Setting the stage
Convergence, media and marketing:
an eye for an
by Paul Woolmington, Young & Rubicam
Its a strange trick of the mind. When you buy
a new car, suddenly it seems everyone has the same mark. Or when youre in
a cast because of a broken arm, it seems the world simultaneously became clumsy
and is wearing plaster.
Of course the cars and the casts were always there,
its just that now you notice. Which is exactly how I feel about another
IF YOU LET CONVERGENCE into the front of your mind,
its presence is suddenly everywhere. In the magazines you read. The television
programs you watch. The people you talk to. Everyone seems to be talking about
it. As it overtakes the senses, the message crystallizes: convergence really
will change the way we live our life.
So what exactly do people mean when they say
convergence? It started in 1994BW, (before the web). Jim Clarke was working at
Silicon Graphics, the firm he started, when he came up with the next big idea.
The telecomputer. For the next few years, Silicon Graphics worked to build a
black box that would sit on top of your television and make the boob tube
function as a personal computer. Companies like Time Warner and AT&T poured
millions upon millions of dollars into this project. They re-wired towns like
Orlando. Only to have it all washed away by
Jim Clarke when he founded
his company Netscape a couple of years later. Netscape offered us a
browserthe next next big thing. The company led us to where we are today.
Maybe Netscape no longer exists outside of America Online, but its legacy will
affect the way we do marketing for decades to come.
Convergence is about having all informationfrom
the Web, from your cable provider, from your phone companypiped into your
house. Convergence isnt a telecomputer. For now, consumers dont
want to use their TV as a word processor. They dont want to watch movies
sitting 12 inches away from their computer monitor. Convergence is about having
information available at every point in a consumers life. A Palm Pilot
should be a Web browser, a beeper and a telephone. A refrigerator should have
recipes from Conde Nasts Epicurious website on a screen. A television
should have a web browser installed. And the speed we access this information
should be instantaneous.
Convergence is happening. New Palm Pilots are
wireless. Soon, Palm will offer a Qualcom phone. Kitchens are being built with
Ethernet connections. Cars have desktop computers on the dashboard. AT&T is
betting that cable modems will bring most of this information into your house.
So two questions arise which are important to us here: when will convergence
become mainstream in world markets? And how will marketing change in order to
reach consumers in this new world?
One way to understand how fast convergence will enter
mainstream life is by looking at Internet acceptance. An unknown medium in
1993, the Web has grown at a mind numbing speed. Todays Internet economy
has been estimated at over $300 billion. Thats about the size of the
automotive industry, only the Internet is growing at a much faster rate.
Analysts in the marketing business expect U.S. online revenue to grow from
under $3 billion this year to close to $25 billion in five years. Thats
likely to be a conservative estimate. When new media are accepted by the
mainstream, they balloon exponentially. If you look back to 1950, Procter &
Gamble spent less than 5 percent of its advertising dollars on a new medium
called television. Five years later, they were committing 80 percent of their
budgets to TV.
Convergence of media will happen at an equally fast
pace, but to get a sense geographically of where it will be a reality first,
its best to look at Internet penetration. Currently, 54 percent of
Internet users live in the United States. Certainly, the U.S. consumer is the
most likely to embrace new technology. In Europe, however, its Sweden
that dominates overall Internet usage with over half of the countrys
population having been online. Other European nations with high rates of
Internet usage by the overall population include Finland (50 percent) and
Denmark (46 percent). Looking at Asia, there are over 5.1 million Internet
subscribers in Japan alone, counting for 8 percent of the entire Internet
population. The next largest wired populations are Taiwan, then Hong Kong and
finally China, with 320,000 subscribers. In Latin America, penetration is
fairly even and pronounced, with Brazil leading the way. The region has a
world-leading Internet user growth rate and will have an estimated 19.1 million
users by 2003. The perceived commonalties shared by the regions
countriesculture, values, history, economics, and languageengender
the possibility that the Internet could generate a truly unified regional
So what will this mean for marketers? First off,
convergence of information means that the consumer is truly king. Twenty years
ago, we witnessed a shift in the balance of power away from manufacturers and
into the hands of retailers. This shift happened when overproduction became the
norm and retailers maintained better connections with consumers. Now retailers
have ceded control to the consumer. The Internet is immediate, its
convenient, its affordable and its global. And anyone from a
16-year-old to a 60-year-old can harness all those attributes to buy a product,
from individualized makeup to financial services.
Marketers are waking up to this new world, but we
still arent fully taking advantage of it. The smart people among us are
changing their approach to how they support their brands in this new world. On
a basic level, getting your message to the consumer has become more
complicateda trend that will only continue. There are so many paths to a
consumer now: television, real-time events, physical space, sponsorships, the
Web, street theater, the telephone, mail, magazines, news articles, editorial
features, transportation, food
the list is endless, and its all
accessible to media professionals.
In todays world, anybody can be a media owner.
You can build a website, write about political scandals, spend less than $1000
a month, and have a larger audience than the cable station MSNBC. Matt Drudge
does it on a regular basis. What we have to remember, however, is that
consumers are brutal editorsmore so because they live in a world with an
endless amount of media vehicles saturated with content. Theyre not going
to waste time visiting a website or reading a magazine that doesnt
provide them with something they need or want. There are too many other
Which is why branding is so important. A consumer is
only going to turn to a known quantity in a world of oversupply. A strong brand
guarantees a consumers attention. Nothing else does.
Its that revelation that is causing the first
change in our industry. All employeesfrom media planners to buyers to
researchersmust be totally brand literate. They cant just
understand one esoteric aspect of the media business. To offer the best service
to our clients we have to offer 360-degree marketing. The consumer should be
surrounded by the brand everywhere its appropriate. To that end, everyone
on our team has to understand a clients brand inside and out. Thats
one reason weve created a new media position called the SuperPlanner.
This person fuses brand strategy with media knowledge and instills this
thinking in the team players. Its only in this way that a media company
can provide the best strategy for a client. And as convergence truly hits home,
when gigaflops of information are always available to a consumer, having
consistent brand strategy that employs truly unique and effective media, is the
only way to break through the waves of clutter.
Another challenge in our industry is to quantify these
new pathways to a consumer. Since the new definition of media is "anything you
can put a branded message on," measuring effectiveness is a lot tougher than
CPMs. A consistent factor that encompasses everything in our 360-degree
marketing plan will be created. It will quantify how a consumer is reacting at
every point of contact with the branded message. And the media company that can
best present these results to a client will be a winner in the world of
The good news is that technology already exists for
those of us in media to prepare for convergence. The customer more often than
not is opting in for a dialogue with a brand, whether in real-time or in any
interactive media. Sophisticated databases make it possible to know and analyze
every move your consumer makes. We can learn more about individual consumers
than ever before. Thats an incredible advantage.
In the world of convergence, developing unique
branding campaigns for individual people will happen on a mass scale.
Nows the time for media professionals to invest in the technology and the
tools to make it happen.
Paul Woolmington is president of media
operations of Young & Rubicam Inc. and of The Media Edge, Y&Rs
full service media management company with estimated 1998 media billings of
US$9.5 billion. He is also chair of Y&Rs Worldwide Media Council and
sits on both the Partnership Board of Young & Rubicam Inc. and the
Partnership Operating Committee of the Y&R/WCJ Partnership. Prior to
joining Y&R, Woolmington served as worldwide media director at Ammirati
Puris Lintas. A British citizen, born in Johannesburg, Mr Woolmington started
his career 20 years ago at the agency that handled Rupert Murdochs
business. He then joined Bozell Worldwide, where he spent 14 years, and at age
25, became the youngest media director of a top 30 agency. Today, he is widely
known as a leading media thinker and is credited with creating 20/20 Media Ltd,
an independent media agency-joint venture between CIA Group, the United
Kingdoms largest media company.