Friday, August 31, 2012

Assessment 1 - Media Convergence Essay; 4244 8379

'Discuss the phenomenon of digital media convergence in relation to Advertising & New Media'
By Carlos English Walters - 4244 8379

In a perpetually evolving and expanding media world, digital media convergence is reshaping the industry of Advertising, catalysed by the introduction of new media platforms. New media includes digital media resources such as the Web, Internet Video Distribution, Mobile Phones and Internet Protocol Television. Through these new phenomena, advertisers are being forced to adapt their marketing techniques to effectively target an audience that has freedom on what they choose to see, over a broad range of new media platforms.

Dwyer suggests the basis of media convergence is, ‘the process whereby new technologies are accommodated by existing media communication industries and cultures.’ Specifically, it refers to the confluence of digital media and information technology that was, ‘previously thought of as separate and self-contained.’ Alternatively, the UK’s convergent media regulator offers a more technological definition, ‘The ability of consumers to obtain multiple services on a single platform or device or obtain any given service on multiple platforms or devices’. The implications of these changes are vast – it has provided the audience with sheer accessibility to a range of media outlets – that seamlessly flow into one another. For example, someone may use their mobile phone to read an article from the Sydney Morning Herald or watch a video posted on YouTube through a link embedded on Facebook. In this sense, the World Wide Web, in its very infrastructure, is providing a means by which users can converge on the internet in order to make their lives more efficient, and allow for constant, instantaneous access to virtually any media source they desire.

As the World Wide Web has only become integral in the structure of information technology and social systems in the recent past, (since the influx of Web 2.0 in approximately 2005), some advertising agencies have acknowledged this change, while others have struggled to deal with the concept of a confluent, online environment. Sheehan and Morrison pertinently describe this, ‘While select British advertising executives admitted a problem, other global executives have noted that many advertising executives fail to even recognize that digital culture is a concern.’ This causes a disparity between advertising agencies, where those that adapt to and use new media to their advantage gain hegemony over less innovative, traditional agencies. Therefore, the model of traditional advertising paradigms in a digital climate is fundamentally naive, ‘Agency Heads...viewed retailing opportunities like eBay and Craigslist as new types of flea markets, and did not recognize the power of these venues to detract from both traditional retail sites and traditional markets for retail advertising’.

The change that was web 2.0 was effectively the pressure that produced convergence. Timo Beth notes, ‘the term came into mainstream in 2005 as a result of the irresistible boom of the “do it yourself” web.’  The new direction was one that encouraged social interactivity and user generated content, and with this the true potential of the web was unlocked. Now people shared, critiqued, responded to information, advertisements and opinions between one another, via a network of converged platforms, online. This can be seen most lucidly in Internet Video Distribution (IP VoD) providers such as YouTube and social media websites such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Web 2.0 has been and continues to be a problem for traditional advertising as consumers are now ‘less brand–loyal than ever before and pay more attention to the recommendations of friends and family than they do to marketing messages’. In accordance with the nature of web 2.0, ‘audiences view messages more critically than ever’.  

Furthermore, the expansion and convergence of the web – such as the phenomenon of Internet Protocol Television (IPT) – which allows for time shifted and on-demand broadcasting of Television through an internet protocol suite, has allowed people to not only evade advertising, but to make their schedule more flexible. This trend means that people can now watch and view what they want, when they want. As a result, a traditional advertising model built upon specific channels and timing that correlates to target a particular demographic, is largely ineffective. 

In an attempt to address these issues, a multitude of new advertising devices, methods and tactics have been implemented by advertising agencies. One of these is covert advertising. Ellen McCracken defines covert advertising as, ‘the promotions disguised as editorial material or hidden in some other form so that they appear to be non-advertising’. This can be seen Avril Lavigne’s music video ‘What The Hell’, in which a scene depicting a live concert focuses on a member in the crowd which is filming Avril with a Sony Ericson mobile. This is only momentary, but it is very clearly presented, and for just long enough to leave an imprint on the consumer. The aim of these types of advertisements is to affect the consumer on a subconscious level – in order to influence their perception in favour of specific branded commodities. However, if this product placement becomes too obvious Jenkin’s double-edged sword metaphor explains it might cause ‘on one hand, higher consumer awareness and, on the other, higher consumer scrutiny.’

Another technique that has been used to capitalise on new media confluence, especially in a web 2.0 environment where consumers actively produce information, is promotional competitions. Doritos are one of many companies that have used promotional competitions whereby the public audience were asked to film and produce their own Doritos advertisement – a prize would be awarded to the best commercial, which was also to be aired on Television. This is the epitome of convergence, whereby consumers from all around the world aid Doritos’ advertising campaign, by creating, sharing and spreading ideas and connotations associated with the product through platforms such as YouTube and Facebook. Not only does this provide positive exposure for Doritos at a low cost, but it shows insight into future marketing possibilities, through the collaboration of creative ideas and the representation of consumer value. Thus companies like Doritos have harnessed the power of the ‘do-it-yourself’ web that Beck describes as ‘a strategic marketing tool and source of valuable information about customer preferences.’

It is safe to say that as a result of digital media convergence into a contemporary environment characterised by a constant state of flux, web 2.0, Internet Vid eo Distribution, Mobile Phones, Internet Protocol Television and so on, it is becoming increasingly important for Advertisers to acknowledge the circumstances of new media, and to be as flexible as possible in order to have successful advertising campaigns, that will penetrate over a broad range of media platforms.

·         Sheehan, K. and Morrison, D. (2009) Beyond convergence: Confluence culture and the role of the advertising agency in a changing world in  First Monday vol 14 no 3 (Recommended Reading)
·         Jenkins, H. (2006) ‘Where New and Old Media Collide’, Convergence Culture, New York University Press. (Recommended Reading)
·          Dwyer, T. (2010) ‘Media Convergence’, McGraw Hill, Berkshire, p. 4 (Course Reader)
·         Beck, T. (2009) Web 2.0: User-Generated Content in Online Communities: A Theoretical and Empirical investigation of its Determinants, GRIN Verlag (Independent reading)
·         McCracken, E. (1993) Decoding Women’s Magazines : from Mademoiselle to Ms, Macmillan, pp. 38 (Independent Reading)

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