Not all Eyeballs are Equal: New Media and Advertisers
I attended Deloitte’s Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) 2010 predictions event at MaRS (Toronto) on the 20th of January. All in all, the event was quite interesting, aside from one obnoxious panelist who will remain nameless. One of their predictions “The shift to online advertising: more selective, but the trend continues” got me thinking… The prediction, more fully, was that “online advertising spending will not only grow in absolute dollars but is likely to grow substantially faster than the total advertising market, and continue to gain share”. This, of course, has to do with the ongoing shift from non-online/traditional advertising to online advertising.
If I were in this industry I would be very cautious. Yes, certainly more ‘eyeballs’ see online advertisements than they do advertisements in magazines and newspapers and on radio and television. But, there is a major difference between traditional and new media. One is linear and the other is non-linear. Regardless of what New Media researchers (i.e. see the authors of the book Grown up Digital) tell us about the non-linear habits of young people, it is clear that linearity remains a virtue.
For example, take another of Deloitte’s 2010 predictions “Linear’s got legs: the television and radio schedule stays supreme”. The prediction, more fully, was that “in 2010 most video and audio content will continue to be consumed linearly…The sovreignty of the schedule runs counter to many commentator’s expectations”. So much for the idea that we are witnessing a brand new era of peer produced, de-centered, content that bypasses broadcaster’s schedules.
(Note: This loss of ‘authenticity’ admist waves of New Media is not a new idea. It was elaborated by Walter Benjamin in his 1935 essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”) But I suggest counter to what Benjamin thought, despite being surrounded by technologies capable of reproducing content, contemporary individuals have not given up their appetite for the ‘auratic’ and ‘authentic’ work of art.)
While more “eyeballs” might view ‘Charlie Bit My Finger’ than tonight’s episode of ‘Lost’ it would be wise to coin a phrase like “not all eyeballs are equal”.
Young people may be increasingly rude and uncivic, but one thing they aren’t is stupid: they understand a difference exists between polished television/movie theatre commercials and online advertisements. In fact, due to the sheer number of online advertisements their ‘eyeballs’ see, they are developing something of an immunity to online advertisements. They understand how easy it is to deploy content online. Advertisements lose the authority they commanded in traditional media.
Next time you’re in a movie theatre, or on the bus for that matter, watch people’s eyes as they look at an advertisement or commercial. Then, watch the eyes of an individual scanning the advertisements on their Facebook page, or Gmail inbox. I’ll leave it to you to draw your conclusions from the experiment.
I would be cautious about making the criteria of marketing success the number of eyeballs solicited without paying attention to the attitudes young people show toward different mediums. “Not all eyeballs are equal”.