The Battle For Convergence, Finally!

17 Nov

Directv-robotsThere’s a great commercial for DirecTV these days where a pair of battling robots crash from room to room as a guy keeps shifting his attention from screen to screen. It’s a perfect metaphor for the clash of titans that’s coming to living rooms everywhere.

For years, actually more than a decade now, industry pundits have talked about convergence – the merging of experiences previously divided among computers, cell phones and television. That hasn’t happened. Instead we got more segmented content and the emergence of a fourth screen, the tablet.

But the time has come and the combatants are lining the field. Over there we have GoogleTV, AppleTV, Roku, Boxee and slew of others devices that promise to bring rich content from your computer to the big, shiny flat-screen in your living room.

Across the way there’s VisibleWorld, Canoe Ventures and similar technology ventures that intend to make the existing cable set-top boxes more powerful. All of the combatants have a similar vision – your TV delivering ads that are personalized to your taste, and not just the show you’re watching.

Do you care who wins? Not at all. But if you make your living in the marketing/advertising world you better start shifting your thinking. Forrester’s David Cooperstein has a great report that breaks down the changes racing at us. He summarizes the implications into five key points.

  • Measurement firms need to change. The shift to reaching individuals rather than huge audiences will require a different set of metrics. Internet marketers already do this, TV measurement will need to catch up.
  • New ad formats will emerge. We as an industry blew it when we created banner ads. Let’s hope there’s more thought given to how to use the new technology to connect with consumers.
  • Brand and direct marketing will merge. Let’s hope this artificial boundary is erased once and for all.
  • Agencies will need to be media agnostic. He’s not talking about just media buying agencies. And I’d add that clients need to break down the internal barriers as well.

To appreciate the level of change awaiting the winner of the battle it helps to understand how both sides are approaching the future. The Internet players, Google, Apple and such, want to let you decide what programs channels you want and will deliver that via the Internet. That enables marketers to buy presence in the programming based on where it will be delivered, just like they do with banner ads.

Technology vendors like VisibleWorld, envision a direct mail approach where ads are built in modules and assembled on the fly for the segment that you fall in. In this scenario you and your neighbor could be watching the same show and get different versions of an commercial.

Canoe, a joint-venture of the major cable companies, plans to bring the click-through of banner ads to your viewing experience. Ads on this system will allow viewers to request more information with just a click of the remote. Given that your cable company already has your address and email address, the follow up can be via email or snail mail.

At some point we’ll all end up placing bets, but you can be sure that one way or another that television advertising will never be the same.

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