Time to stop polluting the media environment

The media industry is constantly expanding and diversifying. But, in embracing every new development, we are in danger of overburdening the sector and alienating the consumer, says Mark Cranmer. Mark Cranmer is managing director of Motive

Who cares for the environment? “Clients lobby for more environment pollution.” “Agencies demand unrestricted planning rights to the environment.”

Imagine if we read those sort of headlines about our collective approach to our natural physical environment. We’d assume the parties concerned had taken leave of their senses and ask how any responsible body could pay such scant regard to the world they live in.

Please forgive the exaggeration but it’s increasingly apparent that those at the coalface of media deployment are irresponsible at managing the media environment.

We can easily dismiss this notion knowing the media environment is a vast, expanding territory, and we’re all pioneers in a new, largely un-charted landscape. So, like all pioneers before us, we focus on today and pay little regard to tomorrow.

In an age of commercial turmoil it’s an easy, and understandable, ex-cuse. Yet I fear we are in grave collective danger of overpollution, and jeopardising the fertility of the metaphorical media plain.

In reality, we’re all prospecting for a particular precious commodity – people’s time. The media environment is our way to it, by virtue of a supposedly acceptable interruption to everyday life. Clearly this is a highly sensitive situation, yet we tend to treat these delicate dynamics with anything but sensitive understanding.

At the drop of a hat we collectively embrace any new dilution or congestion to the media environment. Although as the environment diversifies and expands, largely through advertising funding, we see ominous long-term decline of the use of the media infrastructure – public transport, newspaper reading, TV viewing – particularly among the emergent adult generation.

As we survey this decay, we are prone to bemoaning the declining effects of much advertising and pointing accusingly at creative standards. But is this right? Perhaps the pure volume of advertising, bombarding essentially disinterested, consumer minds, is the real villain. After all, as anyone who has been round an extensive gallery knows, it is hard to truly appreciate all the works in their most effective, individual light.

The biggest challenge we face is the preservation and management of our media environment. It has to be safeguarded as an effective place for us to proposition the consumer. Perhaps we should be viewing the changing media environment as if we were shareholders in it. After all, we all seek to demonstrate a return on our investment. If we were shareholders in “Media Environment Co”, would we encourage stock dilution without an improved yield?

With a digital media age just around the corner, we need to remind ourselves of the privilege consumers allow us with their time and be more respectful of our working environment. If time is the most precious commodity facing today’s consumers how many of the, say, 12 million audience of Inspector Morse might vote to pay 1 to see an ad-free episode and save themselves ten minutes in the process? Or how many Sunday Times readers might pay a couple of pounds for an ad-free version and save themselves half an hour of hard page-turning labour?

Maybe I exaggerate, but I believe it’s essential we don’t try the consumer’s patience too much in the changing environment, as we seek to impose on their precious time.

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