Stuff I’ve Said Other Places, Take 2

In Part Two of my preemptive strike against information decay, I go back to a piece that originally appeared on iMediaConnection May 13, 2005 entitled “The New Media ‘American Problem'”.

I recently and sadly missed my 20th high school reunion (though got a nice second hand experience via Facebook – no link embedded intentionally), so this ode to good ol’ Mr. Drake is coming back at the right time.

I’ve used the Moses analogy in here a number of times over the years, one of my faves.  And there’s even a reference to Subservient Chicken (see it here in all it’s swf-y glory or read about it here if you were too young or all the glitzy followers on to this have made you forget the original – or at least the originally hyped), a seminal event in digital marketing if there ever was one.  Enjoy..

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My senior year of high school, I took a class entitled “American Problems,” taught by Mr. Drake. It took a look at the complex issues of the day in our country, encouraging young, fertile minds to take a position and engage in healthy debate.

When things became especially heated, Mr. Drake would step in with a seemingly innocuous phrase that would make the quarreling parties stop and think — some sort of phrase that had been completely overused, that seemed to have lost its meaning somewhere along the way; something you really couldn’t respond to. Usually, it ended the debate just prior to the bell ringing. The man was a master manipulator that way.

Although the phrases seemed practically meaningless, a little meditation on what Mr. Drake said usually led you to realize you had the necessary intellect already in place to comprehend the issue at hand. I also liked the way it brought about the abrupt end to unwanted conversation.

Recently, these phrases got me thinking about the relationship between all things that are deemed “new media.” Right now, there is much consternation about what, exactly, “new media” is and how and when it should be used. Indeed, an “American Problem,” if there has ever been one. Allow me to share a few of these time-honored phrases and explain the connections I made.

“We’re talking chicken and egg.”

More than likely, when Moses came down from the mountain after carving the Ten Commandments, one of the wayward souls in the valley was probably angling for a way to sponsor this tablet that would obviously have such mass appeal. And, hey, it would allow Moses to cover the cost of the hammer, chisel and labor he’d just used to produce the document.

I use that example to point out the sacrilegious way we can tend to assume that every new device or mechanism for delivering and consuming media was put there for us to better reach our target audience. Also, to reinforce that although technology makes consumption and delivery of content seem “new,” when you boil it down, it’s still about reaching the correct audience at the correct time with the correct message.

Let us keep in mind that the best examples of devices and mechanisms for content delivery and interaction (the chicken) are created with the idea that it will be easy for the user to get to the content (the egg) they desire with as little impediment as possible. Keeping this thought in mind will allow us to stay consumer-centric, not media vehicle-centric, in our communications planning.

“Is that a means to an end, or are you justifying the end with the means?”

Doing something new because it’s new is not the answer if it’s not grounded in an over-arching objective. Additionally, latching onto a new media vehicle as a tactic then retrofitting an objective around it will not deliver against your clients’ desires.

In our post-Subservient Chicken media lives, let’s keep in mind that the idea (the end) was subservient to the execution (the means), and that when it came time to execute, there was a plan in place for getting it done.

“That’s neither here nor there.”

Once upon a time, there were simple rules to media consumption. Everyone watches weeknight primetime. Most people are listening to radio during their commutes. Newspapers are the best mechanism for fast-cume, daily reach.

Now we talk about things like time-shifting, co-media usage, on-demand, consumer-generated media, wireless access, content integration, and on and on. Our formerly rather stationary, predictable targets (we knew if they were here or there) are now empowered to have their media the way they want to have it when they want to have it (here or there could be practically anywhere at any given time). Oh, and now they feel so bold as to even create their own media (would that be it’s neither who or whom?).

Although this is a relatively new phenomenon, there’s no need to panic and start throwing things at the wall to see what sticks. We do plan media for a living after all. And, for the most part, we are rational people.

We simply have to put more thought into the context of the media usage as it is occurring and how our product or service fits into that context. Does the product or service contribute to or, at least, flow with the content being consumed? What is the target’s situation as they are consuming the message — in a taxi cab, playing a video game, at work, in a movie theater? And, for a common sense test, would you as a consumer be willing to receive a message on a particular device or via a particular medium at that particular time? No one likes a focus group of one, but sometimes common sense is a good gut check on your media tactics.

“It’s six of one, half dozen of another”

Our ultimate goal as media planners is to stimulate some sort of action or reaction from our intended target. If what we deliver is useful and in context, the target does not care that the message comes via their wireless device as they walk down the street, while playing a video game, prior to watching a VOD piece, or even within the confines of some sort of ubiquitous “traditional” media vehicle. If that target is engaged in an activity and receptive to the message being delivered while in the flow of that activity, we are providing a benefit to the target while achieving our objective. At that point, for our target and our media plan, it’s six of one, half dozen of another.

Mr. Drake, if you’re out there, you can be proud of my application of what I’m sure was an unintended lesson.

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