Monday, February 23, 2009
Is Emerging Media A Distraction?
By Kendall Allen This is supposed to a love story -- the digital brood and emerging media, always and forever. But something else has always been true about love: often, timing is everything. A marketer taking on emerging media is typically motivated by embracing innovation, testing, and exploration. However, in this economy, many are wondering -- do I have time to indulge this love? Does loving him make me too vulnerable? Will she hurt me? Are our priorities and values the same?
Seriously, despite our simmering amour, it is reasonable to evaluate the relationship. At a time when performance and provable return are the focus, the digerati are asking: is emerging media the doorway to our best self? Or is it recreation, a plaything -- a distraction? The answer lies somewhere in between. But we've got some thinking to do.
What we need to get clear on is the framework for thinking about this stuff. The apple of our eye should not be an amorphous grouping of cool, sexy, and fun. There is no better time than now to raise the bar on our point of view. Having some light guardrails and industrywide best practices seem wise and progressive, as we take the marketing application of emerging media to a new level of engagement.
The Question of Questions
First up: What exactly is emerging media? This is a question a number of us are taking the time to actively hash out right now. More on this another time -- but I am happy to be comparing notes within the agency community, coast to coast, on this question. There are those among us who have done quite a bit of work on this and developed some pretty illuminating, grounding IP. You know who you are. That is helpful to us all. What we want is more than a sanity check; we need a media docent for the times we live in.
Most of the industry has admitted there's no such thing as new media. As media drives discovery, there is an innate and perpetual newness to it. We need to agree on that. While that dated "new" nomenclature has fallen off, we still refer to emerging media, as the marketplace flexes with innovation and we ponder how to embrace it. But, we do so without a real grasp on the continuum of emerging media. What belongs on the spectrum of "emerging"? Without any prevailing guidance, there is a constant flurry of consideration:
So, what really matters when categorizing something emergent or mature is its value to you, the marketer with very real goals. While it seems most of us would choose the experienced over the virginal -- many of us, no matter how hard a line we take on proven value, will always leave room for random play. Even so, at this particular time, the room we leave for play likely shrinks a bit. Timing matters.
For now -- shake off the pressure to innovate and apply the value principles that matter to you. Do not get distracted by market reports on shifting allocations and usage/popularity. Who cares? As marketers, our mix should flex. As the market tests us, particular emerging media will either advance the marketplace or they will fall off.
As far as my own relationship with emerging media goes, if Mobile can help me activate in the retail channel in a way that is cool and delivers, he can call me after midnight anytime. I'll take the call. Unless I'm on a moonlight walk with Video.
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Kendall Allen is senior vice president of Digital Marketing Services at MKTG, headquartered in New York City. Previously she was managing director of Incognito Digital, LLC, an independent digital media agency and creative studio. She also held top posts at iCrossing and Fathom Online.
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