Are Media Plans Aligned With Consumers? Or ‘Are You Lost in the World, Like Me?’

I wonder if our ad spend, as marketers, is truly reflective of where consumers are increasingly spending their time? Are we in the ad industry in catch-up mode, or are we finally in-sync? Not yet.

Photo Credit: YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VASywEuqFd8
Photo Credit: Moby & The Void Pacific Choir – Are You Lost In The World Like Me? YouTube

Old media habits die hard — well, maybe on Madison Avenue.

I’m a huge fan of integrated media strategy — that’s what it takes to connect with consumers. As I heard one brand marketer say this week about the customer, “Look, she’s complicated.” Meaning the amount of brand interaction points have exploded, the paths to purchase are many, and ensuring a consistent, seamless consumer experience is not easy.

But I wonder if our ad spend, as marketers, is truly reflective of where consumers are increasingly spending their time? Are we in the ad industry in catch-up mode, or are we finally in-sync? Not yet. Take mobile: This recent animation, video and song by Moby “Are You Lost in the World Like Me?” (a 2017 Webby Award winner) about sums it up: We’re increasingly on personal devices and smaller screens — TV time, radio time, print time, even desktop time — is slowly eroding, according to eMarketer’s “US Mobile Time Spent and Activities StatPack 2017.” Most of that mobile time — by a magnitude of 6:1 — is spent on apps, rather than mobile Web. TV time stands at 4.0 hours per day — while total digital time (including mobile) is nearly twice that, exceeding 7 hours.

Most online searches today (59.9 percent) are not via a PC or laptop, but on a smartphone. More than half the U.S. population is regularly accessing social networks on a smartphone, though that growth rate is at least maturing. You name it — gaming, mobile messaging, video watching, music listening — smartphone U.S. majorities are consuming content here.

There are still some hurdles to overcome. While 80 percent research purchases on their phones, less than half buy something. In my mind, it’s just a matter of time before Americans, as a majority, use our phones as wallets … though coffee shops, pizza parlors, commuter transport systems and frozen yogurt establishments are “training” us how to do it. Already, 54 percent of U.S. consumers regular do their banking on a smartphone — so consumer comfort with personal finance on smartphones is growing.

A larger screen does seem to motivate shopping purchases — nine in 10 tablet users perform shopping research, and seven in 10 buy there. And more than half hunt for coupons, which makes me realize a larger screen is more adept at having multiple pages open and visible, so consumers can go back and forth as they consider purchases and then make the buy.

Now, back to ad spend.

TV spend is expected to be $72.6 billion this year, according to The Winterberry Group. While total digital spend will exceed that amount at $85.0 billion (with display at a healthful $38.3 billion, and search at $35.3 billion), it is not proportional to how we as a population use and consume media. Media pricing, creative costs and inventory need reassessment — but only supply-and-demand dictated by media planners (and their brand masters) can really drive change.

In the meantime, I’ll be lost in the world like Moby.

The Data Show: #NBCFail, or What Happens When an Industry Faces Digital Disruption

Like it or not, NBC must accept the fact that its monopoly on broadcast content has been disrupted by the emergence of new technologies, most notably the Internet and the DVR. Instead of creating a business model that leverages and monetizes on this new reality, they’ve instead tried to ram an old business model down the throats of consumers across the U.S., essentially missing the forest for the trees. As a result, they’ve pissed off millions of people, devaluing their brand in the process.

Like most Americans, I’ve spent a lot of time watching the Olympics during the past couple weeks. Probably way more than I should. To be totally honest, I haven’t been the biggest fan of NBC’s coverage, and on this I’m definitely not alone. Look, for example, at the #NBCFail Twitter campaign that erupted online during the past couple weeks. Led mostly by bloggers and new media pundits, the campaign has relentlessly lambasted NBC for its poor coverage.

A major criticism by the #NBCFail folks has centered on topics ranging from showing only American competitors, to endless and annoying human interest stories, from snarky banter with condescending hosts, to strangely jingoistic flag-waving commentary. I must say I agree that it’s generally been an unpleasant experience. But, beyond poor coverage itself, NBC has also been taking a ton of flack for its new media “strategy”—if you can call it that—that includes no live streaming content on the Web. They have an App with some live coverage, but it’s only available to those with an active paid cable subscription that includes NBC already.

Now of course many in the industry have rushed to NBC’s defense. In his recent article in Ad AgeThe Truth About #NBCFail,” Simon Dumenco states quite correctly that “NBC is not a charity.” He then goes on to explain that NBC paid about $1.2 billion for the rights to broadcast the games. That’s a lot of greenbacks. Dumenco’s point is that because NBC is not listed as a 501c3 (non-profit) organization, it has every right to run in the Olympics in a manner it sees fit in order to recoup and hopefully make a profit on its hefty investment. Fair enough.

While on one hand I tend to agree with some of the points made by Dumenco and other critics of #NBCFail, on the other I really do feel that NBC has completely bungled its new media strategy. Like it or not, NBC must accept the fact that its monopoly on broadcast content has been disrupted by the emergence of new technologies, most notably the Internet and the DVR. Instead of creating a business model that leverages and monetizes on this new reality, they’ve instead tried to ram an old business model down the throats of consumers across the U.S., essentially missing the forest for the trees. As a result, they’ve pissed off millions of people, devaluing their brand in the process.

This is eerily reminiscent of what happened to the recording industry a little more than a decade ago. Remember Tower Records? Sam Goody? Virgin Megastores? All gone. And I could continue and list off dozens. Well, guess what happened? The world changed and the recording industry lost its monopoly on distribution of its primary product. What was their master plan? Suing Napster. And all that accomplished was putting off the inevitable by a couple years at most. Today, all the old players are gone and iTunes is the world’s largest retailer of music worldwide, and has been since 2009. The craziest part is that it was only launched by Apple in 2001. It happened so fast.

Well, why was Apple, a company with no experience selling music, able to swoop in and within a few years totally dominate a legacy industry, displacing existing firms? Two words: Disruption and Innovation. Disruption caused by the emergence of new technology—namely, the Internet as a means of Distribution—enabling firms with the best new ideas to unleash Innovation on an industry ripe for transformation.

NBC and the other legacy broadcast networks are now facing similar dilemma. With the emergence of the Internet as a viable distribution channel for broadcast media, their monopoly is over. Don’t like NBC’s coverage? Well, all you need to do is locate a proxy and you can watch awesome uninterrupted streaming coverage on BBC, or China’s national network CCTV, among many others. And as if this ignominy weren’t enough, Digital Video Recording (DVR) boxes in most homes mean that almost no one is watching commercials anymore. Sure, NBC can crow about its impressive ratings while it blacks out live coverage and force millions of people to watch their broadcast in primetime. But how many of these people are tape-delaying coverage by an hour and skipping the ads? Way more than they want the advertisers to think.

What this all means is that the landscape has radically changed for the networks, though they don’t seem to realize it. How long is it before most advertisers realize that the 30-second commercial is functionally obsolete? My guess is it can’t be too long. And when they do, guess what will happen? No more 30-second ads. That will mean a HUGE revenue stream dries up for the networks as the advertisers pull their campaigns en masse. In my estimation, because the networks seem completely unprepared, this shock will be even more devastating than the loss of classified ad revenues was for newspapers.

The only solution for networks, of course, is instead of fighting change and pissing off your customers with inane blackouts and insulting restrictions that don’t work, to be the harbinger of transformation and change instead of the victim. Can they do it? It’s certainly possible. Take, for example, this past year’s absolutely brilliant Final 4 strategy by CBS/NCAA. While the tournament was broadcast on regular TV by CBS without blackouts or restrictions, there was also an amazing App you could buy that offered uninterrupted access to all the games. Sure the App needed to be purchased—but the user experience was so awesome I sure didn’t mind ponying up a few bucks to install it on my iPad.

Experience after experience has shown in an effort to prevent cannibalization of their existing business model, legacy firms miss the forest for the trees and fail to innovate in time, allowing new competitors to swoop in and change the rules of the game for them. By that time, of course, it’s way too late and they’re toast. Ask Kodak about digital photography. Bet they now wish they had started the transformation to digital a few years earlier, don’t they? Or ask Borders about eBooks? I could go on and on …

So, do you think the networks will figure it out? Let me know in your comments.

—Rio

A Look at Facebook’s Premium Ads

Last week Facebook officially announced its new premium ads at the fMC confab, its marketing conference. While there were several announcements, including Timeline for brand pages, the most relevant one for this column was the official launch of the social media platform’s new premium ad units.

Last week Facebook officially announced its new premium ads at the fMC confab, its marketing conference. While there were several announcements, including Timeline for brand pages, the most relevant one for this column was the official launch of the social media platform’s new premium ad units.

The new units put a brand’s page and relevant posts in front of the right audience and amplify its relevance and trust with “social context” by including an individual’s connections who also “Like” the brand. Based on internal Facebook testing, premium ads are 80 percent more likely to be remembered, drive 40 percent higher engagement and significantly increase purchase intent.

Aside from the obvious lift in performance, what makes the launch of premium ads so significant and what should marketers do to maximize this opportunity?

First and foremost, premium ads are a potential game changer. They combine the strengths of Facebook (connections, conversations and community) with the triad of marketing disciplines (paid, earned and owned media). As a result, they should be extremely popular with marketers interested in taking the conversation to potential fans. In addition, premium ads will play a role in potentially helping Facebook to maintain and grow its lead as the top U.S. display advertising company.

Premium ads are spouting a wave of new startups, which is great for the industry and economy. Forbes recently highlighted several social media players scrambling to support premium ads. While their approaches differ with various buy, build or partner strategies, activity is significant, as illustrated by the following:

For marketers interested in leveraging Facebook advertising to grow their community, the game plan is relatively straightforward: prep for a test; review and identify potential conversations to feature; and partner with a solution provider who can help you optimize the most valuable and engaging content to feature.

In addition, look to add retargeting tags into the mix. Premium ads are all about leveraging your social posts and social context to drive acquisition and encourage engagement. Adding a retargeting strategy is the perfect complement to help seal the deal and ultimately understand conversion and attribution for your efforts.

Will premium ads be a game changer and keep Facebook on top? If the emergence of new solutions together with the promise of combining paid, earned and owned media with a double-digit lift in performance is any indication, the answer is yes.

Doubling Down on Google+?

When determining how to integrate Google+ brand pages into your planning for 2012, it’s important to understand what Google+ is and what it isn’t. By Google’s own admission, Google+ isn’t meant to be a social network. Or so it says.

When determining how to integrate Google+ brand pages into your planning for 2012, it’s important to understand what Google+ is and what it isn’t.

By Google’s own admission, Google+ isn’t meant to be a social network. Or so it says. Google+ Pages will help brands in terms of search position and relevance with more real-time content that’s prioritized above other search results. But it’s not designed to drive the type of deeper engagement true social networks allow. While Google+ should be part of your overall media strategy, it won’t replace other social efforts anytime in the near future.

For example, there are limitations placed on Google+ Pages right now regarding promotions and contests. Specifically, the inability to host any promotions or competitions directly on Google+ Pages may actually end up driving more promotional traffic to Facebook. This is further made likely by Facebook’s own policy requiring that contests running on its site be hosted there.

The threat to the existence of Google can’t be understated. How real is this threat? Google certainly feels confident that it owns the internet and mobile web based on current platform dominance. But it should remember that it’s benefited from disruptive shifts in technology and user behavior.

For mobile specifically, this threat is embodied not only in Siri, which we know Google fears, but also potentially in Windows Phone. From a user experience perspective, Windows Phone represents a paradigm shift. Flameouts show how a dominant position can be compromised by complacency and failure to shift product strategy to reflect evolving tastes.

What further increases this risk for Google is that TV online advertising rates are on track to return to prerecession levels, while the overall ad industry is still below 2007 spending levels. While 2012 will see the growth of online ad spending surpass TV (11 percent growth versus 7 percent growth), brand advertisers are still spending more on TV. With more and more ads driving traffic directly to Facebook in search of deeper engagement, we see yet another strong channel that bypasses search-driven web use, even websites, entirely.

While I’ll be the first to admit that speculation on Google’s ultimate demise may be a bit premature, it does lead to some questions about what this all means in the short term. While Google+ will most likely have to be part of your overall search marketing consideration set, it’s a nonstarter from a social platform or deeper engagement perspective. Plans should reflect that. Google’s impulsive product strategy should also pause brands when considering how much effort to expend on Google+ as a whole. What it’s already shown us with the recent product cancellations and refocusing is that on Larry Page’s watch, anything is possible.