Discuss the phenomenon of digital media convergence in relation to advertising and new media.
The phenomenon of media convergence is changing the way that media is being produced and consumed globally and its impact on advertising is no exception. Advertisers are continually finding new ways to utilise the interaction between traditional and new media to their advantage. Various advertisements from the ‘Pepsi’ company will be used to show advertising’s relationship with convergence. The first aspect of convergence dealt with is the issue of fragmentation and how traditionally this was not an issue. The second aspect is the seeming ‘choice’ for audiences and ways advertisers will still attempt to dominate the media being consumed. Finally, the third is audience participation and methods advertisers will use to capitalise on this participation. Therefore media convergence may individualize and allow audiences to participate in their media consumption but these advances do not release audiences from their predominant role as consumers in society.
For the purpose of this essay digital media convergence will be defined as the process of traditional media co-existing with new media (Dwyer 2010). New media is defined by Manovich’s (2001) five principles; numerical representation, modularity, variability, automation and transcoding.
The first aspect of convergence being addressed is the fragmentation of media audiences (Sheehan 2009). The digitalisation of media allows for it be sifted through quite easily (Spurgeon 2008) at websites such as Side Reel: http://www.sidereel.com/ and audiences utilise these websites to avoid programs they may have been stuck sitting with in past decades. Therefore convergence has given consumers the ability to personalise their media choices. A good example of this is ever expanding television industry. You can watch television on your television (ofcourse!), but you can also watch it on your computer via DVD’s or streamed through websites, your iPod, your phone, a projector and whatever is thought of next. This relates to advertising as once upon the 80’s advertisers only had a mass audience to manipulate with advertisements such as this one:
Pepsi have used a likeable, well known star in the form of Michael J Fox to do an amusing skit. However, audiences are now more than ever able to go in search of whatever entertainment experiences they want (Jenkins 2006) and in many cases this bypasses carefully planned advertising such as this Pepsi one. Therefore advertisers are needing to think of new ways in which to catch consumers in their nets in an increasingly fragmented and convergent environment.
There is always a flip side to any coin though, consumers are never given all the power and digital media convergence is no different. Indeed audiences are allowed more choice but neoliberal global corporations still wish to capitalise on those choices (Dwyer 2010). One way advertising companies achieve this is branded entertainment. Branded entertainment is an advertising strategy which aims to embed itself in individualised media flows (Spurgeon 2008). An example of this would be any number of Facebook pages but this essay will be utilising the official page of Nicki Minaj : http://www.facebook.com/#!/nickiminaj. Fans of Ms Minaj joining her page to receive information on her will be exposed to her sponsors such as Pepsi, Adidas and programs she has participated in such as American Idol, not to mention self-promotion of her albums. This shows that while the traditional ‘push’ method of media (Spurgeon 2008) is becoming less effective, advertisers are finding ways to effectively achieve the ‘pull' method (Spurgeon 2008) and are getting consumers to include them in their daily lives. Continuing with the example of Ms Minaj as well as Pepsi, advertising’s evolution in the wake of digital media convergence becomes clear. Celebrities no longer just endorse products, they are in turn endorsed by products, as Ms Minaj has done ‘Pepsi’ concerts and even become the product, Ms Minaj is the face of Pepsi’s new drink ‘Pop’. And these advertisements become prominent on both digital and traditional media platforms, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, television and music. Therefore if a consumer likes Ms Minaj no matter which media platform they choose to enjoy her talents on they will be exposed to the same advertisements. The advertisements are just adapted to different mediums enforcing that the producers of the content are the dominant power (Deuze 2007) even in a digitally convergent media environment.
The final aspect of convergence being discussed is its tendency to encourage audience participation as consumption is increasingly a collective experience (Jenkins 2006). Modern technology has made it easy for audiences to become producers in their own right (Deuze 2007), this does not discount the power of neoliberal corporations which still exercise the majority of control (Deuze 2007) but does place audiences in a more active role in the convergent media environment. In relation to advertising we are beginning to see more and more spoofs of advertisements which resonate within audience’s collective consciousness. An amusing example of this, again using Pepsi, is the Jimmy Fallon and Parker Posey commercial from a few years ago:
This advertisement is simple, with very little set up and can be easily appropriated by anyone with a video camera. There are many spoofs on YouTube doing just that, such as this video:
In conclusion, digital media convergence may be seen as a tool for neoliberal corporations to further their empires. In the past this was much simpler but as technology has advanced and consumers have become more individualized corporations have needed to include new media in their strategies to remain relevant. Branded entertainment is one way for corporations to embed themselves in the lives of their consumers. Participation may be encouraged as it adds to a corporation’s visibility. Therefore media convergence is a powerful force in modern society and will continue to impact the way in which media is produced and consumed.
Bartel Sheehan, K & Morrison D K, 2009, ‘Beyond convergence: confluence culture and the role of the advertising agency in a changing world’, First Monday, vol. 14, no. 3, March, viewed 24 August.
Deuze, M, 2007, ‘Convergence culture in the creative industries’, International Journal of Culture Studies, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 243-263, viewed 24 August, EBSCOhost database
Dwyer, T, 2010, Media Convergence, McGraw Hill, Berkshire
Jenkins, H, 2006, Convergence culture: where old and new media collide, NY University Press, New York.
Manovich, L 2001, ‘The Language of New Media’, MIT Press, Cambridge.
Spurgeon, C, 2008, Advertising and new media, Routledge, London.