This week saw the release of an incredibly ambitious, well-crafted USA Today publication about the border wall, pulled together by 30 journalists who literally traveled and documented stories along the full length of the U.S.-Mexican border. The USA Today effort online contains video vignettes, long form content, interactive maps and, how could they not, a VR experience. If you want to check It out, here is the link.
What you will not see if you follow this link is advertising or sponsorship. No ad interruptions, no “brought to you by,” not even a sponsored message from the four-wheel drive cars journalists drove through the rough terrain or the hotels where they stayed. No commercial interruption.
I don’t know if this is because the subject matter was too politically sensitive for advertisers, or if USA Today even tried to find sponsors. But fact is that an enormously costly effort was created without direct income generated from it.
You may like the fact that there is no commercialization. I did. I didn’t even think about the fact that I had not seen any monetization until later, I when thought about some of the fascinating stories and arresting visuals I had just spent 45 minutes with.
I experienced the direct opposite when I watched the Singaporean Formula 1 Grand Prix last Sunday morning on my iPhone. NBC Sports covered the race, and it certainly decided to monetize the mobile effort. In doing so, NBC Sports ruined any kind of viewing pleasure, as it saw fit to literally repeat the same block of advertising in EVERY SINGLE BREAK. In a broadcast of well over two hours, I think I saw that same ad break at least 15 times. It made me dislike NBC Sports strongly, and I also developed an immediate hate for the advertisers torturing my fragile early Sunday morning mood (I am looking at you, Mobile Oil).
And then we saw the Emmys, where a wide selection of noncommercial content was nominated and won. The cord-cutting trend is slowly but surely continuing, limiting the impact of advertising and creating opportunities to buy ad-free environments. TV ratings for live sport events are falling. Facebook is fudging its numbers, and YouTube places your ad next to questionable content -- if it even reaches real humans to begin with.
So what’s a marketer to do?
The answer is: Put your consumer at the center and start learning where your audience is. No, not you, Mobile Oil with your (in)effective frequency of 15+ aimed at a 50- to 64-year-old male who has never -- and will never, ever -- change his own oil.
But those of you who are using data and analytics to know that, if you want to reach me, I might be watching live sports on my phone on a Sunday morning or might read USA Today on my laptop on a Thursday evening and binge content on my TV late into Saturday night. Or whatever the target you are after is doing. Hey -- didn’t we used to call that media planning?