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Digital marketing: goodbye 24/7, hello 60/60/24/7

By Jonathan J. Ariel - posted Thursday, 21 August 2008

For those 21st century marketers and ad executives not besotted with their own brilliance, the message from adland is convincing: thoroughly understanding consumers’ preferences is the currency that will trump all others.

In the last few years, major marketers in the United States, across a range of industries, have realised that consumers have changed the way they view and connect with brands.

Changed forever.


Winners in the 21st century advertising industry will be those marketers who unearth smart and executable insights that will allow them to bond with their customers in the right place, at the right time, in the right manner, and with the right message.

While companies have long sought to know their customers intimately, that level of knowledge has rarely been achieved. From the dawn of commercial radio in the 1920s, until the launch of the World Wide Web browser 16 years ago, crudely put, marketing was all about the hawking of mass products to mass audiences via the mass media; resulting in consumers never being adequately identified or studied.

The era of marketing (as it has been practiced for 80 years) is dying before our eyes.

In his book, Always On, Christopher Vollmer, a Vice President (Media & Entertainment, North America) at Booz & Co. relates just how far marketing has come in 80 years.

Vollmer focuses on digital marketing and explains this as the space where sellers develop a conversation with buyers; one at a time. Smart vendors are those who not only deeply explore the buyers’ world, but also connect relevantly with them. This contrasts with marketing as it is currently practiced, where brands talk at consumers via the mass media and consumers have no choice but to listen; however irrelevant the advertisement may be.

Very recently, marketing has turned 180 degrees as talking has yielded to listening and monologues have become dialogues. This is thanks mainly to countless outbound communications channels, mostly on the web, a myriad of amateur content providers and a vast array of on-demand and portable media devices, such as Apple’s iPhone.


And so, it comes as no surprise that this evolution in marketing has made its way from Madison Avenue, New York, to Bella Vista, New South Wales. On May 6, quoting the Australian Financial Review, Australian Food News remarked that marketers at major grocery chain, Woolworths Limited, plan a $200m revamp of the duopolist’s online presence, by offering shopping services that will capitalise on the phenomenon of the popular social utility web site, Facebook.

Extrapolating (US) data for the five years to 2006, Vollmer shows that consumers drastically shifted their media habits. The time spent with music, broadcast TV and newspapers dived by 10 per cent. Time spent surfing the net ramped up four-fold, while spells devoted to mobile devices leaped a massive ten-fold! As mobile devices and the web are more widely accepted, consumers will be empowered more and more over time.

These are the unchartered waters in which Woolworths is setting sail.

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Always On: Advertising, Marketing, and Media in an Era of Consumer Control  by Chris Vollmer and Geoffrey Precourt, McGraw-Hill Companies (April 2008) $29.95.

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About the Author

Jonathan J. Ariel is an economist and financial analyst. He holds a MBA from the Australian Graduate School of Management. He can be contacted at

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