New media platforms demand new formats for content:
The printing press gave rise to the widespread distribution of books and newspapers. Radio bred panel discussions and radio dramas. The television encouraged the growth of half-hour video entertainment in a world previously dominated by feature-length films.
The most recent iteration of this is tablets and smartphones encouraging short-form entertainment such as web video and podcasts.
The Casualization of Content
One of the hallmarks of mobile media is its casual tone. Much like YouTube, content consumed on mobile devices is often either consumer-generated or a less-formal side project of mainstream talent. Think podcasts and web-based comedy videos.
Many types of media have become more casual in conjunction with the rise of mobile. Early seasons of hit TV shows such as It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia have been filmed on consumer-grade equipment. In the music world, Jay-Z claims that he freestyles all his lyrics and alt-country act Clem Snide is offering to write and record custom songs for $100 each. Overall, it’s become increasingly commonplace to see creative projects that challenge conventional ideas about professionalism and measures of legitimacy in art.
Video Follows In the Steps of Photography
From the consumer perspective, video has been becoming increasingly seen as a useful tool more than an artistic one. The years between 2000 and 2010 saw the shift of photography from something precious you spent hours on and posted carefully to your Flickr account to something you barely think about as you document everything you do and keep a running log of it on Facebook.
We expect video formats to continue to become increasingly short, as more bite-size videos such as those seen on FunnyOrDie.com make their way into TV network line-ups. Children’s Hospital, for example, began as a web series and is now part of the full-time roster on Cartoon Network.
There was even a movie released this year that does not finish when the screen shuts off at the movie theater, instead using web-based video to tell the rest of the story. At the conclusion of the film Seven Days in Utopia, viewers are instructed to visit a website in order to see how it ends. I imagine most viewers who had a smartphone watched the video while still in the theatre parking lot.
So What Do I Do?
The best thing a marketing executive can do to prepare for these shifts is to surround themselves with passionate colleagues that are in tune with the shifting media and cultural landscapes. Understanding and adapting to these changes will lend your brand an air of modernity, thoughtfulness and flair.
These changes present many opportunities for more advanced advertising tactics. For example, marketers have yet to fully take advantage of the targeting capabilities afforded by digital video. A larger number of programs, each with a smaller audience, presents the opportunity to speak to your target more directly. A marketer might make 15 versions of a video ad, subtly tailoring each one to a different target.
And there is potential for more sophisticated interaction in ads as app publishers adopt iAd and other mobile rich media technologies. Imagine a video ad that asks for your feedback at the end. The next time you see an ad for that brand, what you see could be influenced by your response during the prior interaction.
In the short term, go rogue and create opportunities for yourself by crafting content specifically designed for mobile devices and connecting it to your marketing mix through print, TV, collateral and retail. As the industry produces more sophisticated options for advertising in mobile media, experiment and see what works best. Marketers that get there first and figure out how to most effectively harness the medium will be rewarded with new customers, more sales and an image as a smart, innovative company.
Greg Steen, 01.10.2012