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iMedia Podcast: Digital Future Trends

iMedia Podcast: Digital Future Trends Jeffrey Cole

The Center for the Digital Future, led by Jeff Cole, studies the impact of online technology on people's lives, and society in general. Its Digital Future Report examines the behavior and views of a national sample of 2,000 internet users and non-users, as well as comparisons between new users -- those with less than one year of experience -- and very experienced users, defined as those with seven or more years of experience.

In July 2004, Cole joined the USC Annenberg School for Communication as director of the newly formed Center for the Digital Future and as a research professor. Prior to joining USC, Cole served as director of the UCLA Center for Communication Policy, based in the Anderson Graduate School of Management. At UCLA and now at USC Annenberg, Cole founded and directs the World Internet Project, a long-term longitudinal look at the effects of computer and internet technology on all aspects of society, which is conducted in over 20 countries. At the announcement of the project in June 1999, Vice President Al Gore praised Cole as a “true visionary providing the public with information on how to understand the impact of media.”

In today's presentation, Cole describes five new emerging trends that your organization will want to leverage.

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Jeff Cole, director, USC Annenberg School's Center for the Digital Future

Introduction by Brad Berens, executive editor, iMedia Connection.

35.43, 24.5 MB, MP3

For years, marketers have played the role of the golfer, taking out a separate club for each target, and driving their message home as forcefully as possible. Marketers were more concerned with what they said than what the target heard, creating an endless series of monologues that fell on deaf ears.

Marketers who continually support their customers through the course of life, providing value in each communication, will find themselves scoring big in 2008. This value exchange can come in many forms, but only if the marketer truly understands the needs and aspirations of its target and commits to engaging in a genuine dialogue at every point of contact. Now is the time for marketers to be the caddie and to treat marketing as a service, to deliver real value to customers and prospects alike.

Marketers, like most duffers, tend to take a different swing with each club, resulting in inconsistent messages that fly all over the place. The need for an integrated approach to marketing is not news today, nor will it be in 2008. What will be news is the increased reliance on idea shops like Naked, Anomaly and Renegade.

J&J made headlines by hiring Naked to guide communications planning for as many as 10 of its largest brands, including baby products. These shops will be tapped to provide the big idea -- the perfect swing to reach the target regardless of the marketing discipline.

Finding the integrated idea that works across various media is more important than ever, even in a search-dominated world. A recent study by JupiterResearch shows that 39 percent of online searchers are significantly influenced by offline messaging, a fresh reminder that while it usually takes more than one club to win a match, without a consistent swing, the game is lost.

Being on the fairway consistently puts any golfer in a good mood. Marketers will hit their "fairway" in 2008, adding behavioral targeting to their contextual search efforts. For the uninitiated, behavioral targeting is the ability to deliver online ads to consumers based on their recent viewing behavior. Contextual targeting is the fancy term for search buys on Google, MSN and Yahoo.

AOL certainly believes in the future of behavioral targeting, having spent $275 million this year to buy Tacoda, the category leader. Tacoda claims to reach 120 million people in 31 discrete audience segments every month. eMarketer predicted this year that behavioral targeting will increase 10-fold over the next five years, growing from $350 million to $3.8 billion in ad spending. Other behavioral targeting firms, including Revenue Science, WhenU and newcomer Collective Media are expected to share in this growth.

A test we ran for Panasonic yielded 50 percent more imminent buyers of a particular consumer electronics product, making it a fair ways better than a simple search buy. If you haven't yet taken a swing with Tacoda and friends, put it on your short list for 2008.

Playing golf without a putter is a fool's errand. With 70 percent (some say 80 percent) broadband penetration in the U.S., streaming video is no longer optional, it is a must-have club in your marketing bag. According to eMarketer, 123 million Americans watch a video at least once a month and three-quarters of those people tell a friend about a video they have seen.

Whether you are a B2B or B2C marketer, video represents an enormous opportunity to engage, educate and entertain your target. Ninety-two percent of newspapers now have video content on their websites, up from 61 percent in 2006. Lots of brands are creating informative instructional videos to help their customers understand how to install or use their particular product or service. Others are creating pure entertainment with the hope that it will build brand affinity or drive web traffic, but the ubiquity of video is not without its challenges.

With more than 7 million hours of video content on the web, cutting through will require quality storytelling and judicious editing. One 2007 study notes that video viewing drops off dramatically after just 30 seconds. Short and sweet videos will be the "up and down" of 2008, getting your web traffic up and your complaint calls down.

Just as new technology is changing the game of golf, allowing players to drive balls longer and straighter, new mini-software applications called "widgets" are providing marketers unprecedented access to hard-to-reach targets.

If you spend any time on Facebook and MySpace you will have witnessed the explosion of widgets in 2007. According to ComScore, more than 220 million folks used widgets in the month of May alone. iLike, which allows Facebook users to share their iTunes playlists, grew to more than 10 million users in its first 10 months. Slide, which allows users to create slideshows and embed them into their social network homepages, claims to be the largest personal media network in the world, reaching 120 million unique viewers every month. Expect savvy marketers to test the limits of widgets in 2008.

Though membership at Augusta may be out of reach, marketers will be wise to join the right clubs in 2008 by capitalizing on the growing appeal of social networks. Besides the Goliaths like MySpace and Facebook, growing social networks exist in just about every niche of life, from teens (Pizco and Tagged) to seniors (Eons) to photographers (Flickr) to young do-gooders (AllDayBuffet) to B2B (LinkedIn and Plaxo) to gamblers (BetsGoWild, a Renegade client) to just about every interest group (MeetUp).

Renegade is in the process of building a virtual Gilda's Club for cancer patients and their loved ones as a means of extending and enhancing Gilda's Club's 20 physical locations. For Chase, creating a partnership with Facebook has helped make its "+1" credit card become the card of choice among college kids.

Other marketers might be smart to create a social network for their target if one doesn't exist or to take an existing virtual social network and make it physical (Second Life had its first offline convention in 2007). So figure out how you can join the club in 2008 or risk being left out of all the fun.

Most private clubs have banned cell phones from their courses and, frankly, most marketers have treated mobile with equal reticence. 2008 may be the year to give mobile a closer look as technological improvements and new products create fresh opportunities for marketers to engage mobile users. On the technology front, Bluetooth-enabled phones have made it easier for mobile marketers to provide contextually relevant information to their targets. The U.S. Air Force set up Bluetooth transmitters at racetracks as a means of communicating with possible recruits. Apple's iPhone, which seamlessly moves from cell to WiFi coverage, partnered with Google and Yahoo to enable ad-supported programming. A new service, Cellfire, has enlisted a million people to receive coupons for everything from burgers to videos.

The promise of mobile marketing is that it can deliver highly personalized and useful information right when you need it. As long as marketers don't send out annoying SMS-spam, mobile marketing could be the missing link in personalized communications in 2008.

Millions of non-golfers found themselves swinging virtual clubs this year as the Nintendo Wii transformed the notion of video games. Senior citizen centers brought in Wiis to help entertain guests and to provide an easy way for them to connect with their grandkids. This is but one of the many ways that gaming permeates our society, creating fresh ways for marketers to connect with their targets.

Recognizing the growth in gaming, MTV is investing $500 million in online games, on top of the millions it has already spent acquiring sites like AddictingGames.

Currently, gaming accounts for 13 percent of online time but only 1 percent of online ad dollars. Even B2B marketers will be smart to give gaming a fresh look in 2008 while seeking ways to blend messaging, training and/or recruiting efforts with gaming media. 

Though more kids probably played indoor golf on their favorite gaming platform than outside on a real course, the big surprise in 2007 was the growth of the out-of-home advertising industry. Growing faster than every medium except the internet, this old standby reinvented itself as a technology-rich means of engaging, entertaining and educating commuters -- commuters who are spending more and more time stuck in transit. MINI Cooper tested RFID-activated billboards that sent personalized messages to customers when they drove underneath. This highly customized approach linked "old" outdoor with "new" online, transforming an integrated media program into a cult-building private club, much to the delight of MINI drivers.

"Narrowcasting" video networks continue to sprout up, offering marketers a chance to get their messages in front of selective targets like health clubbers, deli shoppers (Captive Audience), moviegoers (IdeaCast), pet owners (SeeSaw Networks) and elevator riders (Captivate Network). A new electroluminescent vinyl called GlowSkin from Safe Lites allows vehicle wraps to literally transform before your eyes.

This and other innovations will drive out-of-home to new heights in 2008.

AT&T's "@SummerBreak" campaign

Oh, Millenials. So elusive, yet so powerful. AT&T made it clear this year it was going after Millenials, and it has done just that. With the goal of reaching a specific target audience and getting them to follow AT&T on social channels, it launched a @SummerBreak campaign. The campaign, a digital video series that existed solely on social media channels, tapped into five YouTube influencers (which are really the strongest influencers right now) to film a series. The storyline entails a group of smartphone-addicted teenagers as they spend their last summer together and get ready for college life.

The series racked up more than 15 million views on YouTube and 10 million social engagements. It was such a success, there were two seasons.

Urban Hilton Weiner's selfie coupon codes

Urban Hilton Weiner, a South African clothing brand, launched a very unique and creative campaign that all retailers should consider. Its "pay with a selfie" campaign took the fashion brand to a whole new level. Urban Hilton Weiner wasn't a particularly big name before its "pay with a selfie" campaign, but now it's one of the most talked about brands in fashion.

Customers shopping for clothes in-store could post a selfie wearing its clothes and post it on social media (Instagram, Twitter, etc.) using the hashtag #urbanselfie to receive a $10 coupon.

This campaign was truly ingenious and accomplished everything that any retailer would want from a social media initiative -- it encouraged social sharing, showcased pieces of its clothing, and most importantly, gets people buying its clothes. In fact, French Connection, Marc Jacobs, and others have launched similar campaigns since.

P&G's Always #LikeAGirl campaign

Add this one to the stack of CPG women's self-help effort campaigns that have been launching recently. But this one is a bit different. In the video, adults and a kid brother are asked to show what it looks like to run, fight, and throw like a girl. They make silly and highly stereotyped efforts. Then, young girls (I would get around 10ish) are asked to do the sale thing. These girls make confident and energetic efforts. The message: Girls' confidence plummets during puberty, and Always wants to change the perception of the phrase "like a girl."

Needless to say, this campaign spread like wildfire generating 31 million views in the first week. To date, the video is over 53 million.

Tesco's Secret Scan-ta app

England-based grocery and general merchandise retailer has come up with a pretty fantastic way to choose gifts this year -- by scanning your friend's or family's Twitter stream. It works by scanning that person's Twitter stream and providing a gift recommendation based on the content shared.

Now, I'm not sure how great the gift suggestions are, but in any event, it's a very clever way to get people engaged and sharing.

April Fools: climate controlled Virgin flights

Each year, brands take April Fools' Day in their stride and join in the fun with some believable, and many unbelievable tricks. This past April, Virgin America did one that I absolutely loved.

Richard Branson proudly announced on YouTube that Virgin America would like to give more control to the passengers by introducing Total Temperature Control (TTC). This new feature would allow passengers to create their own personal climate controlled environment on the plane. With a partnership with Nest thermostats, this joke seemed pretty real. Virgin is always on the cutting edge of trendy technology and the fact that both CEOs appeared in the very professionally developed video made this joke pretty believable.

Brands are getting more and more strategic with their social campaigns. The generic "pin-it-to-win-it" contest isn't going to make it onto this list anymore. So, get creative!

Lauren Friedman is head of global social business enablement at Adobe Systems.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

Jeffrey Cole has been at the forefront of media and communication technology issues both in the United States and internationally for the past three decades. An expert in the field of technology and emerging media, Cole serves as an adviser to...

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