Tag Archives: Future

If All Screens Are TVs, What Then?

TVolution Last week, the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences announced that they would be awarding prestigious Emmy Awards in an expansion of the short-form series category. The deeper explanation of categories and requirements is:

The Emmys has expanded the short-form series awards to four categories: comedy or drama; variety; reality/non-fiction; and animation. Series must have a minimum of six episodes with an average length of 15 minutes or less, and be shown on traditional TV or via the Internet. Awards have also been added for short-form actor and actress as well.

What struck me is the inclusion of something that was not traditionally television within a “traditional” television environment. While not completely out of line with what the academy has done in the past – they have a membership group that focuses on digital content and they already expanded the meaning of Primetime when they included cable shows that could effectively be consumed at any time (a la HBO, Showtime, BBC) nearly two decades ago, before even DVRs and time shifting came around – it certainly seemed a bit of a land grab for an organization to stay relevant in the shifting of landscapes to an unknown future.

Then, there’s a lot of noise about Facebook making a play for the streaming rights to NFL games over the past day or so that really brings to question:

What do we consider a TV moving forward?
If all screens are TVs, how are people going to interact with them and content?
When will we start gaining from data insights in making it a better experience?

Just looking at Facebook and their want for live sports content, they’ve already driven video views on the platform to 100MM per day. The opportunity to completely do away with second screen environments – where your friend’s comments appear adjacent to the video, effectively making it a huge virtual sofa – is an evolutionary game changer. And, the predictive opportunity for delivering content based specifically on what you’ve been interested in that day or even that hour is mind-numbing.

One challenge in all of this is how closely tied to the past TV – of any form -remains. Though the rising interactivity allows for lean forward video consumption, there are far more viewers sticking to the lean back model. They still might make a selection off their DVR, VOD, or even that time-worn event of choosing a channel, but why can’t we start moving toward content delivered in linear fashion based on what you would probably be interested in right now?

Why do we see a huge amount of content highlighted based on what we watched in the middle of the night on Netflix when I’m logging in with my kids mid-day on a weekend? How come I do an incredible amount of searching on Google, yet their owned YouTube only prompts videos that I’ve already showed my kids on my computer a month prior? When will Facebook come forward with a “You’ll Also Like” product based on what video I’ve consumed and not what my friends post? (To give Facebook credit, they’ve done something like this, but it comes across as being more advertising than value-add.)

I do see a time when we will be able to turn on a stream of content – both short and long-form – and predictive technologies will line up the content and you can choose to watch or skip. The reality is that there is so much data there, it’s sort of silly not to use it. Whether it is Google or Facebook that have people exploring on a daily basis – and they also deliver content – or Cable/Satellite providers who might have relationships with data providers, there should be an ability to curate in real-time what the viewer might want right now. The use of data right now is usually only good for showing me what I was interested in then. Imagine the possibilities if we could have what is top-of-mind now delivered to us.

Perhaps this thinking isn’t even breaking enough from the TV norms as we know them. As much of content is evolutionary, perhaps this will just be a step to opening our minds and experiences to enable an content distribution/consumption cycle we can’t even yet conceive of.

For those reasons, I’m excited about the question of “What Then?”

In Digital Media, Old School’s Not Where Its At

I Like MediaMind. I really do. They have been tremendous partners in assisting me in numerous game-breaking marketing executions over the years.  The ability to pull off some really cool things in the media space is helped greatly by their drive for trying new things and pushing the boundaries for rich media. That’s why I can only shake my head and wonder why they are wasting time rallying about old-style data points. In this fast-paced age of digital media, why do providers keep going back to the dated modicum of click-throughs that are such old news – especially when there’s so many data points that are so much cooler. As we all try to convey the possibilities of digital media at scale, its time that we invest in the future and not go Old School.

As the leader in digital media serving around the world (especially in light of their acquisitions of large rivals over the past year), MediaMind can steer advertisers toward using metrics that matter – both in providing richer context and clearer benefits in the medium. Instead, it just feels that they are hinging on the same-old, same-old. Their recent study examined 24,000 ad creatives serving over 12 billion impressions to compare effectiveness of rich media versus standard banners in driving site traffic. The take-away was roughly the fact that users who interacted with rich media ads incorporating video were almost 6x as likely to visit the advertiser’s website than those who saw standard banners.

The entire basis of comparison is out of whack to begin with. Obviously, those who interact with rich media banners are paying attention and you can count those as a true impression (for the most part). But standard units are ignored or not even seen for most of the time. Why would you even want to compare them unless your numbers were even more exponentially higher?

Additionally, with rich media, there is so much more that matters like dwell time and even the opportunity to track type of engagement and purchase completions. I would have rather seen a straight comparison between types of rich media engagement rather than between what can technically be considered oranges (rich) and apples (standard) – and in some circles, juicy oranges and rotting apples…

Perhaps its the scale and the feeling that people are impressed by larger aggregate numbers that a CTR stat can bring you. Perhaps it is because not enough advertisers are sharing sales completion stats with MediaMind for their study. I believe we are slowly (OK, extremely slowly) moving toward planners warming to more meaningful numbers on a smaller scale than useless numbers on the large-scale. If anyone is in a place to lead the charge to more meaningful data, MediaMind (DG) would be it.

GM, Gal Trifon is quoted saying, “By investing in more engaging experiences powered by rich media and video, advertisers increase the chance that consumers will spend valuable time with their brand.” This would have sounded pretty great a few years ago, but it’s not where the planners’ or advertisers’ heads are today.  They want to know how it will enhance conversion to sales or clear ROI. Unfortunately, digital media was pitched for so long as being able to provide exact conversion data – which traditional media has not absolutely been able to do.  Because of that, those details have been waited for and they aren’t readily available.  How much longer will we be able to rely on the esoteric or the warm-fuzzy figures of dwell and engagement?

As I said at the beginning, I really like MediaMind.  I’ll just like them more when they are able to provide that real data that advertisers are looking for – even if they themselves don’t know what that is. They should take advantage of  their innovative spirit, size and market share to force that shift by providing that data that matters. They can do so much more to lead the industry into the future rather than keeping it relatively anchored to a couple of years ago.

MTV’s Large-Scale Light That We Should All Pounce On

MTV and MoMA (specifically their PS1 imprint) have gone retro with some great “new” programming that will hopefully do wonders for the arts in general.  In partnership with non-profit public arts group, Creative Time, they are bringing back a show from the ’80s that celebrates the video art form. The Art Breaks programming consists for 30 second interstitials that will air on MTV shedding a light on the urban art scene, among others. What first began in 1985 will begin anew.  I know I saw them when they first came out and had no idea who Jean-Michel Basquiat or Keith Haring or Kenny Scharff when they were shown in Art Breaks on MTV in my mid teens, but there was certainly no other way I was going to be able to experience them otherwise.  Even while I attended arts schools, these artists weren’t celebrated in schools – yet these artists were the ones who were resonating with me. Those early experiences played a heavy part in my art appreciation now – and certainly play themselves out in my current love of collecting art. This sort of contextual promotion of the arts on a large-scale is absolutely needed and the model MTV provides should be pounced upon as often as possible by brands and media outlets.

Image from Original MTV Art Break series clip featuring Basquiat

With schools reducing expenditures for arts classes and experiences when they are needed most, somebody must jump into the fray or else our future is in major trouble. If you don’t think that’s the case, take a look at the state of the arts over the past few decades when government money has dwindled and appreciation for the arts has been made available only to ever smaller groups of students.  There is an increasing limit on new and provocative works of art, film or theatre.  Different forms of imagination are being pushed to the wayside with a growing “normalness” all around. As a sign of the times, there are many people who are great at the technical aspects of business, but not so great at the imaginative parts and the amounts of companies that take off exponentially are dwindling. But those existing companies can do much to address it. Even sports entities can get into the act – just look at what Leroy Neiman did (and still does) in joining the sports realm and art. He was able to do it through magazines, like Playboy, that were the zenith at the time.  Others can do the same if given the opportunity on big enough platforms today.

Even Apple – who has so much in their reserves – should be doing more to contextually bring the arts to the masses.  Perhaps instead of providing dividends (or as much as they might be providing) they should be providing financial resources that enable kids and young adults to have more experiences that raise the level of imagination.  In the least, Brands should be looking to do their part by marrying the arts and their products in ways that make sense.

There have been instances in the past where brands might have done something with the arts on a smaller scale.  Some examples are a program Hot Wheels did with Gallery 1988, or hotels bringing art into the mix (but you would hope the guests are already attuned to what is out there), or even what Disney is doing with artists for their Vinylmation Figures line, it may not be enough.  They are either hitting people in too pointed or niche of a way, or the luxury brands are hitting the people who, while a great benefit to society, are the people who are least in need.

There is a huge opportunity to generate arts awareness in products or advertising, but an even larger one is in the sponsorship of festivals or events.  But, I’m not talking about sponsorship just to get the name recognition.  There’s got to be some partnerships to promote arts awareness and education in general. By just sponsoring an event and not incorporating any of the outreach that would lead to a larger scale, it just doesn’t hold the power that more programs like Art Breaks on MTV would bring.

There are probably a slew of programs that I don’t even know about, but those should be lauded and celebrated. The incorporation of young artist designs on Volcom shirts are great, but they are few and far in between. The same could be said about the partnership with Levi’s Jeans support of ART IN THE STREETS at MOCA.  Its good, but not enough.

We’re all missing out in the long run if there is nothing to drive interest in the arts among the masses – and the 13-24 demo is a perfect place to aim for.  Does it do the best thing for the brands who execute the programs? That will depend on who is doing it and what the context is. But there are certainly creative ways to make it a win-win.  In ever-smaller circles, much emphasis is being placed on the value of art by the likes of Damian Hirst/Warhol/Gaugin, the sales of performances of the dance masterpieces by Ailey/Tharp/Joffrey, or the resonant brilliance of Glass/Handel/Shostakovich, but the true value of expanding the reach of the arts like these and more goes far beyond a sale.  It goes to the very core of our society not turning into IDIOCRACY. If you’ve seen that movie, you know what I mean.  If you haven’t, you should.

The classic meaning of the Patrons of the Arts is almost gone and the void is ripe for filling by the brands and mediums that have the reach like no others.  It’s time to step up and grasp the change for the benefit of our future. If MTV is, we all should…

Could Nevada’s New Law Be A Front For A New Mobile Advertising Format?

Just last week, Nevada finalized making robotic cars legal with special licenses.  The fact that such a thing would be done is cool enough in itself since we’ve been fantasizing about cars that take us where we want and would actually rather that we not pay attention.  I, for one, would feel a whole lot safer having humans taken out of the equation in this age of texting and short attention spans.  The video that is on NPR’s site is quite cool in conveying what goes into the mechanics better than most videos I have seen out there. While the whole piece focuses mostly on the legalities the Nevada DMV has provided, could the true gain for Google be that Nevada is actually helping them create yet another advertising platform?

Looking at the fact that Google has already logged over 200,000 miles of robotic driving in California with no legal standing to do so and the fact that these cars are a number of years away from hitting the markets, the new Nevada license plates are effectively just another step in the elevating excitement about the possibilities.  With other States in line to enact laws and license allowing robotic cars, those too will keep the buzz going and storylines prevalent until the car is complete and in the market – then we get to see what it’s really all about.

I have certainly been dreaming about cars that drive themselves since seeing them in saturday morning kids shows in the 70s.  It has always been about the joy of just keying in where I want to go and then getting there as if I had my very own chauffeur.

Seeing now that Google is far along in development, it got me thinking about what the possibilities are – based on the fact that a company so steeped in advertising is leading the charge in developing these cars.

We are already seeing the continued seepage of computers and applications into our car interfaces.  With those, the opportunities to skip radio advertising altogether or interact with advertising in a different altogether has become the norm.  I’m sure there would be more advertising delivered to us through our car applications if the government was not so worried about our paying attention to the road…  If we no longer had to pay attention to the road, can you imagine what the ramifications would be?

As quickly as we could key in our destination, the car’s computer could load up all of the route-relevant advertising.  Rather than making a last second decision to swerve across two lanes to go into a parking lot because you just thought of buying something there, “drivers” could be warned a couple of minutes ahead that there might be something of interest they want to stop at.  Users could even set it to always know where the closest clean bathroom is – just in case their newly-potty-trained child suddenly has to go.

With hands free, “drivers” would have noting to do, so of course they will be demanding advertising to be shown on screens throughout the vehicle (since they can now look anywhere.) Perhaps creating the new technology of cars driving themselves is really more about the software than the hardware?  Perhaps its Google’s version of my kid’s Leap Pad that requires you to only buy products from them at inflated prices. If Google created the media platform – a truly new mobile platform – and demanded that all advertising go through them, wouldn’t that create a form of financial euphoria for them?

Actually, I hope the above paragraph is not the case.  The closest I have come to that experience is sitting in a cab in New York or Las Vegas and seeing those annoying videos and I don’t care to have that same experience in my own car – even if it is driving me. But, there’s something to be said for being smart about smart advertising.

Nevada and all other states that create special licensing for robots are absolutely not complicit in creating a new media platform. But, Google’s play in this is an interesting look into the future – beyond just a car that drives itself.

I don’t know when it will come, but I still look forward to getting in my car and playing with all the available gadgets as I get from point A to point B. I just hope its not solely about Google creating a truly mobile advertising platform.

The Challenge Of Engaging The Digital Wow Factor

I’ve been guilty of it, too.  Especially in entertainment. There is such a hope to  emulate through online creative what happens in the move you are promoting. No matter how much I want that robotic thingy to destroy the publisher’s page or that character to fly from the leaderboard unit to the MPU, it’s just not that simple. The work done for the movies is infinitely more intense than what the marketing time or budgets will allow. We are so used to seeing amazing effects that even the casual viewer takes for granted what goes into the building of the polished product. Too often, I have had a vendor create something phenomenal – where they seemed to have pulled much more than a rabbit out of their hat – and either senior management, clients or awards judges see something done so flawlessly that they don’t appreciate what actually went into it.  Sadly, the lack of appreciation for these things cause budgets to be cut and the amount of kick-ass executions are minimized.

There’s more than budgets in play here. There’s the limited time or access to assets that cause marketers to shoot for the easiest solution.  In the case of entertainment, I feel that the goal should be to envelop the audience/user in the narrative so that they are emotionally engaged.  With the opportunity to do something special – like I was able to do with PREDATORS and AVATAR, you’re able to effectively jump off the screen.  Lately, its become much more about showing video only – and even more limiting, it is often just a matter of placing TV spots online. There’s such a greater opportunity to engage users differently online that re-purposing television or even theatrical spots does not always make the most sense.

As video ads are huge and only getting larger – with Forrester predicting that video ad spends will nearly triple (from 2B in 2011 to 5.4B in 2016) – perhaps this is the time to develop shortcuts or platforms further to enable cost-effective interactive advertising executions.  I’m not talking about supplanting video, but augmenting it.

If you take a look at this video from ILM about the making of TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON, you can get a great sense of what goes into the making of even short segments of effects.  Over the years, it has gotten easier to make things look real and it has become more expected by the audience.

Over time, the development of applications to simulate what goes on in movies will be easier.  While the barrier to production assets will probably still be a pain – due to political reasons – t he time required to execute will shorten and we’ll be able to fit more into computers, mobile devices and TVs to really enable marketers to reach out and grab the audience. That is, as long as we don’t give up on those types of executions while we lean on video ad serving to carry the load.

It used to be that we had to limit our banner sizes to about 12KB and now publishers allow much more than that.  The ways in which online ads load are more optimized and will continue to be so. I can only dream that all nations will have the bandwidth that Korea has (many of their publishers allow for initial load of 400KB or higher for a banner) but we should still be developing towards that and finding the cost and time cutting solutions that can take advantage of that.

We certainly don’t see as many major takeovers for entertainment as we might have 12-18 months ago – they are more often page overlays with a video window. But, as we move further away from driving traffic to anchor sites and deeper into reaching fragmented viewership by bringing the message fully to them, there will need to be a resurgence in those kick-ass, grab you by the collar executions. 

With further development, fully interactive and engaging media will become more of the norm and people will end up understand less about how much really goes into the magic of pulling a rabbit out of the hat. All in, we’ll have to re-establish what makes a campaign because its not just about video, but engagement.

The Future Landscapes and New Economics of Original Content

Amid the beginning of the dot-com lunacy at the turn of the millennium, a company called Digital Entertainment Network (den.net) formed as an online channel for original content.  They were positioning themselves to be a form of competition for the traditional broadcast and cable outlets – programming niche original content for youth to access through their computers.  At the time, FBC was getting stronger in its run against the big three networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) and in the spring of 1998, there were only 171 national cable networks.  DEN couldn’t help themselves from getting attention (both good and bad) due to their publicity machine, extravagant parties and the legal issues of its founders.  At the time, it seemed like an interesting model, but not one that could last into the future. Regardless of the content, we really had no clear vision of what that landscape would be and what the economic play would be.

Seeing DEN was one of the things that pushed me to make the move from being a network development executive into digital.  I didn’t think DEN, or any other online video platform at that time, was a recipe for success in the future.  I didn’t know what the future held, but I wanted to jump in near the beginning to see where things would take us. 

DEN went away early in 2000 and the larger dot-com implosion came soon thereafter.  Since then, the world, technology and the outlets for original content have changed beyond anything many imagined.  Besides the more than 500 cable channels that are vying for attention on television sets along with the now big four networks, online video sites and their serving capabilities have improved dramatically and there’s so many ways to view video beyond the television sets and computer monitors.

In addition to the challenges of getting your “channel” seen or even generating awareness about its existence, there’s numerous ways to interact with the content and each other that were either dreams or creative lab tests at the time.  Suffice it to say, the model has evolved and we are all trying to keep up with it.

YouTube launched its program to pay 100 content providers good sums of money to provide sufficient content for their own channels.  They just announced four channels – all focusing on extreme sports – yesterday and there is sure to be more. How they plan to promote and discern between the four remains to be seen.

Episodes of shows on television are appearing on sites across the spectrum – both legitimate and not-so-legitimate. Viewers are expecting to not only watch shows, but to vote on them, communicate with their friends during them no matter where they are and view their content anywhere at any time. Content is being created and now has the ability to be sold in so many forms without the help of traditional media companies (e.g. the previously covered Louis CK concert at the Beacon Theatre). All of these are vying for eyeballs.

Even the production of those shows has dropped in price considerably as technology has allowed us to film HD footage on such easily accessible tools as our mobile phones.  Most computers are coming with at least a basic editing suite with near-professional versions becoming more affordable each year.

The reality is that there is so much more original content (good or bad) coming from different sources that we are still yet to see what the big play will be.  The big companies that are looking to establish themselves as key digital distribution platforms – like YouTube, Netflix, Hulu and more – will continue to pump money into the products to try to generate an audience that is either advertising or subscription supported or both. There is no doubt that the monies going into these productions are significantly smaller than those budgets for content back in 1998 and the amount of buzz that needs to be generated to reach a certain level to make them profitable is more than what was required back then.

What effectively was derived from a standard platform back then has changed so much in such a short time that it has even soundly shifted the foundation that the original platform of television on which it was built upon.  The general feeling in the established media back then was that of superiority. No matter how intrigued or excited we were by the possibilities of the future, nobody really saw it and prepared those established outlets to be able to deftly move along with the flow.

Ultimately, storytelling is storytelling.  Even without the clear economics, we now have access to so much more than before – and so much more of a fragmented audience to try to reach. Yes,  there are more outlets to get the content out there, and the key difference may be in the one that really aggregates everything in the best way possible.  Currently, if someone wants to search for content, it is relatively hard to find with so many different platforms.  For broadcast type stuff you need to pay for, you’ve got to look at outlets like Hulu, Crackle or Netflix.  The outlets to find content of all types for free consist of those like YouTube, Revver, Break and many, many more.  Throw in iTunes and you’ve got even more outlets.  All this leads to more challenges when trying to find content – let alone pay for it.

We have so much more to discover before finding that next standard. It will be in flux for quite a while longer as the players try to re-establish their footing in the quickly-changing marketplace.  The economic possibilities for Original Content and their outlets remain huge and complex – is it enough to just stay in the game?  I’m certain DEN wishes they still in play. And I am certain we all can’t wait to see how it all plays out.

International CES Recap – Tidbits of the Future

International CES 2012 brought on a bunch of questions about relevancy.  If you sell electronics, it must be invaluable.  If you are looking at what’s coming out to help with communications, information and entertainment – its always a mixed bag. With how much there was to see, I’m sure I missed a few goodies, but here’s some tidbits looking into our near and distant future – and some other things we hope will change:

  • One of my favorite sections was the Innovations Hall that was moved from the central lobby of the convention center to within a hall at the Venetian.  It ended up being worth the trip to see some of the cool products that are not only coming up, but are already available.  In a sad way, it was also fun to comment on the descriptions and set-ups as it seemed that whomever typed them and placed products was doing it at the end of a very long day. With fabulous typos, products being placed upside down and items such as a remote for one item being placed with another item it added some gamesmanship and humor in trying to find the next mistake – there were easily more than a dozen to be found.
  • LG had the most mind-blowing large presentation with a wall of screens cycling through phenomenal 3-D content as you walked from the main lobby into their showcase.  Their passive 3D glasses (like those RealD 3D glasses are certainly the most comfortable.  It became quickly clear, though, that the passive 3D experience does not have as great of depth as active 3D glasses.
  • Samsung, Sharp and others touted 4X screens that showed phenomenal resolution 4X that of 1080P, but it just highlighted the fact that we are probably years away from enough content being made in this resolution to make these sets even reasonably worthwhile.
  • Panasonic did a nice job of highlighting the technology advancements they are making via re-engineering refresh-rate technology and plasma technology in general.  The split screens showcased the differences beautifully and it was too bad that there was only a couple of people paying attention to this section as the crowds were elsewhere in the Panasonic exhibit.
  • Sony unveiled a tablet that has two 5.5″ screens that enable users to fold them in half for placement in a coat pocket or purse.  Seems pretty cool from a portability standpoint.  I would just be worried about the extra wear and tear. 
  • Huge convention center rooms diminish the scale of large TVs.  The 80″+ screens looked great, but the way they were placed made them look relatively like my 65″ at home.
  • I was impressed and excited to see a grouping of eco-minded companies represented in the hall adjacent to the Innovations hall in the Venetian that dealt with power sources, recycling and more green electronics solutions.  While their impact might not be big, it was good to see them as I had not seen them at the conference before.
  • Too many staffers have too little knowledge about the products they are presenting.  One example is a staffer in the Microsoft area whose response to a man’s question about the benefits of some laptops and she just told him that they were just the newest models.  She had no idea that the wall of laptops were on display to highlight all of the Ultrabooks that have come out as a PC answer to Apple’s Macbook Air.  If this was Intel and Microsoft’s big push for this show, it’s a shame the staff wasn’t better informed.
  • Every year, I hit the Qualcomm section at just the right time to get the perfect coffee drink that they always provide as freebies…
  • Samsung Mobile also offered free coffee, but their big buzz in the central lobby was the Samsung Note – what they refer to as a smartphone tablet hybrid.  Their hook was having caricaturists draw attendees directly on the devices.  They were only slightly larger than smartphones, so it will be interesting to see how sales go.  Also interesting to see an incorporated stylus in a new product.
  • Samsung presented TV sets that were lightweight and wireless so you can move them from room-to-room as needed.  Interesting concept that might not find many people who care…
  • Dolby set up a theatre to highlight the Dolby 7.1 surround sound on the forthcoming extreme snowboarding film, THE ART OF FLIGHT.  It sounded phenomenal, but its a shame that most people will not be able to hear it in this fashion.

All in, it was a lot of ground to cover in one day.  In some ways I wish I had more time to cover it, but I’m mostly happy that I wasn’t there longer than a day.  Without a doubt, the best showcases were ones that had well-educated staff working the product – regardless of how big or small the brand was. When looking at CES as a barometer of what’s next, it was relatively ho-hum.  When looking at it as a concept vehicle where some parts will be thrown away, there was a bit of promise but we still have a long way to go – and that’s exciting…