It occurred to me as I was considering what to include in my first blog, that an analysis of the interplay between media and their consumers would prove a relevant topic given the unique method in which the 3rd Dimension’s advertising model engages end users. What follows is a brief snapshot outlining how the volatile dynamic between consumer and media began and evolved. This historical perspective will assist in figuring out where this symbiotic relationship, and by extension, the methods of communication which will be employed to exploit it, are heading.
Television and Radio began their early years with single-sponsor programming, and then quickly recognized a need for access to more advertising as the programming content became more prolific and diverse. Stations and networks divided shows into segments to accommodate these advertising needs, basically echoing the time-tested model of live dramas and comedies by employing five acts in a self-contained episode or five scenes in an ongoing serial storyline. Programming was planned according to viewer demographics, with advertising quickly following suit. Under the heading of what goes around comes around, the advent of Tivo’s commercial skipping technology has brought a resurgence of branded programming incorporating aggressive product placement – a far more common tactic now than in years past. As a sidebar, the 3rd Dimension Traffic application delivers a static but interactive ad that requires engagement with consumers while they’re waiting for the traffic video to appear.
As TV evolved and matured, particularly throughout the late 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, increasingly canny marketers began to push the envelope of programming content, with a clear understanding that controversy equals ratings, even at the cost of long supportive sponsors. Giving the viewers more challenging content became a way to create an itch, which the viewer responded to by either tuning in (scratching the itch) or tuning out (putting aloe on it). It could be stated, not unfairly, that this was the beginning of the interactive relationship between media and end user (though Shakespearean scholars might posit that boos and hurled tomatoes were somewhat interactive in a different way).
Then, along came the Internet and the boom years of investing in the future of marketing interaction between user and site. Much was promised, little was delivered and many went bust. While original content providers were mostly subscriber based, it was quickly realized that if the content could be broken into smaller subsets, there would be additional advertising real estate created. Ad-based sites and applications quickly followed, which allowed for richer data mining. This led to a better segmentation of content and advertising, which led to increased targeting capabilities via the behavior-based data that was constantly being collected.
The next major paradigm shift in interactive communication was the cellular onslaught. While relatively clumsy in its early stages, the Get Smart shoe phone size models quickly gave way to the clamshell design of the Motorola StarTAC and the race was on for slimmer, smaller and more feature-oriented handsets.
Mobile devices (currently comprised of cell phones and PDA’s) have quickly become a ubiquitous global presence. Deliberately avoiding being pigeon holed into one specific carrier like Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile or AT&T, 3rd Dimension’s traffic video application works on all U.S. handsets, a feature of the application (or client in mobile speak) which is referred to as being “carrier agnostic”. Unlike TV or the web, the mobile device usually travels along wherever the user goes, opening up the opportunity for truly 1 to 1 targeted ad messaging. It offers superior accuracy in its metrics because, unlike TV and the Internet, which are always on but not necessarily engaging the end user when the ads are displayed, mobile devices are actively turned on or off, providing a better understanding of true usage.
Similarly, the quickly advancing GPS chip inclusion makes handsets location-specific for the premise of geo-targeting, and while not fully exploited to date, it remains one of the most sought after elements of advertising to mobile users. Using the 3rd Dimension Traffic application is one of the few ways to currently target locations important to consumers. Since a camera in a specific area is requested, the attendant ad that is delivered can be tied to that same geography. For example, a car dealership or restaurant can place an ad on every camera located along a specific stretch of roadway, guaranteeing people interested in traveling that route will be aware of the business’ presence.
Time shifting becomes irrelevant because the mobile device remains a physical constant with the user and the mandated desktop or TV appliances of other media are anchored to locations that can’t easily travel with the user. Potential for targeted, one to one marketing is still enormously promising, but has remained underdeveloped in its execution, mainly relying on sponsored text message offers.
With the advent and increasing popularity of Smart phones (most notably the phenomenon that is the iPhone), much of the mobile landscape will be redesigned in the coming 18 months. Smart phones will become smarter, with more utile applications, while usage numbers will deliver truer counts of interaction with each unique device. As the handsets become more sophisticated, so will the associated advertising and content, which makes the development of 3rd Dimension’s video for mobile delivery a must have for both advertisers and consumers alike.
So now what? The world of mobile technology seems to be reminiscent of the early days of the Internet, say circa 1993, when it was a collage of wild west-type technology development mitigated only by the volatility of the stock market and venture capitalists. While lessons have been learned the hard way, one thing remains a certainty – people want information of all sorts – video, text, email and data; and they want it on their terms – when and where it’s convenient for them. Mobility is the next frontier, now it’s just a question of how soon 3rd Dimension will tame this wild, wild west.