"You could make a case that the interesting stuff the internet's going to do to the media industry has mostly already happened."
So says the thought guru, columnist and creative director at the Government Digital Service, Russell Davies. He goes on to say: "This doesn’t mean you can just sit and think: phew, we survived. Because the internet will now just move on to transform every other bit of your business and could easily render you useless as a side effect."
I won't argue with Russell. The last time I attempted to, he conclusively proved that we were both right. I tend to shy away from predictions anyway, as I'm not much of a gambler. Whether the neophiliacs are going to have to take a chill pill for a while or not, I do know. I do know that we have barely begun to feel the impact of the change brought by the internet. We have barely scratched the surface.
I am grateful to the BBC's director of future media, Ralph Rivera, for his way of explaining this. On what he named the Brooklyn Grid, he described the vertical axis as "new stuff" versus "same stuff", while the horizontal axis is "new ways" and "same ways".
Describing developments so far at the BBC, he explained that its innovations to date had mostly been same stuff done in new ways – for example, the iPlayer (in the sense that it is the same sort of content that the BBC has always produced, delivered in a new way) or the Olympics (still a coverage of events, but all of them simultaneously). His ambition was to start to populate the "new stuff in new ways" part of the grid at the BBC.
Similarly in advertising, lots of what ad agencies do is still "same stuff in the same ways" in terms of bulk of spend. There's an increasing amount of "same stuff/new ways" – for instance, video on demand. I want to put search into that space too, as it is a new way of delivering the Yellow Pages in a sense – with cost-per-click reviving the shared-risk model of buying that was how we often worked in the early days, even on TV. There is going to be much more of a return to this shared risk across campaigns generally. Let’s not worry about new stuff in the same ways – every new ad campaign that has a traditional media plan goes in that box.
But we have barely scratched the surface of new stuff in new ways. Integrating the second screen into truly delivering point of sale while ads are rolling on TV, using mobile as a first screen when the target audience requires it, beginning with owned content rather than bought and fully plumbing the whole connected system of media – these are all in their early days in terms of scale.
That's really going to shake things up once we get to grips with it. I hope no-one relaxed when they read Russell’s piece. There’s a lot more change ahead.
Sue Unerman is the chief strategy officer at MediaCom
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