The Age interviewed Tommy McCubbin, interactive director at Clemenger BBDO Melbourne, Australia about the future of media branding and consumption. As many have been predicting, the way we watch television is poised to change radically via a revolutionary convergence of internet and TV. McCubbin was pretty convincing:
The internet has resulted in an explosion of creativity and has connected people across social and geographic borders, fostering communities and facilitating an unprecedented spread of knowledge and entertainment options.
One of the areas undergoing a metamorphosis is media. The way we consume and produce media content is changing so fundamentally that the mainstream practice of watching free-to-air television programs interspersed with conventional advertising will largely disappear.
Young people are already abandoning free-to-air television. This is evident to anyone who watches a young person watch television. The TV screen has become the second screen; primary attention is on the smartphone or tablet computer in their lap.
Young people, and more and more of the rest of us, are commenting on the television content in real time on social networks, sharing thoughts or accessing information often related to what is being broadcast on TV. This has enormous implications for advertising; more than $3 billion a year is spent on TV advertisements, yet fewer people are taking notice of them.
In the interview, McCubbin explained his outlook for audiences, content makers and advertisers:
He believes the convergence will alter television screens beyond recognition, and the idea of having a main screen and a second one in your lap will be superseded. He argues that free-to-air television is becoming irrelevant.
Like the SmartTV spots, our television screens will resemble large computer screens. They will be organised in a series of windows and feeds, and we will be adjusting the layout at will. At any given moment, we might be looking at a full-screen feed from a TV station or a downloaded program. We might be using video conferencing or be using social media. We could then switch to a game, which we might be playing alone, with others in the room or with others online. A ticker may be constantly updating us on news. Alerts will be popping up to tell us we have a new email or communication via social media. What we will not be doing is waiting for a sequence of programs selected by executives at television networks.
The SmartTV spot:
Television ratings, a core part of the free-to-air broadcasting industry, have already been superseded, McCubbin argues: ”Since the web has come to the living room, not a lot has changed in how we measure the success of a television program. The sample is taken from several thousand random homes around the country. What that accounts for is who is in the room and what is on the television.
”There are a lot of factors which essentially undermine that by not being considered: where the audience is really looking, be that their lap to their phone, tablet, or laptop; have they got headphones on; are they talking on the phone. We are basing billions of dollars of investment on ratings which are discounting a lot of real factors involved in the performance of television.”
But advertisers ought not despair. McCubbin believes there are plenty of opportunities to capitalize on the new order. The key is to create communities, rather than seeking to inform consumers about goods and services. He cites energy drink Red Bull as a leader in this emerging market: ”Red Bull has taken a plunge outside of traditional marketing on a global level. They have really made a commitment to owning adrenaline sports content and everything in and around that.”
Red Bull has created a tribe of millions to which they distribute, at zero cost, high-quality content. This drinks company has revolutionized advertising and marketing by circumventing free-to-air television.
There are opportunities for advertisers to continue to join forces with TV networks, but in a way that augments viewers’ experiences, rather than interrupting them.
McCubbin was aghast when a Toyota ad cut into one of the most exciting moments of the recent AFL grand final. ”It was when the game was really in the balance. Buddy Franklin found a couple of yards out on the flank and he turned around and put it on his left boot and it would’ve been a 70-yard goal. It was a real moment where the story of the game had turned a page … you could feel that everyone who was watching the game knew that. But as soon as that ball sailed over for a goal, it switched to a Toyota ad and everyone in the room at that moment went from elation to absolute devastation.”
What Toyota should have done, McCubbin says, is enhance the moment by sponsoring a replay and then cutting to a special camera in the coach’s box. Instead of adding a layer to the moment, they destroyed it, gormlessly alienating countless viewers.
McCubbin believes the television screen will soon have our credit card details programmed into it. Just as iTunes changed the music industry by introducing micro payments that allow us to buy single songs from an album or single episodes of a drama series, we will be given the option of paying a small amount to watch a television broadcast without interruption from advertising.
RBR-TVBR observation: We have to revert back to the old premise: content is content. Consumers will always want to view—and now create and participate in—content. Advertisers and media agencies will always find a way to become a part of that content. And no matter what they say, people will always want to view content for free rather than pay. So the model essentially stays the same. The trick is for companies to be able to measure the entire content consumption experience of each person and report the (reliable) numbers back to agencies and advertisers. When that measurement keeps up with the consumer and new technologies of content delivery, the game, again, essentially stays the same. That is the quest. If the quest cannot be met, then we’ll be looking at a bunch of amateur, reality and independent video productions–from television sets to smartphones–in the not-too-distant future. Quality productions cost money—and currently, advertisers pay most of that freight.