The 30-Second Ad is Dead, Long Live the 30-Second Ad, Maybe
MediaDailyNews today kicks off the first in an occasional series of guest columns penned by thought leaders from Publicis Groupe's Starcom MediaVest Group. Our first guest columnist, Jeff Marshall, is senior vice president-director, Starcom IP, the company's digital business unit. As a founding member of Starcom IP, Marshall oversees agency operations and digital media strategies for Starcom clients.
The broadcast upfront season is upon us. Cocktails and finger food will once again be used to help media buyers swallow cost per thousand (CPM) increases and audience erosion. What is a buyer to do? Go online young buyers!
With the breakneck increase in broadband access to the Internet, streaming and cached video have created a new period of evolution online: The Entertainment Age. We are now officially beyond the text heavy and simple graphics of information/news, communication (email and instant messaging), and commerce. The PC world can now lay claim to sight, sound, and motion in the context of reaching sizable audiences for advertising purposes.
To provide some context on how dramatic this transformation from text to video is, see the comparison in timelines between analog and video evolution below:
INFORMATION Analog: Printing press (1440), Books, Newspapers Digital: Mosaic web browser (1995)
COMMUNICATION Analog: Telegraph, Telephone Digital: Email, Instant Messaging, VoIP
COMMERCE Analog: Catalogs Digital: ecommerce
ENTERTAINMENT Analog: Radio, TV (1925) Digital: Web radio, Streaming video, mass broadband use (2004)
While the analog world took 500 years to evolve, the digital world blew through the periods of information, communication, and commerce in nine short years. What are we going to do with such speedy advancement? Exploit the much loved 30-second ad, of course.
Admittedly, many digital marketing purists scoff at this notion as a crude, shortsighted, and unsophisticated use of interactive space. Well, in addition to providing reasons why those purists are missing the boat, I'm going to let you in on a big secret--these skeptics can't see the forest from the trees.
Let's start with the notion that the TV commercial continues to be the most coveted tool of the ad guy. To quote the Buggles, "Video Killed the Radio Star." Who hasn't been in on a discussion about TV's power through sight, sound, motion, and emotion? It is, and always will be the "killer app."
But why take it online?
Valuable audiences: The high-demand groups of trendsetters, early adopters, young people are accessing the Web via broadband connections in droves. Additionally, individuals with higher incomes and education make up a bulk of the users. Last time I checked, many clients want to reach and impact these target audiences.
Reach: Thirty percent of U.S. households will have broadband access by the end of 2004. Not bad, but how about the new daypart to reach mass audiences during the day? Over 90 percent of at-work Internet access comes via a broadband connection. (Please don't tell my boss about ESPN Motion or the Internet broadcasts of the NCAA basketball tournament.)
The Lean Forward vs. Lean Back experience: We've argued for years that the online experience is more high-impact and intimate because the viewer is only a couple of feet away from the screen versus 15 feet. However, with online video, there are additional elements that increase a brand marketer's value of the impression. Shortened content forms mean less clutter and a greater likelihood to view. (Bathroom breaks during the show when you request two minutes of content? I think not). Lastly, when users request specific content, they will be more engaged during the experience because they chose it.
So, you stuck around to hear the big secret. Show me the forest. I began by saying the TV commercial continues to be the most coveted tool in advertising. For the TiVo-owning folks out there, you probably already know that statement is a tall tale. No, I'm not a doomsayer, but change is on the horizon.
How will marketers adapt to the new world of ultimate consumer control and content/audience fragmentation? I argue that broadband is THE window to the future. Streaming/cached video online is essentially video-on-demand (VOD), which closely reflects the digital video recorder experience. No one knows for sure how the consumer will adapt to their new tools of control; however, lessons can be learned by paying attention to what works for marketers in broadband video. A glimpse into how we can create marketing success in a VOD and personal video recorder-controlled future can be found today. It is time for advertisers to buck up, because there is no better time than the present to look ahead.