TFM&A ’09: Digital marketing is very much alive and kicking


I’ve just got back from Technology for Marketing and Advertising 2009. Here’s a round up of some of the highs and lows from a slightly jaded online marketer’s perspective.

What was interesting was how busy the show was. Olympia was really very busy. If visitor count alone were an accurate measurement of the health of the industry, I would suggest we are on track for fruitful times ahead.

But it could be that more offline marketers are coming around to digital. Or perhaps the good turnout signifies a lot of worried marketers desperately looking for other avenues and ways to cut costs.

Busy, busy, busy

Whatever the reason for the sheer volume of people, the 45 minute free seminars were as a result incredibly popular, with queues all around the hall.

Exhibitors were mostly service providers – less agencies, more email providers, viral game developers, CRM providers and training academies. A large number of the people I spoke with weren’t heavily technical, but were at the show to learn about digital opportunities in a very rapidly changing world.

What’s new?

It’s hard to pick up new skills at conferences amongst the often over-presented information on offer. Especially so, given that many digital marketers live and breathe digital 24/7, and are used to sharing news and tips on the fly using Twitter, blogs and other social platforms.

But the presentations, although often an elaborate sales pitch, helped to get my brain cells working overtime. These seminars can spark ideas which go on to be very productive. And it’s reassuring to see others tackling problems in a similar way to us. It’s good to know when you’re playing the same game, particularly when it’s clear that in some cases you’re ahead of the competition.

Web analytics: reporting = action

The analytics session was held by Redeye. The session focused on advanced reporting. The key point was to highlight that new web features should never be developed without justification.

Reports should result in action. As unless we act, there’s little point in reporting at all. Reports should be used to benchmark against sector and time, or with trend analysis.

It was suggested that if you hold off sending a report for a month and no-one complains, they probably don’t need a report. This is perhaps a valid point, but one which won’t help boost client confidence or aid agency visibility.

No such thing as an average user

Most reporting is about average users. But there’s no such thing as an average user, it was suggested. Do users see themselves as average? This needs to change – there is no such thing as an average person. Traditional reporting often focuses on this imaginary user.

Another very valid point was raised; when reporting, to focus on what’s changed – not what’s static, for example. Top search queries which are not in steady positions. What search queries have grown the most this month, and why? To some extent, Google are feeding the flames with Google Trends and more comprehensive search term reporting in Webmaster Tools.

Media mix reporting shows how channels interact, where user interaction originates and how the different media assists and ultimately relates to the last click. The overall focus for this reporting type will be on the lifetime value of customers across various channels.

Complexity in paid search

Webtrends gave a well put together presentation on increasing conversion rates and reducing cost per acquisition in paid search.

But their session felt like a long sales pitch – something that’s inevitable, but a bit awkward nonetheless. The key focus was on understanding the complexity of paid search, other than just keywords and taking a look at automating technology.

Some PPC tips

  • Add more media to the campaign and multivariate test
  • Test in a controlled way – try alternate landing pages; a homepage often works as well as deep page
  • Try all match types – apparently most people will stick with one

The conclusion to the session was that ad text choice should be supported by ROI not CTR.

Interesting insights from the BBC

The BBC keynote was hosted by Mark Kelleher, the head of CRM and head of marketing technology and was titled Digital Marketing in the Digital Age.

The BBC don’t currently use mass direct marketing, however personalised DM is critical in the digital age.

The audience is changing, as are their expectations, behaviours, loyalty and consumption. The amount of media consumed by each individual isn’t really increasing; it’s just the consumption patterns that are changing. We each have the same amount of time to spend; it’s the sources and way that we interact with them that’s evolving.

Customer insights

The current shift is towards marketing activity based on customer insights. Data-driven decisions can then be made, which is crucial for the BBC, which is publicly-funded and therefore highly accountable. CRM platforms create an enormous amount of data, which is a significant focus when audience is all about relevancy.

Apparently, most email communication between the BBC and consumers is praise or comment.


The BBC currently undertakes lots of outbound email activity; 110 different mass emails, with a total of 360 million emails sent per year. For them personalisation in email is not just by name, rather by multi-delivery depending on customer profile, and preferences against behaviour tracking – something we are told to watch out for.

Click-through rates for the BBC’s recent Darwin campaign email were about 20-25%. The BBC Food email open rate is much lower.

Planning for email

1) Research the audience propensity

2) Go where the audience are

3) Make recruitment to the user journey easy

4) Make the interaction relevant

5) Make the interaction timely

6) Provide value – what’s in the audiences’ minds on recruitment and after they receive interactions?

7) Be clear about what you want the audience to do. Decide on what works for you

To sum up

  • Digital marketing is critical for the digital age
  • Audience decides what, how often and which channels are used
  • Content must be timely and relevant
  • Deepen relationships and maintain loyalty
  • Extend and prioritise based on marketing insight and clear benefits

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