There was a time when you couldn’t move for media men jumping on to
platforms to make bold predictions about the digital and interactive
future - safe in the knowledge that in the crystal ball gazing game,
everyone wins because nobody knows the truth.
Now that we have digital television and interactive advertising,
however, the future has arrived, the mists are clearing and the picture
is becoming a lot less confused. And it seems to be the advertisers
themselves who are hogging the new media agenda.
First at Barcelona, then at last week’s Incorporated Society of British
Advertisers’ annual policy conference, we heard from some eminent
advertisers about the imperatives of the new media age and the
advantages of taking action now. As has often been the case in the past,
for all the spiel agencies spin about advances in media, when it comes
to actually getting involved, it’s the advertisers who are often setting
With advocates like Ian Milligan, the marketing director of Camelot, and
Patrick Burton, the vice-president of media and brand communication at
Allied Domecq, there is now a rallying cry for media agencies to help
clients explore the new opportunities afforded by technology. But it
will require a re-evaluation of the role of media.
The problem is that media has always been a business based on cost and
quantifiable return. With advertisers increasingly forced to justify the
existence of their marketing function to their finance director, the
idea of ’investing’ in new media opportunities without any tangible
payback is hard to brook.
For agencies, too, to invest in loss-making new media expertise is an
anathema when margins are so tight and investment so carefully
Yet there are significant gains to be made by those who act now. It may
be something of a new concept, but surely it’s time for a bit of R&D in
media. The arguments for spending a little time and money to learn about
the future landscape - and make mistakes while no-one’s watching - to
gather knowledge while your competitors languish in the dying embers of
the analogue age, seem obvious.
As Burton and Milligan pointed out at ISBA last week, those clients and
agencies with the greatest knowledge in the new media world will be more
in control of their own destiny. As Burton put it: ’In the land of the
blind, the one-eyed man is king.’
It’s time to step back from the view of media as an accountable cost and
make some investment in the future. We don’t need Mystic Meg to tell us
that it will be a long time before digital and interactive television
and the internet begin to really shift mainstream products.
But when you consider that this new interactive world will mean yet more
advertising clutter and audience fragmentation, choosing not to invest
now in finding ways to cut through is not just short-sighted - it’s