To talk to consumers, you used to stick an ad on TV, in one of the main mags, on maybe a few radio stations, a shotgun effort informed by some pretty rudimentary demographic data.
Then we migrated to the web, in the late 90’s, and advertisers transferred the techniques of mass marketing to this new medium. The cost of banner ads, in the early days calculated on a similar reach basis as mass advertising, has plummeted to perhaps 1% of that cost, and much better targeted, as we realised they simply did not work. Mass media consumption necessitated being interrupted by ads, we expected it as the price to be paid, but the web, we do not need to be interrupted, as we have the option to ignore. Increasingly, advertising became about direct response, as we can now count it.
Now the next shift is on, to mobile, where the “rules of engagement” have dramatically moved again, and we are figuring out how best to leverage the move. Customers need to be wooed, as shouting at them no longer works, you have access to mountains of data (using it is another whole challenge) that enable targeting at behavior rather than simple demographics, and you can count the effectiveness of tactics, one by one, person by person, directly.
Not only is the practice of marketing radically shifted to accommodate these moves by consumers and the tools to hand, but the organisation of the marketing function needs to have changed to reflect the immediacy of direct response, and the disconnect that has existed between the strategy held in the minds of the senior group, and those who by default spend the marketing dollars, often without any real authority beyond budget expenditure with little accountability for the outcomes.
It seems to me as I poke around that organisational inertia that is the greatest impediment to the potential productivity gains from this explosion of accountability of marketing investments that is now possible.