Much of my time over the past year has been invested in meeting with agencies and brands to understand their needs, and also their perception and mindset about digital place-based media. Early on in this process, it became clear that the digital place-based media industry needs to more clearly define itself to these important constituencies. Our industry’s tremendous revenue gains over the past couple of years notwithstanding, there is no question that our long-term growth hinges on clarifying what we are… and are not.
What are we? First, think people watching programs, as they have been doing in their living rooms for decades. But in today’s world, they are watching in places while they are actively involved in their daily lives, on their paths to purchase, in malls, movie theatres, bars, gyms and doctors offices, office lobbies, elevators, restaurants, taxis, airports, planes, gas stations, sports arenas, and the list goes on. It’s anywhere where consumers have dwell time.
And these screens present digitally-delivered video. Many are addressable and some are interactive. They are programmed with engaging content that is relevant to the setting; content that entertains or informs, or frequently, does both. It gives marketers the opportunity to target well beyond standard demographics, allowing them to get at lifestyles, at consumers mindset and at relevance.
What are we not? Digital place-based media is not transit advertising or outdoor bulletins. Digital place-based media is not billboards where static images are digitally delivered.
Somewhere along the line digital place-based was put into the digital out of home bucket, but that has clearly caused confusion. The truth is that digital place-based needs its own conceptual bucket, as long as the buckets are defined the way they are now. Either that or we need to redefine the buckets.
For example, TV as it is defined now in planning systems, is limited to in-home viewing. But why, when much of the viewing isn’t necessarily done in the home, do we slavishly abide by the old definition? Shouldn’t the TV bucket include any full-motion content being viewed on a screen, regardless of where that screen is located?
We understand the basis of the confusion. After all, digital place-based is a little bit out of home because, yes, we are away from home. But, we’re probably as much TV, given the content that we deliver with full motion images, and digital, given our ability to target by mindset. But we’re also becoming a little social and a little bit mobile.
This really isn’t about what group buys at the agencies, or about what activation silo we belong in. Those are really good questions, but that’s for agencies to grapple with and decide. This really is a strategic issue for our industry to articulate, i.e., what role can digital place-based fulfill in a communications strategy?
For example, we know that digital place-based can act as a reach extender for TV plans, enabling marketers to reach very active, on-the-go consumers, who are also light TV viewers. We know that TV viewing is concentrated among a very specific portion of the population. The lightest two viewing quintiles are 40% of the population, but that segment does only 11% of the viewing. Because digital place-based viewers are out in the market more than they are at home, it only makes sense that these people don’t watch very much TV at home. Because of that, digital place-based networks are able to complement a traditional TV plan by delivering light TV viewers. The net result is that, as an advertiser, you are able to reach these consumers throughout their day, rather than being confined to a few hours of prime time viewing each night. Digital place-based media is meeting them out in the marketplace, where they are making decisions.
So the ball is in our court. We have a strong case to make for being a part of many brands’ communications plans, but to fully maximize our industry’s potential, we need to clearly convey what we are. That is job one for 2012.