IF YOU HAD ASKED ME a year ago if the industry needed a Widget Marketing Association, I probably would have said the same thing as anybody else - What's a Widget? How could we possibly need another association?
To ensure the conversation that started at WidgetCon continues, Freewebs recently announced the creation of the Widget Marketing Association (WiMA), a professional organization for a new breed of engagement marketers that brings together agencies, brands, publishers and widget companies to exchange knowledge, best practices and help set standards together and with others like the IAB.
It seems as though our industry's collective objective has been to produce associations first, and revenue second. We've already got an Interactive Advertising Bureau, an Online Publishers Association, a Word-of-Mouth Marketing Association, an eMarketing Association, a Web Marketing Association, an Association of National Advertisers, an American Association of Advertising Agencies, an Online Lead Generation Association, a Direct Marketing Association, and a dozen different regional Interactive Marketing Associations. Surely one of those must address the issues of Widget Marketers.
Actually, they all can claim to -- but none directly, and none thoroughly.
As widget marketing proliferates, it's likely that each of these groups will fold some aspect of widget marketing into their purview, based on the perspective of their leading constituencies. And how a publisher-driven association like the IAB or OPA defines and addresses widget marketing could be vastly different from the way an agency or client-driven association like the 4A's or the ANA might approach the discipline.
But the best way to manage the smart growth of widget marketing is collectively -- by gathering the input of everyone in the food chain -- from agencies to clients to publishers to the widget producers. Ironically, no small reason we need a Widget Marketing Association is because the question of "What's a Widget?" still prompts a half-dozen different responses, depending on whom you ask.
Any sanctioned response that overlooks how widget marketing affects all its constituencies is inevitably shortsighted, and likely to be rendered obsolete before the pixels settle on the PPT slide. With a Widget Marketing Association (WiMA) that draws from the entire industry (publishers to agencies, major players to entrepreneurs), we're better able to develop definitions and standards and measurement guidelines that will endure. And with everyone's input right from the gun, we'll have built-in flexibility as the industry evolves.
I work for a publisher, so I'm obviously biased -- in favor of my advertiser clients, naturally. With unadulterated selfishness, I support the creation of WiMA because of the benefits it affords to these advertisers. Namely, education, pan-industry dialogue, and expertise syndication. To wit:
Sharing experience among members is an important aspect of any association, and WiMA is no exception. No small part of our charter will be to help advertisers approach both the creative and media aspects of widget marketing with as deep an understanding of audience expectations as possible.
And the industry is so nascent that open conversations and networking involving buyers, sellers, builders, and observers are the best way to kickstart creativity while keeping a keen eye on effectiveness.
We want to join as many conversations as possible, and will happily spread virally throughout the industry. In this way, advertisers' perspectives will be baked into what WiMA contributes, everywhere. (The same is true for publishers, widget producers and others who are part of WiMA.)So far, WiMA member companies include: Freewebs, Clearspring; comScore; Gigya; Gizmoz; Goowy/Yourminis, RockYou and Widgetbox.
Widget marketing is white hot right now, and with good reason: it's one of the first ways brands can participate in social media actively, creatively, deeply, and with scale. And like other "killer app" channels that have come before it, it's ripe for misuse, abuse, and ultimately disuse by marketers. Which would not just be a shame -- it's borderline criminal.
There aren't so many powerful marketing channels available right now that advertisers can afford to watch one shut down before its potential is realized and developed. Widget Marketing is no end game for advertisers, but it is an important step on the engagement marketing path. Resources invested here today will pay off handsomely later on, whatever shape engagement ultimately takes.
Chris Cunningham is Vice President for Global Sales at Freewebs. At cocktail parties he shamelessly introduces himself as "Widgetman." You can email him at email@example.com.