Entertain and inform if you want to be noticed

In a media landscape transformed by the dot-com boom, it will take a lot more than blanket messaging to grab the attention of consumers.

There is little doubt that the e-boom is the major marketing issue of today. And while the dot-com “gold rush” continues to be extremely lucrative for some agencies – so long as they don’t work for Boo.com – little thought has been spared as to how this business boom is affecting the industry as a whole.

Many dot-coms are having millions poured into them by investors looking for a quick return, but whether this will continue after last week remains to be seen. Targets must be met: hits, page impressions and unique users have become the ultimate justification for this financial input. Thus dot-coms wanting rapid exposure are flocking to advertising and media agencies with huge budgets and that means one thing – traditional stature media. TV, billboards, radio and newspapers have become the canvas for spreading the dot-com gospel. But what are the implications?

Historically, the use of these media has been symbolic of a brand’s success and credibility, engendering consumer confidence. But with rapid awareness being the main goal, dot-coms don’t have the chance to establish any sort of solid foundations and build a credible brand. Therefore, much of the communication generated is shallow and insubstantial. As a result, many dot-com brands are built from the top down in a fit of “all show” without solid foundations.

What agencies have failed to realise is that, while dot-coms have been great for their bottom lines, they have unwittingly reshaped the media landscape. The decision to use TV, billboards, radio and newspapers for dot-coms has devalued these media to the point where they are no longer an indication of a strong, successful brand.

And with so many brands playing the same game, the resulting mass of messages is bound to cause consumers to switch off. The question we should be asking is: how do you create standout and generate interest among this mess?

Technology means more information and entertainment than ever before. This has led to a diametric shift in media consumption from passive to active, making consumers highly efficient editors. Blanket messaging has become increasingly ineffective as consumers extract what they want from their media environment. What they want is information and entertainment that is rewarding – and from a credible source.

Brands are in a strong position to provide this. Long-lasting brand properties can be developed through environments and experiences which enrich people’s lives. This will not only create a deeper relationship with consumers, but will also make them actively seek a brand’s marketing.

This won’t be the right approach for all brands but, with the devaluation of traditional stature media, to survive in the new economy dot-coms and traditional brands will need to think carefully not just about how, what and where they communicate, but also how rewarding it is for consumers to consume their messages.

Andy Marks is managing director of communications agency A Vision

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