The convergence of media

Digital media is merging the boundaries between the once separate traditional media but marketing can’t rely on technological novelty alone. By Louis Halpern

What’s the difference between TV, press, outdoor, ambient, radio and online media? None. They’re all digital. It’s a time of unprecedented change in the marketing communications industry and the key driver is the technological convergence of platforms.

Where before we used to consume media through separate channels and on single function devices (TVs, radios, computers, phones, Walkmans, etc), the current issue in marketing is all based around the convergent future. A Nokia phone, for example, allows a person to make and receive calls, keep a diary, listen to MP3 files, scan the internet, e-mail, take photographs – all while doubling as a watch. Sky Plus can be operated either via the internet or a mobile phone. Even outdoor posters are digitally enabled and allow interaction via Bluetooth and SMS messaging.

The big question that no one yet has the answer to is what will be the winning technological platforms? Or, where should a brand focus its money?

Well, two things are clear. First, technology, in the form of processing costs and bandwidth, is becoming increasingly commoditised and this trend is set to continue particularly as we move forward with RFID and nano technology. Second, whatever technologies eventually emerge victorious will still be dependent upon their relevance to the individual and the quality of the content – technological novelty on its own can never succeed.

Human needs will always remain the same. It’s just that the delivery of these needs is becoming more efficient through the clever use of technology. Advertising must reflect this and become more efficient itself. That will mean that brands increasingly personalise their messages while simultaneously respecting their consumers’ preferences. Both go hand in hand to make a very powerful advertising and marketing model.

Intelligent brands will utilise consumer preferences and habits to increasingly personalise people’s digital experience. For example, if you like wearing button-down check shirts, the ads that will be delivered to you will be for button-down check shirts. It’s simple, straightforward and relevant – technology is merely the enabler.

We always used to live our lives in a straight line. Now we live in an age of non-linearity. For instance, when I used to watch a TV programme I would watch that programme at a set time on a set day. Now I switch my recorded programme from Sky Plus to my mobile and watch it on the train to work. It’s a confusing age for marketers because everybody’s doing their own thing and, crucially, they’re doing it when it suits them. Mass marketing RIP.

As we move forward brands will need to make sure they aren’t intimidated by technology and continue to focus on what’s important: highly personalised messages, relevancy to the individual and quality content. The key to understand, however, is that these highly personalised content and messages are platform independent. Why? Because the brand is returning to the individual.

In the final analysis, the platform or distribution medium (TV, internet, mobile phone and so on) is irrelevant – the brands that will rule will understand this and concentrate on the individual, not the technology.

Louis Halpern is chief executive of Halpern Cowan

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