Yesterday McDonald's named its first-ever U.S. Vice president of digital. The new VP, Julie Vander Ploeg, will report to McDonald's chief digital officer and will lead... "digital strategy efforts on several fronts -- such as enhancing our customers' restaurant experience, more relevant ways to share our story and how customers engage with our brand."
It's noteworthy that the word advertising is never mentioned.
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first digital advertising buys: our team at Wired Magazine and its digital cousin Hot Wired were doing deals with agencies like Messner Vetere, Modem Media, Ogilvy and NW Ayer to run ads for brands like Volvo, AT&T and IBM on the new site - the first ever to accept advertising - 468 x 60 pixel banners, no animation, no dynamic serving, no analytics. Over the subsequent two decades I've had a front row seat for the development of our craft, working with hundreds of companies, thousands of digital sellers and every manner of tech, data, service and platform provider. And I've come to a conclusion: this isn't really about advertising at all.
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For twenty years we've tried to jam the power, creativity and intelligence of "this thing of ours" into the confined space of an advertising business that was already starting to implode way back in the 90s. The bigger and more multi-dimensional we become (with social, native, data-driven decision making and more) the more anachronistic and restrictive the conventions of advertising become. Separation of church and state? Attribution? The Gross Rating Point? Don't get me wrong: all of these things matter, and they'll have a bottom line impact on how successfully video advertising dollars migrate from television to other devices and streams. But all of the wildly successful companies of our era have all realized they are part of something much bigger than the advertising business.
McDonald's seems to be acknowledging that fact. Brand engagement and enhancing the customer's retail experience can't even be contained by marketing, let alone advertising. And even to share our story is as much about CRM, public relations, social media management and staff training as it is about advertising.
Don't look now, but it appears we've been super-sized. Gonna need a bigger box.