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"… I think in any new area, you have a lot of unanswered questions," Gardiner continues. "What I buy for a page in a magazine—you kind of understand what you're getting. What you get when you buy a digital version of that is very different."
For this reason, print still can seem the safest bet for some advertisers. Asked about advertisers getting excited about new platforms, Bill Amstutz, director of publishing operations and strategic planning at NewBay Media, says that even with his company's successful multimedia ventures, there [have] not been a lot of advertiser shifts. "We're still finding that print has a lot of traction in our markets," he notes.
In the digital space, advertisers want click-through and ROI, stresses Shawn Smith, president of Momentum Media Marketing Inc., which works with print, TV, radio and online platforms. "I think if you can move consumers in new ways that stimulate trial and demonstrably move the needle, advertisers will be willing to invest. Marketers in recent years earmarked some budget for new and exciting space such as satellite radio, but more recently, ad agencies [are encouraged to] simply go where the ROI and reach can be found. Platforms are sexy, but they come second."
Gardiner does not doubt the appeal and popularity of digital products. For him, the question is how, for advertisers, that translates into concrete brand awareness or sales. Knowing engagement rates is not enough. "Buying an app doesn't mean you're going to interact with anything I pledge there," he notes.
Which may help explain the growing appeal in the digital arena of social media. Audiences interacting, sharing, commenting and taking other action—the observable response to a sales effort is clear and immediate. "We believe everybody should have a social strategy," Gardiner says.