Log Off: Fast and Furious Media Changes

As marketers, we must look at the vast array of digital media choices as we plan and buy media. Each day, it seems, there are many new avenues to explore. The debate rages on about the viability of digital video programming made available to consumers on a variety of platforms. What follows is my stream-of-conscious look at some of the issues swirling around the subject of digital media and advertising.

First, should an advertiser rush to market a product or service to people watching "Desperate Housewives" on their video iPods? What about other programs that may have a limited audience? As consumers gravitate to more ubiquitous entertainment platforms, ensuring an ad message reaches the intended consumer with enough frequency is going to be a tall order.

Just because you can do it doesn't always mean that you should. But there is a cool factor that needs to be taken into account, especially in the early stages of development. There are companies offering some pretty interesting tools to track and report on usage and ad interaction in these new environments. There are also some great creative options that go beyond the traditional ad units that TV and radio offer.

Still, it all comes back to the question of on-demand versus in-demand. Just because people can watch something doesn't mean that anyone will. The ultimate value proposition boils down to how many of the right people will see and ultimately interact with a message. There's a lot of content that, while offered on various platforms, performs better in the medium for which it was originally created.

TV shows won't survive on appointment viewing alone. Making programs available to consumers where and when they want them is key to long-term success. While people can and will pay to access content, as more and more digital offerings become mainstream, I think consumers will be more apt to sit through an ad to get premium content for free.

Digital rights issues have hampered people's ability to just share what they like. Still, sites like, where people share user-created video, are wildly popular. And services like iTunes offer network TV programming and access to older shows. The growth in niche-content communities offers an opportunity for advertisers to tailor their messages to specific groups, potentially offering ads consistent with the digital content.

Digital offerings now come in all flavors and platforms, from iPods to wireless phone services like Verizon's EVDO, Cingular's Edge, and Sprint's Visio, which offer broadband entertainment content directly to mobile phones. With the ability to target ads based on where the device is at the time of access to content, advertising to these devices looks even more attractive. But how many people are willing to watch or listen to ad messages?

This shift in media habits adds to the challenge for marketers. Creating the right media mix will take a great deal more coordination with creative departments. Although traditional media will always be part of the mix, it remains to be seen what percentages of the media plan each medium will carry.

The onus to change is on the networks and content providers. They have to learn to adapt or they will become extinct. We are starting to see some interesting changes with existing network offerings. The ability to start an hour-long drama in the evening at home and finish it on the train ride to work is amazing. The media world is changing rapidly, and it's exciting to be part of the revolution.

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