Why digital literacy is important for everyone, not just the experts

Greg Cattelain
By Greg Cattelain | 27 July 2020
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Greg Cattelain is performance director, Spark Foundry

I was at the dentist’s the other day and as we were talking, he started to tell me what dental work I needed next. Afterwards, I realised that he provided little context as to why I needed it, how it would be done, or the benefits of such a treatment. He seemed to assume I wouldn’t understand because I wasn’t a dentist.

In digital advertising, we tend to do the same. We recommend ways to advertise with the best of intentions and a high degree of expertise, but we often assume that clients don’t have time to understand the detail, or that they enlist specialists because they don’t know how to do it themselves.

Then you often hear agencies complaining that clients are not progressive enough, don’t deliver on best practices, or worst, don’t trust what we do.

How did we get here?
Digital marketing has evolved rapidly over the last decade, with the rise of platforms like Facebook and Google creating a rich digital media ecosystem. We’ve also seen the growth of automation through programmatic buying, and the increasing use of data alongside regulatory changes. Added to that is third-party verification, emerging formats, dynamic personalisation, measurement, attribution and the evolution of martech.

Not surprisingly, this can all feel quite daunting for a marketer. Not to mention the fact that all that represents a small portion of their marketing efforts.

So a focus on digital specialisation has been critical for agencies to be able to deliver and advise clients on how best to take advantage of these new opportunities. However, we also know how important it is for advertisers to improve their digital maturity. In a recent study by Boston Consulting Group and Google, it was found that the most digitally mature advertisers could expect a revenue increase of up to 20%. (Source). 

But the fast-paced nature of change has meant that agencies and advertisers have been moving along, but not necessarily together all the time. Over the years, this lack of common journey has been a cause of frustration from both side. This results in looking at things from a cost perspective, instead of a value one ie. what the value a digital expert brings to a business, and the efficiency the technology should generate. 

What can be done?
A good starting point to address this can be found in the recently updated Australian Digital Advertising Practices created in collaboration with the IAB, ANAA and MFA. This document is informative, and simple yet not simplistic on the foundational concepts in digital practices. 

It provides a great opportunity for everyone to take some time to pause, and reflect on how we operate in the digital space. It’s also an opportunity for advertisers to gain a better understanding of the Australian digital advertising practices, and learn how to put them into practice. 

The Practices within the document should foster more a meaningful and open conversation between advertisers, agencies and media owners, so we can all sit down together to identify where the gaps in knowledge are, and how to address them. 

While it’s the role of agencies to provide expert advice to advertisers, the more digitally literate advertisers can be, the more confidence and trust they will have in the digital advertising ecosystem. 

The objective is not to have a bunch of digital experts in one corner, but rather create a form of equality among all stakeholders involved.

A greater sense of confidence and trust in turn shifts the conversation from cost, to value creation to an advertiser’s business.

So don’t leave it to the expert … be literate!

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