The Age Of Ambient Media

March 28, 2012 8:21 pm

Ambient MediaPretty much every pitch for every medium that runs advertising starts the same way.

“Few people are aware of this, but, time spent with our medium…

And here, every salesperson stops to affect a look of grave concern. The very best furrow their brows so convincingly that the pregnant pause that follows actually threatens to deliver a genuine shock.

And then each salesperson finishes with the same triumphant zinger.

“the time spent with our medium … has actually gone UP!”

It sounds like a lie. But here’s the bad news: it’s true.

TV viewership? Up. TV shows viewed online? Up. Radio? Up. Even newspaper circulation – if you tilt your head to the left and kind of look at it sideways — is up.

Individually, each media being consumed more sounds fantastic.

But there’s a massive downside to the upside.

As Concurrent Media Usage Soars, Consumer Attention Plummets.

All of our devices are on and available, but our attention flits from one medium to the next, or to none at all.

Now it’s not just audiences that are fragmented. Individual consumers’ attention is everywhere and nowhere at once.

Imagine a mythical media consumer we’ll call Bob. He wakes up, flips on “The Today Show”, and runs downstairs for coffee. While it’s brewing he showers and gets dressed, then goes online to check his schedule for the day and answer a few Gmails. He quietly streams Pandora in the background. A quick check of CNN.com reveals Bob’s team crushed his friend Ted’s team last night, so Bob posts the link on Ted’s wall, saying “In your FACEbook, Teddy! ROFL!”

Coffee’s ready. Bob flips through his wife’s magazine absently while pouring the milk – yikes, did Heidi Montag really get another 75 surgeries? – and then decides to flip on the radio for traffic. A quick kiss for the wife and kids and Bob is on his way.

In his first waking hour, Bob “watched” TV, “used” Gmail, “listened” to online radio, “visited” web pages, “did” social media, “read” magazines” and “listened” to broadcast radio. Bob was everywhere and nowhere at once.

These mediums all sold ad impressions. So here’s the question.

Did anybody impress Bob?

But Haven’t We Always Been Distracted?

Distracted people aren’t new. But two things ARE new.

1) The proliferation of always-on devices in our lives

2) A new social expectation that when people email or text or DM us on Twitter or post something to Facebook that we must respond fairly quickly.

Stop Thinking Media Mix. Think Media Cloud.

Our mental definitions of media as being discretely consumed channels of communications have to change.

If we’re smart, we will stop talking about people watching TV or listening to radio or surfing the web.

There is no media mix, anymore. What we have now is an always-on media cloud. It’s the new digital back fence.

We need to recognize that there’s a vast and important difference between watching TV and having a TV on in the room. Nielsen’s IAG Research can show you there’s a powerful difference between buying eyeballs and buying engaged human beings. If you’re not already using IAG, you really ought to be.

And to anyone at IAG or Nielsen or any other research entrepreneur who’s reading this: marketers need something as strong as IAG for every medium, especially online. I know it’s a major technical challenge, maybe even impossible. But we really do need it.

Forget Individual Impressions, Think Feedback Loop

I’ve written before that the future is a feedback loop.

What this means for advertising is that we should forget about individual impressions, which are theoretical to begin with. Remember Bob flipping on “The Today Show” and then immediately leaving the room to make coffee?

Instead we should think about our overall impressions – what are the various hooks we can hang out there in the media cloud that can spark a feedback loop around our brand? It doesn’t matter which medium kicks off the loop, so long as it gets started.

This requires a different sort of marketing mindset, a different creative approach, and a different kind of integration. Instead of various efforts running in a single-threaded manner, we need to start thinking how they all interact.

Old media and digital not only co-exist, they are completely interdependent. We simply can’t afford to ignore this new reality.

Is your company ready for the Age of Ambient Media? Does your company understand what this means? Do you have the right team in place? What do you need to do now to start heading in the right direction?

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