Saturday March 15, 2008
THE jury is out. McKinsey confirms in a recent study that 74% of global marketing executives are planning to spend on online video content. The penny has finally dropped that “My Space is Your Space.” CGA – consumer generated advertising – is the new big thing. So what’s gone wrong with the old way of advertising?
As a hardcore ad man, I don’t think it’s the ads that are at fault – it’s the media buys that have created the fallout. Most consumers are tired, irritated and zapped out of intrusive advertising. And we know that the old model of disruptive media will not hold on.
In that old model, you looked for a media aperture when people watched something they liked – say American Idol or your English premier league and then you intruded that with your ad. And often a half dozen others back to back. The ad usually cuts through that memorable goal or that crucial question – “Who’s in and who’s out?”
Little wonder then that almost 40% of consumers avoid ads as much as possible, according to one report (Adweek/JWT Report 2007). It is now official too that AOS (advertising overload syndrome) is a bigger pain to average consumers than George Bush is to the American voter. Well, almost.
All this and much more on the digital revolution were discussed in the last iMedia brand summit conducted last month. I will take you through the gist of some interesting trends that were covered in the seminar (based on a report by iMedia Communications Inc associate editor Michael Estrin, whom I will quote extensively).
Bridging the new digital divide: brands and consumers
Jeffrey Rayport, founder and chairman of Marketspace, and former Harvard business school professor, spoke at length on the wired world. He said there was a new digital divide: the gap between brands and their consumers.
The problem they say is that the rate at which users are digitally connecting to the world isn’t the real problem, but that brands now must work through an oligopoly created by the likes of Microsoft and Google to gain access to their consumers.
Creating “context reality”
The oligopoly is no longer selling space but rather the users themselves, who in turn have leveraged the explosion in social media to create what Rayport called their own “context reality”.
The challenge for brands is to reclaim the relationship in a world where users are making their own media reality, and those users are in turn being sold by a massive cartel where the top 10 companies control 99% of the total ad dollars flowing into the web.
One strange result from the industry-wide shake-ups is that many media companies are becoming agencies, brands are becoming media companies, and agencies are becoming technology companies.
But the main challenge is not different to what challenged us in the traditional ad model: how to engage your customers. Or how, as one expert called it, do you create the brand content to drive the “Passionistas” – the hooked in customer, the passionate and engaged consumer?
Several clear strategies were enunciated:
·Target the core: Or “overwhelm the microcosm”. This really means embracing hardcore users. In the case of the Toyota Scion, it meant making and marketing a car around young people who like to define themselves by the customisation work they do on their automobiles.
·Activate the community: The point, of course, goes back to handing apparent power to the consumer where the user would become the producer and distributor of content. This does not, however, mean letting the consumer take over completely.
American Express was a good example here of energising a community of affluent individuals around its Black Card. While the services of the card could be found with any bank, American Express had used the exclusivity of the financial instrument to create a virtual country club.
Pfizer was another example for sponsoring “Sermo,” a community for doctors. The forum for 35,000 medical professionals helps Pfizer develop and market its products simply by listening to physicians.
·Integrate the experience: Rayport goes on to state: “Mandate a unified field theory; it is no longer an option to ignore integration. Digital is like a patchwork of hundreds of channels, and successful brands will be the ones that figure out how to work comfortably in all of those networks.’
The best brains and talent in brand building and communication will come together with specialist advisors on new media apertures and manage to drive relevant content in these new formats.
·Stop worrying and get down to the trenches: I have in recent months pushed for the need to embrace digital strategies in all that we ad people do. Digital communication is not that different in some of the challenges it sets for ad people. Media partners would surely need to have the right channels and know-how of where and how these ads are placed so that, under strict rules of engagement, the consumer adds his own voice to the sum of stories that a brand will stand for.
The smart ad group will start building formats and platforms that can help him talk to these consumers. It could be a radio station, a magazine, a great film company, a mobile game, or even a virtual dance routine.
It will all come back to how many parts of a communication partner’s value chain can impact a brand’s touch-points. Ads-R-Us is more about a wagon train of goods and delivery than it is of the consumer as a driver.
Ad agencies and marketers will still drive brands, but they need to ensure the consumer is in for the drive. But then that’s really nothing new, is it?