Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Dodging cannon balls

I don't know why, given how often it happens, but I still find myself getting wound up by the way old-style business is regarding the emergence of the networked world - and even how mass media reports on it. Together they seem to repeatedly miss the point. Heads in the sand?

I recall the Times report on Radiohead's 'pay-what-you-like' download. How they sniggered when people paid a low average price. Why did they reject the significance of 1.2m downloading it in a month?

Another example today report from about a debate at Davos.

The guts: "In debates at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week, enthusiastic technologists and advertising agencies pronounced that 2008 would be the year in which (social networks, video games and mobile phones) marketing techniques would become mainstream.

But sceptical media owners disputed their growth predictions, questioning consumers' appetite for advertising campaigns in such new areas.

"The [supposed] solution to everything at the moment in the digital space is adsupported," Sir Howard Stringer, chief executive of Sony, told the Financial Times. "While advertisers are happy to talk that up, there is a limit to the amount of money available."

"The business model is not there today [for mobile advertising]," said Jeff Zucker, chief executive of NBC Universal.

Bobby Kotick, chief executive of Activision Blizzard, was similarly sceptical about advertising-funded video games, saying: "It's early days. I wouldn't go in that direction myself."

The issues here are manifold.

1. "consumers' appetite for advertising campaigns" - Two problems. Keep thinking about consumers and advertising and you are only going to see a downward spiral.
Of course there is less appetite for advertising campaigns. That's obvious. Consumers are gagging on interruptive ads of all varieties - whether on old media or in new. They might, however, want to take part in the community-dominated creation of value. They feel under assault from 'campaigns'. They also want to be treated as something more than consumers - converged individuals who are part of the creative process.

2. Scepticism over a business model for mobile advertising? Tell that to Admob who are busily serving 1bn ads a month. And perhaps its worth considering NEW business models which aren't about same-old interruptive ads. Consider Blyk, for example. Your business model 'may not be there' today, old chap, but those adapting to the 7th mass media are making hay.

3. Early days for ad-supported games? Tell that to MyNuMo - who are busily creating (and making money from) exactly these for the Iphone (and others) in the States. If more people spend more time playing games than watching TV and all you want is eyeballs (let's not make this too complicated for the disconnected...) then... well, there's the water. Drink if you want to.

Thankfully there was a voice of reason - and one you'd expect even the most stuck-in-the-mud to have a twinge of respect for: Eric Schmidt, CEO, Google.

"(mobile represents) the recreation of the internet, it's the recreation of the PC story, it is before us - and it is very likely it will happen in the next year," Eric Schmidt, chief executive, said of the location-based advertising made possible by the mobile internet."

It is Eric - it's the internet revolution all over again, only this time its personal - it's that PLUS.
And if you aren't already familiar with Tomi Ahonen and Alan Moore's work on Mobile as the 7th Mass Media - now would be a good time to catch up.

It seems bizarre that some of those who are witnessing the failure of interruptive advertising appear to draw the conclusion that there is no (or slow growing) revenue to be made with the networked world (either via social networks, mobile...what ever). Perhaps it's because they keep looking at the world from the centre-out, rather than the edge in.

Shift your perspective and you might see a crowd willing to join with you, rather than cannon fodder waiting to be assaulted by your next campaign.

No wonder we do all we can to dodge your cannon balls...

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The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?