How Madison Avenue Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Remote Control

With consumers demanding and assuming more control over the media in their lives, the role of interactivity and selective targeting will take a larger role in advertising, a study presented this week by InsightExpress and The Media Kitchen said.

With the remote control approaching middle age, statistics note that 51 percent of InsightExpress respondents say they regularly channel surf, or leave the room (32 percent), or simply press mute (24 percent). The issue of control is not something new to advertisers, said Paul Woolmington, CEO of The Media Kitchen, speaking at the Marriott Marquis Hotel this week for MEDIA magazine's Forecast 2005 conference this week.

But unlike the remote control, the new technologies offering consumers greater power over content could lead to certain advantages for marketers, he said. In terms of agencies, Woolmington said that media neutrality must become the first and second nature of the business.

"There is no doubt that that new technology - wireless, VOD, interactive, etc - are creating confusion in the advertising business," Woolmington said. "All parts of the agency are trying to find new ways of connecting brands with consumers. These new technologies are transforming the advertising business. Consumers are realizing the self-determining 'control pleasures' that allows them to become the ultimate media editors, whether it's time-shifting, mobile content, or ad-skipping."



He continued, "Creative thinking can come from anywhere. One of the most heinous crimes is that the word 'creative' was appropriated to one department of the agency structure. We all need to be inventors and innovators, as especially as media options - and media pollution -- proliferate."

Behind that notion is the fact that technology is not in the hands of a small elite, said Lee Smith, president and COO of InsightExpress, the Stamford, Conn.-based online marketing research firm.

"Most people think that it's the 'early adopters' of new technology that tend to demand the most control over their media, and we've found that's not necessarily the case," Smith said. "People who are using technology to take control are basically, you and me, people who have very busy schedules, watch TV, rent movies, and have a lot of media options. This is a trend that is growing and is already here."

The message to marketers from Woolmington's and Smith's presentation was "fear not."

"Some of the positives are that despite all the new technologies available, people still find TV informative and useful and exciting," Smith said. "So the hope we're getting is that consumers feel if you can target better, that would have some appeal."

Their research showed that 46 percent of respondents claimed that they would welcome advertising within interest categories that they personally get to define. And 37 percent approve of advertising on interactive television, compared with 18 percent who claimed the traditional 30-second commercial has appeal.

"The reason is that if consumers have a hand in the marketing process, there's a willingness and acceptance to advertisers' messages," Woolmington said. "Help the consumer take control. Truly place consumers at the center of the communications universe. That's the ethos now."

The study found that new technologies might engage consumers more deeply. For example:
* 72% find television more enjoyable with a DVR
* 77% listen to the radio more with satellite radio
* 44% listen to more music with an MP3 player

"There's an opportunity to redefine how we approach the primetime audience," Smith said. During traditional primetime, 81 percent of respondents watch television, followed by 70 percent who use the Internet. Interestingly, the Internet came in first as the most informative medium [37 percent] followed by newspapers [23 percent] and then television [20 percent]. But television was said to provide the greatest experience for people [46 percent] and is the first media consumers turn to [40 percent]."

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