Embracing change is always challenging, and emerging media is an ongoing adventure. There have never been so many ways to reach your audience and, at the same time, there is a true lack of understanding about the value of the experiences that that reach provides. As we at the IPG Emerging Media Lab tell each other all the time, 2009 and 2010 will be a rough ride for marketers. However, for those who can continue building relationships, exploring new solutions, and maintaining a long term vision, we believe there's a lot of opportunity on the horizon.
The Lab was founded as an educational resource for IPG agencies and their clients to better understand the digital media landscape. Just as the digital media space has changed dramatically in the past few years, we've evolved, too. As we've learned, it's about understanding the behaviors that are driving the consumption of the technology -- not just the technology itself. We've also learned that to stay ahead of the new media curve requires constant examination and re-examination; what was important yesterday may have lost its relevance today.
Our topic experts in video (myself and Scott Wensman), social media (Raquel Krouse), digital content (Devora Rogers), mobile, and gaming (Josh Lovison) will share our perspective on where marketers should be focusing in each of these key areas. If we had to give marketers one piece of advice, it's that even in these trying times, if you haven't had a digital initiative that's failed, you're doing something wrong. So this year, take a risk, engage a new partner, bring your creatives in early, and start playing with more toys and tools. There's a brave new world out there.
When it comes to understanding the future of video, the Lab takes a broad-range look at how to navigate the murky waters. Here are some of the trends that will help separate the men from the boys this year, as well as a few things marketers should be doing now yesterday.
Scott Wensman is director of media strategy and content at IPG Emerging Media Lab.
Let go of the silver bullet
In the past, we lived in a world where one solution, one trade show, one phone call took care of all the buying and planning in one big sweep on a few chosen platforms. It was about broadcasting and reach, and the only complexity was determining which network or show was the hottest for your audience.
For better or worse, those days are gone. But there's no need to panic: Online video and advanced television applications are starting to hit their stride. Investment in these channels is growing rapidly, and there is a lot of industry momentum, given the IAB video standards guidelines and deeper measurement from Nielsen, comScore, and others.
While there is a lot of progress being made to standardize advertising opportunities and measurement, our advice is to stop waiting for a silver bullet solution. Pre-rolls have driven a large part of the market for advertisers and publishers, but pre-roll video is just one of dozens of video advertising solutions available. Content sponsorship and syndication, video overlays, branded entertainment, customized video ads, and dynamic ad insertion are all exciting and potentially rewarding places to play.
Invest in creative
The growth of online video has been driven largely by media and publishers, not creatives. The future of the video market will require more than just plugging in last year's 15- and 30-second spots from the TV campaign. To get serious about online video advertising, advertisers need ideas and resources assigned to the efforts well in advance. The further advertisers move away from one-off creatives produced in a vacuum, the better. What's needed now is a renewed look at the role creative plays in all things media -- because the line between content and media is forever blurred.
Bring creatives in for the buying and planning process, and engage creatives who understand content creation and syndication for a multitude of platforms. Campaigns should be approached from a content strategy perspective, as opposed to a singular campaign deliverable. The result will be high-concept creative produced for a "lean forward" audience that is ready to interact with your brand.
Partner and test
This year is a good time to conquer and scale relationships. If you do one thing in 2009, find a partner with shared interests in expanding the video market. Collaborate on new creative formats, new video metrics worthy of testing, and new content opportunities. Create a matrix of your favorite vendors and technology partners. Map your testing plans off your campaign goals.
Media tests and research budgets can help alleviate some of the risks required to build a track record with a new medium. Partnerships also allow for a sharing of the costs and resources, and you'll each bring your strengths to the table.
Targeting and measurement
As the video medium continues to expand, targeting and measurement capabilities are also becoming more sophisticated: Media measurement companies like Nielsen and comScore are measuring user engagement at destination sites and providing targeting data to publishers and buyers. Publishers specializing in video content are building their own demographic and behavioral targets for advertisers. Online video analytics from rich media providers and companies like TubeMogul and Visible Measures allow marketers to wrap their video assets with code that helps report on audience demographics, distribution points, and levels of engagement with the content. Again, there is no single solution or silver bullet, but advertisers should begin to leverage these new targeting and measurement applications to enhance their online marketing IQ.
Influence of mobile
The influence of mobile devices and portable content will have a profound effect on video consumption and advertising models. Mobile devices are poised to be a key distribution channel for video content and ads in the future. While the U.S. is currently seeing around 5 percent mobile video usage, in Japan about 10 percent of mobile subscribers use their devices for video. Even as it takes time for mobile video consumption to catch up in the U.S., mobile participation is now a feature of many television shows and increasingly acts as a measureable call to action for television advertisements. Marketers have no choice but to draw mobile into their television and video ecosystems.
Our favorite video toys
- Amazon Video on Demand. We love its search capabilities and instant downloads to TiVo.
- Chumby's video widget collection. Play video clips in the kitchen over breakfast to catch up on the day's news.
The relationship era
Businesses and brands are acknowledging that relationships with customers are changing -- welcome to the relationship era. But how do businesses adapt when the concept of a consumer dialogue has been a historically foreign concept? By embracing social media.
Raquel Krouse is social practice lead at IPG Emerging Media Lab.
Advertising methods in the social media space are evolving. There are few roadmaps to follow and no sure-fire ways to launch successful programs. But we've witnessed some early marketing success stories that we can learn from. A common theme to early success is relationship building. While relying on the support and involvement of passionate people, social-media savvy companies recognize that a good relationship needs to be cultivated over time. A one-stop solution doesn't exist, but there are several things companies must do with social media right now.
The first step to succeeding in social media is active listening. Remember the good old suggestion boxes found on counter tops? You could write whatever you wanted on a piece of paper, drop it in the locked box, and see what happened. Most of the time, there was no follow up. Today, smart companies have transformed the oft-mocked suggestion box into a highly visible marketing asset. Examples of this are open innovation sites such as MyStarbucksIdea and Dell's Ideastorm. Companies need to follow their lead and get better at listening to uncover opportunities, stay competitive, manage their reputations, and avert crisis. Tools for listening include open innovation sites, private online communities, and monitoring services.
Use open, transparent, and skilled communication to address concerns, solve problems, and acknowledge praise. Successful social media initiatives are more about live conversations taking place through blogging, tweeting, and communicating with customers online than the technology that supports these programs. These people -- and not the technologies -- have humanized brands such as Comcast and Zappos and have proven that genuine conversations can have a bigger impact and greater reward than most social media tools.
The era of strict brand control is dead. Consumers have the tools now to widely share their thoughts and ideas for the products and services they love... and hate. To survive and excel in the relationship era, brands must provide customers with the tools to make a brand their own. Is it risky? Yes, but not as bad as you may think.
Brands retain more control over the quality of output if they provide a robust toolkit of assets. For example, Threadless.com is a T-shirt site that accepts submissions for new designs from its customers. The community votes on the winners, and the winning shirts are produced. Imagine the opportunities if you gave your customers the chance to design packaging and collaborate on features and marketing materials. Now you can see the power of crowdsourcing.
Own up when you've messed up
It takes a big person to admit he or she is wrong, apologize, and really mean it. But successful social media marketers are doing just this. Motrin recently apologized on the home page of its website to moms after unintentionally insulting this group. The company acknowledged consumer input was clearly defining how they would proceed in the future.
Consumers place high value on good corporate citizenship, and social media provides brands with a cost-effective way to demonstrate commitment to causes their customers care about. And, with social media, you can partner with your customers to make a bigger impact. eBay's Mission Fish and Facebook Causes promote message collaboration and delivery as much as donation.
Be fun and interesting
If you create great content, it will travel. In other media, brands must buy reach, but social media gives brands the opportunity to win reach. Pepsi's collaboration with "Saturday Night Live" for the Pepsuber Super Bowl spots spawned an entire series of spots... and love notes from consumers on video-viewing sites.
This is the year we will make better relationships. We will use the tools available now and those that have yet to come. We will listen, engage, and share with our customers. Because if we don't, just like in real-life relationships, someone else will.
My favorite social toys
- Social browsing. Socialbrowse is a Firefox add-on that lets you share and discuss any web page.
- Webreader. Webreader is great for multi-taskers who want to listen to blogs instead of reading them (speech enables blogs).
- Qikcom. Qikcom allows you to share and connect with colleagues.
The power of the branded app
When the IPG Emerging Media Lab team sat down to discuss desktop applications for this article, we could hardly agree on what "application" means. That's because our "desktop" is increasingly mobile, and increasingly applications live off the "cloud."
Devora Rogers is senior content manager at IPG Emerging Media Lab.
For marketers, it's a riddle worth solving because a consumer's desktop is valuable real estate, and every marketer wants access to the beachfront property of the digital world. But if a brand builds an app, will the people come? And where will that app live? On a user's PC desktop? The mobile phone? Or maybe a Facebook page?
Here's our quick applications primer, with a few trends we've got our eye on:
Apps must add value
Wherever an application ends up living, whether on the PC's desktop or on an iPhone, applications must give users something they don't already have. Functionality is key.
For example, both American Airlines and Southwest Airlines have developed widgets to keep in touch with their customers and build loyalty. AA's Travel Bag widget was created for users to share their travel plans on Facebook, while Southwest's Ding widget gives travelers updates on flight discounts, as well as quick access to the boarding and travel information.
Mobile apps are king
Applications now offer unprecedented access to a user's most sacred device: the cell phone. Brands that can build apps people like will win their way onto users' iPhones, Androids, and BlackBerrys. Branded mobile apps should seek to hit their target demo's sweet spot, such as Target's holiday gift globe app that suggested gift ideas with the shake of the iPhone.
Look to the cloud
The new buzzword for the internet is the "cloud." Much of our desktop is moving off our PCs and onto the web, and the folks at Google and Microsoft couldn't be happier about this. Cloud computing is happening in even the smallest places -- some of the best and most powerful examples of cloud computing aren't even recognized as such.
Peer-to-peer is a powerful way to distribute multiple copies of data across networked computers (the cloud) by aggregating bits and pieces around the web. And sync services, such as Exchange, keep contacts and calendars in sync across devices by utilizing a cloud centralized management. For those who make their living online, keeping users on the web for all their needs means more time searching, buying, and engaging. Marketers should stay tuned to new opportunities here.
Widgets: Viral ad units
YouTube created the first mass movement for widgets; the site's embeddable videos are actually widgets. (Widgets, for the uninitiated, are small bits of content that can be added to social network profiles, blogs, or homepages). eMarketer projected that companies may have spent $40 million in 2008 to push their widgets out into the world. Widgets turn the internet into a viral content system that allows brands to distribute content far beyond the walls of a brand's website. We particularly like Chevy's Earth Day widget, which plants a tree for each widget posted on a user's social profile page. Users are encouraged to "water" their widget on a regular basis.
Yahoo will soon bring customizable, branded widgets to its homepage with a Netflix app that lets users share their movie queue and ratings with their friends. Expect more websites to develop such sharing widgets, especially as open API becomes the standard among social networks and internet sites. Marketers should develop a concept, get in the game, and win their applications high-value placement on highly trafficked sites.
My favorite desktop toys
- WriteRoom. It blacks out your computer screen to make it look like an old word processor -- great for inspiration and productivity.
- OpenPandora. This streams Pandora without consuming browser memory and also syncs songs to your last.fm account.
- Cooliris. Though we wish this worked better, I love the concept of turning your browser into a 3D cinematic experience.
What marketers should watch in gaming
The gaming industry is undergoing a metamorphosis, as easy-to-access casual games are exploding. A recent Pew survey indicates that a majority of U.S. adults play video games. In 2008, worldwide sales revenue from video games exceeded DVD and Blu-ray sales for the first time. Traditional, or "core" gaming, is also seeing major shifts in its business model: Distribution is slowly being phased from brick and mortar stores to digital downloads; best-selling games are extending their longevity with downloadable content, such as the huge library of available songs for "Guitar Hero"; and games like "Spore" and "LittleBigPlanet" that emphasize user contribution are giving rise to user generated gaming.
Josh Lovison is the gaming and mobile practice lead at IPG Emerging Media Lab.
From a marketer's perspective, gaming has reached a scale that demands attention but presents an interesting challenge. Gaming presents a creative opportunity without a ceiling, but because it is an evolving space, it requires some innovation and initiative on the part of marketers.
Here are three places in the gaming landscape for marketers to watch:
Sony's venture into virtual worlds was met with hype, skepticism, disappointment, and surprise -- in that order. When the game was finally released, mainstream gaming press gave ambivalent reviews. What was surprising was that gamers didn't agree. In the first three weeks after the release, 3.4 million users visited Home. They spent an average of 50-60 minutes in the space, and spent more than $1 million in micro-transactions for virtual goods. Sony has released additional content since Home launched, including a Diesel and Ligne Roset virtual storefront, a Red Bull Air Races branded space, and "Resident Evil" branded virtual goods.
Xbox LIVE Community Games
Microsoft's Xbox LIVE Arcade is a successful example of lighter fare game content on consoles. Now Microsoft is expanding on the concept and introducing the Xbox LIVE Community Games channel to their LIVE experience. With this channel, hobbyist developers within their XNA program can build out simple games and then distribute them directly to Xbox 360s -- the model is reminiscent of Apple's AppStore. An interesting concept for marketers is sponsorship of better (potentially branded) tools within XNA, especially if that game were made into a full-fledged LIVE Arcade release.
Casual gaming's growth has been too fast and too widespread to ignore, as many game companies have shifted their business model to rely on casual gaming as a growth vector. This is a very good thing for marketers -- only the best solutions will survive and thrive. Wise marketers will invest in casual today, to learn and create relationships for the day after the bubble bursts.
(Full disclosure: the IPG Emerging Media Lab has a business relationship with UM and client relationships with Sony and Microsoft.)
My favorite gaming toys
- Flower (PS3)
- Fallout 3: Operation Anchorage (Xbox 360 and PC)
- Rolando for the iPhone
Mobile marketing's three best bets
After years of stasis, the mobile industry is finally opening up, and the culprit sits happily in Cupertino. The iPhone finally broke the Razr's grip on the market to become the best-selling U.S. mobile phone model in Q4 of 2008. Apple's success has become everyone's golden ticket, as other manufacturers adopt the form and functionality of the iPhone. The space has suddenly become highly competitive and, as a result, highly innovative.
Josh Lovison is the gaming and mobile practice lead at IPG Emerging Media Lab.
For marketers, this is the start of a golden age. With the Razr, 15 percent of users accessed the mobile web. With the iPhone, 80 percent do. In a survey from 2006, more than 50 percent responded that they absolutely would not use applications that were ad supported. Today, free ad-supported applications on the Apple AppStore are downloaded in far greater numbers than paid apps. The iPhone has redefined expectations for mobile, and nothing will be the same again.
Here are three spaces in mobile to keep an eye on:
There has been a lot of buzz about 2D codes, such as QR codes, and the success they have had in Japan. Vendors are vying to become the de facto standard, but the burden has been on marketers to align themselves with a solution that may not be supported long term. Meanwhile, advanced image recognition is becoming the latest trend.
This solution pre-registers collateral images, and then delivers a custom response to the registered image. Advance image recognition technology has a major advantage over 2D codes in that the "standard" is the existing image. No matter which vendor ends up coming out on top, marketers won't need to re-issue print collateral or packaging to adapt to a changing landscape.
Apple's AppStore has been a resounding success, with more than 500 million apps downloaded. Now, other smartphone operating system vendors are following suit. Android has the Android Market, the Palm Pre is getting the App Catalog, Windows Mobile will be getting SkyMarket, and RIM will also be releasing a centralized app store in 2009. Even Symbian is rumored to be working on a similar release.
The age of the mobile app is upon us, but the industry still needs to work out a solution to cross-platform development. The marketer's edge isn't only branded applications -- there are also ad networks providing SDKs that enable in-app advertising, including location based services. The most successful apps will power media and drive sales.
Four years ago, YouTube surprised everyone with its sheer volume of user-generated content. However, despite the widespread nature of the behavior, the process of digitizing and uploading video remains rather onerous.
This is why the trend of live video broadcast is going to be huge. Point and shoot, and immediately footage is web broadcast to contacts, and then archived for future reference.
My favorite mobile toys
- App store: The Palm Pre
- Image recognition: The SnapTell app for the iPhone
- Live broadcast: Qik app