Commentary

Meaningful Media, NOT Mass Media

Traditional television ad creation is an expensive venture. Take the production of a typical 30-second spot. With a public street closed down, these elaborate productions often include catering trucks, several policemen, a half dozen private security personnel and dozens of crewmembers. The costs involved are staggering.

Indeed, the history of video is rooted in the blockbuster spirit of both movies and television. Bigger has always meant better in Hollywood. And because a small cadre of production firms and ad agencies controlled the thinking and execution of these blockbuster productions, the themes were often the same, profiling a handful of demographic stereotypes and appealing to a few pop culture trends with a thin aspirational or humorous emotional appeal.

With the boom in Internet video and the breakdown in traditional television advertising, the ad industry has been slowly moving to the Web to meet the demand of a rising audience. According to recent research from comScore, 75% of Internet users watched online video in November 2007. However, these broadcast players, with their old ideas in tow, have quickly learned that traditional TV advertising is ill-suited for the Internet. Thirty-second pre-roll, crazy user-generated ad spots and the hunt for viral ads are all a hangover from the old TV world, still hunting for mass appeal without satisfying the demand for relevance of today's online world.

The Web is not about "aiming for the middle," a broad branding exercise seeking the lowest common denominator, big advertising themes and irrelevant emotional hooks. The control is no longer in the hands of the broadcasters; it is in the hands of the consumer. This shift in control changes the consumption of video from a "lean back" disengaged experience to a lean-forward, "I-need-relevant-information" experience, where the consumer determines when and how content is consumed. The world of permission-based, demand-driven advertising, prescribed by the ethos of the Web, offers a relevant ad model opportunity.

Imagine ads that are packed with information--useful, searchable, authentic and compelling--with no actors, no scripts, no vague emotional appeals but instead real people telling real stories about products and services that meet a specific need and are relevant to the viewer. This new ad format is permission-based and aligned with the information demands of a targeted audience. It isn't an impediment in their experience, foisted upon the user without their consent.

The new video ad sits in its own container, identified as sponsored, but nevertheless relevant, useful and searchable. It can also be easily syndicated to relevant sites across the Web--atomizing and distributing the ad, freeing it from the tethers of limited reach and awareness and enabling its highly targeted audience to find and interact with it as they wish.

The Internet is a micro-media world in which millions of niche audiences with thousands of members make up the greater universe. This ultra-fragmented reality forces advertisers to adopt a new paradigm for reaching consumers in order to be relevant and meet the expectations of today's jaded online audience. Overly produced, generic or irrelevant advertisements fall on deaf ears. The new video ad creation needs to align production costs, content and quality to this new paradigm. It needs to connect with the audience and deliver the content that they want to see, where and when they want to see it.

The Internet is ushering out the age of mass media and heralding the new age of meaningful media. It is not campaign-driven, but relevance-driven.

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