United to build meaningful media ecosystems

In 2013, I contributed to Wharton University’s Future of Advertising Programme. This programme aimed at acting “as a catalyst to launch the forces of change and make advertising and marketing markedly better for businesses, people, and society.”. Over 200 professionals worldwide were invited to contribute by articles that were answering two questions:
1. What could/should advertising look like in 2020?
2. What should we do now for that future?

My entry United to Build Meaningful Media Ecosystems was published in 2013. I was inviting brands to act respectfully, to adopt sustainable and meaningful approaches and to cooperate with creators.
The synthesis of all the contributions gave birth to a book (Beyond Advertising: Creating Value Through All Customer Touchpoints) written by Catharine Findiesen Hays and Yoram (Jerry) Wind, the initiators of the programme.
The 200+ entries could be be read online. It is no longer the case. However, since I believe in 2020 (the time horizon of the programme) brands still have some way to go to adopt the approaches I was arguing for, I decided to publish my contribution here below. Its translation in French can also be found in my book in the chapter “United, we are reinventing Media”.
Also, brands are currently reassessing their long-term media allocation strategies due to hate speech on social media and they are facing the huge challenge of ad fraud (the World Federation of Advertisers estimated in 2018 that “between 10 and 30 percent of digital media spend [was] actually subject to criminal activities” and that “by 2025 digital ad fraud [would] be the second income in the world after drug trafficking”).
Brands being currently looking for new approaches, we might be at a turning point in the history of advertising. Hopefully…

United to build meaningful media ecosystems
by Timothy Duquesne,
for Wharton University’s Future of Advertising Programme.
April 2013.

What could advertising look like in the future?

If we have a look back at the route advertising has taken since its birth, the tremendous empowerment of viewers will appear strikingly. Indeed, viewers have plenty of new tools in their hands to compare offers, be informed about brands, spread messages to their peers, share content widely. There has also never been as many contents and experiences available to us. And this plethoric choice will grow exponentially in the coming years. It results in viewers being able not only to choose the content but also how they want to interact with it. With remote controls, tablets, computers or smartphones, they have taken control of how they experience audiovisual content. Empowered by an impressive set of tools, such as the social networks, craving compelling content and ready to share it when they like it, they are playing a key role in defining tomorrow’s winning approaches in our increasingly connected world.

At this very moment, all players in the media / entertainment industries are, in various ways, trying to determine what their future will be. They might express what is a stake for them in various terms, but they have in common the fact that their future depends on their ability to draw the viewers’ attention. Brands, which are increasingly bound to create or be associated to content, are also facing this challenge. In fact, the real challenge for a brand (like any other player) is not only to get the attention of viewers but a focused and positive attention of the viewers valuable to her. As a consequence, for a viewer, granting attention to or sharing content translates more and more in being supportive. Showing viewers the highest degree of respect is a safe way for brands to make them sincere and committed allies. Respect for the viewers being so valuable for brands, it could lay the foundations of a sustainable and meaningful approach to advertising in the future.

What should we do now to get ready for that future ?

The good news is that it is not a matter of inventing new tools. What is at stake for brands is to invent or consolidate meaningful ways to connect with viewers. If we pay attention, viewers are already showing the way to what they find meaningful. Therefore, building this future can start today by associating brands in innovative ways to the contents and experiences valued by the viewers.
All brands can make moves towards inspiring a greater respect. Being true to the viewers, creating or being associated to content they like and with which they share common values, conveying messages only to viewers willing to receive them are some of the ways to gain respect.
With the plethoric solutions available to brands, and the necessity for them to be offered tailor-made strategies in order to reach their most valuable viewers, tomorrow’s advertising is meant to be increasingly tactical. New opportunities everyday can be seized by brands to get closer to the viewers, without being intrusive. Tomorrow’s winning brands will probably be the most tactical ones, succeeding in establishing a close relationship not only with viewers, but with each viewer.
In order to achieve this, in an increasingly collaborative world, brands can identify their allies.
Among them, I would like to focus on indy creators. Worldwide, they have already created a mind-blowing number of highly-accomplished fiction or documentary webseries, films, documentaries, music and new projects are being developed continuously. Thanks to the plethoric number of tools available today, creators have never been so autonomous for telling stories, creating immersive universes, gathering viewers around their work and establishing everyday a direct, authentic and therefore valuable relationship with them. The artistic freedom that creators enjoy gives their universes their strength. Indeed, viewers show everyday their support to indy creators’ work which reaches their heart, through various types of interactions (such as subscriptions, their sharing on the social networks, crowdfunding contributions, etc.). Supporting the viewers’ choices is a meaningful way for brands to be connected with them. Viewers have become program directors, and they are encouraging talents to create and connect with them. New ecosystems nurtured by talent and artistic freedom have emerged thanks to the web and gather a growing number of connected viewers craving authenticity and compelling stories. The web world and what we still call « TV » are merging : as a result, these stories will be accessible from the comfort of the main screen. Creators and brands are meant to collaborate. Innovative ways for brands to become part of creators’ worlds are already being explored. Indy creators can help brands reach viewers based on the sharing of values, in a creative and non-intrusive manner, and be rewarded by increased respect and loyalty. Some brands have already started to follow this path successfully and vivid examples even show that different brands can be present around the same audiovisual format.

Brands have the opportunity of contributing to the consolidation of meaningful, sustainable and valuable media ecosystems. These ecosystems have a promising future since they are beneficial to all. Reinforcing its presence in them is a choice any brand can do today.