Consider this: For all the talk about how many advertising dollars are migrating online these days, there's still no bigger ad bucket than TV. Advertising on television accounts for about $70 billion in spending per year. Yet advertising on TV is still the least-innovative ad medium around.
Don't get me wrong -- there has been some innovation in advanced TV advertising in the last couple of years. Companies like Invidi, Visible Worlds, and Black Arrow are rolling out addressable advertising, ad insertion, and ad versioning in interesting ways. And of course, the technology behind Smart TV (which I discussed in my first post) is just beginning to help marketers engage viewers more interactively.
But there's been very little innovation in linear TV advertising, and it seems to me that this particular old-media problem is ripe for a little more new-media-style attention.
Allow me to indulge in a moment of nostalgia. Four years ago, many in the media world were commiserating about the slackening of the TV ad market and the desperation of advertisers and networks who wanted more accountability from TV advertising. A single conversation with a major media exec about the inadequacy of the status quo sparked an idea: What if we took a page from the new-media playbook, and brought to TV some of that digital accountability? Hence, a real-world problem became a very real opportunity.
Three-and-a-half years, thousands of development hours, and a few patent claims later, the industry is augmenting traditional ratings by using consumer purchasing information to inform the buying and selling of media. What's more, advertisers, networks, and agencies are now using these nontraditional indicators to hone their media strategy.
Of course, this is just one example of how real-world problems can be redefined as real-world opportunities. In our digital world, such examples are legion.
But not every new-media innovation starts with a problem; some begin with a solution. For instance, as some readers know, PayPal was originally developed to enable wireless payment. At the time, though, nobody wanted to make payments wirelessly. The solution was there, but it didn't match the problem. It wasn't until eBay was looking to help its users avoid sending checks through the mail that PayPal found -- and solved -- a problem. This is the rare exception to the rule of defining the problem first.
Moral of the story: The innovations that will move the TV industry forward -- and keep the dollars flowing -- are going to come from some unexpected sources.
After all, there's an incredible amount of opportunity at the intersection of television and technology right now. My advice to potential problem-solvers is this: Find your "spark" and run with it. Play to win, be willing to fail, and correct course as the market requires. Whatever you do, do something. The industry needs you more than ever. The more the merrier.