whether they agree/understand the rationale – to be supporting it. Salespeople want advertisers to spend more because, well … they’re salespeople. Agency folk often tend to feed their own ego through how much budget their clients spend, not how smartly they spend it. Big budgets = big (self) importance.

We add more ad units to pages. We add more performance inventory. We run crazy PPC campaigns. We get sales pitches disguised as “research” … and all research points to one thing – spend more. We upsell. We fight for more budget and often battle against other elements of the media mix. We want more more more! It’s an overwhelming want but we’ve all bought into it.

A friend of mine who works at a large media player was saying he was loathe to bring in the digital arm of the business into client pitches as the digital guys focused more on the shortfalls of other media (including the media he repped) and not enough on the positives around their own.

I have even seen people link an advertisers lack of spend on digital channels to falling sales figures. It’s almost like we’re entitled to investment.

A concern I have is that when the good times end what are we going to be left with … probably a pretty complacent industry short on infrastructure and real solid research.

I am seeing it now. There are sales teams that were invinsible when the going was good … writing lots of money and generating big growth. When the going isn’t as good they have flatlined. Literally. Was the success just luck or good timing?

Right now when the going is still good, should we be investing more time and effort into setting up the industry for the next 10-15 years? Setting up systems that rival those used for TV and radio? Pushing the measurement debate. Moving beyond order taking and setting up better creative standards, more insight into how consumers are actually using the Internet, multi-tasking and cross media consumption?

Should we be investing more on upskilling current talent across all levels? And should we be doing more to attract smart uni grads into digital … because from my experience (in media anyway) they’re not lining up to join us.

I understand right now the push for growth is probably a short term necessity to drive cash flow … but in our obsession to grow at 15% YOY are we setting ourselves up for a massive thump in the next 5 or so years?

In my role I am facing the same questions so I’m not pointing fingers. Training, infrastructure, research … it all costs money and right now there’s not that much of it around. But it’s important … and we need to find ways, push the parents, to make it happen.


2 responses to “Growth at any cost?

  1. iamcontrarian

    Hello Benny

    Hey I am not going to say anything about money, except money is typically pretty good to have. Well a bit, not a lot. My 6 year old reminds me frequently that too much money turns you into a bad person.

    But I feel that as a member of the human race that I have an obligation to tell you that you owe us all an apology for saying “touchpoints”.

    We all make mistakes, we do silly things, but there can be no excuse for touchpoints.

    AND I think you took my rights to edit away, shame on you:)

  2. talkingdigital

    it’s true i am a horrible man. now i am concerned i have said that word, ‘touchpoints’ more than just once 😦

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