Are We Giving Away The Opportunity to Truly Broaden Our Base?

Sort of following along the lines of yesterday’s post – have recent trends and technological advances caused us to become less effective in marketing and the opportunities or choices available?

It used to be that a commercial could run during a Broadcast Television Primetime Show and you knew the basic demos.  Not every commerical would be relevant or extremely tareted, but you saw the ones that did not occur while you were running to the bathroom or grabbing another drink and you might have been turned on to another product or experience that you never knew about before.  The advent of digital media and the targeting that came with that led to the drive to optimize spends for as little wasted impressions as possible.  Unfortunately, I see a huge negative effect in that.  Certainly its something we’ve got to be aware of and look to diminish any downside.

To get deeper into what I’m talking about, let’s look at some of the realities in online and mobile media:

Narrowcasting: When cable came into play and there were many more channels to choose from, the consensus was that people would have a much broader view of the world – when in fact, most people watch the same 15-20 channels all the time.  In the same way, When the internet planted its flag in the ground, everyone talked about how people would have access to everything – anytime, anywhere.  While the anytime. anywhere is becoming more and more true, the “everything” is just not possible.  Instead of reading through a paper to get to my team’s news, political information or local events and stumbling across bits of information about other things, I am able to go directly to my team app or specific local events feeds with little chance of broadening my knowledge or perspective.  It happens in both cable and online/mobile.  people can go their whole day, month, year or decade consuming media that is absolutely targetted to them  and people exactly like them.  not much chances for new experiences there.

Targeting: Cookies have been around as long as we’ve been connection to the internet.  They, and other techonological nuggets are in place to help us in many ways – including keeping track of our preferences and the places we’ve been to.  I do believe that it is the collateral damage of our privacy that I am willing to give up to be able to enjoy my online/mobile experience – to an extent.  What happens though, is that the information is used in a way that can be offputting and not really advantageous to us or the advertisers that are trying to reach us.   Until now, the emphasis has been on where we’ve been and what we’ve seen.  Even with targeted ads, we see many ads that are no longer relevant to us – we’ve brought the product or our interest was just in an article, not a movement. I don’t want to get into too much detail here, but the debate about targeting is certainly in the air based on two other posts today – one by Adam Kleinberg on iMedia and the other by David Morgan on MediaPost. Both are good reads that delve a little deeper into the targetting.  They are from different perspectives, but still get to the point, I believe, of question how targeted do we want to be and what that could mean.

Privacy: There is certainly a growing concern about privacy and it all reminds me of the first 3 episodes of the Star Wars saga (forgive me for referencing episodes 1-3) when everyone voted to give power to what would become the Empire.  Sure, most people would say they want privacy, as long as its not inconvenient. Wendy Davis reports about those numbers – 81% of respondents want an anti-track mechanism – in her post on the Daily Online Examiner for MediaPost.  Her article and a reader’s comment at its bottom already reinforce what I’ve written above if you want to read more.  People already have the power to control their privacy, but its too much to actually do something about.

So, unless there is a mechanism to get into people’s minds and serve them with something pertaining to their wants or needs, there’s going to be a lot of waste with targeting and the opportunity to stumble upon something by accident and broaden minds will diminish.

Even without the rise in DVR usage, it would be harder and harder to have any brand or business reach so many people so easily as to create the water-cooler conversation we might have had about those cheesy Mentos ads, Where’s the Beef, or Mean Joe Green.

Ultimately, it doesn’t have to be as dire as that. 

Of course, it is not as simple to pull a trigger on one execution to reach gazillions of people – as it was just 10-15 years ago.  But, with a good strategy, that could be mitigated.  It’s tough because technology, society and diversity will make it harder and harder to reach larger masses of people and create a zeitgeist – and those who come up with the models to reach the most people in the right way will continue to grow.  Hopefully, they’ll bring the rest of the world with them.

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