Bill Wise looked in the rear-view mirror last week and saw big tech companies moving by acquisition into the media-buying space, ready to do with terabytes of analytics what Madmen did over a steak and cocktails. Industry tracker/chart maker/satirist Terence Kawaja made note of the same trend -- but concludes it is a good thing, because the same technology will help perfect the consumer expectation of personalized media.
While all of this adds another note of urgency to resolve the art versus science nature of advertising, it sometimes just makes my brain hurt. I am a word person, decidedly not a numbers person. If you tracked my classroom performance (yeah, and I'm sure there is an app somewhere that will do just that) you will note that along about the 10th grade the trend lines crossed, with math and science taking an irrevocable nosedive, while English and history began an ascent that carried me through to a B.A. in journalism. My career was built on words. When I hear things like "retrograde analysis," I get hives. I've known Joe Zawadzki for almost a decade and talk with him off and on -- and still have no idea what he is talking about 95% of the time.
I live in a community of Wall Street guys; whenever they attempt at cocktail parties to explain what they do, my eyes glaze over and my mind begins frantically searching for a follow-up question more intelligent than "Cool. How about them Jets?"
It is probably good that I am heading for the exit door rather than trying to talk my way past the ropes at the front door of the media business. It's gotten just too frigging complicated. It is entirely possible that with audience targeting no one will care about the context and content of media any more. Analytics will be able to deduce whatever is necessary for you to get this ad instead of that ad, never knowing what you watched or read to begin with. But perhaps that won't matter -- since, as Terry points out in his talk, "We could all go to the same page and all have completely different experiences."
I am not so sure I want to have unique media experiences. I have fun with my kids and friends making references to old "Seinfeld" episodes. That is only possible because we both saw the same thing -- most certainly at different times, but the content was identical. Thank god there was no "option to customize how this episode ends." Or some vast server farm somewhere deciding that I should see Version A because of my demographics, but sending Version B to my son because he lives elsewhere (and is younger, healthier and better-looking.) Or worse still, because the embedded, can't-skip-them-anymore ads determined who saw which version.
It is pretty clear that we cannot stop the march of technology into the advertising space (for better or worse), but I for one will miss the three martinis.