Reinventing…the Buzzword

CES logo3With it being the first day of CES and all, I’m going to hold off on the hardcore mobile stuff until tomorrow morning. For now, I’m all caught up in the hype, and am compelled to make my first blog about Digital Hollywood’s "Reinventing Advertising" panel I just sat in on–which, un-coincidentally, featured the Lab’s fearless leader, Lori H. Schwartz.

But while I came for support, I stayed for the future-talk: These guys broke out their crystal balls big time, and had them polished up to give us glimpses of concepts like "anti-reach," "complexity kills scale," and "software is the new media." But before you go for the 80’s finger-in-the-mouth "gag me" move, there’s actually some really interesting and observant thinking behind these concepts.

Since I’m the mobile guy, I’m going to give you the mobile digest here–although everything from broadcast to social media to IPTV was bandied about. Now, the main mobile rep up on the panel was Louis Gump, who’s the VP of Mobile for Weather Channel Interactive (which he was quick to mention is on the block, by the way, if anyone’s got their checkbook handy). But with more than 6 million views each month, and a 2 percent to 4 percent ad click-through rate, is a hot property for the right buyer.

Or even a cold one: Because one of the great things about mobile is its ability to geo-target so effectively–and Weather Channel’s mobile site knows to serve up an ad for the convertible Ford Mustang when Florida’s balmy, while it presents creative for the Ford Explorer when Boston’s frozen over. It sounds simple, but this kind of behavioral targeting is proving to be crazy effective for Weather Channel, and they’ve got studies in market right now validating just that.

But after this, we start to get a little woo-woo. The idea of "anti-reach" was then broached, which is a buzzy way of saying that instead of just trying to grab eyeballs with banners, the real value in mobile media is in creating relevant, useful apps that actually add real value. Said a little differently (although no less sparkly), "software is the new media"–meaning it’s got to do something useful first, then the ad can be seamlessly integrated.

I really like this concept; and it’s actually something we’ve been talking about at the Lab for some time, as Lori pointed out at this point in the discussion. You can’t just stick a banner up there anymore. It’s time for media to "stop saying things, and to start doing things." Ah, the pundits…

Still, there’s meat on this bone: If you look at what catapulted Facebook ahead of MySpace last year, it was opening up the platform for outside developers to build widgets. It’s the ability to send someone a virtual beer or play a Redbull-branded game of rock – paper – scissors that really started to make things interesting in social networking. Analogously in mobile, what’s valuable is when I can use my phone to do useful things when I’m out in the world–say, for example, using a mobile app to find the best CES party within a 2-block radius of where I’m standing in Vegas (and good luck with that one this year).

Weather Channel’s Gump summarized it well: Most marketers have a "banner" mentality, and they try to translate that to mobile (which the early networks have actually been built to do). But what’s going to make mobile work in ’08 is when that banner actually allows me to do something. Don’t show me a static Wells Fargo ad; let me click it to get mobile access to my account, or even get connected to a live representative.

As for the "complexity kills scale" comment, I don’t really have anything to say. It just sounds right and smart. Maybe I’ll try it tonight, if I can actually find a party…