Advertising Money Shifts to Digital Media

One of the major marketing trends currently taking shape is the shifting of advertising dollars away from traditional marketing avenues, such as print, television, and radio to social media and other electronic media outlets, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google AdSense [i] . These electronic media have a quantifiable draw, are trackable, and perhaps more significantly, users of these media are active participants in the marketing conversation and leave valuable demographic information. Traditional broadcast media can describe reach and demographics, traditional print advertising a passive media which can describe reach, but cannot describe who is receiving the message. Add to the mix DVRs which allow viewers to “timeshift” television programming, and traditional broadcast media becomes less attractive. Lest the veracity of the power of digital media be underestimated, the presidential campaign of Barack Obama was largely predicated on social media. [ii]

Over and above this is one critical point ‘” the Millennial Generation is now coming into its own as an economic force. This group of people are highly technically literate, having “grown up digital [iii] ,” and as their wealth and influence increases, it is entirely likely that they will change how marketing and selling get done, with this shifting of ad revenue signaling the beginning of something much larger. This generation has several characteristics of note that will affect the speed and the product marketing delivered electronically [iv] . Consumers for luxury brands still belong to older, less technology-savvy generations, meaning this trend has begun with economy consumer items ‘” described more fully though the example of Ford Motor Company ‘” and other consumables, but will in all likelihood progress toward higher-ticket luxury items.

Teenagers today receive on average 93 text messages, spend almost an hour on their PC, of which 23-minutes are spent online [v] . Adults age 18-24 watch over five-and-a-half hours of online video a month; adults age 25-34 watch 4-hours and 45-minutes of online video monthly; adults 35-44 watch 3-and-a-half hours a month. This is a lot of time to be spending watching online video, and an opportunity to capture attention, which can then be spread to friends and associates through social media across all age ranges.

In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell describes how information gets conveyed through social networks – Mavens, Connectors, and Salesmen [vi] . Within this book, he was not speaking specifically to electronic or digital social networks, but the application is similar. When this paradigm is transferred from traditional networks to digital social-media, the effect to building and promoting a brand is not only powerful, but is demonstrable and efficient. Gladwell talks about ideas and trends as “epidemics,” spread through these mavens, connectors, and salesmen. Mavens have a great deal of knowledge and share that knowledge ‘” they connect people to the market; connectors spread the message throughout their network; and salesmen are those who persuade unconvinced others. The idea behind shifting money to social media then is to reach these agents with a contagious idea or message in a distinctly quantifiable way such that a message can be adjusted instantaneously based on the real time data.

With an investment in getting out a digital message, not only the means by which the message is delivered changes, but the message itself. This investment will not pay off if what a company is actually doing is simply converting their print advertisements to digital media. This investment seeks out those social agents Gladwell describes. The power of digital social media is the integration of message available: images, sound, text. Reach these target agents, and an epidemic is created.

Of the marketing trends Guneilus describes in her article (see note 1), most are related to the pursuit of these agents to spread the message in digital media. The idea is not to gain hundreds of thousands of followers, the idea is to gain access to the people most willing and able to connect your product to the most people.

Ford Motor Company. Charlene Li talks about how Ford Motor Company marketed the Ford Fiesta model through a social media campaign called the “Fiesta Movement” in 2009 and how the company has been successful in reaching out to their target market through social media. [vii] The Ford Fiesta is a subcompact and inexpensive car targeted at younger consumers, presumably those who are looking at their first car. Instead of attacking the market through traditional media, Ford went to where their buyers were and addressed them on their turf. Over and above using a website and hoping for visitors, they collected several thousand people who were willing to drive the car, choosing 100 of those, had them drive the car for 6-months and report via social media on their experiences [viii] . In the process, they generated a great deal of “buzz” about the product and tapped into the communication agents Gladwell discusses. In announcing the “Fiesta Movement,” Ford was able to state ‘” apparently without irony ‘” that the company was launching a “consumer grassroots test drive tour [ix] ” which allowed their chosen agents to remain credible in their social roles: the generation to whom the Fiesta is being marketed is particularly internet and technology savvy, ecologically concerned and seem to be seeking independence after having been raised by “helicopter” parents. [x]

The overall marketing costs of the car were held down and what was expended made a far more dramatic impact than any traditional media would have generated. Of course, when orders for the cars were finally ready to be taken, due to a variety of production difficulties, product was not shipped in a timely manner perhaps losing some of the momentum of the earlier marketing.

Facebook, Twitter . Facebook has become a multi-billion dollar company through their ability to collect very specific personal data ‘” age, sex, interests ‘” and to use the aggregate data to deliver highly targeted advertising. The website interface has been steadily adapted to be driven by the sharing of information in its various forms from video to images, and audio from traditional computers or handheld devices. Users affirmatively register their “likes” for a given item or topic and are then provided with information about that topic. As to the power and reach of Facebook, this site garners some 770-Billion page views a month. [xi] In The Tipping Point Gladwell discusses the power of 150 ‘” that the largest social group in which a person can have influence is about 150; The average Facebook user has 130. This user also creates some 90-pieces of content and, most importantly to marketers, is connected to 80-community pages or groups. More than 50% of the users are 18-34, but there are 28-million users over the age of 45 opening up a significant avenue to reach older consumers that might not otherwise be engaged by electronic media. Facebook connects highly engaged users within a social sphere in which they have influence and in which they are active participants. The use of the site is free, and as such the informational value of the data [xii] the site collects is represented in a $50-Billion valuation by Goldman Sachs. [xiii]

Twitter, another social networking site, handles over a billion “tweets” a week [xiv] . A “tweet” is a 140-character message broadcast over a public website where anyone searching for it can find it. One can subscribe to a twitter-user’s feed or search content via a “hashtag,” a topic area denoted by the use of the “#.” Tweets carry URL links or commentary with the unusual ability to convey concise and direct information or sentiment. The ease by which information can be injected into a conversation is as simple as adding a hashtag to a post ‘” unheard of access to a market of potential consumers 5-years ago. With a specifically targeted hashtag, and a connection with one of Gladwell’s agents or a message that resonates with these people will generate interest. For instance, On May 16 a woman on a Delta jet bound for Florida was in the right place at the right time, snapped two pictures of the Space Shuttle Endeavour climbing through the clouds from her seat, and posted the pictures to Twitter. Within a day, she had logged over a million followers. [xv] With this kind of reach, an investment toward building a social media competency and strategic marketing execution only makes sense.

Google Adwords. Paul Bond Boots, long known throughout the Western United States for their high-quality, hand-made western boots, was profiled as part of an NBC story on Google Adwords and the reach Adwords has to consumers. [xvi] Adwords is an advertising program that relies on user internet search queries to deliver advertisements targeted specifically related to that search. It allows advertisers to customize their advertising delivery and scope in a very specific way: by zip code, time of delivery, amount spent. The result for Paul Bond Boots has been the ability to reach beyond their word-of-mouth name recognition and target highly motivated and engaged consumers. Part of the Google algorithm is a ranking of quality of web results, and as such it behooves an investment in that web presence ‘” redirecting marketing money again. Paul Bond experienced a doubling of orders from their modest advertising budget.

Money which heretofore that had been invested in ad copy and media access is being and will continue to be directed to building digital content and targeted toward consumers with a known demographic. Digital media and social media specifically are highly effective because they are targeted in a way that the traditional media are not. “Fans” and “Followers” are demonstrably more invested in the company or product [xvii] , being several times more likely to purchase the service or product, but there are ancillary costs associated with an online marketing campaign. However, Traditional media have not yet accounted for this disruptive technology and as such, ad revenues and media outlets are contracting. There is still a place for traditional print and broadcast media, but until this role is more settled I would expect a larger percentage of marketing dollars to continue to flow to digital and social media.


[i] Susan Guneilus at via Reuters. Retrieved May 18, 2011. Within this article she describes 10 marketing trends, of which at least 6-7 in my opinion are linked with the shifting of dollars being the cumulative outcome of these trends.

[ii] Igor Beuker breaks down the entire social media strategy of the Obama campaign on the website ViralBlog:

[iii] Don Tapscott in Grown Up Digital, describes how the “Net Generation” processes and uses information, simultaneously texting, listening to music, watching a video on their phone and uploading content to websites. He argues that understanding this group of people will mean completely changing how business gets done.

[iv] Namely significant debt from education and the effects of the current recession in their building careers will affect what products they will be seeking. This group will be price conscious and will likely be seeking financial services to assist as their debt burden grows, but according to USA Today they appear to be largely optimistic for the future highlighting a potential selling point for marketers.

[v] “How Teens Use Media” A Nielson report on the myths and realities of teen media trends

” [vi] Malcolm Gladwell, a New Yorker columnist, has become a thought leader in understanding of how people behave and how information moves. He describes The Tipping Point at his website:

[vii] Charlene Li in Open Leadership discusses how social media changes how leaders manage their company including their marketing. When so heavily connected, the CFT discussed in the week 5 discussion board become that much more important, including legal, marketing and executive leadership. Of specific note, see the discussion on page 148 regarding Scott Monty. Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead, Charlene Li, John Wiley & Sons, 2010.



[x] Virginia Matthews, “Debunking Myths About Generation Y” September 14, 2008.

[xi] “Facebook Demographics Revisited ‘” 2011 Statistics” Ken Burbary retrieved May 18, 2011

[xii] Facebook’s “Like” button tracks activity around the web, whether or not a Facebook user “clicks” on the button. Valuable demographic data is collected whether or not a user decides to share the webpage. For more information, see

[xiii] retrieved May 18, 2011

[xiv] Catharine Smith, “Twitter User Statistics Show Stunning Growth” March 14, 2011 retrieved May 18, 2011


[xvi] “Inside the Mind of Google” ran on December 3, 2009 and highlighted Paul Bond Boots. The next morning, “Paul Bond Boots” was the #15 search term on Google Trends and “Handmade Cowboy Boots” was #11 ( Of particular note is the fact Google can track that traffic and quantify that reach. CNBC’s website for the company profile can be found at At 31:17 of the online video, the profile on Paul Bond Boots begins.

[xvii] See