Razorfish publishes 2009 Digital Outlook Report

The fifth annual Digital Outlook Report, published today by my employer Razorfish, feels more relevant than ever.  Razorfish issues the DOR to help marketers make smarter decisions about where to make their digital media spend.  And in a recession, marketers are under more pressure to justify how they spend those dollars. As I reviewed the contents of the 2009 DOR, I saw the following themes emerge.  Consider the rest of this blog post to be your executive summary of the 2009 DOR:

1. Portals continue to lose their grip.

When Razorfish first published the DOR five years ago, the question of where to allocate one’s online media spend wasn’t all that difficult in hindsight.  “Digital spend” pretty much meant an investment into the web as a single channel dominated by a handful of portals.  And no one had ever heard of social media.

But that exotic and sometimes confounding creature known as the consumer has a way of sneaking up on marketers and changing our understanding of digital.  Today, Razorfish’s media spend on behalf of our clients continues to scatter across the digital world like so many atomic particles. Why?  Because we’re reacting to a connected consumer who snacks on morsels of content on personal devices, social media sites, and niche video properties.  Today, portals’ share of our media spend has shrunk to 19 percent, while search accounts for 37 percent.  For more detail, please download your copy of the DOR and read the section, “Shifting Their Focus: A Look at 2008 Digital Ad  Spending by Razorfish Clients.”  (Please give your browser a minute to download this large file.  If you prefer reading a Flash version online, go here.  You can also get the report’s charts and graphs off flickr)

This chart depicts the Razorfish 2008 digital media spend

2.  Social media?  No — social influence.

And, of course, the consumer as social influencer has upset the apple cart, as Shiv Singh discusses in his DOR essay “Trends in Social Influence Marketing.”  Razorfish chooses the term “social influencer,” not social media, carefully.  While many marketers have obsessed over social media, the real disruptive power has come from the social influencers, and will continue to do so.  In fact, we see a third dimension of marketing emerging — Social Influence Marketing — in which the enterprise achieves its marketing and business goals through influencers.

Influencers and media are intertwined.  But it’s the influencers who have the ability to change one’s brand for better or worse.  The organizations that figure out how to listen to the voice of the influencer will build more organic and authentic brands as opposed to traditional brands created in top-down fashion.  We believe that more CEOs will become active in Twitter and Facebook as they respond to the pressure to understand how influencers are shaping their brands.  In fact, Razorfish has patented a tool, the Generational Tag, to help our clients track the value of social influence.  In the DOR, you’ll find more about the Generational Tag in an essay by Marc Sanford, “Social Media Measurement: What’s It Worth?”

This chart depicts the results of Razorfish research into the business value of social influence.  A widget obtained from a friend has a larger average order value and is downloaded more than a widget obtained organically through media.

Influencers underpin much of the DOR in other ways.  In the essay “Social Influence Research,” Andrea Harrison and Marcelo Marer ponder a new approach for involving social influencers in consumer research.  And Iain McDonald, founder of Amnesia Razorfish, offers an application of social object theory for marketing campaigns in his “Social Object Theory” essay.  (Incidentally, DOR authors were not asked to comment on social.  They were assigned the job of simply identifying their best ideas about the state of the art in digital marketing.  It’s interesting to note how much commentary on social bubbled up organically.)

3. The rise of the long tail of TV

TV is alive and well, but the viewing experience is morphing from individuals watching 57 channels on a box to experiencing even more finely sliced, interactive content across TV sets, mobile devices, gaming systems, and other platforms.  As viewership fragments, advertisers are challenged to adapt their messages to smaller, but potentially more valuable, audiences.  Terri Walter, Razorfish vice president of emerging media, discusses the fragmentation of TV in her essay, “The Digitalization of Television.”  She also discusses how social media and TV are converging (which reminds me of how fun it was to Tweet about the Oscars last month with fellow Tweeters while watching the telecast.  Wouldn’t it be great if ABC could have broadcast Tweets from our living rooms onscreen?).  By the way,  her points are corroborated by recent Nielsen numbers about fragmented TV viewership.

I invite you to explore the report and find ideas that resonate for you.  Want to get a sense of how agencies need to respond to the trends we discuss in the DOR?  Then read the essay by Razorfish CEO Clark Kokich, “From Breaking Campaigns to Building Client Businesses.”  Our in-house email guru David Baker examines the state of the art in email in his essay, “Email Marketing.”

Check it out.  And let me know what you think.