It is easy to see how different sectors of the media industry are converging when one attends a series of conferences over the span of a fortnight. From NYC TV and Video Week’s selection of panels to the LiveFronts for streaming video to, most recently, the DPAA, it is evident that while the modes of content delivery may vary, the opportunities and challenges to the various business models are sounding eerily similar. The DPAA is especially interesting because while it has always operated in out-of-home media consumption, the digitization of content has moved it squarely into the vortex of cross-platform content competition. Barry Frey, President and CEO of the DPAA, noted the change in the business by stating, “Content is becoming even more important. What used to be paper and plastic is now digital.”
Attention (On Any Platform) Is the Holy Grail
Rich Greenfield, Media and Tech Analyst at BTIG, noted that he is “seeing a meaningful change in behavior. We are spending life looking down, staring at our phones. Engagement has shifted from the TV to the phone and that is wreaking havoc with the legacy TV ecosystem. There is a fundamental shift in behavior.” So engagement has become at once vitally important and increasingly ephemeral. According to Greenfield, because of the vast choice of content on demand, “We are better at maximizing the utility of our time than ever before.” And while there is a shift in power, with TV possibly becoming a secondary platform to mobile, massive change will not happen overnight. “It will take a while,” he admitted.
Challenges are Universal -- From Metrics to Ad Length
There is nothing quite as vexing as trying to formulate a more relevant measurement metric for cross platform while legacy measurement for legacy media (ratings) are declining. “We can talk about the fact that ratings are down a lot but engagement is down a lot more,” Greenfield said. “So what do you do? Mobile hasn't figured out how to create a robust viewing engagement. How do you monetize Facebook Live?”
The effectiveness of commercial formats will differ by platform. Thirty second spots may be too long for viewers using handhelds. The timing of ads within content can be a sensitive decision for advertisers. “Do you cut away to a commercial?” Greenfield wondered. “Do you overlay?”
How can we create opportunities for new forms of advertising in a world where consumers are not getting the same level of engagement? It’s not just the format and placement; it is also the creative, which poses its own set of challenges. “Society at large is very distracted,” said Bonin Bough, host of CNBC’s Cleveland Hustles. “They can't really multitask because attention drops.”
Corporations are Re-focusing their Goals
Challenges are leading to corporate reassessments. Whether an agency or an advertiser, the proliferation of consumer choices heats up competition for attention and fuels the need for companies to refocus. “We are a media agency and have to start to think of ourselves as an audience- and people-based agency,” Doug Ray, CEO, Carat explained. “The way people are engaging with content is not linear anymore. Viewing video is at an all-time high. So we now follow the consumer to help us bridge this disparate ecosystem and help our clients sell more product.” But agency clients are often enmeshed in legacy thinking. “TV is still the greatest driver of sales contribution, but there has been an erosion of its contribution over the past several years,” he added. “And we will continue to see the erosion of results for our clients.
“The answer,” he noted, “is to start thinking more about people. Audience first; how to find them, how they engage with a screen and how to measure the success of that engagement.”
The industry moves slowly and, arguably, too cautiously. In this era of accelerated change we must not only be nimble but also strategic. “We need to measure what matters, understand what is relevant,” said Lou Paskalis, Senior Vice President, Enterprise Media Planning, Investment and Measurement for Bank of America. “Diagnostics like reach and frequency won't get us there anymore. The return is in the relationship, not the transaction.”