Organic vs Paid Media: A Linear Progression or a Widespread Misread?
Most of the time organic and paid media, from a marketing standpoint, are considered to be primordially and principally different, especially among marketers at the far ends of the spectrum- the staunchly social and the stubbornly traditional. While its true that the past decade has brought unprecedented change to the social aspect of a marketer’s repertoire, I believe that agencies and marketers have turned their backs too quickly on the former crux of their livelihood. AdWeek today produced a tremendous article on the relationship between advertising and the automotive industry on the fall and rebirth of Detroit. The advertising colossus built by legendary firms like WPP and BBDO relied on paid media in the absence of social channels; however, I question whether or not that strategy holds today.
Paid Media Makes Sense Because Organic Media Isn’t Free
Throughout my career at different agencies, I’ve seen enormous successes and failures with regards to buying and converting users through online media buys. While paid ads are mostly considered a nuisance and come from a heritage of sub-professionalism, its impossible to discount their current effect on the online advertising landscape. As content increasingly moves online, expect a fundamental shift in the way that online ads are created and viewed by consumers. Television ads are, if anything, significantly more invasive than sidebar or popup ads but are tolerated and even celebrated for the capacity to entertain viewers. As your television and computer begin to resemble the same device, the advertising dollars that have spurred a creative arms race on your television will have to be reallocated online, with even more potential because of the interactivity of the new medium.
My second headlining point about organic media provides another, probably more unique, point of view than simply the shifting of advertising dollars, creative initiative, and consumer attention online. As anyone who’s ever worked at a digital media agency knows, organic media is not free. The time required to build a social community, interact with its members, curate enough content to gain notoriety, and constantly tweak search engine optimization is far from free. Additionally, even after you get everything right, you’ve created an engaged community for conversation but not always a viable conversion pipeline. Companies with robust social and interactive communities can still struggle to drive dollar value because of a disconnect between the value and message or simply a suboptimal online business model.
Organic Media Makes Sense Because It’s Scalable
Although I’m usually one to argue for what I consider to be the modern-day underdog in this argument (paid media), organic content and conversion solutions provide much greater upside than does paid media. Organic media has been an effective way to spread a message or build brand equity; however, not since the printing press have so many tools been developed in such a short time. Organic channels are still unfledged and significantly more difficult to track, especially for brands that can’t afford $50k+ annual web analytics platforms; however, because the tracking is fallible does not mean the medium is not effective. While some campaigns have gone “viral” over the past few years and gained extreme notoriety, there are countless unheralded examples that have built solid, perpetuating online revenue models without purchasing ad space or paying television production crews.
The power of organic media has significant overlap with its most readily observable downfall- the inability to control its spread. Last week, I heard a marketer in a meeting with the business development team at Three Ships discussing social media and his fear of the platform. Many social gurus would discredit his fear of “wildfires” but those same social gurus are often tweeting from their parent’s basement while this individual is managing the marketing spend for an enormous corporation. Social media and organic content creation is scary. Not scary like paid media in that you can lose a lot of money, but scary in that you can work incessantly for days, weeks, or months and either end up with a hostile and volatile community or one in which consumers simply refuse to interact.
Organic content may have prominent fallacies but its upside is equally viable. A marketer or agency lucky or talented (probably both) enough to create and nurture a readily available community of brand loyalists, or one that strikes the right chord with search engines and readers alike, will reap tremendous rewards from a brand equity and financial standpoint. While it may be hard to quantify exactly how much time or which interactions led to a social media payday, as long as the money is coming in and you’re building a rock-solid and self-perpetuating online presence, granular tracking is probably the least of your concerns.
Organic vs Paid Media: Can’t They Get Along!?
The simple (and actually only) answer to this question is a resounding: YES!
The biggest mistake a marketer can make is taking a philosophical stance against something, which two many on both sides of the old-school to new-school spectrum are doing against social media and paid media, respectively. To effectively execute a holistic and effective online marketing campaign, one must move their audience from unaware to sold, which is catalyzed by the synergy between organic and paid media.
Anyone who’s worked extensively with social content knows that social engagement is tough to convert and that website visitors don’t always produce website value. Likewise, any adman worth his salt knows that you can’t pick the low-hanging fruit forever and that, no matter how much ad spend or creative firepower you control, converting cold leads is always going to be expensive and arduous.
Detroit City Limits A new generation of agencies is striving to redefine the auto industry By James Cooper, Noreen O’Leary
In the first six weeks after Chrysler launched its “Imported From Detroit” commercial on the Super Bowl, the Wieden + Kennedy spot generated nearly 10 million views on YouTube alone. Never mind that it was made by a Portland, Ore., agency for a company run by Italian Fiat executives who have been moving Chrysler’s manufacturing base to Mexico. The original two-minute commercial struck a patriotic chord, offering a defiant response to the city’s—and its eponymous industry’s—demonized image in popular media.[/box]