I’ve recently been pondering two competing trends that come out of the digital revolution.
The first is the pressure on marketers and advertisers to create realtime content. Rather than having an approvals process which lasts weeks or months for new digital marketing communications, advertising campaigns and printed brochures, we’ve increasingly been sucked into a world in which instant response is the norm.
On platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, intelligent brands interact with their readers in the here and now. If you haven’t responded within five minutes, you’re dead in the water or perceived as somehow being desperately behind the times. Instant gratification is the norm, as the line between marketing and customer service becomes increasingly blurred.
So at one level, the process of marcoms and advertising has become condensed. It’s telescoped into the now. There are no doubt thousands of interactions with consumers taking place at precisely 16.36 GMT as I type these words. They are not pre-approved or carefully vetted, which means marketers have to delegate the representation of their brand to social media updaters, customer care agents and an assortment of other ambassadors. Some may do the job admirably, while others may fall short.
But there’s another interesting trend, which takes us in a different direction entirely.
I was struck by the comments recently of Justin Sampson, the CEO of BARB – the official source of TV viewing figures in the UK. Speaking on a WARC webinar, he was talking about the significant and continual growth of on-demand and ‘timeshift’ services, meaning that the viewing of programming becomes displaced. This is obviously a big technological and methodological challenge for his organisation, but it’s also symptomatic of a wider change. Consumers set the terms of their interactions with marketers.
While we still think about advertising campaigns as being planned for discrete periods, broadcast programming content is being watched ‘out of time’ in a parallel universe. While there is some limited evidence that people pay slightly more attention to ads when timeshifting (and are less likely to skip), there’s still the issue of exactly what messages they’re watching and how core brand themes and campaign impact get displaced or dissipated by the time travel.
One fairly new phenomenon mentioned by Sampson, which adds another dimension to the issue, is the opportunity for groups of subscribers to see programme content before it’s broadcast rather than afterwards. Marketers are communicating with the consumer in the past, the present and the future. So get ready for some interesting paradoxes.