Hung Up On The Cross
Last week, comScore's Tania Yuki moderated a panel at NATPE entitled Cross Media Planning for a Convergence Culture. Adam Kasper, Lori Schwartz, Seth Newams and I were panelists. While waiting to be escorted out of the Speaker Ready room for our session, Tania quizzically queried: why did we think that there hasn't been more engagement with cross media platform campaigns at ad agencies. Each pundit punted in turn. I, of course, thought the answer to her question was simple. It was a matter of language - the transformative power of naming. By referring to a particularly Christian symbol, the cross, as the headline in the label, weren't we limiting the concept's appeal to practitioners of the other major religions of the world.
In my estimation we, as an industry, need to come up with some sort of lexicon that uncrosses the T's, garners the ayes and breaks down the silos within ad agencies as well as marketers alike in order to gravitate towards and embrace consumer behavior to encourage the consumer to gravitate towards and embrace our marketer's messaging and products. Four naming examples come to mind:
Television vs. Televisual
I'm a TV guy and proud of it. I enjoy horizontally watching a slew of my favorite professionally produced TV programs, surfing the interactive media guide, neurotically scanning my DVR selections to ascertain future storage capacity, and fast forwarding through advertising messages to see if I can accurately time the activation of "the play button" with the final second of the last commercial position in the pod preceding program content. And selfishly, I admit, I rejoice in the $66+ billion spent on TV advertising annually, remain unaffected by the naysayers' pronouncements about TV, the dying medium, and the 30 second commercial, a relic of the Paleolithic media age, and eagerly await the ubiquitous deployment of interactive applications in the televisual realm (telescoping, requests for interaction, TV microsites, long form advertiser produced content, intuitive navigation, datamining coupled with addressability, expansive interactivity and the combination thereof).
That's me. So here is my question for you. Why do the online ad agency professionals still insist on calling the video viewing experience in the broadband arena video streaming or broadband video? Why don't they refer to it as television? After al,l TV is defined by Webster - haven't checked Wikipedia - as the "transmission of video images." In my opinion had they utilized the time-worthy appellation they would more readily gain access to a greater share of the $66+ billion in TV ad revenue, make my job and other digital transitionists easier, and accelerate bridging the gulf between the two mediums to mutually share in the ability of the fundamental sight, sound and motion attributes of the video experience to engage the consumer.
Part of the answer I think lies in the line of demarcation drawn by the online/digital ad community that, in my opinion, unceremoniously labeled the traditional media community as offline - kind of like the tail wagging the dog: online generates $25+ billion (majority search) in ad revenue and the off-line community upwards of $150 billion (give or take a few billion) in the U.S.: not a pleasant way to encourage a fellowship between mature and burgeoning advertising sectors, particularly when the mature/traditional community, via the media planner, is oftentimes the gatekeeper to spending allocations by medium.
The other half of the dilemma seems, in my opinion, to reside in the traditional community's need to disproportionately silo dollar allocations to different distribution platforms even when they fall within the same consumer experience. As an example: when a television viewer in New York City watches Channel 7 (an ABC affiliate) via over the air transmission we call it broadcast. Pretty simple. However, when a cable subscriber watches Channel 7 we define the viewing experience as: broadcast? or cable?. And when a satellite customer views Channel 7 is the experience broadcast?, cable? or satellite? And let's not forget to add broadband, mobile and telcos into the miasmatic discussion. When you add the ability to access professionally produced scripted programs through Hulu and the like web video destinations the confusion multiplies exponentially.
The equation is simple:
I would argue that to the consumer it is all the same experience. It's television. And if we, the ad community, mature and burgeoning, are successfully going to engage the viewer of video, whether it is via traditional television, broadband and/or mobile, we must view it as TV as well and utilize each platform's individual attributes and applications to enhance our messaging capability in the service of our client's goals.
Designated Marketing Area (DMA) vs. Designated Marketing Zone (DMZ)
If memory serves me well, back in the mid-50s two opposing media research forces were vying for hegemony over the naming and defining rights for the media term "a media market", a physical piece of property that was defined by many characteristics, such as, number of people, homes, education, families, dwelling, income, boundaries, occupation, that would stretch continuously in many shapes and sizes across the United States. The two top contenders were ADI (audience of dominant influence) and DMA (designated marketing area).
Somehow, my understanding is, that Nielsen Media Research won the coin toss and DMA it has been, ever since that kind of staid, limited evolving definition of our morphing media landscape was crowned. Seemed alright. Rarely, I have heard media people challenge one another as to whether this DMA is sized right, or given unfair advantage in the weights of justice. Wasn't a big issue for me either up through the eighties when I was a national television buyer whose primary focus was the impending glacial slide of the broadcast network's ratings, higher CPMS and the arrival of nichely defined cable networks that had my clients questioning efficiency and targeting. The arrival of the cable networks and their distribution was crammed into the pre-determined DMA definitions and business continued as usual.
It was in the latter part of the '90s that I detected what I thought was the first crack in DMA's efficacy. Something was happening in terms of land grab. No longer did it seem reasonable to base DMA boundaries on the length and strength of radio or TV broadcast signal. You know that booming 50,000 broadcast signal that traversed many hamlets and cities. I noticed that the cable operators were quietly trading systems with one another - sometimes for cash but most often for proximity to their other assets - building up their density in many urban and suburban locales. This activity was followed by larger mergers and acquisitions - TCI, AT&T Broadband and Adelphia disappeared. Suddenly, more potent coaxial mandarins existed - continuously located in the broadcaster's hoods.
Then, many months ago the telco's entered the fray with their deep pockets to support quadruple by-pass play deployments of video, broadband and telephony (landline and mobile) on a market by market basis traversing U.S. counties one telephone pole at a time. And TV stations have transitioned from a single analog transmission to multiplexing upwards of four channels from their locally based in DMA market digital terrestrial location.
Concurrently we were and are challenging the government's attempt at loosening media ownership restrictions. On the docket: ownership of upwards of three TV stations in a market (large market) cross ownership of broadcast, radio and newspapers in a single market, digital terrestrial and mobile spectrum allocation (maintenance thereof), mandatory carriage by competing systems (cable, satellite, telco), net neutrality governance, geo-targeting of all forms of interactive televisual properties across terrestrial transmission, cable, satellite, telco, broadband and mobile. And coupling distribution with new forms of behavioral, usage, lifestyle, loyalty, opt in consumer data and privacy protection. Legislation, or deregulation, if it prevails, should encourage more concentration of media ownership in the paws of the few.
And what about content? Presently, professionally produced media content is being generated through fewer and fewer sources and its creation controlled by fewer media conglomerates. Although I am sure there will be those reading this piece that will proudly hail the democratization of news and content dissemination through the internet as well as the plethora of stuff posited by the UGCs, professionally produced scripted content - whether theatrically, TV or even online - still rules the day, and most importantly, generates the bucks. Often times, as we would all agree, the same few media mandarins are now controlling a greater slice of both distribution and content.
So is it time for us as an industry to redefine our physical definitions. Should we maintain our market definition (Designated Market Area) by simple physical geography for advertisers to utilize to map out their media spend and targeted points, or should we begin to define a media market based upon distribution of media services and control of content and editorial? I would recommend we morph the DMA to the DMZ: the Designated Marketing Zone. As each media conglomerate carves out a physical zone and offers many services (video, online, landline and mobile telephony) they will hopefully build up a trusting relationship with the consumer through upselling products and customer service. If this goods and services relationship evolves then marketers will have the opportunity to participate in a unique relationship utilizing the trust the consumers have with their media providers to resonate with the marketers' products. In fact, as we speak major media conglomerates, such as NBCU/Comcast, Disney, News Corp. and MTV Networks, to name but a few, are attempting to sell their universe of platforms as delivering a unique audience with distinctive characteristics emphasizing the promise to build and fortify symbiotic brand relationships - theirs and the advertiser's.
An illustration. Let's take Comcast's Philadelphia market and Coca-Cola:
Coca-Cola signage on Comcast trucks, a six pack of Coke delivered with every new subscriber install, Comcast community events sponsored by Coca-Cola, bill stuffers, every five VOD movies purchased by a Comcast customer the sixth is provided for free rounding out the six pack, cross promoted events at Philadelphia sports arenas, entertainment news provided by Coca-Cola through Comcast wireless services, special broadband offers connected through Comcast.net, Fandango and other high speed internet access services, integration with all of the soon to be merged NBCU content properties, and of course, this would be an exclusive relationship keeping out other soft drink competitors.
Hence, the Designated Marketing Zone, which in war parlance, translates into the DMZ.
Vertical and/or Horizontal Network vs. the Horizontical
In the first decade of the 21st century, as the televisual universe has expanded and video is much more prevalently experienced across all static and mobile TV platforms (traditional TV, broadband, wireless), we have entered the "horizontical network" epoch. I first witnessed this phenomenon when salespeople - particularly start-ups - presented their pitch in what first appeared to me as contradictory parallels. Vertical and/or horizontal reach. Program or unique impression. Some illustrations:
· Social video networks, such as NextNewNetworks and For Your Imagination, have built their video brands by discovering meaningful social networking communities and generating video programming that is attractive to that audience. Oftentimes they will discover their program hosts, champions and content within that community. Once they have established a foundation within the communal vertical they forge ahead to generate another vertical of loyal socialists that have similar characteristics (age, wealth, education, hobbies) but are drawn to different subject matter. In their sponsorship proposition to the marketer they stress the value of their vertical i.e., males that watch boxing, as well as the value of their horizontal i.e., males that watch their boxing programs, males that watch their basketball programs, males that watch baseball programs, and package it all together: niche and broader reach unique audience synthesized into one package.
· Addressable media companies Navic and Invidi have evolved internal corporate value propositions that travel down opposite roads simultaneously - though only at first glimpse. When I first started utilizing Navic's interactive TV applications it was to send the appropriate message (banner overlay on video commercial) to zip codes, and most recently in a select group of markets, to individual households. I was able to match the technology with Acxiom's segmentation analytics and provide what I hoped was the most relevant messaging to a particular household. The vertical approach worked for me. Eighteen months ago, Navic introduced its Admira ad auctioning product which drills down into the individual set top box program usage and is able to sell, through auction, specific programs delivering video commercials to specific set top boxes within a cable zone (a gaggle of zip codes) as well as aggregate those STBs with similar program viewing characteristics to create a broad reach of a narrow demographic i.e., the horizontal.
. Invidi, which has been commercial trialing in Comcast's Baltimore market with satcasting and telco expansion on the horizon, has a similar but different approach. Their technology delivers specific video commercials to households with specified characteristics. These characteristics can be determined by partnerships with dataminers, marketer's loyalty databases or their fuzzy mathematics. In fact, Invidi has said on occasion that it doesn't matter what program is being viewed, they know the broad psychographics of those watching and have the ability to deliver the appropriate video commercial. That's the vertical. However, in the same breath they have hinted at a model in which they partner with a pay TV operator (cable, satellite, telco) to sell commercial time in an accumulation of audience ratings to rival local TV stations. As an example, in a given market the broadcast TV station delivers on average a 5 rating during a particular daypart, whereas the average cable operator delivers a .5 rating per network for the same daypart. The Invidi horizontal solution: aggregate enough local cable inventory to equal a 5 rating, offer competitive pricing and increase the local cable operator's market share.
· Google TV Ads auctioning platform enables advertisers and their agencies to seek those audiences that support their marketing needs by creating a "network" of relevant impressions. Google offers the traditionally horizontal reach approach to acquire commercial inventory in a broad range of networks (dayparts and programming mix by network) that are represented in their DISH roster (14 million households) as well as individual national cable networks such as Bloomberg, CBS College Sports, Chiller, CNBC, GSN, Hallmark, MSNNBC, Outdoor Channel, Oxygen, Sleuth, and SyFy. However, rather than be limited by the broad horizontal landscape Google can offer a vertical network approach by delving into demographic and psychographic analytics to generate inventory schedules by program regardless of its network affiliation - providing, of course, that the inventory is available. In other words, a horizontical approach of chasing program audiences that provide meaningful impressions.
· Digital video recorder TiVo has often claimed that their audience is unique - an aggregation of early adopters, psychos and loyalists that has created a network that provides greater engagement with an advertiser's customers and potentials. Their interactive TV messaging applications allow the media community to maximize reach through tagging of traditional TV commercials as well as telescoping and request for interaction opportunities; and their Gold Star proposition (more text, graphics and video gatekept through the TiVo menu) exploits TiVo-ists' receptivity and connectivity to all things TiVo - a unique vertical across a broad horizontal.
So where are we. The first decade of the 21st century has expanded the "network" concept through broadband and mobile video platforms, both sociable and demography, whether through program syndication and like-contented site context as well as migrating models of ad auctioning of programs, networks and impressions utilizing advanced analytics to the traditional TV realm. All in the throes of garnering communal support but hindered by turf wars between agency personnel as analog approaches are slowly superseded by digital efficiencies. Welcome to the horizontical.
Panels vs. Set Top Box Data
As burgeoning and graying research companies continue to invest resources in garnering real time, second by second, set top boxed as well as three screen and single source data, shouldn't our industry support these forays by subscribing, testing and vetting their discoveries. Let's expand the palette of numerological possibilities away from reliance on static panels with questionable respondent participation into the fertile realm of imagination across multi-platforms, multi-sources, and privacy protected, foundation data and datamines. Some examples that have come to mind: Rentrak has forged its essentials into local markets, expanded its relationship with satcaster Dish (14 million subscribers) and AT&T U-verse (2 million customers) in the set top box realm as well as begun promoting the commingling of advertiser customer data with STB and other datamined info; TiVo, while maintaining its StopWatched revolving 100,000 panelist, has launched its PowerWatch supplemental opt-in of 30,000 consistent onliners as well as pacted with Quantcast to explore the correlation between TV viewing and web site visitation (10 million wide); TNS's DirecTView has made accessible a national representative panel through its 100,000 respondents, as has Microsoft's Admira panel of 1.6 million households with 2.3 set top boxes; TRA is working to solve the TV commercial exposure to purchase equation; dataminers Acxiom, Allant and Experian continue to be invited to the table to discuss integration of privacy protected data and pay TV platform foundation information; a courageous few, including comScore, Nielsen and Rentrak, are rumored to have taken up the gauntlet to traverse - where others only dream of traversing - the alignment of three video screen measurement; and three nonpartisan think tank-ish entities, the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM), Council for Research Excellence (CRE) and the Collaborative Alliance Set Top Box Think Tank, continue to encourage set top box and three screen measurement evolution - promise, and hopefully practicality.
In closing, hasn't popular culture, and possibly the largest film and literary franchise in the history of our Western culture, taught us that once the Harry Potter character "he who shall not be named" was named, he appeared. For muggles and wizards alike, Hogswarth and the surrounding environs were never the same.