In these tough economic times, it seems that any and every news story (no matter what it's about) begins with the phrase in these tough economic times. It started with vacation and travel pieces. "Paying more at the pump" became a prerequisite for any story about family road trips. Carpooling and mass transportation coverage followed suit as gas prices soared. Now, since the credit crisis, just about anything is fair game.
When you read this article in Media, what exactly are your eyes scanning? Chances are it's not an archetypal bundle of cellulose and ink, but just another Web page on your laptop, PC or mobile device. As are most magazines today, Media is available in both paper and digital incarnations - and, as is the case with other publications, an increasing number of its readers prefer the latter form.
It may be not the first thought that pops to mind, but TV viewing is an awful lot like a trip to the grocery store. First off, grocery stores still command the greatest share of food purchases, although that share has declined. TV is still the No. 1 medium people spend time with: TV still clocks in at over four and a half hours per day for adults and three hours a day for teens.
Publishers are trying to raise the value of their "nondirect" inventory. Are they trying to solve the wrong problem? In almost every medium, ad inventory is a finite resource. Magazines only have so many pages. TV shows offer about 16 minutes of ads per hour. Billboards are limited in their number and location. But the Internet is different. Display ad inventory is an almost limitless resource. Anyone with something to say can publish; everyone with nothing to say can have a Facebook or MySpace page. So the pages keep multiplying, with the supply already so far ahead of demand that …
Ted Levitt, the late Harvard B-School marketing guru, famously wrote, "People don't buy products. They buy solutions to problems." For Levitt, this notion is fundamental. As he saw it, and as generations of business people have recognized, thanks to him, identifying problems and solving them is the essence of what business is all about. In other words, the only path to success is properly understanding and delivering what customers need.
Wall Street does spill into Main Street - that's been demonstrated. As the stock market slides, mortgages slip into default, loans dry up and people get laid off. What about Madison Ave.? Does it meet up with Main Street somewhere down the road?
Pretty much however you choose to measure the time we spend with media - whether self-reported, metered, observed or some combination of these - the time the average person spends with media each day has increased markedly. Bearing in mind the explosion of choices and platforms over the last 30 to 40 years, this is entirely understandable. Probably the simplest way to characterize the development of media over that time is to sum it up in one word - more.
Over dinner one night, my colleague and I were discussing how things were going with his new company. His business, once based on development of mobile rich-media applications for businesses, was increasingly becoming a means of helping marketers execute their mobile marketing campaigns. While not a marketer by discipline, he made a rather grand sweeping statement about, or rather, an accusation of, our industry.
This is the fourth big economic downturn I've experienced in my career. The S&L crisis, the 1987 stock market crash, the 2000 dot-com bust and today's lingering subprime crisis all offer hard lessons on how to do more than just cope - instead, how to creatively shift thinking to meet the economic challenges.
I came across this quote the other day: "The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same." As marketers, our job is to make projections about the future and the role of advertising. So this quote hit home for me while working on a study, code name "Project Tiffany," designed to explore the future of online video by comparing traditional TV viewing to that of broadband video online.