Real Surround Sound Marketing: Convergence Is Here

The media landscape has long been a diverse environment of cracked earth, flat plains, sharp crags, and islands in unbroken waters.

Over the last decade, the seismic shifts have fractured the geography into smaller and smaller pieces. Some might argue, as I have in the past, that some of the effects on the terrain have been to leave some groups of people stranded, separated from the rest of their fellow man. But this is a subject for another time, and one I've covered before.

Media plate tectonics have shown those of us in marketing and advertising that in this new world, we have to find a way to address miniaturized audience segments. One-to-one marketing is a compelling idea for both deepening relationships with consumers and communicating with micro-niches, but for a lot of businesses, getting the right person isn't always enough.

Most of the time, you have to meet a minimum volumetric goal, too. This requires reach. Reach requires getting relatively large swaths of people into your network through effective communications. In order to communicate with these micro-niches these days, it requires the use of "surround sound marketing."



This is not necessarily a new idea, though the way it is conceptualized has changed. Traditional media people used to call it "media mix." Later, it was referred to as "multiple touch points. Some of the old guard still uses the phrase. In the second half of the '90s, I started using the term "surround sound marketing" (I think I read something by Rex Briggs that gave me the idea) to refer how it is that advertisers need to start using multiple media in order to 'corral' audiences and find, and then brand, their consumer.

As thoughts of a nuanced use of media mix pervaded marketing consciousness to a substantial degree, convergence was also entering the marketing vernacular. At first, it meant convergence of devices - television and computers, for instance. This view was informed more or less by Nicholas Negroponte's futuristic vision borne of speedy technological advancements of the late '80s and early '90s.

Since then, the talk has been about convergence of another kind, one that really hasn't been very well defined. It's convergence that has been easier to define by what it is not than what it is. This kind of convergence is a synonym of surround sound marketing. It is marketing in a variety of media in order to get a variety of people that cannot be found in any one medium alone.

Seana Mulcahy this week talked about the kind of convergence I'm referring to here in her Online Spin column on Monday. Though she did not present that angle, the examples given as what Yahoo! has been doing lately in a variety is endemic to surround sound marketing.

There are the well-known "The Apprentice" integrations, everything from the taxi tops to Yahoo! Local tracking the two teams in the "Motel Mogul" episode battling it out to renovate two motels in Seaside Heights, N.J.

As was reported in the "Just an Online Minute" last week, Yahoo! is also getting logo placement on Broadway, in the new musical, "Monty Python's 'Spamalot,'" the musical version of the film, "The Holy Grail" with the Yahoo! logo appearing on banners carried by guards in the cast. If you go to the musical's Web site (a very excellent site created by The Stevenson Studio) and mouse over the "Partners" icon, indicated by a bewildered looking man with a backpack on, you'll trigger the Yahoo! yodel.

Certainly product placement, so to speak, is nothing new. Other advertisers of all manners have been taking advantage of reality television programming's non-existent plots and tabula rasa non-fiction environments to fill with the wares they represent.

Bud Light and Doritos were regular fixtures on "Survivor" (perhaps they still are, I no longer watch). As was pointed out on the Spin Board, "The Amazing Race" had teams going to an Internet café to use AOL for retrieving their first clue.

But what Yahoo! has started doing, and no doubt other advertisers are planning, is more than simply product placement. These advertisers are placing themselves in contexts of flow, where they are a part of the natural order of events rather than relying on standing out like a sore thumb to be noticed. They are making themselves part of the fabric of our experiences.

The placement and/or use of a product serve as an impetus to learn more of that product or service in the context of another medium. By being a part of the "flow experience" the product or service becomes the catalyst for its own use, sometimes by inviting prospects to be part of the media experience representing it.

Yahoo! Local's keeping track of "The Apprentice" teams working on the motels in Jersey by keeping the public's score of the teams' efforts through Yahoo! Local's ratings and review feature, which allows consumers to give their thoughts about the experience.

What we have here is one of many examples of multiple touch points - surround sound marketing - being used to engage audiences in ways that do not disrupt their patterns of behavior, but rather seeks to become part of them.

Convergence, as represented by a surround sound marketing environment, is not a collapse of technologies enabling access into one device, it is a collapse of the distinction between actual experience and the representations used to mimic it for the purposes of selling things. It is becoming the flow experience of an individual's everydayness.

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