Tweet, watch TV and play your Xbox. While you read this blog.
The future of advertising in a morning. It’s a big ask, but I guess time is money for a lot of the leading executives who attended the seminar organised by the Westminster Media Forum on 31st May 2011 in London. We had a good mix of broadcasters and media representatives at the Royal Society in Carlton House Terrace, as well as people from creative agencies and leading brands.
Stephen Adshead of Plum Consulting led an interesting discussion of targeted advertising via set-top boxes, which is a clear challenge to the traditional ‘linear’ model of communication in broadcast media. Although many of us naturally worry about privacy and the extent to which brands can get inside our heads, Adshead raised the valid point that the technology could also help to protect people. We could, for instance, use data to block messages about fast food to houses with kids. Counter-intuitively, the technology that seems to be a regulator’s nightmare might turn out to be the nanny state’s best friend.
Microsoft’s UK Managing Director of Consumer & Online, Ashley Highfield, talked about a campaign for Lynx, the feisty deodorant brand which is known as Axe outside the UK. He made the point that we are going well beyond basic demographic targeting now. We can gather data on whether the typical male user is watching the TV, using a PC or playing on the Xbox at particular times of the day and target messages accordingly. Click-thru rates on the Microsoft-owned gaming platform reached an astonishing 20%. Even angels would fall for statistics like that.
A new directive from the EU threatens the ability of marketers to use online cookies to track consumers. Unsurprisingly, Microsoft favours industry self-regulation here and we were told about the anti-tracking opt-in that exists in the latest versions of the Internet Explorer browser. The software giant would rather focus on the possibilities presented by the first ads using voice and gesture commands, due to arrive as early as this autumn. Not to mention a Britain which is 100% digital – allowing advertisers the same online reach that they have long had through television.
Television, incidentally, isn’t doing too badly if you listen to Channel 4’s Mike Parker, who heads up the broadcaster’s Strategic Sales & Commercial Marketing operation. He is buoyed by econometric studies which demonstrate that TV is a key driver of online activity and notes that age-old programmes such as BBC’s Question Time have been given a new lease of life through realtime commentary on Facebook and Twitter. And as Sarah Goldman from UKTV entertainingly noted, no one goes home to watch the internet.
I suppose it could be argued that the real future was represented by Mark Slade of 4th Screen Advertising. While mobile is a surprisingly small advertising market at the moment in terms of spend, it’s also one of the largest growing and will probably be pushing a value of £1bn by 2015. It’s clearly also going to be an important part of what one tweeting delegate described as a ‘surf ‘n’ turf’ approach to media.
If there’s one conclusion I’d draw from the commentary at the event, it would be that the years ahead won’t be dominated by any one particular medium. TV won’t disappear. It will adapt to integrate and interact better with other digital, mobile and gaming platforms. If any ‘traditional’ medium is under threat, it’s probably print, but even the old-fashioned newspaper has its stalwart defenders. Lawson Muncaster, the MD of London free sheet City AM, gave a bullish defence of the 300 hours of journalism that his staff pack into a 10-minute read.
Maybe that’s the world we live in today? I can be leafing through City AM while playing on my Xbox and tweeting about the latest instalment of #bgt. Will there be room for attending conferences?