Commentary

A Little Media Island Called The USA

I know, I know, the US of A is not an island. And it isn’t little. It is true that we are very inward focused at the best of times, and especially now.

Our president keeps us entertained/shocked with an ongoing stream of tweets, squabbles and executive orders. All of us -- including his own staff, it seems -- are hanging on by the seat of our pants just to keep up-to-date.

Occasionally, we do hear the big stories from other nations, but they are almost always in the context of our president. It is all-consuming, and nonstop.

Even here on MediaPost, we are treated/bombarded with a daily deluge about Trump-related stuff.

So perhaps Dave Morgan can be forgiven when he went on a trip to Europe, attended a TV conference and found that the U.S. is not the front-runner he perhaps thought we were in the area of reinventing TV (see his enlightening column here.)

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I am not trying to pick on Dave, as he provides a great summary of some of the initiatives underway, and he gives them due props.

I have been straddling the European and North American continents for most of my professional and personal life, and I have always had the benefit of exposure to both.

Let’s not forget: the U.S. has had advertising in general, including commercial TV advertising, far longer than most other nations on the planet. In fact, the U.S. has never NOT had commercial TV — it always was commercial.

Most of Europe has had commercial TV since the 1960s to late 1980s (in The Netherlands and parts of former Soviet Eastern Europe, for instance).

That’s right. What you consider to be “normal” is still a relatively young phenomenon in many European countries (as well as parts of Asia).

At the same time, most other countries have always looked to the U.S. as an example of how it’s done. This is true for how to mass-produce cars (Henry Ford) to how to “do” coffee (Starbucks) to how to produce and sell TV ads (from P&G’s very first soap operas).

But you can’t blame “Johnny Foreigner” to sometimes look at their shining example and think there might be a better way. This is true for how to build better mass-produced cars (most German, Swedish and Japanese cars) or how to “do” fast food (compare a McDonald’s in the U.K. or Japan vs. the U.S.) or even how to produce and sell TV (per Dave Morgan’s discovery tour).

I know I am using terribly unimaginative examples here. But for many in our industry here in the U.S., there is much to learn from our colleagues across the pond or across the Pacific.

Europe has a long tradition of collaborative efforts that, despite some recent nationalistic rhetoric, is still working quite well. All commercial TV and radio sales organizations typically work together in a national organization to promote, research, defend and innovate TV and radio ad sales. And most of these national organizations work together on a pan-regional level in EGTA, the European Association for TV and Radio Sales Houses.

The reality is that collaboration and shared interests delivers more fuel for innovation than trying to go it alone. I know, right -- that’s darn near socialism!

4 comments about "A Little Media Island Called The USA".
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  1. Kevin Killion from Stone House Systems, Inc., June 12, 2017 at 2:31 p.m.

    In the U.S. there are significant legal obstacles to industry-wide collaboration. Restraint of trade and anti-monopoly rules have stymied some agreements on technical standards, audience research, and cooperative sales.  Years ago the NAB code of good broadcasting practices was struck down by such reasons.

  2. Maarten Albarda from Flock Associates (USA) replied, June 12, 2017 at 2:57 p.m.

    Hi Kevin: I am well aware of some of these limitations. Yet, the ANA exists, as does the 4A's and the IAB. And they collaborate and discuss issues of mutual concern (and/or fall out over issues of concern... "coughtransparencycough").

    Limitations aside, I think the real point of my post is not to say that the US should seek more/better industry-wide collaboration. The point is that other parts of the world are innovating marketing and advertising at the speed of light just as much as the US is. And it pays to pay attention to some of those initiatives as they could be imported/adapted to the US just as easily as some of our stuff gets used over there.

  3. Allison Dollar from ITV Alliance, June 12, 2017 at 5:18 p.m.

    This is one of the key reasons we were asked to found the ITA back in 2001-- the U.S. was behind in rolling out advanced television services and in using the back channel. Not coincidentally, our retreat which addresses monetization and includes execs representing all pillars of the industry (content, advertising, technology and distribution) is called The Re-inventing Television Summit. And yes, those legal obstacles still exist, despite *finally* making the digital transition many moons ago. The more things change....;) 

  4. Mario Castellanos from Spincast, June 14, 2017 at 3:20 p.m.

    Sorry folks, "legal" obstacles has little to do with it. The slow moving process the US has had with TV and advanced technology is all tied to $$$ and the Freudian Id. ADTV was created because the business powers-that-be here in the US could not agree on one system because they each had their proprietary system. And the IEEE could not stand the idea that Japan was light years ahead with HDTV in advancements. Even now when it comes to IP based TV and programmatic advertising for TV media, those in it are entrenched in tradition and are hold tight for dear life. And you are correct Mr. Albarda, commercial TV in the US has been around forever and forever is about 1953.

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