Apr 182007

(Thanks to Rory Sutherland of Ogilvy for that image). A brief, as at mid conference, ones mind is too distracted to put together a reflective, long format piece for a media blog (well I suppose that’€™s the nature of blogs!) -€“ and also there is very little time to sit back and write this stuff (yes being in Cannes is not all free parties and hanging around the beaches ‘€“ well for sad people like me’ it isn’€™t 😉 ). End of second day from Milia and the week is panning out as last year into very well defined areas focusing on burning issues:

The tension between traditional TV and broadband alternatives ‘€“ several online video superpanels.
What the heck should we do next ‘€“ The pitching panels demonstrating that companies like BBC have less and less in-house creativity that can truly engage the new audience
How to reach the audience ‘€“ a good second half to Tuesday looking at new forms of marketing and advertising
Are new platforms really offering opportunities – The usual cursory look at mobile and innovative broadband web

Any way onto some things that resonated with me ‘€“ these come across as negative on re-reading, perhaps suggesting things are maturing – a sort of things to tweak as opposed to the surprise one gets when…’€œwhat TV folk are starting to think about this stuff!’€

We like to play
Before I start with these little nuggets I must say I am staggered to see the lack of acknowledgement in many of my private discussions, keynotes and panels on the impact of online games ‘€“ whether virtual world or MMORPGs. The dominance of the TV market 2 floors below in the ‘€˜car boot sale’€™ environment of MipTV suggests that until games are brought back into Milia then all the ‘€˜new’€™ stuff will be focused on how to deliver TV (programmes and commercials) to online and mobile. This is manifest in the format of the week. OK a nod to virtual worlds in a keynote and short parallel panel, but I have only once heard for example World of Warcraft mentioned and that was me in a question! Please, please organisers to ignore such a rich seam of audience activity doesn’€™t make sense. A panel called ‘€œRole of Games in Cross-Media Entertaintment’€ (featuring the switched on Deborah Todd) will I hope suggest, that TV producers will only be ready for this new world when they understand and more importantly play games themselves.

Lack of BBC Vision
The new creative director of BBC Vision (Richard Williams) actually clearly showed the BBC has little vision for future services by playing a trailer in the Commissioning for all Screens, that was circa 2003. How many times do we have to see Walking with Beasts interactive (and other tired red button apps like Death in Rome) shown as an example of the BBC responding to change? WWB iTV is actually circa 2001 when Tim Haines and I took it to the then Controller of TV, Mark Thompson but at least Richard talked about a few ‘€˜listen to the audience’€™ projects which is very hard for the BBC – “have you considered the problems of moderation?” that oft line put to projects pitched at them. Another thing that is hard is finding a way within the organization to both creatively ‘€˜grow ideas, commission and produce (to quote Richard’€¦)

‘€œ’€¦this is the first time that the BBC has actually split up its commissioning and production of new media content’€¦a fairer system, I personally think the old system was pretty fair but this is going to better we hope’€’€¦

The 360 pitching sessions are being steered by the laid back and passionate Frank Boyd. He is also running lots of Innovation labs, with apparently half of the submitted projects getting some further development ‘€“ not surprising as the submissions into the labs are likely to be all the cross-platform ideas coming into the BBC! This may suggest as I said last year, an openess and willingness to work with external producers but it also pangs of a lack of direction – I shall feedback on the pitching sessions and final evening winners in a coming post. But the BBC’s current narrow focus on a way for its audience to get at video content (eg: iPlayer and YouTube) seems to be addressing only a small part of what needs to be done and endless restructuring and shuffling of the same people (or those so-called enlightened ones from other traditional departments) will not move them forward. I get the feeling that most of the true creatives have been swept out of BBC New Media leaving ‘trusted’ producers and ‘€˜audience figure’€™ managers? I hope though to be wowed by the quality of the pitches today, Wednesday, for the various BBC categories and of course by Ashley and Jana Bennetts steerage keynotes later in the day.

We know we can deliver video online!
I attended a few of the ‘€˜online’€™ video/TV panels, but little has changed since last year and I think Ferhan should cull the video over web and mobile back a bit. The most interesting thing to come out seems to be the polarisation caused by viewer created content. It falls into two camps ‘€œits all crap and we don’€™t need to worry about it’€ or ‘€œviewers are spending more time watching this crap rather than ours!, so lets worry’€. Most folk now trip out the oft said business model mix of a bit of subscription there and a bit of ad funded here as a catch all to how the online video biz is being monetised.

A surprising number are quick to totally dismiss pay-per-play as an effective model? This seems odd when we still live in a blockbuster age. What happened to the old keep 80% of people honest and they will not drift over to the dark side of bit torrent or pirated DVDs ‘€“ make it easy for them to stay honest. Apple/EMI strategy was given the ‘€˜ummm lets see’€™ by many yet all agreed DRM is a waste of time. In the Broadband Video Explosion SuperPanel Rick Sands (COO of MGM ‘€“ and who sounds a bit like Nick Cage) was most entertaining for the fact that he was clear that the industry is still broken into distinct parts. The Pipes, as he called them ‘€“ looking at the CEO of Joost, Fredrik De Wahl (who showed an impressive vid over web demo) ‘€“ should stay clear of content. They don’€™t understand, for example, advertising which for the most part is made by an industry where perhaps 25% actually know what they are doing’€¦which leads nicely onto’€¦

‘€œThe audience is fragmenting, fragment with them.’€ © Joseph Jaffe
Now where have I heard that before 😉 Through Tuesday afternoon a series of presenters and panels looked at new form advertising and marketing. I loved Rory Sutherland’€™s (Vice Chair Ogilvy UK) presentation which on one hand showed a disconnect ‘€“ he came across as a Lord of Advertising looking down on the sprawling proletariat hoard but on the other hand seemed very understanding and sympathetic with audience needs. I suspect those are the two key qualities of a great marketing person ‘€“ empathy combined with arms length. Other people in the marketing field though are less approachable and seem to be very nervous about what is happening, behind their thin veneer of public confidence.

I was also struck by the alternative marketing methods that many were tripping out too. Lots of talk about longer form video across all platforms, viewers doing their own satire videos on existing media (and how we should not touch them “copying is the best form of flattery”?) or keeping an eye on what the audience is saying about them BUT as I mentioned earlier there was little talk about ‘€˜play’€™ or immersion. Branded playful adverts were hardly touched on so the whole field of ARG’€™s, Scavenger Hunts and In-Game advertising was not even skimmed over. To disregard a human’€™s desire to play seems odd for an industry aimed at fulfilling need ‘€“ this especially resonated with me when I went along to the ‘€œFreshTV presentation’€ post lunch. The WIT fronted by Virginia Mouseler presented what she/they think are the best new TV formats around the world. Not surprisingly most were cross reality/games – a new term I developed during the sessions ‘€˜Gality Show’€™ (yes it is late writing this) ‘€“ but back to advertising. Some speakers said commercials and advertising are separate ‘€“ so pay for good content and leave it alone (do not product place or steer the editorial), this seems again very odd in a world where some of the most widely viewed content is reality the most seen on-demand being ‘€˜users reality’€™ (as in user generated video about their lives) – again not referred too. So surely advertisers need to work around, within and alongside what TV is turning into. Most TV in less than 5 years will be reality focused and that means ‘€“ Sport, The Audience, Reality Game Shows, News and Reality Drama (yes endless CSI’€¦). One of the marketeers who falls into the keep ads and programmes separate is’€¦

Joseph Jaffe who delivered a nice theoretical keynote based on his now old-in-the-tooth, marketing book ‘€˜Life after the 30 second spot’€ ‘€“ already three years old. Again I often think back to the endless work/discussions that TV-Anytime and I did with advertisers circa 2001 when the impact of the PDR (Personal Digital Recorder) was documented in many forms. Much of what we see in marketing today is simply based on anytime, anywhere, anyhow media ‘€“ and more significantly how to respond to that ‘€“ this was coming over the horizon for many a decade ago, yet the same noises are still being made and combined with the obvious impact of social networks consultants have lots of work in the coming years. Something that stuck out from Joseph’€™s assertive diatribe then was that everyone in marketing, including Joseph himself, are floundering to implement real world, effective marketing strategies. How to reach out and allow audiences to reach in and knowing what to do, actually – to use his expression when describing the many media and product based companies he has talked to ‘€œhelp us understand what comes next’€. He came across as passionate about the area but the content became overtly theoretical with lots of semantic juggling and an over reliance on power ‘€˜points’€™ ‘€“ eg: the four c’€™s, acronyms EPIC, play on words Return on Experimentation (ROE) and so on. Here is a little quote that resonated

‘€œSponsor your Consumer. A lot of people talk of consumer generated content and the thing that I constantly hear is that the quality is crap, they are not producing really high quality pieces of content. But I don’€™t think consumers care. If they are producing quality or low quality commercials or content why not help them. Send them a producer, why not actually raise the collective tide and make the work better. Even if you don’€™t do that remember that consumers aren’€™t creating this for you they are creating it for themselves. Heres a good example I call sponsoring your consumer. Instead of sponsoring the Olympic Games why not sponsor that one consumer that is really passionate about something’€

I suppose like most consultants he was advertising himself (this person seems to know what they are talking about lets give them a go) without revealing steps that work. I did warm to him when he answered my question about in-game marketing and he cited a couple of reasonable examples and also gave me a copy of the book which I will virally distribute via a local library I know without a copy. There is a second book coming out called ‘€œJoin in the Conversation’€ likely about marketeers becoming part of the global discussion about everything and anything – which shows there is life after the book’€œLife after the 30 second spot’€

© Gary Hayes 2007