The Peacock Principle

Picture a rather odd and cumbersome looking bird demurely dragging a mottled clump of tail feather through the dust as it crosses your path. This metaphorical bird represents the present and future of online advertising and marketing as defined by clicks, post-click behavior and the simplistic DR metrics that have dominated - no, smothered - the business for nearly 15 years. You might be a little intrigued, but certainly not inspired or awed by what you see...

But, take the same bird with a different attitude and posture and you get a totally different picture...

This "Peacock Principle" I'm espousing is about how we in the digital media, sales and agency community will - or won't - talk about ROI from here on out. Will we continue to awkwardly retrofit the value of online advertising to brain-dead, narrow metrics and models? Or will we adopt a more muscular, assertive positioning of what online advertising and marketing really does for a marketer, a campaign, a brand? Sellers, agencies, marketers....this is your invitation and your roadmap to that new conversation about ROI. There is a case to be made for real online ROI and here is how to make it. In every meeting and every exchange, we must display all the feathers.

1. Guaranteed Delivery. In an age of TiVo and ADD, I'm sure I'm not the only one to notice that every single online ad is delivered only when a live human is requesting the page it appears on. In television, they've only recently and grudgingly accepted commercial ratings over program ratings, and something like seven times more money is spent there than in the online world. A better brand of snake oil, but still not really treating the patient.

2. Adjacency and Integration. American Idol and the impending NBC Jay Leno experiment are chiefly about breaking down the barriers and integrating advertising into the viewer experience. Hello? Every online ad lives right on the same screen with the content. It's one integrated experience. In other words, we are the future that television aspires to be.

3. Attention. Not surprisingly, points one and two add up to point three. Attention is today's media currency and we are drowning in it. We start with an attentive, lean-forward consumer of information; that should be worth a multiple of seven right there!

4. Personalization and Targeting. In a media world where 18-49 is still considered "a target demo," virtually every online ad is already micro-targeted - demographically, behaviorally or contextually -even in its most simplistic deployment.

5. Interaction. With upwards of 80% of online display ads now constructed in Flash, "interaction" is the new click. Interaction rates on widely-available creative technologies are holding solid: consumers actually like the idea of touching, manipulating and interacting with online ads. Who knew? And with online video just getting bigger, better and faster....well, you know the rest.

6. Brand Movement. "Branding" may have lost some luster as an intellectual construct, but the ability to measure brand movement and growth within the online channel remains undiminished. Thousands of brand studies and a body of work by Dynamic Logic and other companies and industry bodies - all based on rock-solid research methodology - can't be wrong. Simple fact: online advertising works. It moves consumers from one side of the persuasion scale to the other.

Six simple concepts - six feathers. If we confidently and consistently adopt this new posture - if we strut a little instead of nervously shuffling across the media landscape - we can quickly reshape marketer opinions, behavior and allocation. But first, we've got to start (a) believing it ourselves and (b) conforming our own digital-to-digital arguments to this new reality. To do less is to continue to apologize for and enable the status quo and ultimately thwart the real advancement of online within the media landscape.

Who really gives a damn about a shy peacock anyway?