By Lainie Smith, Media Strategist at Digilant
This Wednesday, the Ad Club held its annual Media Innovation Day & Maven Awards, a “daylong content event covering new and emerging media, and focusing on the rapid media and marketing shifts that are impacting brands.” As soon as I stepped foot inside the building to the roaring echo of the crowd welcoming the next speaker to stage, I knew I was in for a treat. Topics ranged from artificial intelligence, to robotics, to OTT, to partnerships and podcasts, but some overwhelming themes united the presentations, namely choice, personalization and relevancy. While technology continues to change how we communicate, media professionals can always rely on the unchanging nature of the consumer characterized by an innate desire for experiences.
In a world where people value their time above all else, new media channels and platforms must offer the user personal choice and flexibility if they want to survive. Nowhere is this more reflected than in OTT (Over-The-Top) content, comprising of all the media that we can’t get enough of from streaming platforms and services. Digital leaders from HP, Hulu, Nielsen, and Roku spearheaded a panel discussion on the booming OTT industry, opened by Seth Walters from Roku who pointed out how ubiquitous OTT has become with Rokus now in 15 million households that collectively view a billion hours of content a month.
Enid Maran from Nielsen jumped in to discuss how to best harness the buying power of these viewers, noting, “We have a new landscape to get messages out – what is the best way to market this space to advertisers?” The key to the success of this type of content lies in the flexibility it provides the user. Media consumption is no longer dictated by a broadcast calendar, allowing users to schedule their entertainment around their lives and not the other way around. Even what the advertiser puts out needs to be on the user’s terms. Peter Naylor added to the discussion by saying that, “nobody hates ads, but everybody hates irrelevance.”
Often times, the most meaningful media triggers the consumer’s imagination and allows them to take an active role in shaping the ads they receive. Chris Giliberti, Head of Multiplatform at Gimlet, perfectly illustrated this concept when he played a Hiscox podcast advertisement for us. Simply listening to the narration of a single speaker, the user must apply his or her imagination to picture the speaker – what he looks like, where he came from, his current environment. It’s been proven that imagination is deeply linked to memory, so the key to memorable media may lie in leaving space for the consumer to personalize it, rather than crafting the entire narrative for him or her.
Experiences Over Things
It’s tough to pick one speaker that I most enjoyed hearing from when the lineup consisted of top execs from companies like Pinterest, Waze, Havas, and IBM, but one particularly memorable presentation was delivered by Anthony Reeves, Global Creative Director at Amazon. Reeves began his presentation by clearly identifying Amazon as an “experience” company, rather than a tech or eCommerce giant. “People need experiences to drive us forward, either physically or through technology,” he said, before showing a clip of Amazon partnering with Hyundai to physically bring cars to potential car purchasers for a test drive, rather than the customer going to dealership . This novel approach to the test-driving experience yielded great results for Hyundai, increasing sales and brand affinity amongst its audience.
On the topic of change, Mr. Reeves quoted Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos by saying, “When trends emerge, businesses have a choice – embrace them and you get a tailwind; fight them and you’re fighting the future.” But he left the audience with his understanding of the one constant in the rapidly changing media landscape – experience. Withstanding all change, the need for human experience will never go away.
Although media is constantly innovating, media consumers haven’t changed. The constant that media companies can drive towards is experience; the problem lies in how to adapt experiences across increasingly automated media channels, while still allowing the user the flexibility of making their own choices.