Primetime is dead, and television networks are scrambling to keep eyeballs tuned in to their programming. Welcome to the media mash, where traditional media as we know it is starting its metamorphosis into something new.
We now live in a world where consumers demand (and program themselves) cross-media programming when they want it, how they want it and where they want it. What I may consume from my couch in my living room, my youngest son may access through his iPod; meanwhile, my husband might forsake all viewing except for on his laptop. The idea of "must-see," appointment-based programming has been outwitted by the DVR/TiVo demands of today's media consumer-- remote controls come with pause, play, rewind and fast-forward buttons for a reason.
But while primetime gets re-shuffled and the networks look for ways to distinguish themselves from the hundreds of channels available, a new platform is beginning to surface that will provide entertainment and engagement in new ways. I believe that the online medium is set to transform itself into a "New Network," which will inevitably and irrevocably change the way generations view and consume entertainment.
So how do we build it?
The New Network, like its television counterpart, will have the ability to engage mass audiences and create tent-pole events, specials and full programming lineups. And while television will never go away, the internet is an on-demand offering, giving consumers the chance to control their viewing experience to suit their needs. Although we are just in the infancy of realizing the potential of an online Network, the foundation is being developed now, and taking full advantage of this moment is what will shape the entertainment business for generations to come.
We've read the headlines about major producers and personalities, including Mark Burnett and Ashton Kutcher, tapping the web to create their own online programs. As this new style of programming takes shape, the New Network will have the opportunity to create real programming lineups similar to traditional media yet not in the same linear fashion. For example, a web programming slate might consist of a series of reality shows that are available on-demand, but updated once a week and archived.
Additionally, the web should aim to mirror the success of what the current television networks have been able to achieve with their tent-pole, such as the Olympics, election coverage or Barbara Walters' specials. Creating these same types of moments in the online universe can bring a whole new dimension to the ways topics -- from current events in news and sports to relationships, reality or watercooler moments -- are covered.
Let me demonstrate the potential of this new model with an example of something our network team recently launched on AOL.com in January (at a time of year when the media often focuses on New Year's resolutions, including dieting). "America Takes it Off" was a month-long event that challenged Americans to lose 10 million pounds, as a collective group working together. It was also a cross-media event that leveraged broadcast's entertainment position -- through a partnership with the TV show, "Good Morning America" (GMA) -- with the utility and social networking activity common to AOL.com.
Specifically, consumers were asked to register and pledge to lose weight on AOL.com, where they also received advice from experts, helpful articles on diet & fitness and an opportunity to connect with other dieters online. At the same time, GMA created a three-part series with a fitness expert to help motivate TV viewers to get off the couch and lose weight. Both GMA & AOL.com cross-promoted this special, hoping to engage millions of people to pledge to lose weight and track their progress online.
This example used two platforms -- television and online -- to create a successful program. However, as the web continues to transform into a dynamic platform that routinely develops its own original programming, and as "Generation C" begins to enter the workforce, I think we will find the New Network will be the preferred platform for engaging and entertaining consumers.
Also, I predict that, through community activation and targeted programs, this new entertainment platform will impact the advertising industry in a significant way. Advertisers will soon enjoy the benefits of the New Network by partnering with online media, creating innovative campaigns that have the potential to reach audiences in a more direct way
As we move further into 2006, and beyond, we will continue to break the boundaries of traditional media and discover the full potential of the web. Just think…in your circle of friends or family, how many different types of applications does it take to engage them to "tune in"? When we create the New Network, we allow for a much greater level of success, while still celebrating the specific attributes of each of our mediums. And, whether through an iPod, laptop, television set or handheld device, if you create great programming, they will indeed come (and consume).
Tina Sharkey is senior vice president, AOL Network Programming & Community. She is a pioneer in the development of new media applications that bring value to consumers' lives. Sharkey has been instrumental in shaping the AOL Network as part of AOL's web strategy while also driving the development of user-driven programming based on polls, message boards and chats. Additionally, she led the successful development of popular service areas for AOL visitors, such as personal finance, bill pay, women, AOL community, parenting, health, home, food, diet and fitness.
Before joining AOL in 2003, Sharkey was co-founder of iVillage, a pioneering online community for women, where she served as its senior vice president of programming and chief community architect. She was also group president of Sesame Workshop's online services, where she created the award-winning Sesame Street interactive media business. Additionally, she collaborated with Barry Diller on a new home shopping channel, Q2, a division of QVC, where she served as vice president of marketing and programming.
Growing niche advertising opportunities and the challenges of media fragmentation for advertisers and media buyers captured the headlines in 2007. Every week, it seemed, we heard about new media, technologies and tactics for advertisers to reach consumers and prospective customers with more precision and timeliness than we've ever seen before. Media fragmentation and the shifting of ad dollars from mainstream media like television, newspapers and radio to online channels had disrupted the industry -- or so it seemed.
A look back tells a different story. In 2007, media buyers invested the lion's share of their ad dollars into mainstream and traditional channels. Even online, media buyers were averse to straying too far from the best known sites. For example, the top 50 websites in the U.S. accounted for more than 90 percent of online ad revenue in the fist half of 2007, while the top 10 sites accounted for 70 percent of the revenue, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers. These findings demonstrate that even among online channels, media buyers continue to compete fiercely for ad space in the highest profile and most expensive web properties, while emerging online opportunities remain untapped.
Looking ahead, strong evidence suggests that 2008 will be the year for advertisers to truly diversify their ad placements, take advantage of more targeted and emerging ad opportunities ranging from online niches to creative outdoor/out-of-home ad placements, and spend less to get more. Savvy media buyers will seize these opportunities, making 2008 the year of the niche.
Feeding frenzy in lean times
Ad space in mainstream media, both traditional and online, will be hotly contested in 2008 due to political and promotional ad spending around the U.S. presidential election and the summer Olympics in Beijing -- thereby decreasing available inventory while driving costs up.
Concerns about the strength of the U.S. economy may also impact media buying budgets in 2008. Advertising and media buying executives expressed reservations about increasing their advertising budgets for the next six months according to an online survey of 2,047 executives conducted by Advertiser Perceptions in October/November 2007. The survey findings indicate that online media will continue to perform well, but only 16 percent of those surveyed expect to increase radio ad spending in the coming months -- a decrease from 29 percent when Advertising Perceptions polled ad executives last spring. Expectations for increasing broadcast television ad spending also declined from 29 percent in the spring to 22 percent in the October/November survey.
In the next year, media buyers will be navigating a more volatile advertising market, and the most successful agencies and media buying organizations will adapt. Targeted niche media that reach fewer but more relevant consumers combined with creative approaches beyond traditional mainstream media and the most popular online web properties will be the hallmarks of successful advertising campaigns in 2008. People have been touting this for some time now, but for 2008, small truly is the "new big."
Get more relevant with niche and emerging ad opportunities
With fierce competition for limited and pricier mainstream media ad space, media buyers have an opportunity to invest more in targeted ad buys. Local online advertising appears to be a good starting point according to Borrell Associates' "2008 Outlook: Local Online Advertising" report. Local online advertising is expected to grow by 50 percent, reaching nearly $13 billion by the end of 2008. According to the study, the growing popularity of search, directory and inexpensive video are main drivers for the growth in this area, enabling large enterprises and small businesses alike to reach local audiences online.
Advertisers, agencies and media buyers for job recruitment firms, hospitals, dotcom businesses, automotive, service companies and credit/mortgage services stand to benefit the most from the growing opportunities in local online advertising.
Online video advertising, as noted in the Borrell study, is emerging as a new way for businesses of all sizes to reach their audiences, locally and on a much broader level through viral video campaigns. Sites like Metacafe and blip.tv offer professionally produced online video entertainment content with highly targeted and loyal audiences for media buyers to place their online ads. For advertisers seeking consumers of online news video segments, companies like ClipSyndicate offer valuable online video advertising opportunities for getting your message out to a broader audience through its distribution partners (such as Bloomberg, the Associated Press and Scripps Networks).
Viral video advertising campaigns have also proven their value and can be a smart way for media buyers to spend less and get more. Viral video advertising campaigns for companies and products such as Cadbury (Gorilla Drummer), Smirnoff (Green Tee Partay), Ray-Ban (Catch Sunglasses), Blendtec (Will It Blend?) and Lynx/Axe (Bom Chicka Wah Wah) have been astoundingly successful, getting ranked as Go Viral's top five viral videos of 2007, based on YouTube views.
Although outdoor and out-of-home advertising is hardly new, there are some new technologies and twists for getting your message out. A recent study by PQ Media found that digital, video and wireless technologies are creating more opportunities for advertisers to reach their audiences out-of-home beyond traditional cardboard display signs or posters. Consumers and potential customers can be reached with engaging video and point-of-purchase advertising content placed right where you want them to be when they get your message -- in a bar, shopping mall, retail outlet, gas station, elevator or gym, for example. According to PQ Media, media buyers will find the biggest opportunities for out-of-home video ad placements in theater, retail, office and transit venues.
eMarketer expects out-of-home video advertising spending in the U.S. will rise to $2.3 billion by 2011, up from $1.3 billion in 2007. eMarketer attributes this expected increase in part to falling technology costs for flat-panel LCDs, in addition to technology advancements in IP and wireless technologies.
Think way outside the box
Clients are always asking for out-of-the box ideas, so make 2008 your year to get creative and surprise them. Local businesses in Melrose, Mass., a small city north of Boston, can now advertise on police cars, and the town may soon make ad space available on fire department command vehicles. The ads provide revenues for the city while giving local businesses exposure.
Yojo Mobile recently launched MizPee, a mobile search solution built around a user-created directory of public toilets. Users can search through their mobile phones for public toilets in their immediate location. Search results also include ads, discounts and offers from businesses in the vicinity, including restaurants, bars, retail outlets and coffee shops. This is certainly not a traditional approach, but it could provide media buyers with extremely targeted local advertising opportunities.
A company called NapAds Network provides high definition napkin advertising solutions. Popular in bars and hotels, advertisers can have their ad displayed to stand out with NapAds' high definition printing process.
Have you ever walked into a sports bar and found its inhabitants completely consumed by an interactive trivia game posted on a set of TVs? A company called NTN Buzztime offers ad space within the trivia game screen, putting your brand in front of a highly targeted group of male 18- to 34-year-olds who are spending an average of 39 percent more time in the bar staring at your ad while playing the trivia game.
Media buyers can also find ad space literally on the people in your neighborhood with tattoo, hand and, yes, ass-vertising. Foreheads have also been known to provide ad impressions.
You might get a lot of notice for using a unique technology, approach (high-def napkins) or ad placement (bathrooms), but you want to make sure it fits your brand -- and that the uniqueness doesn't become the sole focal point, instead of your target audience and message.
So you want to get creative -- how do you find your niche?
Advertisers and media buying organizations have always faced the challenge of finding the right advertising opportunities and managing the process efficiently, from the search and discovery phase through the media buy. Advertisers also need tools and processes for capturing and preserving knowledge for future campaigns and clients -- not only for specific account teams, but for the entire company.
As media buyers begin to diversify their ad campaigns through new, emerging and creative channels and approaches, new tools and resources are needed to help with discovery and planning across a growing array of options.
Media planning solutions like SRDS have been the industry standby for decades and are trying to adapt to the new challenges of the fragmented media landscape by providing some online tools and resources.
And a new breed of media buying and planning software tools is gaining wider industry acceptance, including MediaVisor, Mediaplex and my firm, Balihoo.
Media buyers should take the same care in choosing a media buying and planning solution as they do when planning advertising campaigns for their clients. Just as media has evolved from a finite number of print and broadcast outlets to an amazing array of opportunities, the industry solutions have also evolved.
Keep in mind the following features and capabilities as you consider your options:
- A comprehensive searchable database of current and frequently updated advertising opportunities across all traditional and emerging channels such as print, online, out-of-home, broadcast and events
- Integrated campaign management and custom media database features
- Cross-medium RFI and RFP functionality, designed exclusively for the unique needs of media buyers
- Collaboration, community and social media tools for capturing and sharing media buying information within departments and across the organization
- Flexibility to integrate with existing media research tools and transaction applications
Take the time to evaluate a number of media planning solutions to find the best fit for your business. Then you'll have the tools you need to reach your target audience with a winning mix of mainstream and niche advertising across multiple channels.
Programmatic is being used to evolve storytelling narratives
Marketers who specialize in developing brand narratives are embracing programmatic as a tool to further their goals. Previously, programmatic was largely written off by this crowd as a tactic for delivering remnant inventory. It's this myth that gave it a bad stigma for a time, but it has been broken. With better education, marketers now understand that programmatic can be an effective and targeted way to deliver high quality relevant inventory. It's this reality that has caused creative marketers to take a second look at how to incorporate it into larger strategies surrounding brand narrative development.
Nicole Estebanell ends our conversation by explaining why creative marketers are increasingly using programmatic in storytelling strategies.
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Article written by media production manager David Zaleski and videos edited by associate media producer Brian Waters.
"updates loading concept illustration design over a blue background" image via Shutterstock.