The move by CBS and NBC to make their programming available on-demand for 99¢ doesn't just mark the end of advertising as we currently know it. It marks an end to the denial that there's nothing wrong with trying to force our analog models into a digital world.
Ninety-nine cents, even if shared equally between the cable operator and the network, still gives the network more revenue per viewer than an hour of our industry's finest.
Humbling, to say the least.
So where does that leave the advertising industry? Angry, you would think. After all, we've just been stood up by one of our largest distributors, who basically said, "Scram. We can make more money without you." And since making money is the name of the game, it looks like that is what they are going to do.
Instead of anger, though, the industry response has been fairly muted. "We'll make our money in other ways," some agencies have said. Really?
Have agencies forgotten what business they are in? Have they forgotten what they are paid to do? What value they offer? Why they were hired in the first place? An agency's job is to build brands. A brand is the trust people have in the product. Trust is based on emotional connections. Emotion is best created through sight, sound, and motion. (What Saatchi's CEO, Kevin Roberts, has shortened to sisomo.)
And the best device for communicating sight, sound, and motion? Right--TV. And now we are told, that device doesn't need us anymore. And we say, "OK."
Well, it's not OK. Not if we still feel that our job is to build brands. What the advertising industry needs to do is reclaim television. And to do that, we need to re-earn it. We need to stand up and show advertisers that what we offer is of far greater value to them than 99¢ is to the networks.
Yes, we need to flex our creative muscle. But more than that, we need to become accountable.
Why? Simply because--as advertisers abandon television for more accountable options--our choices are limited. We can abandon television with them, or find a way to make our efforts on TV accountable. Unfortunately, accountability is not something that most in our industry are comfortable with. And for good reason. Creativity and accountability haven't exactly been compatible.
So, this is where we need the advertisers' help. What if they agreed to meet us halfway? Hold agencies accountable--yes, but hold agencies accountable for what they were hired to do. Build trust. Make emotional connections. Engage viewers. How do they do that? By involving viewers in stories about brands. Stories that touch the heart first and the head second. After all, if you move the heart, the head has no choice but to follow.
Technology now allows involvement to be measured on television. Which means agencies can now be held accountable for how involving they make their work.
So, is this what we want? Is this the future? It can be if we want it to be--and if advertisers want it, too. What is known for certain is that with digital technology, accountability is inevitable. And if our industry is to remain viable in this digital age, it needs to find a way to make the inevitable, invaluable.
To be held accountable for what we can do better than anyone else seems to be a pretty good way.
After all, if we do that, then our efforts will once again be worth more than 99¢. If we do that, our efforts will be worth millions. Because if we do that, we will once again be doing something that we used to do quite well.