The semi-annual digital ad-fest known as ad:tech New York kicked off today and an old-school media maven (self-described) wasted no time in bringing everyone back down to earth.
Quit talking about iPads, pay walls, apps and piracy and focus attention on what matters, Lauren Zalaznick, the president of NBC Universal Women & Lifestyle Entertainment Networks, said in her keynote address.
“The very technology that let people mash-up, skip through, and yes even pirate our content is also that technology that will let more users enjoy our content,” she said. Instead, focus on consumers, content and having no fear, she said. “If you do that, the technology is irrelevant.”
It was a sharp about face for ad:tech audiences, who only last spring were told by the publisher of Wired Magazine, that if consumers weren’t forced to pay for content, and fast, the publishing industry was doomed.
This time attendees were again surrounded by hundreds of companies who promised new and highly profitable ways to harness the latest technology to get consumers to open their wallets. But Zalaznick’s message for success was much more simple.
“Technology is not our savior, nor our scapegoat. It nourishes the audience’s new found addiction to choice,” she said. Those predicting the demise of the 30-second TV commercial, magazines, newspapers or entertainment media as we know it are forgetting their history.
“We’ve been to this scary movie before,” she said, likening current innovations to radio, tv, cable and digital video recorders. “It always ends on a happy note, the girl lives.”
But she was not advocating business as usual. Her presentation was peppered with powerful examples of how NBC/Universal properties like Bravo, Oxygen and iVillage have created new experiences for entertainment. “Niche is the new mass in television these days,” she said, noting that fragmentation was set in motion by the birth of MTV and CNN nearly 30 years ago.
But the core value for marketers remains brand recall, message recall and likability. When marketers smartly combine broadcast ads with great use of online, mobile and other digital channels, the results go up dramatically, disproportionately higher than the spend, she said. Not to mention ratings. In the case of one Oxygen show, an 88% increase when the network enabled realtime chat with the stars online simultaneous with the broadcast.
On iVillage 96% of the women reported that if they like a product they’ll talk about it in their posts, and recommend it to “everyone they know,” she said. And that is because iVillage carefully matches the content to its audience, and the advertising benefits from that.
“The content that wins is the content that relentlessly captures and reflects that audience’s point of view,” she said.
The other lesson she said, was not to expect consumers to change because media companies want them to. She pointed to the music industry’s many lawsuits against consumers for piracy.
“The digital horse has bolted out of the barn, but we still hold the reigns,” she said. “Consumers will decide what content wins, so fear not.”