Summit Media's Chief Digital Officer on "Making the Internet Great Again"
With digital media becoming more pervasive by the day, players from all parts of the industry are shifting to capitalize on these new frontiers and draw on its full potential. It's still largely the Wild West out there, as the digital media landscape can be exciting and dangerous at times: full of possibilities that can only be imagined with traditional mediums, but also with risks completely unique to it.
This is especially true for content creators and publishers, who rely on the symbiotic relationship with advertisers for revenue. Advertisements and the content become associated with each other, opening itself to unique opportunities and challenges. Nobody is more intimately familiar with this relationship than Amina Rillo, the Chief Digital Officer for Summit Media. “Traditional media is very linear,” she says. “Unlike TV or print, [where] digital ads appear alongside content, making the association between brand and content stronger.”
This year’s DigiCon XE showcased a panel talk where industry leaders like Rillo discussed the relationship between the different players in the digital media supply chain and the issues they face as a whole.
Creating a Safe Space for Advertisers
Two characteristics are defining digital media: that it’s everywhere, and that it’s easy to be a part of it. When anybody with a phone and a WiFi connection can create content, the digital media landscape can become a free-for-all fit. Recently, innovations like programmatic advertising have made it possible for advertisers to use software and algorithms to get ad space and reach a wider audience, but it comes with the risk of ads appearing alongside content brands don’t want to associate with—as happened with a major multinational brand that had to yank its Google ads worldwide for a period last year.
That’s not to say there aren’t solutions. For example, publishers are fostering a safe space with their content. “We do our part in making our ecosystem safe for the advertiser,” Rillo relays. “You work in terms of making it a safe space for our advertisers, and we make an effort to curate our content, to produce premium journalism, and to make it a good experience for our readers.”
Engaging with the Audience
Digital advertising is fundamentally different from other forms because you’re not just paying for placement, you’re also paying for engagement. This engagement can be measured through a lot of means: how many clicks your campaign gets, how long do people watch your videos, how many people share your content, and so on. “Connectivity is why digital media is growing,” says Ayman Haydar, who is CEO of MMP World Wide, a company that assists publishers in finding problems and getting them ready to become competitive. “Unlike in TV, you cannot know what’s happening on TV … with online, you have capabilities.”
Having a “top-down” view of your campaign’s performance also means you have the flexibility to fine-tune it. “Digital has a role to play [in converting views to sales],” Amina adds, “but it has to be clear. You have to customize how to talk with specific audiences. You can personalize and target specific audiences, but it really is able to convert at a certain point.” This fine-tuning lets publishers and advertisers collaborate on showing content that’s relevant to both the brand and to the target audience.
Working together to tame the frontiers
Coming from the unique position digital media is in right now, there’s no doubt that things can only get better. Ayman notes that digital is “pushing other media to go towards the direction of transparency.” Sean Ter, Regional Strategy Director for Innity, notes that despite concerns in keeping brands safe, transparency, fraud, a lack of standards, and so on, “as an industry we’ve done a good job. We know it’s an issue and we’re addressing it.” Third-party tools are coming out to help create standards and audit to ensure transparency across all players involved. People are collaborating and working together to ensure that the best is being delivered.
And collaboration is key. “I think we all have a role to play to make the internet great again,” Rillo concludes. “I think we need to bring back the conversation between the brand or agency and the media company. Together, we can make sure the objectives are being met and come up with a campaign that truly engages the users. We need to collaborate on figuring out what is the best way.”