Change is in full swing in the world of media and advertising with technological innovations completely revolutionizing the market. Shelly Palmer, Professor of Advanced Media in Residence at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication and CEO of The Palmer Group, and LinkedIn’s “Top Voice in Technology,” discusses these changes, distinguishing between the advances that simply make headlines and those that will shape the world of tomorrow.
What innovations will shape the world of media and advertising in the near future?
It is hard for people to accept Web 3 as a televisual innovation because of its current association with cryptocurrencies and decentralized finance. However, the same technology will soon be changing the way people interact with media. Peer-to-peer distributed video organizations have their own cryptocurrencies, known as utility currencies, that reward users, viewers and advertisers for time spent with the content. This completely changes the media market as viewers become both users and distributors of a video product. Users (consumers) are literally paid to watch as they become validator nodes which earns them tokens. At the same time, advertisers have access to first-party data directly, whilst users remain in control of how much data they allow to be accessed.
What is the future of Linear TV?
At the moment, linear TV is fully supported by two types of content – news and sports which are both shown in real time, and, for the most part, for free. In general, linear TV viewers are older (over-55s) so, over time the proportion of people watching linear TV will most likely shrink. However, free over-the-air TV will always have a place. For obvious reasons, linear TV news is more threatened by online and on-demand media. The future of sports contracts will have the biggest impact on the future of linear TV. For now, the US does not have to worry about that as the NFL has recently signed a ten-year contract with linear TV. Entertainment, both scripted and unscripted, tells a different story. It’s true that viewers form emotional attachments with shows, but ultimately, their transactional relationship is with their subscription service or programme distributor, so broadcasters of linear TV do not have access to anywhere near the amount of data it needs to compete with big tech video services. They shouldn’t try. Advertisers want to put the right message in front of the right person at the right time. But that is a strategy, not a goal. A campaign goal may be awareness, or to drive velocity at retail, or it may be “brand love,” it may be a call to action at a later time, or it may be direct response. Even with limited data, linear TV can deliver on any or all of those goals.
Do you see regional differences across the world?
Absolutely. In every region across the world, the value chain is completely different culturally, technologically and from a business perspective so there is no one-size-fits-all model. Planning and buying media is harder than ever. There are vast differences depending on where you are and what technology has been adopted. Advertisers have to be mindful of their messaging, even with things that are seemingly simple such as translation. Do people in the target territory read right to left, left or right or up and down. TV is hyper-local, and it is always a reflection of the local culture.
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What can broadcasters learn from innovative, hybrid players such as Twitch and TikTok?
Broadcasters have to accept that they won’t be able to compete with new, innovative tech and have to instead play to their strengths. Linear TV is based on a construct as old as time. Just as in Ancient Greek amphitheatres, broadcast TV has the power to bring many people together to share common experiences. It is a powerful emotional toolset that gathers data on a population basis rather than an individual basis. Hybrid players such as TikTok gather data on each individual and do a great job predicting what that individual will like based on past engagement behaviours. By contrast, linear TV has access to data on the self-selecting group that enjoys its content. It is relatively easy to predict what a population will do to high statistical accuracy. This is TV’s superpower! They will never beat big tech on individual propensities, but TV can drive a cultural conversation in ways isolated, personalized newsfeeds cannot.
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What will shape the relationship between data and marketers going forward?
Data-driven marketing is different from old fashioned, “cause and effect” marketing. While correct messaging matters (storytelling), data-driven marketers can create adverts based on correlation. If a person clicks these three things, we are 80% confident that there’s a 74% chance they will click on this fourth thing. Correlation is powerful. You can argue that great storytelling (a great narrative) is compelling and drives sales, but you can calculate the impact of a correlative marketing effort. It’s bankable in ways narrative marketing is not. While data is more powerful in the presence of other data, it is important to restate that while you can accurately predict the behaviour of a population, you cannot predict the behaviours of an individual anywhere near as accurately. We will reach a point where marketers understand just what data they need. As long as profiles are continuously updated and enriched and privacy laws are not overstep, ethical data-driven marketers will continue to thrive.
Do you think the alliances that are currently forming are the way to compete with GAFA players?
It is very difficult to know how this situation will play out. In America there are lots of regulations surrounding mergers and acquisitions, but regulators and linear TV players alike don’t recognize the true nature of the problem. Even if all of the competitors got together, they would still just be a fraction of the size of Google. The current battle is for consumer relationships, is getting the right message in front of the right person in the right place at the right time. If content is king, context is queen. That’s to say, content is often the bait and context allows you to learn what gives it value to the people consuming it. With overexposure to content, it can be difficult to understand which consumer touch point (advert) or which combination of messages “created” the desired outcome – a 30 second ad on TV; a shelf talker in a supermarket; an affiliated link in a blog post? All of these can be effective as long as they are put in front of the right person in the right place at the right time. But which one worked the best? Where was the advertising dollar well-spent?
Fake news and misinformation are becoming more widespread and easier to access. Is technological innovation keeping up to counter this?
No, technology is constantly evolving and soon AI tools will enable us to create fake content that is indistinguishable from “real” content. Yet, this has nothing to do with the problem, rather it equalizes the playing field. In fact, the problem lies with the power of technology in filtering out information you don’t want to hear. In the past, it was your choice to watch a more right or left-wing news channel but either way, you knew what you were consuming. Nowadays, the middle ground has gone missing as we see extreme views (far right or far left) making headlines. Engagement is driven by visceral emotion which only allows for binary presentation of highly nuanced topics. Facts are ignored which prevents honest conversations between people with differing opinions. Social media echo chambers (zones where you are comforted in the blanket of information that you want to hear) continue to have a dramatic impact on our world. If content confirms your beliefs you feel a sense of affirmation, if content makes you even a little uncomfortable, you delete it – 3.2 billion people of 4 billion who are on the public internet are on Facebook which begs the question, is it responsible for our confirmation biases or simply a reflection of them? As long as we have this exceptional personal filtration system, we will have misinformation. Social media is just an amplifier. Technology is not good or bad, this distinction is reserved for people. If we want Facebook and other social media platforms to be better, we need to be better to each other. If you don’t like what you see on Facebook, be kinder. The platforms will reflect that too. /