Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
April 9, 2012 3:37 PM

The New Media Diet

How much media can you switch through in an hour?

For years, new media speakers would tell the story of their sixteen year old niece, who plops herself down in front the television after school, grabs her iPad with her smartphone near-by and engages in the digital native dance known as multi-platforming. These young people just don't watch TV and then go on to read a magazine, they have multiple media channel inputs all happening at the same time. The head-shaking from marketing professionals ensues because none of us can fathom how to market to this new consumer. We've tried dumping ads into video games and we work hard to offer free (ad-supported) services, but there's this shuttering and sinking feeling that advertising is going to have to go through some fundamental changes to make itself viable in the coming years.

The picture gets a little darker.

One news item being tossed around today (over and above the news that Facebook bought Instagram for a billion dollars), is an Advertising Age piece titled, Young Consumers Switch Media 27 Times An Hour. According to Ad Age: "It's every advertiser's worst nightmare: consumers so distracted by a dizzying array of media choices that they no longer notice the commercials supporting them. And its time might be closer than you think. A recent study found that consumers in their 20s ('digital natives') switch media venues about 27 times per nonworking hour - the equivalent of more than 13 times during a standard half-hour TV show."

That's a whole lot of media consumption on a plethora of devices.

So, what's a marketer to do? The article points to a few solutions. They include:

  • More engaging content to keep consumers around. They're jumping around because they're losing interest.
  • Marketing must become more snackable (short and fast).
  • Surround consumers with advertising as they move from one media to the next.
  • More compelling creative.
  • Create smaller windows of opportunities to capture their attention.

More problems... not solutions.

When marketers started realizing that consumers were not clicking on banner ads, do you know what they did? They added in more size options (bigger!) and placed these ads in more places on the same page (more flashing!). They created interstitials and then takeovers. Yes, they cluttered the experience rather than taking the time to figure out how, exactly, consumers would prefer to connect with marketing messages in a platform that was (clearly) not just a digital version of a magazine or newspaper. Personally, I don't think any of the solutions above create a better way to connect with consumers. It just seems like more noise in a more noise world of content.

It's time to take a step back.

I believe that consumers enjoy relevant marketing messages that fit in with the content experience (look no further than the success of Google AdWords or the ads that you will see in Vogue magazine). If consumers are shifting from media to media at such a rapid pace, perhaps the answer is to retreat, rethink and re-imagine (to quote a brilliant book title by Tom Peters) how to create compelling marketing messages in a world where consumers don't take in content as a beginning, middle and end experience that is pre-defined by the content creator?

Moments in transition.

This is where to start. As they transition between media and as the device begins to understand both the content and context, properly targeted messages could become interesting if they add to the content experience. If that sounds murky to you, you're not alone: this is concept I'm working on - not a finalized creative execution. What could this look like? Better long form content? A quick burst of something relevant? A game to play? A mystery to solve? A tool that offers the consumer some utility? We have to rise above the notion that the only thing it can be is an ad. It doesn't have to always be an ad... or an ad supported by a contest.

We keep saying that marketing has changed forever. In truth, it's the media that keeps changing and the marketers are simply trying to keep up.

By Mitch Joel