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.