Why we need to rethink our use of digital media

by Nigel Hollis | February 17, 2016

Last year I worked with a number of my colleagues to develop a workshop on how to create an effective digital media campaign. In doing so, I have come to recognize that we face two diverging forces: the need to reach a bigger audience and increasing media fragmentation.

If you are going to grow your brand you need to acquire new customers (and ideally reduce unnecessary churn). That means reaching more people and predisposing them to buy your brand when they have need of your product category. You cannot guarantee who will buy your brand or when, so you need to reach the widest audience possible and ensure that your brand is salient and memorable to them.

However, increased media fragmentation and increased clutter within channel is making the task of achieving reach increasingly difficult.


While new digital tools make it easy to reach very specific audiences, few of them can reach a mass audience. Even in countries where TV viewing is still strong, there’s still a fragmentation of TV channels. And at some point within 10 years we’ll see addressable TV advertising, the ability to target an individual within a household, which will make targeting more powerful, but it won’t make generating reach any easier.

The funny thing is that while digital media make it more difficult to reach new buyers, they make it easier to reach people who already display an interest in your category or brand. Joined my loyalty scheme? Welcome to the monthly newsletter. Searched on my brand name? I have you in my sights. Looked at my website? Prepare to be retargeted.

Unfortunately, this ever more intrusive attention is beginning to annoy the very people it is designed to incentivize. According to the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) UK Ad Blocking Report 15% of Brits now use an ad blocker and the practice is most prevalent among the target du jour, Millennials. When asked why, 73% cited their interruptive nature. For some other scary stats check out this post.

Millward Brown’s CrossMedia studies  regularly identify that brands over-invest in TV advertising at the expense of other channels. However, I would argue that increasingly there is over-investment in digital, targetable media aimed at active shoppers. By targeting people who display an interest in a brand or category, marketers may actually undermine their brand’s growth potential because they fail to reach the buyer to be. So what do you think? Please share your thoughts. 


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  1. alex eaden, March 02, 2016
    As we mind map we take ourselves beyond our original ideas. As we communicate digitally we need each individual to be our carrier. How do we motivate them to do so?
  2. Nigel, February 24, 2016

    Hi Anita,

    Generally speaking integrated media plans produce stronger results but that relies on making sure you pick the right media channel for the task at hand. What defines right? Depends on the task. I would suggest it is easier to reach out to existing customers in many digital channels but it needs to be done with sensitivity not brute force analytics.

  3. T.T. Maher, February 18, 2016
    I've often wondered if there's a link between the world's sluggish economy and the rise of digital advertising.  If so, we're doomed.
  4. Anita Anosike, February 17, 2016
    In my agency, we preach integrated media. The use of digital and any other medium that the TG is more disposed to use. Your sumation deconstructs the whole argument. So the question is what would be the strategy to utilize for a brand who wants to recruit more consumers and keep existing consumers?

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