Digital Marketing turns 25 this year – and as the saying goes, “What a long, strange road it’s been.” To celebrate, Adobe published a comprehensive report that looks back on digital marketing’s quarter-century of disruption and innovation.
It all started in 1994 with a humble banner ad on hotwired.com, as part of AT&T’s Campaign called “You Will.” It would be the first step in a bold new direction for marketing, one which would irrevocably change the industry and our culture.
As the influencer marketing industry marches steadily towards an estimated $15 billion in revenue by 2020, it’s humbling to see how decades of developments have paved the way.
Adobe’s report takes us back to digital’s earliest memories, such as the adoption of Content Marketing as a concept, Google’s rise to power – and by extension, the rise of algorithm powered search that “marked our obsession with data and analytics,” and much more. Of course, we can’t forget about the introduction of the iPhone, which they directly link to the birth of mobile-first strategies.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the report are the fascinations reflections from industry veterans who helped shape digital’s earliest days.
“… it was like being part of a club,” says Sharon Otterman, a digital media veteran and current U.S. chief marketing officer of William Hill, interviewed in the Adobe report. “We were just a small group of people creating stuff, trying stuff out, trying to figure out how to pay for it, how to contract it—it was such a blur, and yet completely exciting. We were building new ground that never existed before.”
That experience – of pioneering a new space – is almost identical to how Open Influence CEO Eric Dahan describes the beginnings of influencer marketing.
“What’s so interesting to think about it how different the industry could have gone,” Dahan states. “One of the most exciting parts back then was figuring the direction things would go. It’s always a bit of a bet, isn’t it? We took a bet on focusing on the needs of advertisers, and it paid off. With lot of things, we take them for granted as standard practice now, but it wasn’t back then. It was a blank slate, and we drew inspiration from what worked before.”