One of our economy's most important deals is the arrangement a consumer has with brands. It exists in the home, on the roads, on the shelf, and yes, on the television. See, we too often take for granted in our business the role the consumer plays in the television business. Sure we count eyeballs and want that upscale 18- to 49-year-old with a high discretionary spending capacity and a desire to go on long motorcycle rides with his friends without having too many pit stops, but what is HE getting out of it?
Well if we are all doing our jobs, he is getting entertained or enlightened, because the content in the TV model is king (despite what you may have read). Around that content, if he can be informed WITH FEELING and RELEVANCY, then it works for him. He's invested that 30 seconds into something with a reward both from the brand and from the content. It's the gift that keeps on giving to the consumer and the business model. This is what I like to call the consumer advertising-supported value exchange: "I will listen to you if you have something interesting to say in return for free high-quality content."
When things are bad on the ad side, it immediately becomes clutter. But let's de-clutter clutter. Clutter in consumer terms is cost, and cost equals time. Waste my time with clutter -- those are debits in your brand equity. They may be microscopic, but they are real. When things are bad on the content side, it's a bit more Darwinian (see "Pepper Dennis"). But we need to think in terms on the consumer's time (cable pod length maybe???).
It's our job to make sure that they don't want it back. I was recently in a group discussion with the Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, and we were discussing his advertising model. He summed up what I have been sending in annoying 1,000-word emails to my friends (lucky them) in just four: "Your ads can't suck." His following explanatory commentary really detailed this idea of brands as social currency and the importance of relevancy, quality and authenticity (My friend Noah Kerner has a book coming out soon called Chasing Cool that captures this whole authenticity vibe better than anything I've read yet). But there it is: "Your ads can't suck." That's the advertising-supported value exchange translated for all.
Now this isn't true for the Internet since AOL, among others, messed that up in the early '90s, but with our new channels (VOD, IPTV) let's make sure to keep it in mind.
So the punchline is: If the consumer thinks it's an ad, or even worse, thinks about it as a cost of their time, we aren't living up to our end of the bargain.
What do you think?