I bumped into a couple of old mates from the radio world last week. We found ourselves reminiscing about way we used to portray the relationship the medium enjoys with its listeners, and how this can be a bit of a double-edged sword. Yes, it really was a pretty wild evening.
Anyway, it set me thinking about the ramifications of brands moving closer to consumers, entering into a dialogue rather than shouting, all of that sort of stuff that we glibly trot out in our "Media Futures" presentations.
Talking to marmalade
Of course, this is all actually happening. Brands can now get closer to consumers, even opening a "conversation" should that be appropriate. Though why anyone would want to converse with a jar of marmalade or a global provider of virus protection software is still a little vague to me. Must be an age thing.
Anyway, I was talking about my days in radio. Back then our big thing was the listener relationship. All of our research showed that listeners regard their radio as being somewhat like a friend right there in the room with them. Trusted, appreciated, and relied upon. Ideal really, exactly how an advertiser would wish to come across when trying to build closer ties with a consumer.
Think like a friend, not a salesman
But this is where that double-edged sword comes in. I don’t know about you, but most of my trusted friends don’t bend my ear three times an hour with great deals on double-glazing and half-price sofas. This was always the challenge with radio, and maybe it still is? The brands that get it right tonally can really capitalise, those that don’t can do themselves some serious damage.
It seems to me that this consideration now applies to so much more than radio. I guess it always did. These days even the humble poster is encouraging consumers to interact via NFC or QR code, a hugely valuable opportunity, and one that has the potential to revolutionise the medium - as long as there’s some suitable reward for this investment of consumer time and attention.
Don't do it if it's not meaningful
The opportunity to interact isn’t the reward, it’s what happens during the interaction, and if this experience isn’t up to par then consumers will grumble. And none of us want that. So, whilst the chance to add an element of dialogue to poster experiences at Heathrow Terminal 5 is hugely exciting, it’s incumbent on us to make sure the passenger finds this to be a meaningful and rewarding exchange.
Let’s not forget, it’s not just for "traditional" media that this need to "respect the relationship" is critical. It’s arguably equally important online or on mobile. In fact the mobile device in many ways offers the most personal of relationships, particularly on the smartphone.
Admittedly we seem to be adjusting fast to viewing ads in exchange for enjoying our chosen video or game, but, even in this new world, it still needs to be apparent what’s in it for us.
As mobile and outdoor collide, keep consumer top of mind
Interestingly, a key focus for those of us currently in the outdoor world is bringing together the poster and mobile device to add another layer of communication opportunity for advertisers. It’s hugely exciting, but I’d urge everyone involved to remember the consumer.
We’ll only realise the immense potential in this area if our ideas start with their experience, and provided we ensure there’s some reward for them in this new multi-faceted relationship.
Steve Cox is marketing director of JCDecaux Airport