Just a few short decades ago, consumers had a limited selection of real-time information and entertainment sources to choose from; TV and radio – on a very finite number of channels and stations.
Consequently, for brands and retailers, gaining access to consumers was relatively straightforward. All they had to do was to identify the demographics of the audience viewing content on these finite sources and pay the TV and/or radio network to deliver targeted messaging – ads – against that content.
Then, as well as now, quality content has been one of the biggest challenges facing TV and radio networks. Since inception, these networks have competed for content to ensure they had an appropriate target audience that advertisers would pay to access.
For those who don’t remember, in the 1940’s and 1950’s consumer product companies (e.g. P&G, Colgate-Palmolive, etc.) even sponsored content – soap operas – to secure viewers for their advertising.
Today, consumer brands and retailers have virtually unlimited access to consumers. In addition to traditional TV and radio network programming, they can use social media, email, Internet-based advertising, and other paid and earned media alternatives to easily access consumers – and relatively inexpensively.
And, with the advent of user-generated content, boutique studios, and inexpensive and relatively easy to use technology to create a high-fidelity experience, content itself is no longer in such short supply. Social media sites such as Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube, for example, generate tremendous DAU (Daily Active Usage/Users) rates which rival and/or exceed the best reach, frequency and impression scores that TV or radio networks have to offer.
Now, with so much available content and universal access, the battle for viewers has turned from access and content to “attention”. Add to this “time-shifted viewing” (DVR), where viewers can skip ‘boring’ advertising, the stakes have been raised even higher for brands and retailers that want to capture the attention of consumers and engage with them.
Brands and retailers face a complex set of issues in that they must now be able to accurately determine:
- Which viewers are interested in which particular content?
- When are viewers actually engaged with content so they can deliver a message regarding a product or service.
- How to keep the viewers’ attention when a message is delivered.
Consequently, InterWest has invested in several start ups that are helping companies to address these issues: Brand.net, Get Satisfaction INVIDI, and Spredfast.
Brand.net – allows a brand or retailer to use online targeting technology to selectively determine which ad to deliver on which website at which particular time. This is critical to brands and retailers that want to control an integrated marketing campaign across TV, Print, Radio and Online.
Get Satisfaction – which powers more than 65,000 communities such as Intuit, Microsoft, P&G, Walmart, and many others to help convert initial brand awareness into direct customer engagement and revenue.
INVIDI – - enables television service providers to simultaneously deliver multiple and distinct commercial streams to different households or individual set-top boxes during a single commercial break. Simultaneously, INVIDI enables these providers to control reach, frequency and separation of the commercials.
Spredfast - allows companies to measure the impact of networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs and YouTube and to coordinate activities across multiple teams and business locations.
In addition to the importance of identifying who and when, brands and retailers are learning that if they are fortunate enough to actually capture the initial attention of a prospective customer they need to keep that attention. People have so many options to interactively tune in and out that simply capturing someone’s attention is no longer sufficient.
As a result, the nature of the content of advertising has changed radically over the past decade. Today, in order for ads to be effective, they must also be a form of entertainment.
The NFL SuperBowl has become the singular event where new ads, designed to entertain, are rolled out. In fact, the ads have become one of the highlights of the SuperBowl.Brands such as Apple, Budweiser, Doritos, E*Trade, Go Daddy, and Old Spice – to name just a few – are hilarious and entertaining and therefore memorable.
Even B2B companies have resorted to consumer tactics to capture attention and drive engagement with their brands. The Computer Associates’ national ad campaign featuring a persistent software salesman – “So…how much software do you want to buy?” – comes to mind.
In fact, at InterWest Partners we recently redid our website and included an animated whiteboard video (click on “Why InterWest?). Rather than the typical way most venture firms describe themselves, we elected to use this media format to engage entrepreneurs and quickly tell our story in a unique, light-hearted way.
One of my partners is Keval Desai. Keval was formerly a product executive at Google and has postulated, and I believe he is spot on, that the need to know – in real-time – precisely who is engaged and their demographics will allow technology to dramatically transform Madison Avenue just as Wall Street was transformed through the application of technology decades ago.
This transformation won’t be a cure for consumer ADD but it may drive it into remission.