The New Media Diet

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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.


  1. “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.”
    Wouldn’t you consider it highly important for marketers, regardless of location, to tap into the SV news? This way they have an understanding of what shift is happening?
    Just some thoughts I have. It seems today, managers are taking SV serious when they should make sure their entire team is tapped into up and coming platforms. Two companies come to mind when I consider this: Burberry and Red Bull. They seem to be on every platform with open conversation going on, 24/7/365.
    Great article!

  2. I always wondered by Seth’s blog posts were so short. Good thing too, I’ve got 100 other things to check online in the morning, but I’ve always go time for his posts (and yours, of course, Mitch!). I have a 15 year old connected son. I can tell you this post is spot on!

  3. Your post got me thinking about the ad’s I love and the things I do click through. From TV – to this day I love the 3 step Mastercard commercials and often thought all of the add could be strung together for a movie! For over 30 years, my sister and I still giggle at a Leon’s commercial (“It’s a miracle) and her house is thoroughly furnished with the stuff. Recently I discovered the Cartier Youtube videos and found myself wondering if I could at least wear bling. LOL.
    I think what they all have in common is a story that is short and like great bedtime reading – pulls you in.
    BTW – I so appreciate your spam filter method below. The captch thing at most places drives me crazy!

  4. This also shows how important it is for businesses to really know who they are targeting. It is more and more of a niche marketing trend. It is becoming harder to reach all your customers or potential customers by sending a blanket message through a generic medium.
    Businesses or individuals who can simplify their growing amounts of data to focus and improve their marketing are those who will excel in this generation of new media.

  5. I am half encouraged by your post and half disappointed. You described the problem — a dark problem indeed — but of course you described it as a problem for *marketers* as opposed to the deeper problem for *the marketer’s target*.
    The bullet points that you painted as problems masquerading as solutions is dead on, I think. Marketers trying to make the ads still MORE intrusive in order to “break through” is just making things worse. However, I don’t see how your ideas (murky as you said they were) are truly any better/different.
    I think the elephant in the room for marketing is something you came *close* to (but did not touch) when you said:
    “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.”
    But your solutions were still, mostly, just ads-pretending-to-be-something-else that, as all marketers must do, is supposed to *feel* more valuable to the “consumer.”
    Why not go a full step further and when rising above the notion that it always has to be an ad, why does it have to be ANYTHING AT ALL? I realize that marketers do not accept that there can ever be a world where the answer is to make more valuable, useful, compelling *products and services*, as opposed to *more compelling ads to push existing, undifferentiated products*. As long as companies today are still stuck in the option of out-marketing the competition, they are doomed.
    Marketers could re-invent themselves as product designers and developers — those who help show existing and potential users how to deeply, powerfully, and obviously benefit from the product in a sustainable way. Because no matter how much you try to craft *more compelling marketing*, you are always competing with every single thing that “target” could be focusing on at that moment. Today, when you compete on marketing, EVERYTHING is your competition. When you compete on actual useful sustainable value to the customer, the competition drops off rapidly. We all own and love and rave about a small subset of products and services that have virtually NO marketing. Some don’t even have customer service that we’re aware of, and they aren’t participating on social media “conversations”. They succeed because they are actually valuable to us.
    Marketers need to take not just (as you suggested) a step *back*, but to do a complete 180 or disappear completely. Otherwise, they are simply contributing to problems people already have today. Marketers are, despite their good intentions (well, some have good intentions), *hurting us*. As a consumer, I do not NEED more compelling *marketing*. I need more compelling *products and services*.
    Socia media has changed the marketing world forever, potentially for the better, but it is because NOW the truly valuable useful products are recommended so easily from one user to another and NOT because it makes it so easy for marketers to talk to potential customers.

  6. I confess that I have an inner marxist that jumps for joy every time i see a post like that..
    Its like this idea “what is the roll of market morality in shaping the culture creation?” Its kind of an artist thing.. and that these shifts force game changes.. they will lead to deeper cultural shifts.. and im hoping for the better
    I don’t know if my inner marxist is really fair to marketing, advertising, and capitalists in general.. but i feel like at root.. the invisible hand idea that self interest would server public interest.. to my thinking.. the more unaligned these things are.. the worse things are.. and the problem marketers are facing.. I think has something to do with this alignment
    but maybe im wrong, idk

  7. That is so true about the banner ads… I’m not sure why marketers thought that making them more invasive and annoying would make me more willing to click on them. The only reason I could imagine an increase in traffic would be from accidental clicks on the ad when trying to hit the moving X to close it!
    As a “digital native” I urge marketers to try harder. COME AND GET ME!

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