Most have it wrong. the digitization of media isn't today's critical issue. Today's critical issue is how the digitization of media has transformed consumer behavior and influenced successful business practices. While analog best practices are not wrong, they are incomplete and therefore they are less relevant.
We need to recognize that the Internet is but one form of digital media, and that we must go beyond display advertising and search if we are to truly engage consumers within all of their key apertures. Understanding that consumer receptivity to brand messaging is the foundation upon which effective communications plans are built, we must now deconstruct and evolve those communication foundation elements that have effectively served our brands over time.
Consumers continue to engage with content on the big screen. In fact, we know that television viewing is still growing among all key demographics. Looking at adults 35-49 - the sweet spot for products ranging from automotive and technology to packaged goods and financial services - viewing is up 12 percent (2007 versus 2000); similar trends have been tracked in the baby boom generation and among adults 50-64 (+10 percent). Even teens, mostly written off as non-viewers, have held their TV viewing steady over this seven-year period, at 3.5 hours of television viewing per day.
Households that own three or more TV sets currently represent over 51 percent of homes - and those sets just keep getting bigger. By the end of last year, 56 percent of households owned a large-screen television, up 16 percent from 2007. The growth was even more dramatic in ownership of high-definition televisions (+38 percent), LCD flat-screens and plasma flat-panel televisions. Early adopters are eagerly bringing together the breadth of the Internet and the high-quality display of the flat screen television - and voilà! Large-as-life Internet access, right in their living rooms.
Consumers still love TV, and so do advertisers. The news that really matters to marketers is how the medium itself is changing; the wholesale transition to digital will place the TV firmly on the path to interactivity. This is truly the moment of change - the digitization of media that will transform the consumer-advertiser dialogue.
But what has to happen first for advertisers to make that one-to-one connection with their customers? The current infrastructure of all the players in the field has to change to allow for enhanced content delivery. The cable industry has to work to upgrade their systems and infrastructure. Enter Canoe, which is aiming for 50 million interactive cable homes by 2012 and 60 million by 2013. The objective of Canoe, to enable one-to-one consumer communication, will not happen overnight. It will be a process of testing and learning what is most successful for all constituents - the cable operators, the programmers and, most importantly, the advertisers. Not to be forgotten are the telcos and satellite companies and their own developing applications to analyze set-top-box data by 2012. All told, it is estimated that there will be approximately 80 million homes with varying levels of addressability, interactivity and return-path data by 2012.
Not only will the expanded program content have the potential for increased retention and usage by television viewers, but television messaging will go from mass to selective with more targeted, efficient, customized and enhanced advertising opportunities. These, in turn, will feed the development of greater insights into our customers - a perfect loop of learning. What cannot be forgotten in our exuberance over these new opportunities is the need to develop the analytical tools that will bring all of these metrics together.
If we embrace the challenge of evolving our analog media practices for a digital world, the central core of our practice, that of understanding the behavior of brand consumers, grows in importance. Identifying opportunities for greater message receptivity - those aperture moments when the consumer is seeking just the information you are able to provide - will be married with powerful behavioral data harnessed from millions of set-top boxes.
The digitization of media has the promise of bringing us ever closer to our consumers. However, if we mistake proximity for receptivity, and neglect to uncover those insights which lead to relevant messaging apertures, then we have missed the greatest opportunity of all.