The discipline of media planning and buying has been, for a long time, the domain of specialists in a given medium. Even today, in spite of all the talk about integration, the elimination of silos, and looking at an advertiser's communications plans holistically and comprehensively, each medium is largely handled by those who specialize in it.
Specialists are great to have. They are necessary. And they will continue to be necessary. Someone intimately familiar with how the impact of television can be maximized and measured is as indispensable as the person who assembles an online media plan with sites that are deemed as having the best chance to deliver on the objective set forth by the advertiser.
But the future belongs to the person/people/organization that can pull insight from each of these specialists and put them together into one great meta-image. Someone has to be able to coordinate the myriad voices into one celestial hymn -- a music of media that comes from the clouds.
The clouds I'm talking about consist of content.
In the days of old, each medium was looked upon as the repository of the content it brought to us. A story was in the magazine or newspaper; the news was on the radio; comedy was on TV. The internet is on the computer.
This is no longer the case. Content exists in a great big cloud, and each media device serves as a doorway through which we pass to get it and bring it to us. The same movement that has come to computing -- cloud computing -- is evolving in media. The device through which the content we want is retrieved only matters to the craftsmen and manufacturers of it, making sure the content we want can pass comfortably through the door.
As a consumer of media, I don't think about it as being on TV, in a magazine, on the internet, or on my mobile device. I just get my content and use it. I've never seen an episode of "Lost" on TV. I've watched it first on my iPod and now on my iPhone. But I don't think about my consumption in terms of the device I use; I think of it as "watching 'Lost'"
Media companies providing content, advertisers seeking to exploit it, and the agencies that service those advertisers, are all going to have to start thinking about media differently than a collection of dissimilar platforms that are lumped loosely together simply by the word "media." And they have to stop treating each platform as a "place" where content resides. Content is everywhere, but it lives nowhere.
The recent inauguration of President Barack Obama was witnessed by millions and millions of people across the world. They watched it on TV, they watched it via Hulu.com, and they streamed it over their iPhones. They emailed about it, posted thoughts and images on Facebook, and Twittered each image, each word of the speech, and each reaction to them. The content didn't belong to any medium; the content just "was," and the masses pulled from a plethora of platforms to engage it. And the content is still out there, floating around in that cloud, accessible on-demand through a variety of devices at any time.
The marketer of the NOW should continue looking at each medium to see what it contributes to the communication delivery goal that, when achieved, will deliver on the necessary business objective. In many ways, the media and advertising business has become kind of like what the music business has been -- a distribution business. But it needs to become what the music business needs to become: a content business. Or at least a specialist in content -- where it goes, how it's used, what people feel about it, and what kinds of affects an ad message has being associated with it. (This is where the heavy analytics come in; something agencies are paying a lot more attention to these days.)
Advertising needs to be designed from the outside-in. It needs to start with media, not a medium. It needs to start with content. From there, find out where the content goes. This is the great challenge facing marketing and where the data aggregators can fill a vital role.
We need to know where content goes. Advertisers should then find a way to be a part of it, never settling on one platform or another as the repository of the message. Twitter, Facebook, Hulu.com, ABC Networks… these are places for content and your advertiser's associated brand messages to move through. These are not homes, they are way stations.