Record Television Viewership Numbers and the Struggle Between Active and Passive

It happened again…

Another Nielsen Report came out Tuesday claiming that Americans watch more TV today than ever before: a staggering average of four hours and forty-nine minutes a day.  If that number doesn’t smack you upside your metaphoric head, it should at least mildly unsettle you.  If nothing else, it can’t be very good for the GDP.  Or our national struggle with obesity.

1 of 12,305 Creative Commons "TV Watching" Images on Flickr

1 of 12,305 Creative Commons "TV Watching" Images on Flickr

Advertisers won’t be thrilled by this revelation either.  Over the last four years, major marketers have migrated away from television and into new media for a wide variety of reasons (cost) that help them get around the engagement issue (and cost) because really, how can anyone pay attention to TV for that length of time (and how about those costs?).

The Nielsen numbers raise a few unsettled industry issues: the confusion about our splintered media environment, the difficulty in assessing ROI across various platforms, and even the kneejerk CMO dismissal of television as a dated medium.  The fact is television is not dated so much as confusing.  Prime-time viewing remains basically flat, but it’s still at it’s highest levels since the pre-net days of 1991.  Unfortunately for that once-dominant medium, the programming options are endless and the cost of production and placement dwarf the cost of digital options.

And what about engagement?  How receptive to your thirty-second spot (or god forbid, fifteen second blipvert) is the mind of someone vegging out in front of the tube for nearly five hours a day?  Besides, with that TV-watching schedule, when would they ever have time for shopping?

As opposed to the passive TV audience, the online audience actively seeks information.  Digital engagement levels are exponentially higher than television.  But then again, with all the distractions available across hundreds of billions of web pages, why should they engage with you and your message?

In the end, whether you seek passive or active audiences, the only true engagement technique at any marketer’s disposal is a powerful idea.  You can study those, analyze those, and even run the numbers on them–but so far, you can’t write a program to generate them.

Ideas can come from anywhere, and that’s a very good thing.  Because in an increasingly confusing world battered by cost and fragmentation, we will need more and better ones.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

Mastering Integrated Marketing Is Nice, Mastering Dis-Integrated Marketing Is Far More Useful

As a direct result of Web 2.0 and media fragmentation, consumers have dissed advertisers.  Specifically, they’ve dis-integrated marketing.  Over the years, advertisers accumulated and adopted new media for their messages, and their agencies worked to integrate all of them around a common look, feel and tone. All of which made a ton of sense in a push media environment; in the best cases, common elements made the sum of all these integrated parts greater than the whole.  Advertisers appreciated and encouraged the growth and perfection of integrated marketing.

You Have A Choice: Choose Well

You Have A Choice: Choose Well

Consumers however, had their own ideas.  They may understand that commercials are the tax they pay to enjoy free entertainment, but that doesn’t mean they’re happy about it.  So in recent years, as the internet and DVR’s and DVD boxed sets allowed them to consume media of their own choosing from specialized niche programming channels on their own schedule and terms, they quickly adopted new platforms and technologies.  Even as advertisers worked to integrate marketing, consumers effectively dis-integrated it.

This is one reason social marketing experts are so loathe to use the “campaign” word; traditional campaigns are hardly adequate to span our hyper-fragmented, disintegrated media environment: an environment extending far beyond paid media to include earned media like recommendation and word of mouth.

That’s also the key reason why the means to organize and link all of this dis-integrated marketing lies in brand missions.  Not simply brand stories–those inform the mission, but are not enough by themselves.  We consider advertising an active verb–communication that works, that creates, that does something; specifically, Element 79 thinks it should Incite Interaction.  That’s why a brand mission makes sense–it’s something to do.  Somewhere in the intersection between the authentic brand story and the relevant consumer truth lies the brand mission.

Once you determine that, once you define it and make it real and begin seeding it across all of your paid media, consumers begin to understand the brand’s mission and what it means.  And if your insights are correct and your brand truths are genuine, they take up that mission on their own and begin spreading it on the brand’s behalf.  And disintegrated marketing no longer looms as a scary threat.  Because now people can rally around an idea, which travels much further than an execution.  And they can adopt missions, which they take in much deeper than mere messages.

All of which means that today, the ultimate question for agencies is: “Do you know your brand’s mission?”

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79