Click/Counter-Click: Blurring Lines
As time goes on and media consumption habits evolve, the lines between online media, marketing and PR are blurring en masse. Everything is media. The marketer is becoming more transparent. Your customers have never before been closer to your brand. Companies with multimedia assets are syndicating those assets as part of consumers' media experience, as opposed to just being another message around it. Beyond your "standard" engaging ad units, marketers are creating content that can be used as a conduit for engagement and influence. With a critical mass of broadband penetration, the last year has seen a lot of experimentation with new ways of exposing consumers to engaging video-based content. TV networks, publishers and content distributors have been trying to answer an interesting question that has equally as interesting ramifications. Is the increase in consumption of video content online and on mobile devices a new consumption trend or a means of sampling?
Blurring the line between media and marketing is not a new concept. Some even call it good PR. However, we can now measure marketing effectiveness better than ever before, and during the era of ROI and bottom-line-driven management, the same old marketing investment approaches just don't cut it anymore.
"The obstacle is the path." - Zen Proverb
Marketers must embrace some changes in the way they approach media. In order to do so, we must let go of some degree of control in order to embrace the changing landscape. One way to look at the trends in viral marketing is that the new digital channels have created a symbiotic relationship of sorts between the consumer and the marketer. Thus, marketers provide content that entertains and informs consumers, and consumers "repackage" the content and deliver it to other consumers in the form of sharing it and talking about it. Each of the parties benefit from the existence of the other. Therefore, what many refer to as "viral marketing" --which by definition is single-sided--should perhaps be viewed as "symbiotic marketing," where the marketer actually becomes part of the consumer's experience, and such existence benefits both the consumer and marketer.
When the solid line that defines media is crossed, we do lose some control over where, how and when our assets are sometimes displayed. Loss of control over media is a new concept for many marketers, and one that some are not ready to embrace. But hesitate at your own risk. What you lose in control, you gain back in droves in reach, exposure and buzz. Those who do not embrace the new media network, the consumer network, will be at a competitive disadvantage.
Marketers have always yearned to understand how to truly engage and connect with consumers. The solution has always been messaging and creative based. That messaging would then be distributed through the "right" mix of media channels. As media consumption shifts into more dynamic and flexible media, marketers must develop creative assets based on the media and how consumers are interacting with it. We are held back only by the boundaries of our creative vision. It's time to embrace the blurred line between media and marketing, and give up just a little control. The ability to engage and connect with consumers is not emerging as a possibility for the future. The time is here and now. Ignore it at your own risk...
Counter-CLICK by Paul DeBraccio
In the broadest sense I must agree with Jason, but through this advancement (and I do see it as such) comes a tangled web.
Taking the publisher's perspective, I guess I should say that this symbiotic relationship will end up costing us millions in lost revenue.
Allowing an advertiser to run a video or even a full length-program on our sites under the guise of entertainment may help with traffic and time spent on our sites, but I think this situation will spawn turf wars among publishers and advertisers.
For example, a trailer of a TV show or sporting event will help to generate awareness of said program, but publishers may be challenged in the scheduling. If we allow Advertiser A to run its video, do we let Advertiser B run a commercial adjacent to that? Publishers need to maximize revenue on every inch of virtual real estate, and the symbiotic program appears to limit that.
If the trailer is perceived as a paid ad, then what advertiser would allow their commercials to run next to it. There will probably be enough varied advertisers on a broad site, but in the vertical marketplace this problem will be exacerbated.
The front lines for competitive publishers may be just as heated. Would Maxim be content with running a video from ESPN and showcasing it on expensive real estate as a special program? Is FHM also running the same program?
I think not.
Giving up some control and allowing the message to become the ad, so to speak, is a nice utopian goal, but I am not sure the powers that be (i.e., money) will allow it.
It seems that industries will be compelled to devise standards and unilateral agreements to facilitate this new symbiosis, or we will be back to 1997 again.