Tessa Wegert | @tessawegert | Communications Director

Jan 25, 2012

Celebrating 10 Years of Interactive Marketing Commentary

Ever since its inception more than two decades ago, Enlighten has emphasized thought leadership. One way we accomplish this is by contributing to publications that disseminate industry news and expert points of view in ways that shape the very future of our business.

The digital marketing space has dozens of these. Over the years we’ve been privileged to work with many publications, providing regular submissions on behalf of employees within each of Enlighten’s core teams. I hitched my wagon to ClickZ early on, and as a result I’m now honored to be celebrating 10 straight years of weekly contributions to the largest interactive marketing resource in the biz.

Much has changed since the days of my first columns, and it’s been fascinating to watch as some trends become part of our digital landscape while others fade away. What follows are five digital channels, technologies, and formats that charmed digital marketers over the past decade—all but one have endured. Perhaps we can glean some insight from their fruition and evolution and apply it to our future campaigns. At the very least we can laugh, and groan and ruminate on our status as industry old timers.

1. Search. Ten years ago paid search (otherwise known as pay-per-click, pay-per-search, pay-for-performance or search engine marketing) was only just starting to get the credit it deserved. Brands were experimenting with paid search listing providers like Ah-Ha, FindWhat, Kanoodle, Mamma.com, and Sprinks, but it was Overture (now Yahoo!) and Google that set into motion the meteoric rise of search marketing. In 2002 both companies released a strict new set of submission guidelines that required greater attention to ad relevance (and provided the ability to set a daily spending budget!). The rest, as they say, is history.

2. Blogs. It was in 2002 that famed blogging magnate Nick Denton launched the first Gawker Media blogs from his apartment in SoHo. Before that fated day consumers were only vaguely familiar with the concept of blogs. “Why would I want to post diary entries to the Web for everyone to see?” they would ask. “Why would I want to read those of others?”

Within a few years analysts were reporting an estimated $100 million in blog ad sales and blogs were threatening to overturn traditional mediums like print; a recent UN report predicts “(printed) newspapers will only be available in museums by 2040.” As I write this blog post, two of the top 20 global sites are blogging platforms (Blogspot and WordPress) – and that’s not including a little microblogging service called Twitter. Where would we be without blogs like The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Mashable, Boing Boing and Engadget? This is one medium that launched with a bang and promises more fireworks to come.

3. Pop-Ups. What a dirty word this used to be (still is). And yet, Dynamic Logic reported in 2002 that Internet users were willing to accept pop-ups in limited doses. How times have changed. After several years of untargeted, uncapped pop-up ads (brands must have forgotten the “limited doses” part of the report), we witnessed a consumer uprising against online ads that we’re still feeling the residual effects of today. We learned a valuable lesson from this Dark Age, though: consumers don’t like overly aggressive ads. Although you’ll still encounter some vestiges of those days the marketing community has finally recognized that pop-ups and their ilk are better replaced with formats that, in addition to being relevant and providing real value, provide consumers some degree of control.

4. Video. According to Forrester Research, US online video ad spending will reach $5.4 billion by 2016, up from $2.0 billion in 2011. Whether we’re incorporating video into rich media display ads, marketing online with video demos, or posting product videos on Google, marketers are embracing this medium and using it to our advantage.

We all know how important online video is in consumer’s daily lives, but this is a relatively recent trend. Ten years ago the comedic clips that now draw millions of viewers hadn’t yet made their way online, and viral marketing with video was non-existent. It wasn’t until 2005 that the first video was posted on YouTube, and “video-blogging” took off. Today, according to comScore, online video ads reach half of the US online population, with more than 85 percent of consumers watching video online in an average month.

5. Social Networks. I remember exactly where I was when I created my Facebook account. It was late 2006 and Facebook had just opened its doors to all Internet users. Apart from a few industry contacts, I couldn’t find a single person I knew on the site.

It’s five years later, and Pew Internet reports that social media now counts 65 percent of US online adults among its users. By 2013, according to eMarketer, social network ad revenue worldwide is expected to reach $10 billion (revenues in the U.S. alone continue to double year over year). To put this in perspective, Facebook only introduced its Facebook Ads in 2007, LinkedIn Direct Ads launched in 2008, and Twitter launched Promoted Tweets in 2010. And there is no end to the growth of this digital channel in sight.

What will the next 10 years bring? Next time I write a post like this, I fully expect to be publishing it in the clouds.