Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The Evolution of the Living Room

From the first-ever TV commercial in 1939. From Black and White to Colour to glorious HD it has been in your living rooms for over 70 years. As we fast forward to 2012 we are all witnesses to the next major shift in the evolution of TV. Multiple technologies are synchronously converging to create the right conditions for change. The way that users are adopting and appropriating these technologies can help us define what this new era may look like. Increased bandwidth, cloud services, connected TV, voice recognition, virtual assistants, gesture, dual screening, VOD, app stores, social networks and custom targeting tools are all shaping the new “grammar” which we will all need to apply to our communications strategies. How are these technologies and our use of them impacting advertising and the evolution of our living rooms?

Interactive technologies for TV, from Ceefax back in 1974, the Red Button, to Sky and Virgin Media’s Time Shifting and VOD, they have all been with us for some time. Some of these functions have become essential enablers to our busy lives, while others have been passed over. So when we talk about the new technologies that are being developed, tested and rolled out how do we know which ones will stick? Why is suddenly the time right for brands to start taking this seriously?

The answer like with any technology is timing. It’s not about being the first; take Facebook, for example, certainly not the first. Remember Geocities? It’s all about timing and this is defined by many factors - examples:
  • User adoption of platforms: Evolving services on the web such as YouTube have been the training ground for us to be open to instant self-selected content through search and aggregation.
  • User adoption of new technology: Look at how platforms like iPhone and Android have conditioned us to embrace applications. Or you can look at how games consoles have allowed us to learn by playing with connected, interactive technologies such as the Wii and Microsoft Kinnect etc.
  • Infrastructure: IPTV providers have used their independent networks to give us VOD while the open web was still buffering. Now with 30mb super fast fibre from Virgin and BT services like Amazon’s Love Film and Netflix can flourish.


Content Publishers

Content publishers are already gearing up for change. Catch-up, time shifting applications are being developed for mobiles, tablets, consoles and Connected TV’s. If the traditional scheduling model is going to be eroded over time then publishers need to know how to effectively distribute their content. Sky, BBC iPlayer, 4OD are all publishers who are looking at web born platforms like, Youtube, Revo, Hulu, Netflix to reassert themselves. It will be the business models and tech infrastructures that all of these services create that will show brands the way. This may be pre-rolls, interstitial and skipables. These seem to be the staple at the moment. It may be that these publishers invite brands to increase their role of sponsoring programming. It may be that brands are invited to create or commission their own content and have that served alongside other non-branded content recommendations. The one thing that is clear is that publishers will need advertising revenue in one from or another. Not all publishers are lucky enough to have the national funding enjoyed by the BBC or be able to exist on subscription models alone. Spotify is a great and innovative brand who has simultaneous ad funded services and premium subscriptions across connected media devices. Brands should look to these models to see how relationships with publishers can flourish. 

Yesterday, today and yes, tomorrow. Scheduling

Lets take a look at the TV broadcast system that we have had for the last 70 years and understand how it has defined the way brands work in the medium. TV has been based on the scheduling of content within a linear time line contained within a broadcast channel. These channels may have multiplied exponentially to a point that the EPG model can’t really cope but never-the-less its all much the same. The scheduling system has determined the durations of TV content to 30mins, 60mins, 90, 120, etc… For brands this model was simply scaled down for media buyers and applied to fixed duration ad breaks giving us the 30, 40, 60 and 90… second ads. So what happens when this structure is redundant. The average YouTube video is about 4 minutes. This short form viewing preference will certainly have some affect on certain types of content duration but its worth pointing out that not many expect this to change over night.

Bill Gates said "We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten." 

Look how long it has taken us to migrate to digital TV from analogue.Traditional formats have a residual value for mainstream users to help them gradually migrate to a new way of interacting or consuming. So while the 30second ad may be with us for some time yet, it is estimated that 40% of us will have Connected TV’s by 2014 and that presents a massive opportunity as long as we can convince people to actually plug them in! Manufacturers are betting on Connected TV and so are Content publishers so agencies and brands better be ready too.

At JWT my colleagues and I are starting to think about a range of subjects:
  • Electronic Programming Guide (EPG) and what its new form will take.
  • Social TV and not just the aggregation and recommendation of TV, but also the power of social recommendation etc.
  • Dual or Triple Screening.
  • And of course the TV production process - with Connected TV comes the power of data. Effectiveness of TV ads based on engagement has historically been about quantitative and qualitative research. But our clients have enjoyed the level of targeting and data reporting that other digital channels such as display advertising can provide so why should Connected TV be any different?
 Things are set to change and the evolution of the Living Room continues at pace.

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