Internet Says to iTV, "Do Not Make Our Mistakes"

Right now I am sitting in the very last row of a 737, pasted against the inner hull of the aircraft, face against the window. The sight of the beautiful elevated desert that stretches below me from Albuquerque to as far as my stigmatismic eyes can see the only thing strong enough to stave off the crushing claustrophobia that a man my size in a space so small invariably feels. Under the seat in front of me is my laptop and notebooks full of ideas packed tightly into my speedboat red Iconocast bag I got at WebAttack, 1999.

I'm flying back from the iMedia Brand Summit, where I've just spent the last 2 ½ days listening to brand marketers, interactive publishers, and agency luminaries all speak on matters relevant and, in some cases, urgent, to not just online advertising, but advertising in general.

The notebooks I carry are the tangible vestiges of cogency that reflect the thoughts running around in my head about the issues raised at such a powerful conference.

I'd like to touch on one of those issues now.




Of all the topics that were raised, iTV was among the most forward-looking, with those speaking having their eyes trained unwaveringly on the future.

While listening to the panelists speak, however, it became clear to me that some of the more enthusiastic proponents of iTV would benefit from taking one of their eyes off the future and instead turn it towards the recent past. Or, perhaps, pay someone else to do it.

In their passionate pursuit of the future, it seemed to me that there is a risk of repeating some of the sins our own industry committed when it was in its early stages - and for which many segments within it are still doing penance today. So, the Internet has some advice for the iTV folks. And it will dispense that advice... now.

  1. Beware of the DR Dig-Dug. The enthusiasm to sell the concept of iTV and PVRs should be cautious of too heavily advocating the idea of a future where users interested in ads they see on TV will drill ten levels into information about that advertised product or service, all the while oodles of data are being collected from which advertisers can learn all kinds of things to improve their selling propositions and business prospects. We've seen consistently that on average only .25% of people online are willing to do that and the Internet is primarily a text-based medium. It seems far-fetched to think that enough people will lean very far forward into a visual medium in great enough numbers to make this feature a valuable enough selling proposition. Its taken online years to tell the branding value story. iTV and PVR influenced marketing solutions need to, from the start, be about helping brand build their images and relationships. There is room for response-driven activities, too, but don't get stuck in that corner for want of more tangible value propositions. Building brands IS a tangible value proposition.

  2. Data without intelligence is like nails without a hammer (or a hand to hold the hammer; or a plank in which to drive the nails). Don't oversell the data proposition. Advertisers all love lots of data, but unless you turn that data into information, and then can demonstrate the potential implications and applications of that information, you are just wasting time and resource. And that, my friends, is money.

  3. "How" is not enough. Something most other media have failed at is explaining WHY individuals use a particular media. 'How' is great. Everyone wants to know how. But 'why' could make way for much more complex and deeper conversations with audiences.

  4. Don't drown in your own kool-aid. Unwavering belief in what you are doing is the only way to really achieve success. But don't let the sweet taste and bright colors dstract you from the larger contexts of your project. Ad skipping is a great feature, but not the raison d'etre. Reading response to ads is a great benefit to advertisers, but it will not support multiple industries. And the enemy of your enemy is not always your friend. It is a lot harder to change behavior than to be there when behavior changes, or to engage existing behaviors where they are manifest. Demonstrate your value and look at the big picture.

I think it was Adam Gerber of MediaVest who was the lone voice of temperance and pointed out that the iTV space is looking and feeling a lot like the early days of the Internet. The excitement, the newness, and the seemingly endless possibilities are worth re-visiting. Lets keep the mistakes in the past if we can.

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