Nobody Knows Nothin’


Every place you go, everybody is quacking the same story. Everything’s up for grabs. Nobody knows anything.

Pundits are claiming that as broadband enables new forms of entertainment and new ways to consume and manage media we will begin to see a mondoradical transformation in the movie and television industries. These audiences are already fragmented and viewers are demanding even more mobility, immediacy, and control over their media consumption and the content of that media. Which of course will lead to more fragmentation.

Now that sites like YouTube and MySpace are owned by major media companies–Google and News Corp., they’re pretty major, this issue becomes particularly troublesome. These guys are not that good at fragmentation. They were built on the principle of bigger and bigger. The truth is, most media companies haven’t figured out how to monetize web 2.0 yet, but everybody seems pretty convinced that some form of advertising model is going to be the silver bullet because of all the traffic that’s inherently there.

Trouble is they don’t quite know how to capture the value of all those pulse beats yet. Advertising seems like it might be the way, but nobody knows for sure. But everybody is jockeying for position to try to figure it out.

What the technology companies are up to is trying to see how big a change in the advertising industry some new gizmo, killer app, operating platform, techno-do-hickey might be. Technology solutions are like viral marketing right now.   They’re still a teeny slice, but their importance cannot be overstated.

Actually, all of this speculation is an example of the critical and growing importance the audience has been given in giving information traction. Whether it be silly or controversial, local or global, the users are often the ones who are ultimately put in the limelight. And with the Internet as the medium, the interest in audience attention and engagement is immediate and far-reaching on the part of people with something to sell. The problem is that these interactive audiences don’t seem particularly eager to buy anything just yet.

Would it be more effective to spend advertising dollars online rather than in another meaningless ad on television? Nobody knows.

Increasingly, marketers are coming to grips with the fact that people are no longer sitting in front of the television set scratching their butts and belching their beers. All of these fragmented audience members are much more open to innovative and creative entertainment options. Marketers will be increasingly forced to go where the audiences are–social networking, video sharing, and virtual world sites, web service outlets, blogs, podcasts, or wherever the next phenomenon takes them. Nobody knows for sure.

The challenge for large companies like WPP, Omnicom, Interpublic and Publicis is that with industry consolidation, and its mix and match combinations, the question is increasingly becoming how to get the Internet components positioned relative to the traditional components. Once again, nobody knows nothin’ so the expensive guesswork goes on…and on…and…you know…on.

Of course many of the agency networks are in a service “arms race” in which they keep adding more and more services cumulatively over time. But clients don’t always want “more and more”–what they’re looking for are unique combinations of attributes. Clients are looking for “new”, not just “more.”   And this desire is consistent with the wants and needs of their potential customers. You see that with the success of JetBlue, No meals, no round-trip airfares, but leather seats and personal entertainment centers. JetBlue’s unique combination of features is what gives it a unique position in the market. Few agencies or their networks can make that claim, in earnest.

Right now the weight is on the big interactive shops like Razorfish, Sapient and Digitas to come up with the breakthroughs. Those guys believe that the tailoring of messages via computer technology to a person’s interests based on past purchases or preferences is where everything is heading. Of course that all sounds very efficient and stuff. But what is also important is the manner in which a message is conveyed.

Those guys are great with technology, but in the messaging, or content as they call it…not so much. It’s the same as when you meet someone with whom you share similar interests, but despite that, you never really click because you find something in that person’s manner off-putting. Technology alone will never be able to adjust our sales approach and delivery to better fit with an individual or situation.   

The great untapped potential lies in being able to establish electronic connections with consumers in ways that are not always based on having a huge database of past consumption habits. Which means we have to develop ways of cataloguing emotional traits and human reactions. That’s when those of us who don’t know nothin’ will have the means at their disposal to begin to learn somthin’. I’m not holding my breath on that one.

Stay strong.

Compliments of


  1. All this digital stuff does not in and of itself bring marketers closer to customers.

    As you point out, figuring out what people really want and getting it into your plane, product or service is the hard part.

    Markets have always thrived on choice and options…the open market of digital media is remarkable, but not rewriting the laws of supply and demand.

    That being said, digitally enabled optimization technologies and processes can significantly reduce the friction and waste in satisfying consumer demand…I know it sounds kind of boring…but when the parties over, its going to be back to the business of servicing customers. Drat!

  2. Naive to believe that firms like RazorFish, Digitas and Sapient bring nothing more than technology to this problem, they have growing numbers of creative people who are thinking outside the conventional media advertizing box.


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