Thursday, July 10, 2008

Emerging Media and the Experiential Marketing Continuum

A MediaPost article leads with a sentence that is intended to catch readers' attention: A Magna Global report contains a "warning that the 'hyper acceleration' of some of the fastest growing emerging media platforms appears to be slowing." If that statement doesn't square with your perceptions or expectations, don't be alarmed. That assertion isn't completely wrong, but neither is it completely right.

At the rear of the Magna Global report is a chart that provides a much more accurate view of the continued strong growth in emerging media. The agency is forecasting a very healthy 31.1% rate of growth for emerging media in 2009

While that figure is lower than 2008's 39.2% and 2007's 54.4%, this is a case of constant rapid growth causing the use of year-over-year percentages to paint an inaccurate picture. In 2008, these channels are expected to increase by $3.4 billion, and in 2009 by $3.86 billion. That's correct--the year that is "slowing" will actually see greater growth in terms of dollars.

The reason the 2009 forecast has greater dollar but smaller percentage growth is because many of the emerging media saw minuscule spending just two years ago, so modest spending growth produced enormous percentage growth in recent years. Of the seven media considered, just two accounted for over $1 billion of ad spend in 2006. The other five--Social Media, Gaming, Online Video, Mobile, and Advanced TV--together represented just over $750 million in 2006 but will command over $3 billion in 2009. This represents growth of 60% per year over this period.

It's interesting to see how the continued strong growth of ad spending in emerging media stacks up against traditional media. Magna Global issued a sister report that provides an estimate for 2008 growth in national, traditional ad media of just 5.0%. The report forecasts moderate growth for national TV, flat ad spending for radio and magazines, and a 7% decrease in newspaper spend.

The fact that marketing dollars will continue to shift into interactive and social media isn't surprising or all that interesting, actually. What is more interesting is how marketers will spend their dollars in emerging media. Those marketers who simply think of these new media as advertising channels will end up quite disappointed with the results.

Let's look at three of Magna Global's Emerging Media through the lens of the Experiential Marketing Continuum. This will help to define how these media can be misused to bother consumers in unwelcome, brand-controlled ways or can be used to create welcome, user-controlled interactions.

Social Media:
  • Unwelcome: The same rules for online advertising apply on social sites as elsewhere--ads that take over a page or that pop-up are unwelcome by consumers.
  • Welcome: Brand blogs or social media posts that are only focused on the company may engage select people with a specific interest in the brand but won't reach a wide audience.
  • Desired: Brands that engage consumers in two-way dialog and that enhance their social media enjoyment with value-added widgets and games will draw consumers' attention and respect.
Online Video:
  • Unwelcome: Interrupting consumer's video watching with frequent advertising in the same manner as TV won't work online. Even pre-roll ads often cause consumers to move on rather than view either the ad or the desired content.
  • Welcome: Video content that is focused on the brand, just like brand-oriented blogs, will be viewed only by people who already have an interest but won't reach a wide audience.
  • Desired: Sponsoring video content with brief ads will be more welcome to consumers than TV-like interruptions, but the biggest payoffs in the coming years may be from brands producing their own entertaining content. Producing something people want to watch (such as "Will It Blend?," the Nike viral videos, or BMW Films) can create significant attention and engagement.
  • Unwelcome: Heavy-handed games that are too focused on the brand or are not playable will not yield the kind of results marketers desire. An example of this is the Yaris game, which produced more criticism than interest.
  • Welcome: In-game advertising has received a lot of buzz, but the potential of this media is fairly limited. Early advertisers have benefited from first-mover advantage, but the more ads are crammed into consumers' games, the less they'll be receptive to the marketing messages.
  • Sponsored Games: Fun and engaging games that are lightly branded or sponsored will be desired by consumers.
The Experiential Marketing Continuum is different for different consumer segments and different brands. While each situation may have it's unique aspects, one thing is certain about marketing's future: In a world where consumers are zapping TV ads, avoiding radio ads in favor of MP3 players, and blocking banner ads in their browsers, smart marketers will find methods to engage consumers in ways they will welcome, will want to spend their time, and will recommend to others.

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