The Ice Underneath the Surface

As I recall, about 90% of an iceberg is under the surface of the water. Is the digital industry like an iceberg?

Recently I was asked to put together a presentation outlining the key trends and stats for digital in 2010. As I made my slides, I was struck by the tremendous level of activity in areas we don’t talk about very much.

Part of my approach was to divide the industry into nine sectors, and analyze each in turn. My cuts were:
· Affiliate and Lead Gen
· Content Publishers
· Data and Insight
· The Giants
· Mobile and Digital Out of Home
· Networks, DSPs, and Exchanges
· Search
· Social
· Video

You can argue with my “cuts” and I’ll just make a W on my forehead. It’s my presentation, and it makes for some pretty salient and telegraphic sector trends. But however you cut it; it’s plain that there are huge sectors of our business that get very little attention, at least from the “branding” side of the pundit world.

Take Digital Out of Home. Bad enough that I am making it share a category, the reality is that it is an absolutely enormous business, eclipsing some of the hotter sectors by factors of five. Or more. The CPMs they get would make pub and network sellers need adult undergarments if they could match ‘em.

Or affiliate. Affiliate has a sort of grey reputation because there are some bad actors in the fray, but there are also thousands and thousands and thousands of companies making great, honest money as both affiliates and brand marketing organizations.

And then there’s Search. If press ink (electrons) were divvied up by share of total spending, there would be five Search stories a day on page one of every marketing journal. Now, there are those who feel that the topic doesn’t warrant that much press attention because it is a one and two tenths horse race. I won’t comment on that here, other than to say that paying more attention to Search could probably yield more dividends for many marketers.

There is of course, a fallacy to my point of view – that quantity of press is a surrogate indicator of planner or marketer attention. My suspicion is that it is, at best, a weak surrogate indicator. After all, maybe most marketers have all the sectors but social and mobile all figured out.

Yeah, right.

But if we really are spending much of our time focusing on a couple of the smaller business sectors, we are not taking a strategic approach to digital. I’m not suggesting we should talk about Social or Mobile or Video less. I am simply asserting that we need to consider other, less “sexy” sectors more. Because I’m guessin’ there’s gold in them thar segments.