Changing technology and the future of outdoor

Rob Young, senior vice-president of research and planning with Harrison Young Pesonen and Newell, delivered a speech recently to an outdoor advertising conference in Marina Del Rey, Calif.Young took a broad look at the changing media environment.Using the metaphor of a...

Rob Young, senior vice-president of research and planning with Harrison Young Pesonen and Newell, delivered a speech recently to an outdoor advertising conference in Marina Del Rey, Calif.

Young took a broad look at the changing media environment.

Using the metaphor of a media odyssey towards 2001, Young walked his audience through some of the significant changes occurring in technology, distribution and production.

The following excerpt represents the closing portion of Young’s speech, in which he focusses on some of the key changes and the effects they will have on the marketing community within the next decade.

‘The new technology will likely produce a media solution for those consumers seeking interactive instantaneous gratification.

‘Two-way transmission producing consumer data. Shopping channels. Electronic malls. Digital direct mail.

‘Under this technology scenario, my fellow media practitioners might spend time negotiating with several shopping channels in an attempt to have client brands sold directly into the home, thereby avoiding our arch-enemy, the drugstore and grocery store.

‘I’ll worryÉ’

‘I’ll worry about cost per order. I’ll worry that calls coming into the channel will not overpower the facility. I’ll worry about whether the client has enough product to fill the orders and make sure the orders are filled in a reasonable time-frame.

‘The media person will become critical in this scenario because there will not be a need for creative people, because, you see, in this scenario, there is no creative.

‘A second kind of advertising development that may take place as a result of the growth in the new technology will be the requirement for more sponsorships.

‘As intelligence and computer power moves away from the centre to the edge of the network, consumers will garner more control over whether to allow themselves to be exposed to commercials.

Make it difficult

‘The solution? Make it difficult for the consumer to tell the difference between a program and a commercial.

‘My fellow media practitioners will try to find progams to be sponsored. We’ll need to make this determination before the program is produced because we’ll need to get that power-tool client’s products built into This Home.

‘My fellow media practitioners will become the kings of advertising because there will be no one else needed. No creative person involved. No creative needed.

‘A third likely outcome on this media odyssey will be the growth in narrowcasting. More channels. More programs with narrow editorial focus reaching smaller numbers of people interested in the subject.

‘The media person must become good at estimating audience levels to these selective programs; good at negotiating with the huge array of channel options; understanding the draw these channels will have for their client.

‘The media person must get the message embedded into the right program, delivered to the right part of the city.

‘There may be a need for the traditional commercial in this case, but there will not be a need for intrusive commercials.

‘The target group will be interested in the commercial because they are interested in the program and the subject covered by the program.

Media person is king

‘At the end of the media odyssey, in the Kingdom of Media, the media person will be king.

‘The total amount of time people spend with the tv medium has remained constant over the last 20 years – three to four hours a day – but the new screen revolution might have such profound impact on society as to actually affect the number of hours one will spend before the screen for the first time since the mid-1940s.

‘The demarcation between today’s definition of watching tv, talking on the phone, working or playing on the computer, might disappear at the end of the media odyssey.

‘These individual actions might blend into one act of interacting on the screen. And the digital revolution might have additional impact, changing the experience even more.

Less traffic

‘For example, if the digital revolution finally makes it possible to be a productive employee at home, rather than having to appear at the office every day, there will be a reduction in vehicular traffic.

‘The `teleputer’ technology might reduce board counts, outdoor ad impressions and outdoor industry ad rates.

‘Another negative scenario might flow out of the ad industry’s future fixation on narrowcasting to the exclusion of the older forms of mass media, like outdoor.

‘Negative forecasts flourish for the print media as well: newspaper and magazine, with their ancient print technology and inappropriate, environmentally unsound use of paper.

‘But wait. A glimmer of hope on the digital horizon.

‘In the second issue of Wired, a magazine dedicated to the digital media odyssey, an article appeared extolling the virtues of the written word.

‘Written word remains’

‘The article was written by Paul Saffo, a fellow at the Institute for the Future in Menlo Park, Calif. He quoted Horace, the Roman poet, as saying.

‘Litera scripta manet – Latin, meaning `the written word remains.’

‘In the outdoor medium, complex ideas can be communicated in under three seconds. That’s high density data transfer. It’s high resolution. It’s interactive.

‘At the end of the media odyssey, in the digital-silicon-chip-screen world, there may still be significant advertisers interested in talking to a broad cross-section of the consumer universe – real marketers who don’t seek niche.

‘The ability of the tv medium to accomplish this task might be seriously diminished 10 years from now, and these advertisers, who, today, rely on the tv medium, may find themselves turning to the last of the mass-media vehicles, like outdoor.

The Odyssey

‘Homer was the author of The Odyssey, my metaphor for this morning’s digital media journey.

‘Homer’s epic poem is about 10 years of adventures experienced by Odysseus after the fall of Troy, his tortuous journey home, and the way he restored order to his kingdom, which was in danger from usurpers.

‘In our media odyssey, we will likely experience 10 years of adventure and tortuous journey, a decade of telecommunications upheaval, media mergers and financial see-sawing.

‘But, perhaps, in the end, at the conclusion of this media odyssey, we may find that many of the so-called `old-fashioned’ media vehicles like magazine and newspaper, and the mass media like out-of-home, will still be around, and may even thrive in an electronic world of media narrowcasting.

‘We may find that the printed word will restore order in media-land from the digital usurpers.’