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Written by The Mezzanine Group
on November 16, 2011

A few weeks ago I was speaking with someone who works in the digital advertising business, and she said, almost offhandedly, “Oh, yeah, this year digital advertising went mainstream.” And my response was “Really? Isn’t this 2011? Didn’t it go mainstream, oh, 5 years ago?” And she explained that, no, actually, many advertisers are still leery of the digital channels, and are still far more comfortable making investments in media they are more familiar with and understand better: television, print, radio. But now, she sees a tipping point being reached, where the digital component of a campaign is integrated into the planning from the beginning, rather than an afterthought; where advertisers are more willing to entertain new options like pre-roll ads that run before online video, for instance, or make real investments in social media. It’s taken a long time, and lots of preaching by digital evangelists, but this change is really starting to be integrated into the new normal.

I spent a short time working in an internet business in 1999, and of course in those heady Internet bubble days, we fully expected all the promise of the Internet to come true within, oh, six to eighteen months. Of course, I was much younger then, and Google barely existed… but still I can be taken by surprise by how durable some seemingly-archaic practices seem to be. Until I take a good hard look at my own practices and realize that I still use a pen-and-paper to-do list despite fantastic digital task-organizing options, some of which I’ve even tried and loved. Then again, we’ve managed to migrate our grocery list online, so maybe soon…

It’s so easy to underestimate just how long it will take for deeply-rooted behaviour to change. I find the further I get in my career, the more I recognize the degree to which massive change is possible (although often that’s a result of unintended consequences and therefore not so predictable), but at the same time I get much more patient about my expectations of the pace of change. This is especially true when you are talking about anything that would require people to shift the way they conduct relationships, or redistribute decision-making power, or internalize new rules of thumb or heuristics. We’re seeing significant changes in the way we live, in how we experience media, and so on – but it makes sense that mainstream business practices would take a while to figure out what’s a real change and what’s a fad, and only then start to catch up.

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