By Frank J. Romano February 23, 2004 -- Larry Weber, founder of Weber Shandwick Worldwide, a public relations and communications management firm, recently argued that data-driven digital communications is ushering in a mass “morphing of marketing.” Expanding channels of communication—cable, Internet, cell phones, and PDAs—are forcing a major shift in the marketplace. In a recent 90-day period, he said, $10 billion has moved from traditional advertising to digital advertising. “I have CEOs tell me, ‘I have a director of marketing here, a director of technology there, and another director of sales over here,'” he said. “They're all doing marketing, but none of them knows what the other is doing. We've got to pull it all together.” This new marketing environment is being defined by reduced budgets, vendor consolidation, shortened product lifecycles and changing laws of supply and demand. To meet these new challenges, Weber argues that advertisers will increasingly need to focus on complex multi-channel efforts rather than major ad campaigns, as they did in the heyday of Madison Avenue. “Madison Avenue is the Berlin Wall of marketing,” Weber said. “For 50 years, they've sucked off of television. And now that wall is crumbling.” “Ultimately, we're no longer going to be ‘marketing directors,'” he said. “We're going to be more like producers—pulling together directors, actors, writers, and sets to tell our story, then tearing it all down and starting all over again for our next project.” One of those “actors” is print. Once, print dominated as a lead marketing tool, but today it must often play a supporting role. Digital marketing is to marketing what smart bombs are to war ( a new metaphor ). Smart bombs are directed at a specific target with vectors from GPS signals and small broadcast beacons. During World War II, there were no accurate systems to aim at airborne attacks. Each ground gunner fired at a specific quadrant of the sky, and hopefully the plane would run into a hail of bullets. Later, heat-seeking missiles were deadly accurate and smart bombs took war to a more lethal level. This area of warfare became more targeted. Marketing or war—it's all about personalization, whether in print or on the Web or on my cell phone or PDA. Cable shows are becoming “on-demand” and advertising in all forms will have to figure out how to follow those eyeballs. Marketing must re-invent itself in the digital age. Competition is stronger, global; there are more products to compete with and more of a need to be noticed. Billboards, newspapers, magazines, and broadcast media are not the only competitors. The Internet is also playing the game of Risk and is fighting for a piece of the marketing pie. Printers must become more involved in marketing through variable–data printing and other print initiatives. The printer has usually made contact with a customer through purchasing or communications departments. We need to connect with the marketers. Marketing has morphed into digital marketing and the last group to find this out may be marketing people themselves.