Week one – The context of digital media ad the increasing prominence of social media

6 Feb

 “If you would understand anything, observe its beginning and its development” – Aristotle

It would make sense to investigate and explore the development of digital media and communications – as a starting point to put current case studies and discussions such as social media in context.

With the first email sent in 1971 and the launch of the World Wide Web in 1991 (by Tim Berners-Lee), we can see how the internet and digital media has progressed so quickly in a relatively short space of time. Some of the key developments in digital media – that have changed our everyday life could be pointed as:

  •  World Wide Web
  •  Email
  •  RSS feeds
  •  Social Media
  •  Viral Marketing
  •  Email Marketing
  •  Pay Per Click
  •  Blogs
  •  Digital Marketing
  •  Search engine marketing
  •  Online Gaming

The development of digital media, from the perspective of an advertising student, has developed the industry beyond belief. It has produced opportunities that can be explored in a creative way – allowing brands to engage and interact with consumers like never seen before. (One of the key players here – is of cause social media.) Is this a positive or negative thing though?

Twitter – being a popular form of social media, ranking as number 66 in the UK’s most frequently used webpage – it is a form of social media that holds a large bearing over a vast amount of people and more importantly – consumers. Personally I don’t use Twitter on a day-to-day basis, but having many friends who religiously follow celebs they have a personal interest in, with most youngsters now days even being able to access social media –on their Smart Phones – it seems to be an interesting and obvious platform for brands to interact with potential consumers. However can this be exploited and taken too far?…

We have recently seen cases of celebrities being exposed of being paid to ‘tweet’ about a certain product or brand. Reportedly brands have been paying celebrities between $3,000 and $10,000 (Guardian article) per tweet or post. Some examples include Liz Hurley tweeting about Estee Lauder’s new moisturizer or Daisy Lowe tweeting about Land Rover’s new line of premium cars.


With some of the more popular celebrities having over a million ‘followers’, this is a very strategic and obvious way of getting consumers to pay attention and make a positive connection between the brand and the celeb they pay an interest in. But some questions should be raised – is it effective, and is it morally right?


As twitter has 4.71 million users in the UK alone, allowing reach to 11.69% of the country – I’m sure I’m not wrong in thinking they have at least some degree of effectiveness when it comes to influencing the online audience. Whether the users pay attention to the brand’s tweets or not is almost irrelevant – the fact that brands have such a large opportunity to appeal to this percentage of the population shows just how far the digital age has developed – and has the ability to improve organizations marketing platforms. BUT – even though it is a major development within digital communications, does this mean it is morally right to be allowed to influence the audience without them having conscious knowledge of it.

Taking retail websites as an example we can see how the quick development of digital media has allowed online companies to expand rapidly within an international market place. As mentioned in the lecture, Boo.com (founded in 1998) went bust following the dot.com boom of the late 1990’s. This case study is a great example of when technology started to advance new businesses emerged alongside this to take advantage of the digital technologies available. Boo.com launched in 1999 as an “e-tailor”  selling branded fashion goods on the internet internationally. As far as I can see there are some key reasons for the failure of Boo.com:

  • Timing
  • The problems with user experience
  • Lack of market research and poor market analysis

You could almost say that the business model was ahead of its time in comparison with the technology that was available when it launched. During the 1990’s online and online shopping was not used as widely as it is today. As Boo.com was the first of its kind, there may have been a lack of trust or unfamiliarity within the consumer using the site.


The website was criticised for poor design and hard for the target audience to navigate around – resulting in poor user experience. For example the homepage was several hundred kilobytes, which meant it took a long time to load and therefore users getting frustrated and bored. This almost suggests that Boo.com may have been ahead of its time as the technology available was not compatible with the design features and ideas of the company. It was clear that the target audience of Boo.com was not ready to buy such large amounts of clothing from the web. As a result their sales did not match the expectations and famously spent their way through $135 million in 18months.  

Forwarding to today’s current retail-online market place, in the UK and internationally, there is clearly one market leader – ASOS.com. They are the UK’s largest online fashion and beauty store, and have a heavy online presence internationally, holding the number one spot in Denmark, Australia and Ireland as well. Founded in 2000 by Nick Robertson and currently with annual revenue of £223 million they are clearly an online retail success. But what are they doing so right in comparison to Boo.com major flop?

ASOS.com has creatively utilized the digital media available to successfully engage with their primary audience of 16-34 year old men and women. Using such marketing tools as:

  • Facebook
  • ASOS Mobile
  • ASOS Magazine (online and Glossy)
  • Twitter
  • Email marketing

Their website has 8.3 unique users a month with 3 million of these being registered – this is a huge data base in which they utilise with email marketing to ensure re-purchase or site visitation. Although many people may find ‘Spam’ emails irritating, the ASOS emails are personalised to the consumer and therefore the viewer has an invested interest in the content not just wanting to delete right away. Andrew McStay mentions that the development of ‘personalized advertising’ has and will continue to benefit companies. Agencies can track and monitor users’ online behaviour – therefore they can show specific ads to large segments of users who have expressed interest in the same thing.

From a marketing student and consumer’s point-of-view, I would say one of their most successful promotional tools is their official Facebook page. With 441,178 ‘friends’ on the social networking site, gives the company a great platform in which to engage consumers with the brand, creating a personal relationship with consumers and advertise specific promotions to individuals to relation to items their friends may have ‘liked’. The Facebook page is updated multiple times on a daily basis, ensuring consumers are always aware of their presence and can interact with the brand by ‘liking’ certain brands, items or articles in their magazine.

The magazine is an interesting path for the online store, having no previous editorial background. Sent directly to registered customers in the post and available online to anyone, has made the publication very popular (also as its free!) – having many celebrities interviewed monthly and featured on the cover.  They also recently launched ‘ASOS Mobile’, allowing consumers who have smartphone’s to search for products and purchase – this is a trend we have seen many company’s interact with – seeing many applications as it is a personal and easy way of engaging  the audience wherever they are – not being reliant in having a computer in front of them.


Although we have seen such online companies as ASOS.com develop so quickly and successful by making the most of the new digital media available such as social media – how much more can they grow in a now saturated market place? Seeing so many retail businesses have a social media presence – such as Next, Newlook and Topshop – will the success of ASOS.com continue – as it may be harder to communicate with the audience in such a crowded market place full of ‘noise’?



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