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TV & Online: Convergence or Collision?

In the digital tech space, we’re already seeing radical changes in television as it begins to converge more and more with the online world. Think about the massive transformation that TV has already gone through – starting with the humble video recorder to the range of connected satellite / cables boxes and gaming consoles – fundamental changes that TV is now more or less just a monitor. Not so very long ago, TV used to be considered the “lean back” medium and digital as “lean forward.” But, this no longer seems to apply as we increasingly use multiple connected devices to watch TV content and that large screen in the home is often hijacked by our game-playing teenagers. So, what’s going on? Is TV having an identity crisis or are we finally at a point of convergence or collision?

MediaMind recently held its annual Digital Experience Day (DED) 2011, a global summit series held in North America, Europe and Asia, that brought together leading industry leaders and experts to explore the consumer changes that are happening now. We explored the interactive and social experience that TV now provides. TV no longer offers a passive, social experience where one has to huddle around the same set and fight for the remote control. In fact, traditional ways of viewing television are now competing with the plethora of tablet devices on the market that keeps viewers entertained and occupied from just about anywhere they choose. But it’s not just about replacing the larger screen with smaller ones, we are increasingly bonded around quality content – from TV shows to interactive games – and utilizing Social Networks to fulfill those real-time experiences and discussions between multiple viewers scattered across numerous living spaces.

Recent research from Nielsen shows that the average US home with a cable subscription receives 130 channels and yet tunes in to only 18 channels. That means 86% of these channels are never watched, suggesting that channel surfing is dead; challenging costly cable subscription models. And yet, of the $500 billion in global advertising, TV advertising still takes the lion’s share. By 2015, it’s expected that 50% of Internet users will watch TV content through online connections.

But that’s not to say TV as we know it is dead; quite the opposite. TV has a quality and scale that digital has yet to achieve. We will always need linear video content, but we just won’t need to consume it in the same way that we used to. We are now in the beginning stages of the marriage between online and offline. And for this to work out successfully, TV planners need to understand how digital works and vice versa. We are already seeing agencies using an iGRP to buy reach across media channels to maximize cost-efficiencies. These agencies are hoping to have completely integrated media buying teams within 18 months.

It’s both a convergence and a collision. On one side, we have a chance to reset our thinking and talk about enhancing the branding mechanism by overlaying interactive experiences via a mobile device and measure TV content through real-time social discussions such as comments on Facebook and/or Twitter. Yet the danger is as we seek to measure TV in the way we do online, it runs the risk of squeezing TV advertising budgets to the likes of online DR forced to justify spend via call to action. There are interesting times ahead for the whole media community and it certainly was the hot topic of debate at DED as we debated through the challenges of moving towards app-driven Smart TVs.

See the presentation “Convergence or Collision” or watch the video.
 

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Location, location, location! Why ads in Apps are a promising future for brand advertisers

A few weeks ago, while waiting for my next flight at the Copenhagen airport, I started giggling insanely by myself as I was staring at an app on my iPhone. When I looked up from my screen, I noticed some curious faces staring back at me. “Facebook!” I explained and the friendly smiles in return assured me that I was among fellow peers.

Sound familiar?

As Social Media continues to infiltrate our daily lives, many more advertisers are beginning to understand the merits of advertising within these channels. Yet, the irony is that the majority of my updates from my Twitter stream and Facebook wall feed are through mobile devices, like my SmartPhone. The social media ads that we discuss that are both PC and browser based are not truly representative of today’s audience. Advertisers are missing out on a greater opportunity to achieve better engagements with today’s consumers.

It is estimated that 35% of our time spent online involves some sort of communication. Yet interestingly, right from day one when I had my very first 14.4 modem, I was installing ‘apps’ to connect with friends: from CompuServe, AOL and ICQ – to Live Messenger, Outlook, Skype and beyond. The majority of social interaction that I’ve had in the past 15 years has not been based in a web browser, but instead with an app on my desktop. Initially, it was through my PC followed by my laptop and now more with my mobile device. The methods may have changed, but the behaviour has not.

According to recent MediaMind research, desktop ads such as those in instant messenger apps far outperform browser-based ads across all metrics, from the number of people engaging to time spent interacting to the resulting CTR. All metrics are at least double in favor of app-based ads. This is especially true in Rich Media ads where size may matter in browser-based ads, but when it comes to desktop-based ads, it’s all about location, location and location! Think about it. If a consumer is spending a greater amount of quality time within a certain environment, potentially with a more concentrated focus, it naturally shows in favor towards the ad engagement. A communicative environment can naturally lead to users wanting to share what they are looking at with their friends, i.e. ‘tear-and-share’. If you are in doubt, look how many ads appear on your Facebook wall feed. Advertising is the new virtual graffiti! It’s an exciting insight into how today’s users value brand message targeting and shows their likelihood to respond to more to ads in apps across all devices.

There are now a plethora of new desktop-based apps offering integration for Social Media; such as Tweetdeck for Twitter, FaceTop for Facebook, or LinkedIn connector for Outlook. Even something like YouTube access is becoming split between a laptop browser and phone/pad app, and increasingly more so via TV or gaming consoles. Yet despite the entire buzz around Fan Pages and ‘likes’ in ads that are driving advertisers to take Social Media marketing seriously, there hasn’t been a big discussion around consumer usage vs advertising to date. Nor has there been a shift in favor of mobile advertising across the same Social Media networks. It’s hard to believe, considering that 50% of Facebook, 80% of Twitter and 100% of FourSquare is mobile based. It’s probably safe to say that Social Media now equals mobile, and vice versa. The two are intrinsically woven together.

We are already seeing more mobile-based strategies created for Social Media apps that focus on highly targeted ads that correspond with a consumer’s activity. Following the likes of FourSquare and ShopKick, Facebook launched Places and Deals to offer targeted ads against consumer loyalty, even offering coupons. AT&T has also jumped on board with their new ShopAlerts program to reward their customers by notifying anyone with special deals and offers if they happen to be near an AT&T store. It’s an important two-way value proposition for both consumer and advertiser alike. The only kicker is that these are all a DR message and requires clicks, as opposed to an engaging brand interaction that we have benefitted from online or forthcoming NFC capabilities of next-generation mobiles.

Even media publications have begun offering beautiful interactive ads within iPad magazines, something where offline ads account for 60% of those pages and where we pay daily or monthly to obtain. The shift and demand for digital magazines shows a huge potential for targeted, timely and creative brand executions that are housed within apps. If current trends are any indication of browser vs limited app-based on a desktop, there may well be something very important not only for publishers, but also for the software industry and the mobile industry at large. That is app-based ads may well outshine their browser-based counterparts in both the amount of advertising that can be delivered, and the value to the end consumer, shown by the depth of engagement metrics.

Now the likes of Skype are looking to introduce desktop ads in their apps, perhaps we are about to see a growing trend in moving online advertising beyond the browser. Maybe in time we will see consumers opting for a full version of Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Office for the home that is ad-funded with relevant targeted messages as opposed to the existing reduced feature approach. When we consider the possibilities of digital ads in apps vs browsers we may just witness an unparalleled explosion of new marketing techniques and measurements for advertisers and their agencies on a scale that may dwarf online to date. I guess only time will tell, but what an exciting proposition that lays before us all!

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The Visualization of Search

Want to See the Future of Search? Better Look East

Remember the day you first discovered Google search. Now, think back to what search was like before, using Altavista and Lycos. It was pretty painful stuff. Google with its plain vanilla HTML interface, simple black text, blue links and one sole graphic did nothing but revolutionize my search experience, and judging by the brand it has built since, I don’t suspect I’m the only one.

In fact, many of us can’t imagine life without Google, despite the valiant contender efforts of Bing and the old faves of Yahoo and AOL. That is until you head East. When we first adopted Google we were all on dial-up and time waiting for graphic rich content was secondary to getting data results – fast! Yet, in a culture where consumers have always had high-speed broadband from day one, such as South Korea, who has the world’s deepest penetration of Internet users, those rules just never applied. In fact for them, search has always been an entirely different affair.

When you take a look at Naver or Daum, the Google and Bing of Korea, you realize that to the majority of Korean’s search engine sites are more like portal websites where search results are fully integrated with images, video, music and user Q&A’s, which boasts 50,000 questions a day posted by users to share information with fellow locals. It reminds me of a more sophisticated Yahoo! search portal. The concept of a simple text search is pretty alien to Koreans and is quickly becoming alien to us to when you consider the time we are now image and video searching ourselves. This is only part of the reason Google has had a hard time way out East.

Both Korea and Japan, the second largest advertising economy behind the US, are also the leaders in 3G adoption across mobile devices, with over 70% of mobile penetration. As a result, more people use mobile devices then PCs to access the Internet, a trend we are beginning to see in the West led by Social Media access.
As consumers find natural, more convenient and faster ways to interact with information and content databases, we are about to see those little text input boxes finding themselves being used less and less. It’s not just that searching on mobile is increasing, but it’s also the way users are conducting searches that’s shifted. When you consider the fact most mobile phones already have an inbuilt cameras, and are seeing handset manufacturers poised to adopt Quick Response (QR) code and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) readers throughout 2010, it is not just contactless payments via your cell phone that will become commonplace, but comparing prices in real-time that will make a radical change to our purchasing habits.

Quick Response (QR) codes are appearing on everything from print to outdoor billboards as seen in Universal Pictures movie Repo Man and Volvo. It has caused movie studios or car manufacturers to enable the auto-opening of mobile pages by pointing mobile phones at such posters, all tracked through ad serving systems. Applications like Red Laser on an iPhone allow barcode reading of products to automatically search for price comparisons, while on the move. We are also seeing the use of cameras to find information through augmented reality overlaying the natural world with interactive information. And now, RFID will take this even a stage further, when proximity to items can auto-trigger further information, a trend already firmly rooted in Eastern cultures.

Though still in it’s infancy in the West, it is these concepts that will move quickly towards critical-mass adoption and challenge everything we thought we knew about search and optimization, or the relationship between display and search across channels. In fact, it’s these forms of mobile technology that’s facilitating a level of location-based advertising which will move consumers beyond a video search on YouTube and bring a new simplicity to search and consumer activity that will give the classic search a run for its money.

This article first appeared on AdAge

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Addressable advertising: An inquiry into targeting individuals using RFID

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The fire that warms can also burn;
‘Better a small fire that warms you than a big one that burns you.’

– French Proverb.

behavioral iconWe are moving into an era of targeted advertising – delivering the right message at the right time. The logical conclusion of all targeted advertising is that technology will bring both a total transparency into consumer life-cyles, as well as be able to ascertain predictive purchase habits. It will facilitate a highly addressable and personalised message to an individual or group of individuals, in order to produce a suitable response required by the advertiser. It is about tying an individual to data collated on their previous consumer behaviours and/or purchase habits and then delivering a sequenced message across an entire range of electronic displays in the home, shopping malls or on the street, etc.

As we enter the third wave of computing known a UbiComp, technology will shrink in size, increase in power and ultimately disappear into the background of our every day lives. A whole new infrastructure will see using miniature remotely powered wireless computers interfaced with sensors as opposed to keyboards. As Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) gets set to link every product on the planet to the Net through Near Field Communication (NFC) and GPS, it will allow the collation of unparalleled levels of data of consumer habits both in and out of the home. This technology will also be able to determine where and when a consumer is in the proximity of any given screen – and potentially looking at it – in order to deliver the correct message and facilitate the delivery of targeted messages to any screen, anywhere, anytime. RFID will inevitably become the next-generation cookie for trans-media advertising.

Always connected and always aware, privacy could become a thing of the past. An immersive connected world is dawning upon us, but as well as the exciting opportunities there are socio-political concerns as we seek to target individuals with tailored, timely and relevant brand messages across the full media spectrum. If addressable advertising is the Holy Grail for marketers, what does this mean for the future of contextual and location-based advertising; where are we at and what can we expect? Will this finally bring the utopia that is being sought by marketers to answer conclusively which 50% of their media dollars are being wasted – and if so at what price to humanity?

The questions I want to ask pertain to ‘just because we can, does it mean we should?’ Even if the answer is yes, assuming the genie is already well out of the bottle, under what circumstances should we pursue this and can an ethical framework be established in which to operate?

“Man is the only creature that dares to light a fire and live with it.
The reason? Because he alone has learned to put it out.”

– Henry Jackson Vandyke, Jr.

Research

Addressable Advertising: An inquiry into targeting individuals using RFID is a philosophical and ethical investigation and analysis into the rise of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and specifically its uses within an advertising context in order to target individuals with tailored, timely and relevant brand messages across the full media spectrum. This document will investigate the socio-political dilemma and investigate intervention in light of privacy concerns.

The Original Paper – Submitted to Centre for Media Excellence exploring the future developments and opportunities of advertising delivery.
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This document is the first submission (50,000 words)
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The Final Paper – Submitted to Bournemouth University with compiled interview and survey results.
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This document is the final submission (10,000 words)
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Online Defence – Discourse on a deeper probing into the submission with Bournemouth University,
validating and defending my argument.
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Slideshow – The preliminary presentation I plan on using to illustrate this radical change in advertising approach
that is already underway by highlighting global case studies.

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My aim is to take all this material and re-write this further to become part of book that I am planning.
I welcome all your comments, criticsms and debates. I don’t have all the answers either…

Dean Donaldson. January 2010.

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