If you've just finished a nice, neat campaign schedule then I have bad news. Your spreadsheet, showing weeklong bursts of TV; a month of outdoor and digital display combined with extended print messages, is already out of date.
We've reached a tipping point and we need to prepare for a world where communication is asynchronous. A world where message consumption is spread over an incredibly broad period rather than during the campaign schedule specified by the brand – or indeed the media planner.
Long-term this is going to require us to change what we do in three key ways: We're going to have to reinvent the media plan as a mapped journey, to create new planning tools that provide real-time understanding (so say goodbye to panel or questionnaire-based data) and to develop a new structure for accountability that can cope with these longer-lasting messages.
What's really exciting is that the possibilities for asynchronous media will only multiply, particularly as mobile devices – not just mobile phones – such as tablets become more widespread.
Sitting at the heart of this new asynchronous media landscape is social media. Usage of platforms such as Facebook and Twitter is already so ingrained that 45% of UK viewers watching this autumn's "X Factor" are using social media channels while they view.
In Europe we see four clear trends in the way that brands can seamlessly link the offline to the online at launch and then extend their messages over time. The future for synchronous (usually paid-for) media is that it acts as an entry point for asynchronous consumption of brand-related content.
Rescuing print: Despite the lingering death of traditional, paper-based print as circulations dive, the possibilities are incredibly exciting. Tools such as clic2c make all press content interactive and have already been used by Audi in Spain and finance giant Axa in Belgium. Since commuting is prime reading time, the introduction of subway-wide Wi-Fi networks will transform the print advertising experience via tablets and other mobile devices.
Out-of-home and online: Google and Facebook execs have been giving tongue-in-cheek presentations about "real world social groups" for a while now but it's become a reality. Emerging UK musical artist Cheryl Cole's new campaign is a prime example of the way that out-of-home and digital can be seamlessly integrated. Fans spread the word about the new album to their friends every time they check into an outdoor poster site, extending the message far beyond the opportunity to see offered by the billboard during rush hour.
Real-time, real-life comparison engines: Retail giant Tesco are transforming barcodes into a retail channel. Their new UK app allows consumers to scan barcodes as a way of adding items into their online shopping cart, not just in their own stores but for branded items anywhere. Tesco has effectively made every single brand contact a campaign moment and a call to action.
Everything is retail: Fashion brand French Connection has just launched a "YouTique" where consumers can watch a film and click to buy the clothes they see featured. Likewise broadcaster Channel 4 has cited product placement deals that enable viewers to click to buy the hero's clothing when they watch its shows online as a significant source of future revenue. The launch of Vevo in the US represents a chance for music labels to offer potentially similar functionality and further monetize their deals.
So how long will it be before we see all these things lined up by forward thinking retailers? They could use digital outdoor to offer time-sensitive coupons downloadable once you check in via Facebook Places – thereby alerting your social network to the offer – for example.
We believe that most brands could take advantage tomorrow if they wanted to. Although there are technology challenges around standards, the key barrier is the standard industry planning cycle. Coping with an asynchronous world means ditching six to 12 month planning cycles in favour of 1-45 day iteration cycles.
In the future at the start of every period, ongoing successful activity will be optimized, messages that are fading will be dropped and new initiatives introduced. Brand messages will work their way across traditional and social media, seamlessly reaching into consumers' lives and changing their behaviour.
If smart brands want to take advantage, the future can be today.
Chris Binns is Managing Partner at ted@mediacom, a specialized unit of MediaCom. He can be reached at email@example.com