Kim Penstone

Let's get digital

2004-10-08 11:11

There are days, as an online publisher, when I want to throw my arms up in the air in despair. Days when I want to scream with frustration and pull my hair out at the roots. Days when I want to quit this virtual world, and go back to the real one - the one about which advertisers really care, and where marketers are prepared to spend cold, hard cash.

Sunday was one such day.

It started out on Saturday evening, at the Design and Integrated Marketing Loerie Awards in Sun City where the hosts presented the awards for Digital Media.

I have to admit that, at the time, I wasn't perturbed. It came to head, however, on Sunday evening, at the grand finale of the Loerie Awards - the Loerie Creative Awards - when I realised that Digital Media was not considered important enough to be part of the main awards ceremony.

TV was there (of course). So was print, poster, radio and out of home. But not Digital.

Digital was lumped in with design, corporate events, promotional marketing and sponsorship. Not bad bedfellows, sure, but not exactly what you'd term the glamorous side of the advertising industry.

And while there's absolutely nothing wrong with being coupled with what you might call the more functional side of marketing and communications, there is something disconcerting about the divide that's being created between the more traditional media, and what is often still referred to as "new media".

After all, what is the real difference between opening a newspaper and opening a web page?

The reason I find it so disconcerting is simple. As I understand it, the Loerie Awards aim to encourage creativity in advertising, on the grounds that the more creative the advertising, the better it works.

Thus, in rewarding agencies for their creative work, the Marketing Federation of Southern Africa (MFSA) is promoting effective advertising.

(A gross simplification, I know, but humour me.)

And, yes, those who work in the digital arena were recognised - they did receive a couple of birds on Saturday night.

But it's no secret that the Sunday night is what it's all about. That the real accolades go to those who take to the stage on the final evening.

And it's this that has got my knickers all twisted. Because the digital medium is suffering as a result.

Despite the vast amount of internet users in South Africa, despite the fact that they're in the much-sought-after higher LSM echelons, despite the fact that they engage with the medium on a daily basis, and despite the versatility of the medium, and the fact that it's measurable, the advertising industry has yet to get excited about the internet.

I believe that the creative community's persistent disregard of digital media is not only damaging to the digital environment, but also to the creative community itself.

A hypothetical example: Client books space on digital medium; agency creates boring banner as budget is limited and no one really cares anyway; banner performs badly; and client begins to distrust the virtual world as a viable marketing space.

Then digital publisher takes matters into his own hands; contacts client direct; creates ad that works. Client begins to distrust agency?

It's a vicious circle, and one that could be easily circumvented by creating some real excitement around the medium. So perhaps it's time the Creative Circle included digital as a category in its Ad of the Month.

And then maybe next year, the organisers will see fit to include it as a category in the main Loerie Creative Awards.

In the meantime, however, it's up to us digital publishers. Which is why Marketingweb has joined forces with MPower, sales and marketing arm of Media24 Digital, to launch the ROAR Awards - rewarding online advertising that rocks. Through this initiative, we hope to place online advertising on the creative barometer, and in turn, improve its efficacy. Frankly, it's about time.

For more information, go to Send your comments to Kim

  • Kim Penstone is editor of Marketingweb, a website wholly owned by Moneyweb that focuses on the media, marketing and advertising arena. For more articles of a similar nature, go to

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