Counting Screens. Counting Dollars. Connecting Consumers.

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Are consumers watching more video content online or on the TV?

On April 16th, eMarketer published a news item titled, US Adults Spend 5.5 Hours with Video Content Each Day. Here’s some pieces of staggering data: “Adults in the US will spend an average of 5 hours, 31 minutes watching video each day this year… and digital video viewing across devices is driving growth. In 2011, time spent with video on digital devices – PCs, mobile devices and other connected devices including over-the-top (OTT) and game consoles – totaled 21 minutes daily. This year, US adults will spend an average of 1 hour, 16 minutes each day with video on digital devices. Meanwhile, the average time US adults spent watching video programming on televisions totaled 4 hours, 35 minutes in 2011 and will decline to 4 hours, 15 minutes in 2015. In total, time spent with video on all devices is up from 4 hours, 56 minutes in 2011.” There’s some curious things happening as consumers watch more video across different screens on different platforms. The average adult is, obviously, shifting much more of their viewing habits to online video as each year progresses. With that, you could say that this is a movement away from television in favor of digital screens.

Do the advertising dollars follow the consumer?

If you did deeper into the eMarketer report, you will see that brands are still pumping plenty of money into TV advertising. How much? In 2015, forty percent of media spending will still be done on television. Yes, this year TV advertising will still be a $70+ billion market. As for digital video ads? That market will only get 4.4% (or $7.8 billion) of all media spend. Taking this up to a 40,000 foot view, television gets 36 percent of media consumption when compared to digital at 11 percent. That sense of uneasiness should be creeping into the pit of your stomach. The viewing habits change, but the dogma of traditional advertising institutions still holds on – for dear life – to what they presume is working, instead of allowing their media allotment to be more aligned with actual usage and viewership.

What do marketers get wrong about this data?

In my second business book, CTRL ALT Delete (and, by the way, the trade paperback version of it will be available on May 5th, 2015), I talk about the one screen world. How we no longer live in the three screen world (TV, computer and mobile devices). We live in a world where the only screen that matters to the consumer, is the screen that is in front of them. Screens are everywhere, they are all connected and they are ubiquitous. We’re not seeing that slow down. In fact, we’re only seeing it get more pervasive. There is proof in this, if you look at the Google Glass program (regardless of how that eventually played out) or if you look at what’s happening with the Apple Watch. It’s hard to argue that connected and cheap screens are becoming more and more available. From a marketing standpoint, this means that both content – and the advertising that financially supports it – must be developed in a much different way. It also means that how we spend those dollars has to be redefined.

The thing that is really challenging marketers todays.

At the same time that these pieces of data were being released from eMarketer, MarketingCharts released an interesting piece titled, Senior Digital Marketers’ Top Priorities and Challenges. The top two priorities were:

  1. “Telling our story so we stand out against competitors.” (46%).
  2. “Translating a deep knowledge of our customers into relevant interactions.” (43%).

It’s hard not see the obvious disconnect that is happening.

One could argue that telling a compelling and unique story is much more complex in a world where content has been atomized, and is consumed by flick scrolling through a newsfeed, that forces brands to compete with much more compelling/personal content than a traditional TV sitcom. It’s hard to argue that pictures of our friends and seeing what they’re up to is a way more engaging form of content that is both personalized and flowing into our lives with a speed that most of us could have never imagined. This also makes the issue of relevance (mentioned above) a much harder hill for brands to hump. It’s hard to decipher all of this consumption, data and information and be relevant if brands are suddenly competing for attention with a consumer’s family and friends over a sitcom on NBC.

But, let’s dig a little deeper.

Brands are trying to tell their story in a way that makes them stand out against their competitors. Fine. This isn’t a digital challenge. That’s been the mantra of brands from day one. Why should a consumer buy my dishwasher detergent over my competitors? Telling a story that brings out a unique selling proposition is the oldest marketing challenge. Then, how do we take the data, information and knowledge that we have on our consumers and make our interactions with them more relevant? Again, not really a new (or digital) challenge. The difference – as time passes on – is that marketing went from a world where we couldn’t capture and analyze the data well enough to make these insights, to our current situation where we have so much data that it is causing analysis paralysis. We don’t even know where to begin or what to really do. If you layer these two challenges on top of the how dollars are being spent, the answer seems (a little bit more) obvious.

Want your brand to stand out against your competitors?

Why not put your ads where they are not advertising, especially if this space is one that is so highly under-indexing in terms of spend against usage? The data doesn’t lie. The consumers/mass market is there in digital, but the spending is close to one-tenth of the size of television. Being where your competitors aren’t is an amazing position to take.

Want your brand to create more relevant interactions?

While there is no golden answer to this one, there is still a culture of digital screen spending/advertising that mimics traditional television advertising. Very few brands are creating new digital ads to be reflective of the landscape. Don’t believe me? How often do you see a television ad being run in a pre-roll on YouTube. With TrueView, YouTube allows you to skip an ad after a few seconds. If you’re creating digital video ads, and not even ensuring that the story captivates in those first few seconds, the brand is already demonstrating a lack of relevancy. Furthermore, if you want your brand to be more relevant, look at how these digital videos are being consumed and how your brand can best become a part of that community, instead of selling to it. Marketing continues to evolve. Technology and data does not make the industry easier. It makes it more complex. With that, the opportunity to do great work has never been more pervasive. Consumers are active and on the hunt for content that resonates with them. This has not changed. If the brands are not mimicking the consumer’s usage with stories that work within those environments, the blame can’t sit on the channels not performing. The blame resides within.

It’s not as easy as it looks.