Emerging Technologies: The Gray Zone

Here’s a quick quiz. I’ll name a medium. You tell me whether it’s an offline or online medium. Ready?

Television.

That’s easy. Offline, right?

Web site.

Online, of course.

Print.

Offline.

E-mail.

Online.

Online radio.

Hmmm. Well, it’s delivered in an online environment. But most online radio follows an offline format, doesn’t it?

TiVo.

Well, it’s TV. But it’s user controlled. So does that make it online? Offline with online features?

What about interactive billboards? Touch-screen kiosks?

What at first may seem simple is getting less clear-cut all the time. We’ve all begun to see overlap between what was traditionally known as offline and online. In an agency that still has separate interactive and traditional groups, this blurring of the lines leads to discussion of who takes the lead on emerging media.

So, who does take the lead? That question must be answered pretty quickly, given DVRs are now in 3 million homes. That number is expected to more than double by the end of this year to 7 million. TiVo, specifically, is in 1.3 million homes. I’m an interactive guy, so I think the answer is pretty clear-cut. The interactive group should handle this. Right?

Let’s examine the issue.

My belief is as media become more “interactive,” the interactive experts should play an increasingly integral role in the planning and buying processes. There’s a real need to understand the consumer mindset when consumers engage with a brand through interactive media. Some considerations:

  • Have a clear understanding that with interactive media, users assume more control over the messages they’re exposed to. So how do you get them to choose your message?

  • Recognize that with interactive media, the user may be poised to take action (sign up, make a purchase, request more information). How can you best elicit that action and use the medium to its full potential?
  • Understand tracking, reporting, and optimization to make emerging media as effective as possible.

Many offline (or traditional) planners are used to planning, placing, and letting the campaign run. Little thought is given to what happens after the advertising message is delivered.

With TiVo used by many consumers as a TV programming search engine, there must be understanding of consumer behavior and how they interact with brands. That understanding comes from experience using interactive platforms to deliver brand messages and allowing the consumer to immediately get additional information or even purchase the product or service.

The solution is real media integration. Many agencies are moving closer to integration by creating groups with both interactive and traditional expertise. Some have gone so far as to develop groups that deal specifically with integrated platforms. Is that necessary, or is it just an easy way to get around breaking down the wall that separates online and offline groups? Is it a clever way of beginning to chip away at that wall? Either way, those walls are coming down.

I see this happening primarily on branding campaigns. Yet many agencies still see a need for specialized expertise in interactive, especially when it comes to clients with highly sophisticated direct response needs. In such cases, agencies assemble a separate team of interactive specialists who understand pricing, tracking, reporting, and optimization.

How should our publishing and technology partners approach the agency? The TiVo guys are asking themselves, “Do I need to contact the offline team that manages the TV budget? Or do I contact the interactive team that understands the true value and potential of my offering?” The interactive billboard and radio guys are asking similar questions.

I think the answer is to pursue parallel paths. Aligning with one camp or the other limits the potential of making something great happen. As publishing and technology partners call for joint meetings with online groups, offline groups, and even emerging technology groups, they actually help us move toward integrated discussions about these technologies. This is so desperately needed at many agencies.

Who’s leading the charge at your agency with these emerging technologies, and why? I’d love to hear your responses.

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