Get Ready For A “Blueshift” In Marketing

Don’t be stuck with an outdated marketing model. Columnist Andrew Ruegger explains why marketers need to embrace a “blueshift” and take advantage of the new tools of today.


In marketing, as in most business sectors, things are moving at an increasingly fast rate, and as racing legend Mario Andretti once said, “If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough.”

Due to the emerging Internet of Things, the record number of mobile phones, internet availability, and the move toward a single device for all media, traditional 12-month media planning and buying cycles are starting to make less fiscal sense to brands. Despite TV being the medium with the greatest reach, digital will inevitably eclipse that curve.

However, changing a process that’s been the cornerstone of marketing since the 1940s is hard, especially for legacy brands. With the right mental models or strategic thinking, big brands should be excited to ride the incoming tsunami, as opposed to being hit by it, and with that comes, to borrow a physics term, a “blueshift” in marketing.

What Is A Blueshift?

A blueshift is a decrease in length and an increase in frequency of a wavelength. To efficiently deal with the increase of ad unit variation, sprouting specialty mediums, the evolution of DSPs (demand-side platforms), SSPs (supply-side platforms) and DMPs (data management platforms), small planning cycles with insight feedback loops are imperative (the blueshift).

As larger budget chunks get moved out of mass general reach targeting (like traditional TV), the greater the need for a shift in strategic thought and planning. And although we see this change happening in many agencies, the greatest challenge is keeping up with the market, as its rate of change is greater than ever before.

Product marketing is a big, complex topic. Here are some points to consider to plan your marketing blueshift.

1. Twelve-month planning cycles are tried and true for traditional media channels — but print and traditional television are becoming less of the overall marketing budget.

The more the market shifts toward digital, the easier it becomes to move budget between channels. (TV spots are bought far in advance, while digital buying continues to move towards moment-to-moment.)

2. Programmatic has become an invaluable tool to reach consumers from discovery to purchase. As its level of sophistication improves and the available inventory types diversify (e.g., IAB’s Rising Stars), brands and agencies will need to adapt their planning and creative production.

3. Everything is on the internet. Properly leverage all of your data from DMPs, social, search, e-commerce, blogs, forums, news and so on, and feed them back into your planning process regularly.

The positive impacts will move beyond just benefiting your media spend and spill into product design, corporate policy and supply chain management. No reason to ship more mink coats to NYC when the geo-location of 1M trending social media posts about an anti-fur movement is in NYC, or to stock Boston-area stores with your headphones if your DMP-devised audience profiles show that people there only purchase headphones online.

Without an insights feedback loop and agile planning, you’re stuck with decisions that may no longer be the best investment of your budget.

4. All auction-based channels, like search and social, are moving toward a centralized buying management solution (e.g., Marin, Kenshoo, DS3) and are slowly being modified by DMP audience information — meaning fewer manual executions will be needed to make proficient buys across digital media channels.

5. Anything that is rule-based, such as elements of paid Search, paid social, display, etc., is open to partial to complete automation.

6. Staffing: If you want your farrier to make race car tires because you read that race cars are faster than horses, you’ve already lost. Shorter, more frequent activations require a different allocation of resources with a highly targeted set of talents.

  • Technologists: Quick cycles require efficiency, efficiency requires technology, and good technology requires technologists — primarily programmers and data scientists who understand your clients’ business questions.
  • Strategists: People who do all media investment planning, who deal with the clients and vendors, understand the insights coming up from the technologists and drive business by turning those insights into solutions for client objectives.
  • Creatives: Reaching me at the end of my toothpaste buying cycle while I’m in my car on the way to CVS is now fairly easy to accomplish; convincing me to purchase Sensodyne would be hard. The connection is made by those creative geniuses who have been and always will be a pillar of the industry.

7. Everything is moving toward addressable, even TV. What will matter most is how and when a consumer is reached.

As the IOT grows, a marketer must focus on targeting the right consumer with the right product at the right time. If I’m outside and it’s raining, serve me a waterproof phone or umbrella advertisement. However, if your ad is for a yellow umbrella (my least favorite color), but your DMP knew my favorite color is blue, your messaging/creative won’t work for me.

8. More relatable content and creative, driven by the feedback loop of insights, cannot be universally planned at the start of the year. If your display inventory had an array of umbrella advertisements available and had served me a blue one, I would have converted.

  • For those of you who read this and think, “Not feasible, law of diminishing returns, the cost of creating that many ads eliminates any ROI,” that is a fair assessment. Today, it is feasible but very difficult; in the future it’s what winning looks like. Between now and then, think about content like a DMP to DSP does. Bucket people, serve different consumer types different ads or differentiate by gender. Make ever more granular buckets. Technologists will be vital in the scaling of addressable content.

9. Follow point 7 to do social media correctly. Social media cannot be done on a 12-month predetermined cycle; it’s an in-the-moment environment for consumers, not canned posts and responses or stagnant creative.

10. Play the market. Addressable impressions will be available in a lot of places — but just because everyone’s spending in DoubleClick  or Google Adwords doesn’t mean you should be, especially because the prices are highly competitive.

If you plan into an area that gets too inflated, play elsewhere.

11. Always pursue digital ROI and attribution. If you plan, build and staff correctly, you can precisely model digital ROI for all channels and at a high frequency.

Focusing on this (rather than on a plethora of other digital metric KPIs) keeps you grounded and enables you to make strategic channel shifts in your media budget as needed.


It’s important to keep an open mind about the future of our industry and how to survive in it. Remember that in 2004, Facebook had fewer than 600,000 users with no revenue; programmatic buying didn’t really exist; Twitter didn’t exist; and Google was in its infancy as an ad vendor — and now earns more than NBC, ABC, Fox and CBS combined.

Ad tech mergers and acquisitions have grown 21% year over year, according to Results International, reflecting the scramble to maintain competitive inventory and supply/buying capabilities in a rapidly changing market (e.g., Verizon’s purchase of AOL).

Rather than stick with soon-to-be-outdated planning models, think “blueshift” and embrace a more agile, iterative marketing strategy that takes advantage of the tools we have today. By doing so, you can more easily use the digital tools of tomorrow and stay competitive in the market.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

(Some images used under license from


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