Convergence, a phenomenon
Advertising and New Media
Digital media convergence is a phenomenon, rapidly evolving as a new media revolution affecting all aspects of communication and media (Manovich, 2001). The evolution of convergence in new media has allowed our global culture to become interconnected and powerful, no longer being passive recipients of communication, but rather being part of a complex interactive system of communication. Thompson (1999) outlines that the expansion of mass communication is inextricably linked to the development of media industries. Advertising as such sustains and shapes most of the media that we consume and in turn is its commercial backbone. Convergence allows advertising to exploit technological innovations with new media outlets, blurring the boundaries of space and time through ‘despatialised simultaneity’ (Thompson, 1999, 19). This speed of communication that transcends borders increases public circulation at a low cost with the ability to reach ‘distracted, distrustful and disinterested’ 21st century media consumers (Spurgeon, 2008, 29). This essay will discuss this phenomenon, primarily in relation to the effectiveness of the Internet in convergent culture.
The Internet has proliferated an outlet of convergence culture, where ‘old and new media collide’ and the ‘power of the media producer and the power of the media consumer interact in unpredictable ways’ (Jenkins, 2006, 18). With the advent of technology and an increase in a fragmented audience, advertisers have needed to find new ways to reach their audiences in ways that they will actively seek out. Hilderbrand describes one such medium, YouTube as being the ‘go-to’ website for both producers and consumers to upload and distribute content. For advertisers, this means of convergent communication decreases distribution costs as a culture of sharing has emerged. Co-founder Chad Hurley states, “People like to share experiences… We started it with the idea of solving a problem – how to share video online with your friends” (McManis, 2006 cited in Hilderbrand). This portal has become the perfect playground for advertisers in this convergent community culture. One of the most viral advertisements was T-Mobile’s ‘Royal Wedding’. It broadcasted during the 2011 hype with the Royal Wedding and took prize as the number one viral video that year. (ABC Technology and Games, 2011). This ad was a parody of ‘JK Wedding Dance’, which was broadcasted to YouTube in 2009 and has attracted more than 64 million views (newsfeed.time, 2011). This portrays the convergence of ideas amongst all those in society who expose this material through YouTube. T-Mobile, played on this notion with their final caption stating 'Life of Sharing'. It is evident that with a culture of sharing and interconnectedness, the Internet, primarily YouTube is a successful outlet for advertisers.
With Facebook connecting 500 million people in 2010 (Zuckerburg, 2010), it has become a perfect medium to reach out to consumers as active participants. With a convergent culture of sharing and connection across all media platforms, YouTube and Facebook work simultaneously to circulate viral content. This integration, in some cases works simultaneously to old media, increasing circulation and awareness. Some agencies have embraced the notion of confluence culture, where distribution of their campaigns have used methods of old and new media together, ‘embracing the new reality of interactive content’ that convergent culture has given rise to (Sheenan, 2009). Advertising on television successfully requires a mass audience and usually a prime time slot to reach this potential audience. In the case of the American Superbowl, a 30 second slot cost $3.5 million (Telegraph.uk, 2012). The Superbowl attracts 100 million viewers and is therefore an attractive proposition for advertisers, especially due to the dominant impact of convergence, where consumer research has predicted that 60% of viewers will also be bound to a second screen (Telegraph.uk, 2012). Brad Adgate, the senior vice president of research at Horizon Media emphasises how “The social media conversation has put more value on a Superbowl ad, fans will discuss your ads on Twitter and Facebook and then go to YouTube to watch it on demand over and over again” (Telegraph.uk, 2012). This evidence of converging across all media platforms has re-negotiated boundaries of space and time, giving rise to the ability for advertising campaigns to have almost instantaneous access globally.
With convergence all around us, Sheehan (2009) identifies the evolution of a confluence culture as well, particularly focused on agencies creating strong brand messages for consumers. The notion of ‘Madison and Vine’ has evolved as a concept connecting the entertainment and advertising industries together. It held the intention of creating a strategic alliance to engage consumers and influence them to seek out campaigns and distribute them across personalised media flows (Spurgeon, 2008). BMW was extremely successful in exploiting this intersection of convergence across industries, and further with the Internet. BMW manifested a series of short 10- minute campaigns that took the form of a short film. With this approach combining commerce and art, they reversed budget ratios, spending 90% on production and 10% on distribution. The Internet, primarily YouTube, was used as the means of distribution and gained attractive an attractive response from ‘affluent, young, new media users’, which would have been difficultly reached with expensive, restricted conventional advertising methods (Spurgeon, 2008, 40).
The notion of convergence has given advertising a new playground through new media outlets. This phenomenon has connected consumers around the world and has overcome the need of a mass audience for conventional methods of advertising. Breaking down boundaries of space and time, the Internet has allowed advertisers to converge and expand their strategies across mediums such as Facebook and YouTube, where the distance between the producer and consumer has been narrowed. With the advent of this participatory culture, advertisers have the ability to broadcast their campaigns and let them go viral at a rapid pace.
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* Hilderbrand, Lucas (2007), YouTube: Where Cultural Memory and Copyright Converge, Film Quarterly, 61(1), pp. 48-57
* Jenkins, Henry (2006), Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, NY University Press, pp. 1-24
Manovich, Lev (2001), The Language of New Media, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, pp. 19-61
Newsfeed.time.com (2011) The Royal Wedding Craze Goes Viral in T-Mobile Commercial | NewsFeed | TIME.com. [online] Available at: http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/04/18/the-royal-wedding-craze-goes-viral-in-t-mobile-commercial/ [Accessed: 27 Aug 2012].
* Spurgeon, Christina (2008), Advertising and New Media, Oxon Routledge, pp. 24-45
Telegraph.co.uk (2012) Super Bowl: Average price of 30 second advert costs $3.5 million - Telegraph. [online] Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/othersports/americanfootball/9047918/Super-Bowl-average-price-of-30-second-advert-costs-3.5-million.html [Accessed: 27 Aug 2012].
Thompson, John (1999), “The Media and Modernity” in Hugh Mackay and Tim O’Sullivan (eds), The Media Reader: Continuity and Transformation, Sage, London, pp. 12-27.
*Unit Reader and Recommended Reading List
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