Friday, August 31, 2012

Ben Ryan 42890500 - Digital Media Convergence - Advertising & New Media

Digital Media Convergence in Relation to Advertising & New Media

Media convergence is a complex phenomenon that has demanded, and continues to demand, review of established notions of media consumption. In the simplest of terms, convergence refers to ‘the coming together of things that were previously separate’ (Meikle & Young, 2012, p.2). However, in regards to digital or new media, this definition will not suffice; scholars have outlined the concept of digital media convergence as a rather contradictory one, encompassing both the provision of services that were previously separate through a single means, and the now numerous ways in which to access content that were previously only provided through a single medium (Pool, 1983, cited in Jenkins, 2006, p.10). This conception of convergence, particularly the latter half of the definition, has had serious implications for the advertising industry, as consumers of media are empowered and fragmented. This essay will begin with a general discussion of some of the problems for advertisers that have been encountered through the rise of the ‘convergence culture’ (Jenkins, 2006) and then will deal more specifically with some of the strategies that have been employed, at both the larger and smaller agency levels, to deal with the shift to new media.

The Brief

The shift to a digital, or ‘convergence’, culture, along with reductions in brand-loyalty and attention to marketing messages has caused the demise of the traditional ‘mass message model’ of advertising. Increase in the sovereignty of the consumer, for example, by means of ‘pull media’, in which consumers can ‘choose what to see… what to do with what they see’ and whether or not to avoid it, has put more weight on ‘the importance of one-to-one engagement and interactions’ (Sheehan, 2009). This idea would seem to put younger Internet advertising companies in a privileged position as having a greater ability to develop ‘interactive messages’, however, these agencies fall short of traditional ones in developing strong brand messages (Sheehan, 2009). Strategies employed by both smaller advertising companies and traditional agencies in the age of new media are explored below.

Just Google it

The first new trend in advertising that has been facilitated by digital media convergence and new media is the development of ‘search-based advertising’, in which search terms, rather than consumers, are targeted to more accurately penetrate fragmented markets (Spurgeon, 2008, p.25). According to Jenkins (2006, p.2), convergence necessarily involves the active participation of consumers, or to put it concisely, a ‘participatory culture’, and it is held by Spurgeon (2008, p.25) that ‘Search culture is, fundamentally, based on conversational interaction and social participation’. This shows clearly a strong link between convergence and new media advertising at a basic level. An exemplary model of search-based advertising is that which occurs on the search-engine Google. The complexity of the algorithms they employ, which provide ‘outstanding search results, remains a key factor in explaining Google’s popularity with end-users and advertisers alike’. Google have employed a ‘keyword auction’ system in which advertisers bid for the ability to have their product affiliated with certain words entered into the search engine (Spurgeon, 2008, p.30-31). This lowers risk for advertisers, as they know that ‘everybody who clicks on [their] listing is a qualified lead’ (Milnes, 2005, cited in Spurgeon, 2008, p.33). Furthermore, the capabilities of smaller advertisers, who are generally focused on information-based advertising, have been optimised by this digital shift, whilst larger advertisers, generally focused on the creative and persuasive side, have had to explore new creative potentials (Spurgeon, 2008, p.26-27).

Movies or Marketing?

Another strategy employed, this time by larger advertisers, to reach consumers despite declines in brand-loyalty brought about by digital media convergence, is that of ‘branded content’ – where advertisers move from placing products in movies or television etc., or in-between them, to actually embedding the product in content of their own creation that is ‘so appealing that consumers will seek them out for inclusion in their personalised media and entertainment flows’ (Spurgeon, 2008, p.40). A real-world example of this strategy was BMW’s establishment of ‘BMW Films’ which developed and distributed a number of advertisements in the guise of short films (see video directly below). The films were successful in penetrating the market of affluent youths savvy in new media and in increasing sales. Most notable was BMW’s budget ratio; with a 1:9 ratio of distribution to production, they had reversed long-standing advertising norms (Spurgeon, 2008, 40). This advertising strategy, however, has raised questions over what really constitutes advertising (Spurgeon, 2008, p.41), and comparisons can be made between this notion of branded content and the discussion over the ‘breakdown in the separation between the editorial and advertising’ and entertainment functions of news media’ (Barker, 2009, p.120). 

The V Factor

The final advertising format that digital media convergence has given rise to is that of ‘viral advertising’. This form of advertising relies heavily on the participatory and interconnected nature of convergence culture; consumers themselves acting as distributors, voluntarily sharing content with peers and target audiences by online means. Most notably, this form of advertising removes the ‘media buying element’ from the marketing process, instead depending on the willingness of consumers to be distributors; a willingness ‘that may not only be influenced by the source of the message but also by its content’. Thus this form of advertising would seem to favour ‘big advertisers’, with their larger capacity for creative potential; people are not likely to relay content on to peers if it is boring, so there needs to be an interesting or pleasing ‘viral component to it’ (Golan & Zaidner, 2008, p.961-962). (For an example of a viral advertising campaign, see directly below.)

As can be seen, digital media convergence and the rise of new media have had a significant impact on the advertising industry. Traditional strategies of advertising through top-down mass-message models of media are being undermined by the capacity of the consumer to gain sovereignty over the media and marketing that they are exposed to (Sheehan, 2009). In response to this, advertising companies have had to develop new techniques for reaching target audiences in a fragmented market, including: paying to have their product attached to certain terms entered into Internet search-engines, actually creating entertaining content that people seek out and embedding the product within this, and seeking to employ consumers as the distributors of content by attempting to embed viral components within it.


Barker, G 2009, ‘The crumbling estate – Ten steps: the long, slow death of Australian journalism’, Griffith Review, vol. 25, pp. 117-123.

Golan, G & Zaidner, L 2008, 'Creative Strategies in Viral Advertising: An Application of Taylor's Six-Segment Message Strategy Wheel, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, vol. 13, pp. 959-972.

Jenkins, H 2006, Convergence Culture, New York University Press, New York. 

Meikle, G & Young, S 2012, Media Convergence: Networked Digital Media in Everyday Life, Palgrave Macmillan, New York. 

Sheehan, K & Morrison, D 2009, 'Beyond Convergence: Confluence culture and the role of the advertising agency in a changing world', First Monday, vol. 14, no. 3.

Spurgeon, C 2008, Advertising and New Media, Routledge, Oxon.

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