Not Dead Yet: Media Universe Slogs Through Radical Change
It was a statement that his fellow panelists could not disagree with.
Mike Bloxham, director, testing and assessment at Ball State University's Center for Media Design--who earlier in the morning presented exclusive media usage data from the Middletown Media Studies--said the challenge for the media community is to study the ways in which consumers engage or do not engage with advertising--something he conceded that the Middletown research did not measure.
"It's not about whether the media are going away--what we have is a different kind of subconscious mindset of consumers," Bloxham said, adding: "We adapt quickly on the basis of choice and preference. We're seeing consumers empowered by technology, and we need to understand what the different touchpoints are for different media, and use those touchpoints in a way that does not alienate them."
Betsy Frank, executive vice president, Viacom Cable Networks, disputed the panel's premise, saying the collapse of the media universe is "greatly exaggerated" and that "absolutely nothing will change." She cited the fact that adults 18 to 49 continue watching content, reading, and buying things the way they always did, and downplayed the impact of digital video recorders and other media technologies, saying that "only a few people have access and most don't know how to use them...their share of buzz is greater than their share of usage," and that the end of the media universe has been predicted many times before and "we're still here." Frank went on to say: "Cable was supposed to kill broadcast TV, the remote control was going to kill advertising, and the Internet and video games would be the end of TV. So far, they've been adopted, they all co-exist, and people are consuming more of everything."
Frank maintained that the coveted 18- to-49-year-old demographic is simply acting on the on-demand behaviors technology has encouraged. "For the past 25 years, we trained consumers to get what they wanted, and now they have the technology to act on those demands." For consumers, Frank said, there are no borders and no silos between media and various forms of content. She, like Ball State's Bloxham, argued for a more consumer-centric advertising model that incorporates involvement-based metrics and that is intrusion-free.
But where does that put advertising?
Ephron vigorously disputed Frank's contention that consumers are increasingly "unbordered and unsiloed," and hammered on the fact that just because there is more media and intense simultaneous media usage by consumers, this doesn't mean more opportunities for advertising: "If it did, outdoor would have 30 percent of the dollars, because people walk and drive a lot. There are advertising opportunities in many media, but not in all," Ephron underscored.
Ever the provocateur, Ephron took aim at Frank's notion of consumer-centric advertising: "It's wonderful to talk about consumers--they're warm and fluffy and unpredictable, but if you want to do a media plan, you have to recommend media. The idea of saying that everything should be consumer-centric is a cop-out because it doesn't give you anything to do." Frank did not respond.
Regarding the buzz surrounding engagement as the new currency of media effectiveness, Ephron again blasted the panel: "Words are wonderful; ideas that form around words are wonderful. You have to understand, define, and measure what you are talking about. I'm so sick and tired of engagement--what is it, a ring?" he exclaimed, to peals of laughter from the audience.
In a partial response, Bloxham responded: "Involvement is the currency of interaction. You must establish that with consumers as opposed to getting in their face." Bloxham also called for MediaPost, the publisher of MediaDailyNews, to initiate a creative research awards competition to acknowledge media research that delivers actionable insights.