As we head into DSCOOP, all thoughts are turned to the future of digital print. But if we want digital printing to thrive, we have to remember that digital print doesn’t live in a vacuum. Our idea of “multi-channel marketing” as personalized direct mail that sends recipients to personalized URLs and then following up with non-responders by email is an effective but limited view of what multi-channel marketing is all about.
Here’s why I bring it up — and what I’m increasingly concerned about. The online world is making huge strides in what they call “micro-targeting” and “intent-based marketing.” In other words, they are using geographic and demographic information about online viewers to customize or even personalize advertising on the fly.
The other day, I was reading about Adchemy, which allows marketers to analyze consumer intent across online marketing channels. It ties together consumer’s behavior using search, social media, display advertising, and other media, analyzes it, and then allows advertisers to serve up the most relevant ads to the online viewer. For example, Adchemy might compare consumers’ Google searches with their Facebook likes and the online banner ads they click on, then based on this information, decide what ads make the most sense for them.
In Media magazine’s annual “Agencies of the Year” issue, it opened with Mediabrands and its empire of small specialty firms. Among them is Reprise Media, a search and social media specialty shop focusing on intent-based marketing much like Adchemy. Then there were Mediabrands’ efforts to develop and place APIs directly into display ads, making them dynamic and capable of receiving data that instantaneously updates their relevance to specific consumers at the very time they are viewing them.
To illustrate how an API-based ad might work, Monahan gives an example of a banner ad for an allergy medication brand that has an API connecting it to a real-time weather database updating pollen counts so that could be relevant to a consumer’s decision to use the brand. Other obvious applications could tie into any real-time databases connecting ads to dynamic, relevant databases about weather alerts, traffic patterns or even social media feeds from Facebook, Twitter, or just about anywhere else a strategist, creative or programmer could think of. 
We are entering into an online world of hyper-personalization. Print should be an integral part of this mix. People don’t only live in the virtual worlds of mobile, social media, and the Internet. They live in the real world, too. Sometimes it’s easier to find them and communicate with them in a house, on a poster, or on a billboard than it is online. But when we are looking at generations of consumers (and business owners) who are more comfortable reading on iPads than print and who spend more time on their phones texting than talking, they need to be reminded of that.
In order to remind them, however, it takes more than an understanding of the value of print. It takes an understanding of the world these marketers are already in. This means that, in order to sell print, the industry needs to become conversant about the worlds of mobile, social media, and online marketing.
You don’t have to offer these services as part of your core competency, but you should at least understand them enough to know the trends, consumer attitudes, and when they shine and where they don’t. Without understanding the dynamics of these media, it will be tough to gain the credibility necessary to help your customers understand how and why print should be part of that mix.