Is Emerging Media A Distraction?

This is supposed to a love story -- the digital brood and emerging media, always and forever. But something else has always been true about love: often, timing is everything. A marketer taking on emerging media is typically motivated by embracing innovation, testing, and exploration. However, in this economy, many are wondering -- do I have time to indulge this love? Does loving him make me too vulnerable? Will she hurt me? Are our priorities and values the same?

Seriously, despite our simmering amour, it is reasonable to evaluate the relationship. At a time when performance and provable return are the focus, the digerati are asking: is emerging media the doorway to our best self? Or is it recreation, a plaything -- a distraction? The answer lies somewhere in between. But we've got some thinking to do.

What we need to get clear on is the framework for thinking about this stuff. The apple of our eye should not be an amorphous grouping of cool, sexy, and fun. There is no better time than now to raise the bar on our point of view. Having some light guardrails and industrywide best practices seem wise and progressive, as we take the marketing application of emerging media to a new level of engagement.



The Question of Questions

First up: What exactly is emerging media? This is a question a number of us are taking the time to actively hash out right now. More on this another time -- but I am happy to be comparing notes within the agency community, coast to coast, on this question. There are those among us who have done quite a bit of work on this and developed some pretty illuminating, grounding IP. You know who you are. That is helpful to us all. What we want is more than a sanity check; we need a media docent for the times we live in.

Most of the industry has admitted there's no such thing as new media. As media drives discovery, there is an innate and perpetual newness to it. We need to agree on that. While that dated "new" nomenclature has fallen off, we still refer to emerging media, as the marketplace flexes with innovation and we ponder how to embrace it. But, we do so without a real grasp on the continuum of emerging media. What belongs on the spectrum of "emerging"? Without any prevailing guidance, there is a constant flurry of consideration:

  • How long do we count something as emergent? When does it become mature? When does the shiny new thing become tried and true?

  • A friend made the point that many agencies and marketers are still counting-rich media technology as "emerging." But many of us would argue that with good old Flash at the base, its incarnations are a natural progression of rich media art and science -- and that things like PointRoll and Eyeblaster are not emerging but inevitable, part of a proper ad creative arsenal. We should be looking at what they are doing across platforms like mobile. He and I agree on this. But again -- are such pockets of agreement valuable? If too many of our brethren are dwelling on the obvious, will we really advance as an industry?

  • Is video itself still emerging? Or are we talking about adventuresome new production and distribution models instead? In my opinion, there is so much happening in this particular marketplace, it's time to start breaking it out as we evaluate it. It's pretty darn experienced, if not mature. Time to stop glossing it over as a singular percentage of activity.

  • Once we finally hit the proverbial year of mobile, will this medium no longer be emerging? If you've recently had an integrated marketing discussion with some of the more progressive vendors, you'll find the possibilities seem to have expanded.

    So, what really matters when categorizing something emergent or mature is its value to you, the marketer with very real goals. While it seems most of us would choose the experienced over the virginal -- many of us, no matter how hard a line we take on proven value, will always leave room for random play. Even so, at this particular time, the room we leave for play likely shrinks a bit. Timing matters.

    For now -- shake off the pressure to innovate and apply the value principles that matter to you. Do not get distracted by market reports on shifting allocations and usage/popularity. Who cares? As marketers, our mix should flex. As the market tests us, particular emerging media will either advance the marketplace or they will fall off.

    As far as my own relationship with emerging media goes, if Mobile can help me activate in the retail channel in a way that is cool and delivers, he can call me after midnight anytime. I'll take the call. Unless I'm on a moonlight walk with Video.



  • 6 comments about "Is Emerging Media A Distraction? ".
    Check to receive email when comments are posted.
    1. Lindsay Richardson from Everglades Direct, February 23, 2009 at 12:01 p.m.

      When I read the title, my first thought was that the medium itself was a possible in, are people at work being distracted by the media-rich context of interaction, advertising and communication, and drifting off to play a game instead of gathering info for work...

      I see that's not the case. On your point, I agree that it's way too easy to jump from shiny new thing to shiny new thing, and never fully develop anything, then wonder why social media didn't deliver on its promises. That is where planning has a place...plan and schedule certain media types and approaches, and follow through on those. But leave room (maybe 15-20%) for trying out the brand new and seeing how that works, too. That kind of mix gives us the best of the tried and the chance to hit the cutting edge on the brand spanking new.

    2. Brian Olson from Video Professor, Inc, February 23, 2009 at 12:14 p.m.

      Very good article Kendall. I get bombarded by invitations to seminars to teach me the latest and greatest about "emerging" media. The newest and shiniest "thing."

      All this is why I so much enjoy Madmen on AMC, the story of an advertising agency set in the early 60's.

      Watching the show has taught me that despite the huge changes in technology, it's still all about planning and execution of good ideas.

      They had tools. We have tools. It's all about how you use them. We still have to think, we still have to be smart, we still have to work hard.

      The key is learning the new tricks. Today it's Twitter. Tomorrow it will be something else.

      But it will always be about message. No matter how shiny the wrapper, if the content sucks, the content sucks.

      At least we have better livers than the guys on Madmen!

    3. Steve Baldwin from Didit, February 23, 2009 at 12:43 p.m.

      Good article. My concern as a search marketer is that while SEM is hardly an "emerging" field (I mean heck, Google started charging for keywords more than five years ago), the ad industry still doesn't know what to do with it. By this I mean that the tools this industry uses to run campaigns remain in a crude state of development. Acceptance of even base-level best practices are weak or nonexistent. Competencies are -- to put it mildly -- suboptimal.

      It seems to my jaundiced eyes that ad people, rather than buckling down and learning how to actually operate in a mature field that actually works, would rather have their attention flit to whatever gee-wiz medium that comes along, even though the odds of it working are long. At best, the whole industry suffers from ADD. At worst, it suffers from an ostrichlike sense of denial that's going to kill it off.

      Sure, there's a certain amount of lip service that gets paid on the conference circuit. Big agencies "get search," they're mobilizing teams, they're building tools, yadayadayada. But the whole veneer evaporates whenever some new emergent second-lifelike gizmo comes along. It seems like ad people would rather do anything other than to actually master the real world that we're in now (and have been in for almost a half-decade). No wonder the whole industry is dancing merrily on the brink of its total extinction.

    4. Bj Cook from Digital Operative, Inc., February 23, 2009 at 12:46 p.m.

      Something that Brian eluded to was "learning the new tricks." No matter what new tool or trick is out there, finding a way to derive value from it by actually using it is the key. People cling to terms like social media to pitch their clients on something "emerging" their agency is embarking in, when in reality they are just wrapping the same old stuff in shiny paper. When you look at mobile, it's all in the devices. We're all waiting for the iPhone killer to come out, but the problem is that it has its own deficiencies still. The emerging things are happening in coffee shops, dorm rooms and showers ... beyond the ear of the blogosphere.

      Great article and you've got a new loyal reader. cheers.

    5. Catherine Ventura from @catherinventura, February 23, 2009 at 1:08 p.m.

      Thoughtful article, as always, Kendall. I think the conversation will be better served once we drop words like "emerging" and concentrate instead on trying to reach audiences in the ways they like and want to be reached. Simple idea, but helps organize the dizzying array of media.

    6. John Andrews from Collective Bias, February 23, 2009 at 1:16 p.m.

      Great article Kendall, it made me stop and think about my daily activities. Emerging Media does not equal Emerging Brand Strategy. The components of great brand communication remain the same regardless of the vehicle choices. Additionally, the reach scale of most emerging media tactics pale in comparison to boring old traditional media. The real magic is when an appropriate combination of media tools are employed to connect and engage with consumers in a more meaningful way than the typical 'look at me' approach that seems to pass for great marketing.

    Next story loading loading..