I was on a panel at the Cable Show in L.A. last week. The name of the panel was “Prepare To Merge: Advertising’s Creative/Planning Symbiosis and What It Means For Advertising.”
The name of the panel itself was longer than our actual discussion. You see, the Chairman of the FTC, Jon Leibowitz, was going to lead off with a short ten-minute discussion about behavioral targeting and how the FTC might, or might not, crack down on such targeting.
Thirty minutes later, he finished.
Which left our panel in a lurch as far as time goes – thirty minutes rather than fifty.
There were four distinguished panelists and myself. I was the lone creative voice of the five.
The first question out of moderator’s Sean Cunningham’s mouth was along the lines of how does creative and media work together on the digital platform? As I was on at the end of the row of panelists, Sean called on me first.
I won’t tell you word for word what I said, as I don’t remember exactly. But the gist of it was, that yes, there is a symbiotic relationship between media and creative. And it has to do with scale.
As the audience continues to fragment due to unlimited choice of content to watch and platforms on which to watch it on, as well as the industry’s own myopic targeting efforts, including behavioral, which reduce the audience size even more, it’s getting much more difficult to get the proper funding by which to create great advertising.
It’s analogous to the dilemma the TV networks are finding themselves in. Smaller audiences mean smaller advertising dollars which means less money to produce great programming.
It was easy to sell a $500,000 commercial production budget to an advertiser when the commercial was going to run in front of 20 million people. It’s a much more difficult proposition when it’s only going to be seen by 200,000.
The irony is that now that we can more accurately find the people who should be interested in what we have to say, we won’t have enough money to produce the emotionally compelling that is needed to persuade them to purchase the product.
At that point I turned it over to the media wonks for their take on the subject. Over the next thirty minutes, we disagreed on some points. Agreed on others.
But, the fact is, the ad industry is based on scale. And, as it gets more difficult to scale an audience, we need to find a new way to create scale.
What might save us is this. As the viewing audience becomes smaller, the length of time in which we can talk with them becomes larger. No longer restricted to thirty-second spots, we can talk for sixty seconds, one minute, five minutes, on the digital platform…however long we can continue to be of interest.
In other words, what seems to scale on the digital platform is how long rather than how many.
Of course, for this to be accepted by the media folks it will require a mindChange to occur as to what the objective of media actually is.
For many years, media offered what was known as an “opportunity to see.”
Today, it offers something very different - an “opportunity to spend time with.”
The only way you can scale an opportunity to see is through reach. But you can scale an opportunity to spend time with not only through reach, but also through message length.
One million people exposed to a thirty-second spot offers an opportunity to spend time with of 30 million seconds.
The same as for half a million people exposed to a sixty-second spot. If the audience drops down to 250 thousand, the spot can increase to two minutes in length. The opportunity to see remains at 30 million seconds.
Actual results will depend on the creative itself. Which, truthfully, has always been the case.
It’s just that up to now, creative was never factored into the equation.