The future of viewing

Our Fall TV issue explores the evolution of TV this year – web, social, addressable – and what it means to advertisers.

There’s a brave new world of viewing, and it’s happening fast.
Bidding at the NABS fundraiser gala recently netted me Apple TV. Despite the small package, a helpful colleague explained “there isn’t a real TV in there, you know.” Well, yes, and no. Like Doctor Who’s Tardis, it opened the door to a big viewing experience – unleashing content via iTunes and Netflix. And more consumers are testing these new “not real TV” viewing options.
This widespread toe-in-the-water behaviour is a catalyst for change across all sides of the media industry, and why strategy’s Fall TV preview explores the evolution of TV this year – web, social, addressable – in addition to the new show shenanigans.
As I write this, I’m heading back from Banff after checking out the annual international TV fest, which just became a World Media Festival. And as this issue hits the press, I’m off to Cannes for the Lions adfest, which is now a Festival of Creativity.
The terms TV and ads are getting the cold shoulder these days at industry confabs, as the focus has shifted to defining the new space between. Creativity and Media are the new Advertising and TV. And the Ad and TV biz have a lot in common as they become Creativity and Media. Both brands and networks have to be present on more platforms across more touchpoints, allowing their audience to participate more, and sometimes that entails blurring boundaries.
But when it comes to figuring out this fluid new world of participation, we’re not there yet, certainly not on the business model front. However, at Understanding Youth, which was held in Toronto last month, we did get a peek into the future via When Worlds Collide, a session featuring Vice, Xbox and MTV, brands that have figured out how to translate their core offering in a transmedia environment.
Chris Unwin, senior strategist, Much MTV Group, talked about their adventures with the digital and real blurring – and shared three things to keep in mind as you evolve your brand:

1. Consider yourself a platform for your audience’s creativity
2. In a sea of options – apps, Foursquare, QR codes – remain focused on your brand’s objectives
3. Entertain, don’t interrupt – brands need to think like media companies

He cautioned that the audience is not consumers, “they’re participants,” and that “self-expression is the new entertainment,” noting that 25% of search queries for top 20 brands are linked to UGC.
Unwin says brands need to recognize that as identity, activities and goals all blur between physical and digital environments, and as millennials live in the space between, marketers need to rethink product development with an eye to participation and influence.
Rethinking was also the advice from CRTC chair Konrad von Finckenstein at Banff, who said “we cannot make the most of new opportunities when we are limited by the practices and the structures of the past,” speaking about the impact of digital on the TV industry.
Talking to producers and broadcasters at Banff about how they are embracing digital to find new ways to engage viewers reinforced the parallels with how brands are evolving the way they connect with consumers, often with programs that entail deeper content or integration, and more collaboration across platforms and among partners. Sharing the successes is important, which is the goal of strategy and Playback’s new AToMiC Awards, designed to identify programs and ideas across the mediascape that are moving the industry forward.
As Facebook vies or aids TV, different partners are now pooling their expertise. Both brands and TV producers are working with companies like transmedia experts Starlight Runner these days (whose Caitlin Burns keynoted at Understanding Youth) to share their stories as experiences within the new world of participatory viewing. And the output is going to be pretty intriguing, judging by some of the ideas in development. I may soon be lured into sticking my toe directly into storylines.

Cheers, mm
Mary Maddever, exec editor, strategy, Media in Canada and stimulant