Summer Vocabulary

Often a trend or concept only becomes real when someone finally gives it a name. Certainly there were tipping points before Malcolm Gladwell coined "The Tipping Point," but did anyone really care all that much about them? (Clearly I'm only dreaming that "The Oreo Doctrine" - subject of my last Drift - will get similar airplay. I should be so lucky.)

So as a service to the interactive marketing industry - and as an antidote to the doldrums of muggy August heat - here are two new terms that I'm coining and throwing out into the public domain. Use freely, but remember: Good people use attribution!

SNOWSHOEING: (Verb) "Creating broader reach and a larger online footprint through alliance and networking with other like websites." Google's Adsense remains the Web's mac-daddy in terms of a distributed advertising presence. But a casual look around tells us that players big and small are all getting into the act. In my opinion, one of the central drivers in the recent round of consolidation in ad serving/targeting/data is the desire among major companies to establish a massive transactional ad presence online that will rival and compete for TV audience dollars. But don't think for a minute that any of this is limited to the biggest names and deepest pockets. Five years ago, erstwhile competitors from MarketWatch,, CNET, USA TODAY and The New York Times banded together through "The At-Work Brand Network" to allow marketers to buy quality reach. While that politically ambitious project was ahead the market, harvest time has arrived. Don't look now, but all types of publishers are reaching out to small content players, mom & pops, fan sites, bloggers and many more and cobbling them into ad-hoc networks to blow away inventory constraints and bring real reach and heft to the ad programs they offer marketers.

THE INTELLECTUAL ROUTER: (Noun) "The role played by the marketing services agency of tomorrow in the face of overwhelming fragmentation in media and communications channels."

Just as content owners are acknowledging that they can't go it alone, so will be the lot of the successful ad agency in the digital age. For most of the first century of its existence, the agency biz has been about locking down the smartest people and generating all the best ideas yourself. No more. There are just too many directions and too much complexity for any shop to become more than an average generalist.I think the central value embraced by the very best agencies will be their ability and willingness to channel the best thinking of media companies and publishers on behalf of their clients. It's not about being a powerful mainframe any more; it's about being a router. This may seem to fit nicely into all the happy talk of the standard agency brochure, but realizing this role will demand a big shift in behavior, culture and orientation. Rather than bragging about all the smart people they control, the true Intellectual Router will brag about the number of great relationships it can activate.

While these catchy descriptive terms may help move the discussion along, Snowshoeing and The Intellectual Router are really just affirmations of Metcalfe's Law and an acknowledgment that marketing on the web is all about archipelagos, not islands.

REFERENCED: "...subject of my last Drift": "The At-Work Brand Network": Metcalfe's Law:'s_law

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