Advertising Week in Toronto: Arianna Huffington and 2010 Consumerology Report
Well, it’s Advertising Week in Toronto and, being the good advertiser I am, I’ve decided to check out a couple of today’s (January 26, 2010) events: The 2010 Bensimon Byrne Consumerology Report at the ROM and then a talk given by Arianna Huffington entitled ‘The Brave New World of the New Media’ at the Royal Conservatory’s beautiful new(ish) Koerner Hall. Interestingly, I think that the conclusion I drew from day was that while the media ‘game’ is changing, it might not be changing as quickly, or as radically as we are often led to believe. Huffington called for a “hybrid future” capable of merging old and new media; the authors of the Consumerology Report demonstrated that audiences continue to consume mainstream media, however new devices – such as the PVRs – have altered their viewing habits. Neither event was really, at the end of the day, about the eclipse of the Old by the New. Rather, what attendees were reminded was the importance of merging into the world of New Media and Emerging Technology safely, in order to avoid the very real possibility of spectacular crash. Absent from the events, thank goodness, was the panicky rhetoric of ‘drop everything you’re doing and figure out Twitter’.
But glimpses were given of what might be in store: Huffington mentioned that consumers, especially younger consumers, are entertained through acts of ‘self expression’. This, she ties to a generally positive, and democratic force brewing in the ‘New Media’. But, at other times in her talk she spoke about the importance of ‘Objectivity’ and ‘Facts’. She cited the importance of ‘Objectivity’ in a culture where individuals are engaged in the denial of climate change and Barack Obama’s citizenship. She even mentioned the continued importance of Editors who are necessary to ‘Objectively’ frame the news. But, honestly, I was left scratching my head. And maybe someone who attended can help me out. While it may be highly democratic and empowering, is giving everybody the ability to comment an exercise in ‘Objectivity’ or ‘Relativism’? Are these acts of consumer ‘self expression’ really leading to some pinnacle of ‘Objectivity’, or are they offering a glimpse of the slide into the very lack of ‘Objectivity’ that Huffington was warning us about?
…But I must commend her, however, on reminding a room full of blackberry addicts that letting technological adaptation speed ahead of social adaptation would be a disaster. Sometimes, it is necessary to disconnect in order to discover what is most ‘human’ about us. A welcome, if underdeveloped, humanism.
The authors of the Consumerology Report foretold the rise of a perpetually fragmented consumer who no longer has an undivided attention span and who, 80% of the time, fast forwards their commercials on PVRs. In their report they explain that: “…the combination of multitasking and PVR usage takes the upper hand away from marketers. Only 20 percent of Canadians are a captive audience right now, and this number is shrinking. The rest have moment-to-moment options, and will only listen to your message if it is interesting to them. And that might be quite different from what is most interesting to the marketer.” The solution, it seems, is not to ‘fight fire with fire‘. In other words, responding to a perpetually fragmented generation with fragmented media might not be the best option. Creating a bombardment of small ads – placed in all the media environments the contemporary multi-tasker finds him or herself – might not be the best option. Rather, the advertiser would be better served to continue asking the question: “does my advertisement deserve attention?” It’s not for nothing that “mainstream advertising (TV, radio, newspaper, magazines, flyers) are still the primary means through which consumers learn about new products”…