PR’s Digital Bravado Meets CMO’s Angst

I’m a big fan of the reports and industry studies from marketing analyst firm eMarketer. Some of the best in the business, IMO. And a report out last week based off the February 2011 CMO Survey from the American Marketing Association and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business is music to my ears in terms of its insight.

The CMO Survey looked at the rate of integration of social media within companies’ marketing mix, as well as how well social media is actually being integrated. Some of the results were quite surprising. Let’s take a look at the key takeaways:

  • Over the next 12 months, social media spending will nearly double to 9.8% of surveyed CMO’s marketing budgets, up from a current level of 5.6%.
  • In the next five years, that percentage will increase to 18.1%.
  • Service companies on the B2B and B2C will experience the biggest increases, as they look to promote product-focused digital and social media initiatives.
via eMarketer
via eMarketer


That’s the good news. The bad news, however, is that the confidence level among CMOs that they and their companies are successfully integrating social media into more traditional work and marketing strategies lags behind the increase in spending.

According to eMarketer, a full 25% of survey respondents said social is not effectively integrated at all within their companies. So, on the plus side, budget allocations toward social media are up — significantly — with the expectation that it will continue to rise in years to come. But, we still have a ways to go before we can say that yes, social media is as fully integrated and understood within marketing services as more traditional service offerings.

The timeliness of this report couldn’t have been better, as recent trends, revenue reports and a general feeling of buoyancy within the PR and ad industries point toward big agencies going into a buying and M&A frenzy to boost their agencies’ digital chops, as I wrote about last week.

As PRWeek pointed out in a recent editorial, “right now the conversation in PR is all about social media and digital, and no agency can seemingly have a glut of these skills and services on hand.”

The question is, will our industry’s bravado in the digital sector match clients’ expectations for top-level digital and social media services that just two years ago, we couldn’t match, and even now, ad agencies are chomping at the bit to reclaim?

Confidence is on the rise right now in PR; but do our marketing industry counterparts feel the same bluster?

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  • Keith, this is a very important topic you have hit on here. It’s good to see the increased spend numbers as a PR pro. But the response to the integration question is worrisome. And for those who do feel integration is happening, my question is whether it’s happening in the “right” way.

    When ad and media agencies try to reclaim, in most cases they are going to do it through buying media, or at least that will be a big part of the spend. Now, digital media buys can absolutely be part of an integrated marketing campaign. But we as PR pros know the true value of social media lies in the relationships we build through more earned media type of approaches, such as conversation, which can’t be bought.

    I think the first phase of integration will be to see marketing spends on social go up. I think the second and more important phase will hopefully be a change in how marketers and advertisers do their jobs to meet customer demand and the ways with which they want to be communicated. What is it that Justin Timberlake’s character says in The Social Network: “You don’t want ads man. The Facebook is cool. Ads aren’t cool.” Ads can be part of a cool integrated digital program, but not if they are the anchor. My two cents. Yours?

    • Have to agree with you all around. Your point from “The Social Network” is well taken re what’s more cool: ads or online relationships? The eMarkter report has me wondering if some marketers are merely increasing their spending in social media just to keep up with the Joneses, rather than actually thinking about what is the right type of social media and digital marketing that their company needs.

      That may back up your point that the anchor of social media spending shouldn’t be ads. To me, that’s too easy of a strategy, as it falls back on what used to work in marketing, but what may not be working so well now. Customers are clearly telling brands that they don’t want to see more ads (AdAge has a great article in this week’s issue about how consumers are feeling completely inundated with online ads and digital marketing messages:, and yet, what do we see? More ads. Sort of makes you wonder whether marketers and advertisers are truly listening to their customers, or just running a few customer surveys to save face and calling it a day.

      That’s not meant to be an indictment of the online ad or marketing industries. Absolutely not. But this eMarketer report, along with that AdAge article really opened my eyes to the fact that we’re at a critical point for the value and impact of digital marketing. Which way we go may largely determine our collective industries’ value to both clients and consumers in the years to come.

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