In 2004 one of the more forward looking UK media sales houses at the time decided to publish a short book of essays written by so called industry experts on the state of, and the future of television. It was commissioned to gain PR within the highly competitive TV sales industry, and in particular to try to establish a point of difference between themselves and its competitors. At the time the general business approach of sales houses’ was in danger of turning television advertising sales into nothing more than a commodity, where the number of ‘eyeballs’ to TV was the only currency and where little focus was placed upon the context of ‘viewer environment’ which could play a part in the success of media placement. Sadly, this forward focussed sales house is no longer in existence, its clients having been swallowed up by bigger meaner beasts. However unlike their compatriots in many European markets that we have worked in, the seeds that they planted at the time appear to have taken root in some areas of the UK media market. I was reminded of this publication very recently when the very same broadcaster who drove the original thought pieces published their latest collections of essays titled 2024: The Future Of Television. My contribution was to be an essay on what I saw as being the new 4Ps of marketing that I was predicting would change the rules in TV marketing of the future; I shall expound later.
Whether I was a so called ‘industry expert’ at the time or not I was flattered to be asked to contribute an essay to this publication. With little consideration I decided to try to address an area, which had been taxing me at the time; how would technological change affect the way that TV viewers consume output and as I was at the time Head of Media Planning at the BBC, how would marketing need to change to adapt to it. Although it was a mere decade ago, 2004 now appears a technical revolution ago. Digital TV was still in its infancy; in fact the majority of households in the UK had access to just four or five channels at the time. The Internet revolution had exploded with the dotcom boom, but for many entrepreneurs it was a time for licking their wounds, as ‘brick and mortar’ brands were the only ones who could hope to monetise their web presence. Catch Up and VOD were again of little benefit to the industry and the public. Social media was a phrase hardly if ever used and the mere thought that a mobile to mobile messaging service (WhatsApp) could be sold for $19 billion to a community based online web company (Facebook) whose market value would be many multiples of this purchase price was unimaginable.
So what did my literate masterpiece say? What words of wisdom did I offer up to the anxiously waiting media industry? Would puffs of white smoke emerge from various media towers across the country!
If my memory serves me well then my essay was snappily titled ‘The new Four Ps of Broadcast Marketing’. The title was in reference to the long established four Ps of marketing, namely; Product, Place, Price and Promotion. For years these four factors dictated classic marketing strategy in all traditional fields and markets. However to me at the time they appeared to represent a world where markets were not as open as they would be, and where the consumer had not just greater choice of product but could also choose when they wanted to purchase or consume it. I felt that the initial four Ps drawn up at the time that AMC’s Mad Men portrays needed to be consigned to the ‘had their day’ file.
My new, sparkly, more relevant, ground breaking Ps, still four in number though, put the consumer and in the case of TV, the viewer in control: Portability, Personalisation, Permission and Perpectuality were going to shape the future of how business was to be done. My definition of Perpectuality being that content is always available to view.
In my vision for this new world, the Internet would provide the platform for all forms of media connectivity; both linear and non-linear content could live and be viewed side by side with the consumer at long last becoming king by being empowered to access whatever content they wanted, whenever they wanted and through many devices as they became portable, in essence ‘a screen is a screen is a screen’. Ten years on and I feel reasonably confident that this is the case. High speed internet access, smart phone and tablet technology, 3G and more recently 4G. Enhanced Wi-Fi connectivity in many markets has delivered upon the consumer’s capability to view what they want, whenever and wherever they are, to this end – Portability and Perpectuality has been fulfilled. I will return to this later once I have addressed the other Ps of my vision: Personalisation and Permission.
Whilst Personalisation is a concept easy enough to grasp, Permission may be a little less tangible and in reality it has proven to be the one P amongst the 4 that has been most difficult to complete the vision. The thought pattern was that the digital revolution where the consumer was empowered and active across a whole host of devices both in and out of their home would enable them to benefit from highly targeted messaging (Personalisation) of their own choice (Permission). This would not only direct and fulfil the consumer or in the case of the TV world, the viewer, to global content suitably provided based upon a series of data ‘opt- ins’ permitted by the individual, but it would also ensure that unwanted, non relevant messaging did not make its way to burden the same person. Reviewing this today as I have the previous two Ps I would say that whereas the Personalisation element has been fulfilled in many instances, sadly the Permission criteria, which goes hand in hand with this, has been wholly inadequate and to such an extent that for the short to medium future it may well be nothing more than a ‘pipe dream’. In reality the concept and any mass successful implementation of this has been undone by either poor execution or through blatant sales approaches which has coloured the public’s view of data provision and even lost consumer trust of all businesses that endeavour to fulfil the vision. It is this lack of trust due to poor company performance and behaviour that has helped contribute to rigorous legislation in most countries where data protection laws are thorough and designed to protect the most vulnerable consumers. In the media world this has meant that whilst broadcasters and media aggregators have tried and had some success in data base collection, numbers are relatively low and any practise of mass ‘one on one’ messaging is ineffective and of little consumer benefit and value.
Whilst data protection has certainly been a hindrance to Permission Marketing, perhaps my biggest failing in predicting the future was my over-estimation of peoples’ desire or need for recommended content to be pushed to their various devices to bolster or even replace their own programme choices. The real phenomenon that has taken place in the last decade, which has had greatest impact upon the lives of many, has been the emergence and huge prevalence of social media. Whereas I had prophesied that it would be the traditional media outlets such as TV that would adapt their linear offerings to provide consumer beneficial ‘push’ offerings of their own content; what has happened is that the actual consumer or viewer themselves has become the distributor of content. Functionality such as ‘share’ and ‘like’ on a whole host of non-linear platforms has led to content finding homes where it would not have otherwise been seen. Similarly, the likes of Twitter has grown into a distribution platform in its own right. Another major development where consumers have sidestepped the broadcaster is actually in the development of their own content; YouTube in particularly becoming the largest content distributer there has ever been. Permission doesn’t come into play, as there is no need to seek specific tailored made content from a media owner, as all of our friends and us have become broadcasters and distributors in our own right.
Returning to my first two Ps, namely Portability and Perpectuality, there is little doubt that these aspects have become an everyday reality. We are a curious race, as there appears to have been a polarisation in how we consume our media. The standard size living room TV is in decline as ‘home cinema’ screens dominate at one extreme and smartphone and tablet at the other. The one thing they both have in common though is that dramatic increases in picture broadcast quality allows for both to exist. It is also the experience that both these screen offerings bring that has made Perpectuality a reality. Whether ‘box-set’ binging on the home cinema or catching up whilst on the move or outside of the linear stream, the consumer can get whatever broadcast content they want whenever they want it and wherever they are. Catch up ‘Player’ and TV VoD systems currently dominate this consumption where the viewer no longer misses programming they want to watch. Two developments in non-linear that have taken root in recent years have been first run and exclusive content. Netflix is no longer just a distributor of other broadcasters’ programming but a producer of content itself. Orange is the New Black and the highly acclaimed and apparently much watched House of Cards being just two such examples of first run content exclusive to the non -linear stream. Many other broadcasters, particularly those aiming at younger audience groups or those who are most susceptible to time-shift viewing through PVRs have used the web for first run material. In recent days the BBC has announced that it plans to wholly distribute its youth channel BBC Three this way, using its successful iPlayer service as its key provider. It is more than co-incidental that the BBC chose their youngest channel to go down this path as a means of reducing distribution costs across the corporation and although a linear channel is still being mooted for the immediate future after its change in 2015 it may only be a matter of time that Perpectuality (ie always available) is a permanent feature of BBC Three.
So some ten years afterwards how would I mark myself on each of my predicted Ps?
Portability: 9/10. Undoubtedly one of the game-changers in media today with the emergence of the smartphone and tablet giving the viewer greater freedom to watch wherever they are – this can only but continue.
Personalisation: 5/10. Whilst databases have been collected by media distributors; both broadcasters and content aggregators, it has been social media that has driven this trend. However, there are increasing signs that the likes of Hulu in the US are maximising the potential impact of this. One to one TV marketing is inevitable but the power must remain with the viewer with choice still king
Permission: 2/10. This element of ‘opt-in’ by the consumer has proven to not just be almost impossible to implement in the TV marketing world, but its very essence no longer required. The explosion in distribution through in particular social media platforms has replaced its need.
Perpectuality: 10/10. No doubt the gold star of the 4Ps. Content as and when the consumer wants it will continue to drive viewing trends. Although the vast majority of viewing is still live and linear, there is no doubt that current figures will erode – however linear consumption will remain in the lead for quite a while to come.
So industry thought leaders of today predicting what they feel will be television of 2024 should beware that ten years is an awful long time in the broadcast world, technologies are born and social behaviour changes. Undoubtedly the one thing that will determine what will win, lose or be of greatest influence is the consumer themselves – they are still king.
Please feel free to give feedback on the above opinion piece. Should you be interested in exploring how JWM could possibly help your broadcast organisation then please contact us
Alan James, March 2014