@ EconSM: Advertisers’ Love/Hate Relationship With Social Media

Advertisers and media companies have a strange disconnect when it comes to social media. On one hand, they’re heartily embrace the ability to directly engage with consumers. And on the other hand, they fear that engagement and are desperate to figure out how to control it and measure it. A mix of ad execs from the publishing side and the interactive agency side attempted to sort it all out during an afternoon panel at paidContent parent’s EconSM conference.

All advertising is local: Joanne Bradford, EVP of National Marketing Services, Spot Runner: Bought a company called Weblistic, have a web shooter and can produce immediate videos. Discussing the political panel that kicked off EconSM on Monday night, Bradford said: “I just thought those people are doing a lot of work and not getting a lot of money.” Larry Kramer, Senior Advisor, Polaris Venture Partners and ContentNext board member, opined that social media itself is the new local. “Everything we used to do in face to face groups, we’ve started experiencing as an online community.”

Tapping into passions, not locations: Other panelists mildly disagreed with the geographical aspects that social media allows. Passion and interests have replaced the need to focus on a geography in terms of figuring out how to make the most of a brand’s message, said Patrick Keane, EVP and CMO, CBS (NYSE: CBS) Interactive: Touted CBS’s 200 percent year-over-year growth for March Madness, which got a tremendous boost from its association with Facebook. Everyone wants to beat up social media as un-monetizable. We were able to sell a lot of ads across mobile and online. Music is another area that’s key. That’s why we bought Last.fm. Over half the traffic the site has happens outside of Last.fm. Sports and music are prime points for generating engagement, added Gordon Paddison, EVP of New Media and Marketing, New Line Cinema, which recently released the teen comedy Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay. “We ask people to upload their videos and yes, sometimes you get someone putting a hat on a penis, but obviously, that’s not the kind of engagement we want. Engagement levels are determined by how many social ads are generated, how many pages are created around a subject. Social nets are not in a position to give you adequate numbers to determine success.”

Measuring discussion: Ad agencies are still figuring out what numbers to use in order to identify successful use of a social media-based ad campaign. At the moment, a good indicator is seeing how much word of mouth you can get through community sites and blogs. Peter Kang, Group Creative Director, OgilvyWest. “Three years ago, we’d get a call: go make a viral video. Now, it’s make a widget. We try to get past the infatuation with the latest tool. Our clients ultimately care about sales at the end of the day, not what’s the latest technology. Amount of discussion is the only metric we’re linking to sales. There is often a direct correlation between the amount of discussion and sales.”

Learning to listen: Kang also said that marketers are using social media in less specific ways, such as “learning to listen” to what users are saying about brands. Paddison was incredulous. “After all these years of advertising, marketers are only now learning to listen to their consumers, thanks to the advent of social media? Well, that’s just pathetic.”

A challenge to attendees: Playing the curmudgeon, Paddison praises mobile as a great content platform, but it’s a lousy advertising platform. He happily offered to debate anyone after the conference who believes differently. He essentially argued that the display space is too small to make it worthwhile. He did say after that the iPhone and other phones that offer similar screens offer some hope. “I’m developing apps for the iPhone – but that’s just me. I’d love it if an advertiser could develop a program for the iPhone. But we’re not there yet.”

Comments have been disabled for this post