What Nonlinear Isn't

To begin a commercial on television and have it end online is considered by many to be a form of nonlinear advertising.

And, on some level, it probably is. After all, starting in one medium and ending in another is obviously not a linear flow of communication.

But on a much deeper level, nonlinear has little to do with breaking up a commercial across media. (Or a headline across a page, for that matter).

Nonlinear isn't about being tricky. Or sneaky. Or clever.

It's about being honest.

Not just with consumers.

But with ourselves.

And the first thing that we need to be honest about is this: As nonlinear media and content shift control to consumers, the way that advertising agencies make money will need to change.

The reason? Nonlinear media are digital. And digital media are measurable. Which means that as consumers gain control over what they watch and when, marketers will receive data as to exactly how many people watch their commercials and for exactly how long.

Armed with these results -- which will likely prove to be less than overwhelming -- marketers will have no choice but to pay their agencies accordingly.

The result?

Failure will no longer be lucrative.

In the linear world, advertising is, for the most part, unaccountable.

That world is disappearing.

As digital data are monetized, agencies will start to be held accountable for how well their work involves the viewer. Good work -- engaging work -- will be worth more than bad work.

Time spent with a commercial will be more valuable than the number of people who watch it.

Outcome, rather than effort, will determine an agency's compensation.

Insignificant? Hardly.

But the biggest change of all is in accepting who's boss. After all, when consumers are in control, advertisers work for them.

Today's technology is forcing media to bow to the whims of consumers. As media bow, so too must advertising.

Denial, of course, remains rampant. Some advertisers simply ignore the inevitable and choose to resist. But with consumers in control, resistance meets resistance.

Surrender meets surrender.

Marketing in the past was all about creating control. In the nonlinear world, marketing is about ceding control.

The fact is, the only way to regain control is to give it completely to consumers. And then re-earn their trust.

Easy? On the contrary.

Good luck to us all.

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