— Age of Trialogue: Narrowcasting, Not Broadcasting
– The Customer Becomes Your Pal
– Media Must Blend Print, Website Efforts
Talk about your world being turned upside-down … if you’re a print media ad person, that is …
It used to be One-to-Many … one powerful advertiser sending a message to many quiet recipients.
Now it’s One-to-One repeated many times … with advertiser and customer on an equal footing, and the conversations reverberating through social media.
“Advertising used to be a one-sided approach where the brand sent out a message and the consumer had to accept it,” says Gunter, known as the “Stuzo guy” as CEO of Stuzo. “Now it’s a whole new approach” … a two-way conversation … “an engagement.”
Just as print media writers have experienced a revolution in how they communicate with readers, so have the advertisers in how they communicate with consumers.
“In the ‘olden days,’ consumers more or less passively absorbed ad content force-fed to them by marketer,” says Zac Brandenberg, co-founder and CEO of Hydra Networks in Beverly Hills, Calif. “Now, empowered by media technology, consumers are choosing, controlling and even producing the content they consume. Smart PR and marketing firms are responding by producing content and apps that facilitate people’s desires to self-express and connect, and taking advantage of social media platforms to get it distributed by consumer to consumer.”
DJ Edgerton, CEO of Zemoga, an agency with offices in New York City and Bogota, tells us that “advertising has moved from a push model to more of a ‘dance’ with the consumer. In online media, through the use of video and branded entertainment, companies can really drive engagement and encourage consumers to participate in the marketing through relevant, entertaining and useful content that advertisers, and more often lately, consumers create. If brands have a story to tell, that will resonate … they will be successful.”
What does this mean for the ad industry? “Within the next five years, we’ll see more change in how advertising is created, consumed, tracked and paid for than we have in the last 50,” says Scott Creamer, who’s president/founder of The Screamer Company in Austin, Texas.
He boils it down to the three C’s … connectivity, creativity and control … to show how social media and new technology are changing it.
David Kissel, a partner of Zocalo Group in Chicago, worked on campaigns like “I’m Lovin’ It” for McDonalds and “Like a Good Neighbor” for State Farm. Such slogans, he says, show “the good side” of a company. Now, in the online world, “you talk about what is honest and complete about a brand.” Kissel calls Zocalo a “word of mouth” agency because “we’ve always heard that word of mouth is the most powerful influence” … what friends say about a brand means more to people than advertising. “But until recently, we couldn’t do much about it. What’s changed is the Internet.”
Marian Salzman, president of Euro RSCG Worldwide PR, North America, is known as a leading “trendspotter” and for popularizing the term “metrosexual” into American culture.
“I read about the Maldives and can click through and book a vacation; I skim an article on Springsteen and can buy music or a ringtone. Everything will be connected and refer me from one venue to the next, with products and services for sale in micro-bytes,” she says. “Craigslist is efficient and easy to master and that’s what people seek … one to one connectivity with products and services they want, hyper-local search engines to maximize ease of access.”
Connectivity is important because there can be many messages to many consumers to be linked.
“Instead of mass media, you have niche media and micro-targeted media,” says Andy Abramson, CEO of Comunicano. “It’s not how many people, it’s who is watching or who is reading … you end up with a more direct marketing vehicle.”
Salzman: “Broadcasting isn’t where it’s at; at best, narrowcasting over human mediums is the near future. We’re all billboards, and we’re all for sale.”
Creamer notes that “followers of Facebook and Twitter have an immediate and constant flow of information between businesses and their customers. This is permission granted, direct one-to-one conversations. Interesting content spreads faster than even e-mail generated content used to a few years ago. Because of the popularity of mobile devices, it is no longer necessary to have a computer in front of a person to get their message out. This can make a significant difference for companies since in a matter of a few taps on a keyboard, a customer can tell hundreds if not thousands of people their experience with a company.”
Michelle Bonat, founder and CEO of marketing firm RumbaFish in Palo Alto, Calif., contends that “as a product of traditional ad-supported models, each of us sees more commercial messages each day than we can process. It’s simply way too much and as a result the advertising is not persuading us to buy. Clearly, these media organizations need a way to cut through the noise. It would greatly help them to leverage social media through ‘word of mouth’ or evangelist marketing, whereby customers do the promotion instead of the company itself.”
A thought from Andy Abramson, CEO of Comunicano in Del Mar, Calif.: On a newspaper website, have an online ad for a pizza parlor. The reader clicks on it and gets connected to the shop for an order … “and the newspaper would get a portion of the sale.”
Says Creamer: “Today’s technology allows for user-generated and/or peer-delivered creativity. The public can create content and post it for people to see, review and comment on. This type of creative freedom has spurred Super Bowl spots where concepts are provided by the public instead of advertising agencies. Super Bowl ads use to be the Holy Grail of advertising, now they’re being created by ‘everyday’ people.”
The keys to this element are the flourishing of social media and the willingness of advertisers to listen to reader input and encourage it.
“Social media are fast becoming a given of every communication effort,” says Roger Beasley, vice-president and director of strategic planning for Erwin-Penland. “In fact, ‘Let’s make sure we have a social media component in the plan’ has to be the most common phrase in marketing these days. All of a sudden, the attitudes, opinions, wants, needs and desires we used to have to glean from focus groups and gut instincts are right at our fingertips. All we have to do is plug in and listen to what real people are saying in real time.”
Stephen Elser, a partner of Elser & Aucone, finds that “many public relations and marketing campaigns are shifting dollars away from traditional media and toward social media because of their intrusive nature and measurability. Obama’s use of social media to connect with his audience during his campaign is probably the most recognizable, successful example. I think the Obama case study highlights an important tenet of social media marketing … younger consumers have been the early adopters. However, recent research is showing tremendous growth in social media usage with older consumers. So stay tuned, the environment changes very quickly!”
Salzman: “We’ve entered the age of the trialogue, where the conversation begins when the third and the fourth voice weighs in and revises and refines the ‘story’ making it their own, constantly tweaking it.”
An advertiser controlling the message … that’s so 20th century. In fact, “it is not about the brand saying ‘Hey, this is who we are’ ” instead, Stuzo sees brands as “being friends with the consumer … it’s a whole new relationship” … an advertiser is “providing experiences its ‘friend’ wants to engage in. The consumer will be involved in shaping the experience.”
Creamer explains that “in today’s advertising world, consumers have more control over what they see, how they see it and when they see it. We can now watch our favorite TV shows on our computers and without the normal commercial interruptions. We receive our news from online sources instead of the daily paper or the evening news. RSS feeds give us information from the sources of our choosing. We no longer have to accept information from small, highly controlled media groups. We choose what information comes to us and when we see it.”
As an example of the control shift, Kissel points out that in the old days, complaining consumers would dial an 800 number or write a letter … “that was private.” Now, they post a video … “and it’s public” … and thus a lot more powerful. He advises companies to contact such people right away to fix the problem. “You’ll get a lot of credit from consumers for just being a part of the conversation.”
Another example, from Abramson: the search engine “has leveled the playing field … now a blogpost can be ranked first ahead of a story in the Wall Street Journal” in the almighty Google’s assessment if the writer is an expert and specializes in that topic.
To Edgerton, “The thinking by brands is no longer led by fear of what might be said, but rather, ‘How can I become a participant and direct the conversation in a beneficial way for my brand?’ The organizations that do not make an effort to engage online in an honest dialogue with their core customers are in for a surprise when the growing stable of influencers online have a greater impact on consumer behavior and brand perception then any traditional push advertising will be able to match, regardless of the spend.”
New Ways For Newspapers:
The future of journalism is inextricably linked with the future of advertising, though newspapers are trying to become less dependent on it. Papers, struggling to survive, have been eliminating discounted subscriptions and stopping delivery in unprofitable circulation areas; they also have been raising prices at the newsstand and for home delivery, hoping to gain a greater share of their revenues from readers instead of advertisers
“Contrary to popular belief, advertising and print media aren’t dead,” Beasley says. “How else are we going to discover new products, new services, new opinions and new news if we’re only participating in conversations about things we already know about? Online conversations in the social space aren’t replacing passive communications as some would lead you to believe, they are being fueled by it. To that end, advertising and print media may actually be more important than they were 10, 20 years ago.”
Zac Brandenberg thinks “there will always be a place for magazines, newspapers and books. They have a lot of appeal as objects and are incredibly convenient for reading on the plane, on the beach, etc. But from a business standpoint, printed media publishers are fighting a losing battle against the Internet. How can any single publication or even handful of publications compete against a vast global library … a searchable, customizable, and media rich library… that is also largely free? They’re going to have to find a new place for themselves in the new media world order by focusing on what they can do different or better, or become extinct.”
Salzman: “Leverage local. Local is the new global. Local is what matters and resonates.”
Brandenberg: “What doesn’t work is to cover broad news that’s easily available everywhere else for free. The reality is, news is now a commodity. Newspapers need to employ the same strategies as any business fighting to combat commoditization in their market. They must focus on providing unique and exclusive content and/or a premium experience that serves the needs of a particular audience. The Wall Street Journal is an example of a publication that has succeeded doing this. They’re able to charge on a subscription basis both on- and offline.”
Blending a traditional print venue with its new online enterprise seems vital.
Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee Results: “One potential strategy would be to have two levels of information available, one that is free and one that is paid for. We’re seeing a little of this with local papers and even trade publications where they have a paid version that is available to their print subscribers and then a free version available to anyone. In other industries, the integration of various channels has been successful and may be the answer for keeping print advertising alive as well. Some print publications are already doing this … not selling print and online as separate, but selling it as an integrated package.”
Edgerton: “Traditional display ads are a byproduct of an engagement model that is dead. Consumers want more than the short-lived vicarious dream a print ad facilitates. They want true brand interaction and engagement that makes them feel special. It goes to the core of the human condition. The Web facilitates that connection through multiple opportunities we have just begun to understand and experiment with.
Journalists need to understand that content creation is no longer a one-way street; the story is the spark that creates a firepit the readers congregate around. The ensuing conversation and commentary are often what readers appreciate most, especially when the author participates actively. This presents opportunities, not only for content providers, but also the advertisers that illustrate their endorsements through advertising.”
Elser: As newspaper websites “evolve into the main source of information for their audience, they must find ways to drive readers to their website and get them involved. When newspapers maximize the integration between their print and online versions, advertisers will want to take advantage of that. This has been happening with many publications, particularly those who were quick to develop an online presence. Publications must encourage their readership to become directly involved with the news through forums, video uploads, etc. to keep them engaged.”
New Ways For Magazines:
While the woes of prominent titles such as Time and Newsweek have been no secret … just looking at how thin they are now tells the story … it was still a shock when Gourmet Magazine suddenly folded. Fat and prosperous like its readers, it seemed that as long as people loved to eat, Gourmet would be around to help them enjoy it.
Instead, its demise might serve as a microcosm of the entire industry.
“People used to read Gourmet Magazine largely for recipes,” Brandenberg says. “Well, you can get access to an enormous and searchable database of recipes at epicurious.com and others and it doesn’t cost a thing. People are not going to pay for content that they can find online for free. Magazines need to focus on what they can provide that’s different … content-wise or experientially … that will allow them to serve the needs of a targeted market segment better than anyone else.”
Edgerton believes Gourmet failed “because it did not attack the opportunity to move its expertise to the place where most people now get their recipes, how-to’s and reviews of culinary content. They get it from the myriad of options online. It had a chance to leverage the one thing it had over the competition, and that’s brand equity. It did not act fast enough or bravely enough and the ad dollars went where the engagement is: online. You should get used to writing the obituaries of content providers that don’t drive their engagement with consumers online.”
Bonat: “Magazines have the additional challenge that their readers engage on a less frequent basis than newspapers, unless they are connected to an online presence. So increasing that level of engagement through social media and strategic interactive marketing campaigns would help.”
Creamer: “A magazine’s content is traditionally very specific (i.e., cooking magazine or a home design publication). Subscribers are relatively small groups of people who share common interests. This seems like a natural conversion to some type of online, social media resource where the magazine still provides content, but allows subscribers to submit articles, participate in forums, post questions, videos, etc.”
Elser: “Many magazines have been able to create a compelling combination of printed and online versions because the information they provide readers is more detailed. They’re offering their subscribers additional unique content that complements their printed information. For example, Acoustic Guitar Magazine will discuss various guitar-playing techniques in print and then offer video examples, plus additional information, through their website. As magazines find new and interesting ways to offer their subscribers additional content online, as with newspapers, advertisers will be eager to take advantage.