While the rise of digital advertising seems to be the only thing anyone in the business is capable of talking about these days, I often find myself wondering what digital advertising really is.
Is it a "viral" video like Dove "Evolution" or Smirnoff "Tea-Partay"? Or are those really just TV spots that run on the internet instead of NBC and aren't required to be exactly 30 or 60 seconds long?
Is it an online game that pops up in a banner but gets judged by the number of people who actually click on it as if it were a DM piece? Or is it a banner that just creates awareness, like a billboard?
Is it a microsite that people go to either because they're really bored or because they want to "interact with and have a meaningful experience with" a brand?
Is it a blog that a CEO (or more likely, his PR team) writes? A message board that allows people to talk about a product most people have no interest in talking about in the first place? Or one where "conversation" is already planted?
Is it a Facebook page that's a place for serious conversation and "brand fanatics" or maybe just a place for the merely curious?
Is it a full-on website like NikePlus that creates a real retail experience and actually provides value? Or is Nike an anomaly and are most websites designed to be merely functional and well-designed for clients who don't see their ad agency as the people to come up with new business models?
Is it an optimized keyword search that probably does more to drive traffic to a website than a dozen award-winning banners, people being quite content to do their own research, thank you, or is search just the digital version of running an ad in the Yellow Pages?
Is it a virtual store in a virtual world that's going to become relevant when all the elementary school age Webkinz users hit adulthood? Or are virtual worlds just online versions of "Dungeons and Dragons" and appropriate only for things like the Sci Fi Network?
Is it a brand new playground where creatives will get to run wild or is it a metrics-based medium that's going to make creatives obsolete while making stars out of account and media planners?
Depending on the wind, I can be convinced of either side of these arguments. But I think the greater truth here is that we are all talking about something that few of us can accurately define and that even fewer of us have anywhere close to the same definition of.
And that's dangerous.
So I'll throw the question out to all of you: What is digital advertising?