Well, it’s that time of year again: time to squeeze in every little bit of revenue before the 2012 books close; time to take every last day of vacation before they magically disappear at the stroke of midnight on December 31st; and, perhaps most importantly, it’s that time of year when a whole host of year-end roundup articles ranging from the “Top 10 Things We Learned” to articles detailing every well-intentioned, but rarely kept, resolution ever made.

I never thought I would write a “Things We Learned” type article because of a dreadful fear that I only recently learned something the rest of the world has known for years.

Similarly, I never thought I would write a “resolutions” or “predictions” article because I am not very good at keeping them or accurately predicting things, thus making the article just a bit more useful than the Jurassic Park VHS box set you got from Santa this year. But, combine all those things into one super list, and we may be on to something. So, with extra year-end bitterness and a dose of optimism for 2013, here goes nothing!

Accomplishments

2012 was a great year for digital and our industry accomplished a ton. Here are four achievements I found particularly great:

1. Digital Keeps Growing. Whether you choose the $37 billion number eMarketer uses as the digital ad spend for 2012 or the 18% growth rate comScore offers, 2012 was a great time to be in digital advertising, plain and simple.

2. A Return To Testing. If nothing else, 2012 seemed to be the year clients got over all the fear caused by the financial collapse (and the imminent doom of the world) and began testing again. Sure, we are still a ways off from our heyday so many years ago, but anytime the overall climate leans toward more liberal testing, better, more innovative opportunities follow – which is great for everyone involved in digital advertising.

3. Nimble Advertising Outlets. Gone are the days of vendors showing you options, then only being able to customize them 1/10thof a percent. Here are the days of sites like Refinery 29 that work with you to build customized content surrounding your advertising or IntoTheGloss.com that will actually go out, find a model, put your product on said model, do a photoshoot, and write honest content (not fake-sounding advertorial) for you. This isn’t new, but the rigid lines the big, old sites were trying to hold seem to be blurring rather quickly.

4. Innovation. This seems like a boring one; but, at this point, we can more or less target any person, place, behavior, browsing history, shoe size, hair color, favorite food, height, weight, or anything else you want. Ok, some of those may be a stretch, but you get the point. What we can do today compared to what we could do even just two years ago is astounding and something we should all be proud of.

Complaints

As with anything in life, 2012 wasn’t all rainbows and lollipops, either. There are more than a few things to complain about – especially from bitter, old me – but I will limit it to four:

1. Bing Is Still Bing. Remember when we all got so excited about Bing and how we might have a real competitor to Google on our hands? There were all sorts of fancy background images at Bing.com, fancy ad campaigns (remember Scroogled? Don’t worry, most people don’t), and lots of fanfare and excitement.

But here we are, years into this Bing thing, and we are still waiting for a true competitor to Google. Yes, there has been some improvement (and I am super thankful for it), but most of it is simply trying to catch up to what Google already has. I am not asking for a revolution of search marketing; I just want a legitimate contender to keep Google from resting on its laurels. Heck, I would even be happy if the Bing desktop tool worked on Macs at this point.

2. Google’s Algorithm & Shopping Changes. The algorithm change was supposed to clean up natural results – I get that, and I love it. But I now know far less about the people coming to my site through natural than I ever have before, due to the lack of tracking. Maybe that was Google’s goal the whole time, but as a marketer, I hate it.

Couple that with a Google Base/Froogle/Shopping change to a paid model, and it was like a double whammy. Now that I think of it, maybe Bing does have a few things going for it.

3. Paralysis By Analysis. This is sort of inherent to our line of work, but as we get more data, clients require more analysis. The problem is that in most cases, clients want 100% clear info that gives the exact direction they should go in – and in most cases, we can only get to 95%, so we end up losing time and money.

I won’t give the old “you hold no other channel to this type of scrutiny” argument, but… yeah… digital is the only channel scrutinized to this extent and it slows progress.

4. Search Agencies Pretending To Be Digital Agencies. I wrote a long tirade on this last month – which you can read here – so I will spare you the details, but in short: either be a search agency and specialize in it or be a digital agency and be strong in more than just search. End of story.

Predictions

This is the fun part of the article where I get to make predictions for the industry as a whole (sort of) that no one will hold me accountable for because they will all be long forgotten by the time they all end up being wrong.

1. RTB Media Will Take Over. Real Time Bidded media is growing at an extremely quick rate and seems to be a better option than using a network in many cases. I predict in 2013, RTB media will become the biggest chunk of display spending.

2. Direct Response & Brand Will Become One. So, maybe this is more of a dream/hope than a prediction, but if ever there was a year for it, it’s 2013. Combining brand and direct response is a true 1+1=3 scenario – now if only clients and agencies would see that, too.

3. Extinction Of PPT Decks That Are Glorified Reports. Does anyone really need another poorly-colored chart showing the trend of CPCs over the course of 18 months in poorly designed slide format? 2013 is the year Microsoft releases an update to Office, preventing agencies and clients alike from building these slides.

4. English Language Change. The phrases “dovetail, low-hanging fruit, ecosystem (when referencing advertising), shopportunity, haircut (when referencing pricing), and cast a wider net” will be stricken from the English language. If Congress can get just this one thing done, I will forgive all their other missteps.

And, if there is one resolution I could add on top, it would be to be more optimistic.

2012 was a great year for digital from almost all angles, and while dealing with some of the frustrating little nuances that come with working in the industry can make one a bit bitter, we are still in the fastest growing, most innovative, and arguably, most fun sector of advertising that exists. And that is something we should all be celebrating.

Stock image used by permission of Shutterstock

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Display Advertising | Display Advertising | Features & Analysis | Search Marketing | Search Marketing Column

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About The Author: is a New York-based digital marketing and strategy consultant specializing in retail. He has worked with Nike, Neiman Marcus, Staples, Michael Kors and many others to develop fully integrated digital marketing strategies.Follow him @VicDrabicky on Twitter.



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