More than one industry prognosticator has declared 2012 the “Year of Convergence.” And in many ways, I agree. We do seem to be at the tipping point of consumer adoption — with
over 91 million smartphone users and roughly 10 percent of all households with access to connected televisions or devices.
Audiences are clearly ready and willing to view wherever and whenever it’s most convenient. Manufacturers, as witnessed at this year’s CES, are ready to roll with connected, high-quality devices, many of which were only beta dreams at last year’s show. But the entire media ecosystem must get on-board in order to sustain a viable “converged” business model that allows all players to thrive.
Will this happen? Absolutely. Will it happen tomorrow? Probably not. The notion that a consumer-led transition to screen-agnostic viewing will translate just as easily to the media world is just one of the myths surrounding convergence. By debunking these myths, I hope to inspire others to leverage the significant benefits attendant with speaking to consumers whenever and wherever they choose to view content.
MYTH 1: Convergence Will Rapidly Change the Way We Plan and Buy Video
As stated above, while screen-agnostic consumer viewing will become ubiquitous, ingrained business practices of the ecosystem must change before true convergence can occur. Content creators must figure out how to profitably produce and distribute programming across multiple platforms. Publishers must invest in tools to help fully monetize inventory across screens. Data providers and research companies must begin to standardize services across media. And finally, agencies must create systems to allow them to adopt a device-agnostic approach to planning and buying media that maximizes bottom-line ROI for advertisers.
MYTH 2: Convergence Will Make Agency Media Buying Extraordinarily Complex
There is still much work to be done to determine which processes, metrics and best practices become industry standard. This process will not be easy. But in reality after the initial pains of merging disappear and fluidity increases between insulated agency divisions, agency workflow will streamline, agency workflow will streamline and become more efficient. Technology will absorb much of the complexity of cross-media measurement, analytics and reporting, allowing agency talent to focus on broader strategy and service.
MYTH 3: Convergence in Media Selling and Buying Has Already Failed
See Myth 1. For those who point to disappointing results among media companies who have tried to establish true cross-platform sales divisions, I would argue that if anything, they were merely ahead of the curve. Not all players within an ecosystem always move at the same speed. Even the smartest sales forces and forward-thinking media organizations cannot fully succeed if they do not have access to decision-makers empowered to make cross-platform decisions, or availability of data that holistically measures performance and ROI. Demand drives supply. So often, the most innovative, industry-changing ideas are deprioritized for immediate revenue drivers.
MYTH 4: Convergence Suggests That All Screens Are Created Equal
As research recently cited, convergence doesn’t mean that all screens deliver the same performance metrics, branding or scale. Understanding the individual strengths of each device, and figuring out the proper balance based on advertisers’ goals, is crucial to realizing the benefits that convergence can offer. If implemented correctly, a multi-device approach can send performance against a given metric soaring, while decreasing cost per desired outcome. Convergence allows a more seamless, holistic conversation with consumers most interested in hearing from you. The shift toward audience buying as opposed to contextual-based buying will be crucial to fully capitalizing on the consumer-centric approach to marketing. On an individual basis, an emerging platform might make little sense to a given advertiser; emerging video platforms are seldom able to carry the majority of a campaign for most brands. By incorporating them into the overall audience mix, however, an advertiser can take advantage of the unique benefits of each, while still achieving a campaign’s performance objectives at scale and on budget.