Cables, wires, cords, and plugs are snaking through landfills. Connecting to the web increasingly means disconnecting from grounded intermediary physical devices such as telephone outlets, modems, and ethernet cables. The web is increasingly mobile, and that doesn't apply only to mobile devices such as cellular phones and smartphones. Tablets, e-books, Wi-Fi, EVDO cards, and Bluetooth are also spurring the trend.
Thinner, lighter, and, above all, cheaper laptops are nudging desktop PCs into the dustbin. Four years ago, laptops outsold PCs for the first time, thanks in part to the pervasiveness of wireless networks. Tablet devices are spurring that trend even further. Increasingly, content is decoupling from the devices it was traditionally consumed on.
TV on your PC? YouTube on the boob tube? No problem.
When consumers and the devices they use to access and consume media and content de- and re-couple, marketing implications aren't far behind. The following are a few implications some of these significant technology shifts have on marketing.
As an increasing number of households connect to the web via Wi-Fi, so too do businesses like coffee shops and laundromats, public parks, and libraries. Even entire municipalities now offer web access to customers and the general public. Wi-Fi has taken to the skies, as well as to any number of mobile devices.
Sure, this trend provides the obvious and oft-discussed sponsorship opportunities ("brought to you by..."). But other concerns for marketers and advertisers also unfold. How visible is your ad on smaller devices -- a cell phone, a laptop, who knows? Are users in public likely to turn up the volume to hear that audio? Will they be using earphones?
In addition to such challenges, there are opportunities, albeit largely unexplored ones. How can malls and other large retail establishments best market to users on their networks? What about event and sports promoters leveraging opportunities at concerts, arenas, and live events?
Email to go, or all but gone?
Email is increasingly read on mobile devices, yet mobile email standards are practically nonexistent and likely to remain so for quite some time (iOS! Symbian! Android! Windows!). When images don't render, measurement is all but impossible. Mobile users, meanwhile, spend considerably less time reading commercial messages, not to mention clicking through to landing pages, as dictated by research (and common sense).
All these issues present challenges -- and no fast or easy answers -- for email marketers.
TV and web advertising: One and the same?
That TV ads could become as personalized and addressable as online commercial messages seems farfetched, but in reality it might not be far off. The same could hold true for mobile advertising.
It makes sense when you consider "mobile" in the context of web-enabled (e.g., an iPhone or untethered laptop) rather than as a synonym for "cell phone." Consumers are fairly rapidly ditching "cell phones" in favor of web-enabled devices, and that's where targeting and personalization become much easier for marketers to cope with. Mobile marketing will require more of the known and less of a learning curve.
How's this like TV advertising? TV advertising will necessarily become more like web advertising. Not only are people consuming TV content on their digital devices (think not only online video but also TV captured on DVRs), but they're also doing the inverse -- consuming web content on their TVs, courtesy of digital home networks. It becomes more meta with the advent of IPTV.
Bye-bye, cable box and satellite dish. Hello, targeted ads in the form of personalization and addressability.
Everything (and everyone) is everywhere
TVs are as likely to be online as web content is likely to be on TV. Even personal content has followed suit and drifted to the cloud. Online applications and storage (think Dropbox, Google Docs, Flickr, YouTube, calendars, and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter) open opportunities for contextual advertising as they disconnect users from devices with massive storage capacity and hardwired connections. Why shouldn't that spreadsheet you're working on be as accessible as cash from an ATM (if not more so)?
Increasingly, you won't know if you're marketing to someone sitting on the beach, flying through the air, or working away, whether at home or at the office. All those scenarios are increasingly probable. Correspondingly, marketing messages must become more bite-sized (think mindshare on the go) and personal.
Yet metrics will get tougher as users access more devices -- their own, as well as those belonging to friends and family. Mobility and portability don't necessarily go hand in hand.
That consumers are disconnecting makes them more connected than ever. Figuring out how best to reach this newly untethered audience is one of the biggest challenges ahead.
Rebecca Lieb is an analyst, digital advertising/media, for Altimeter Group.
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