Friday, August 31, 2012

Ease of Access: Convergence, New Media and Advertising

Eleanor Sanderson (42879302) Words: 997 (references not included)

Ease of Access: Convergence, New Media and Advertising

Henry Jenkins defines convergence as “the flow of content across multiple platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behaviour of media audiences who will go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of entertainment experiences they want.” (Jenkins, 2006, p. 2) Few fields exemplify this better than advertising. This essay argues that convergent media allows advertisers greater access to consumers. In embracing new media platforms, advertisers can target consumers across inter-relating platforms; advertisers have found a new, cheaper forum and have begun to make entertainment from advertising.

New media allows advertisers to monitor consumer activity so they can employ targeted advertisers, be it on social networking platforms like Facebook, video sharing platforms like Youtube. With the excess of information available on online platforms, users must discuss it with others as there is no way that they can contain it all themselves (Jenkins, 2006). Advertisers monitor this collective intelligence to determine individual users’ interests and tailor the advertising that they are exposed to accordingly, picking up on hot trends and what users share and talk about (Spurgeon, 2008). That new media experiences come pre-tailored is an under-acknowledged and all-permeating concept. Consumers are steered and directed in what they think is their playing field, both overtly and covertly. An obvious method of consumer guidance is the related videos bar on Youtube (Hilderbrand, 2007; van Dijck, 2009). There are also complex algorithms on both Youtube and Facebook platforms dedicated to monitoring consumers’ every online move to ensure maximised brand exposure of advertisers to the maximum number of potentially interested parties (Johnson, 2009; Dwyer, 2010; van Dijck, 2009)
Companies also now acknowledge that while traditional media may still be effective for some demographics, new media is the most effective means of reaching others and thus attempt to give their brand on those platforms. An example is the luxury department store Neiman Marcus. Typically associated with the older demographics – specifically, the ladies who lunch crowd – the company paid for use of the entire Youtube homepage in 2007 on the occasion of their centennial (Klaassen, 2007). Their goal was to rejuvenate the brand in the eyes of the young and affluent whom they wished to create a new market out of. In explaining their choice of Youtube, Ginger Reeder, Vice President of Corporate Affairs, said, “And if [Youtube] starts to permeate our consciousness, we can only assume it’s in our customers’ as well.” (Klaassen, 2007). Thus, it is clear that advertisers use new media to target their audiences across various new media platforms.       

Convergent media and the interactions convergent new media platforms allow for offer advertisers a new, cheaper forum. Advertorial content technically only need be posted once in one place to permeate the market en masse as, if effective, consumers do the sharing in a partnership of dissemination between the advertisers and the audience (Sheehan & Morrison, 2009). This content is shared across platforms as Youtube videos are posted to Facebook walls, embedded in blog posts and linked to on Twitter (Lester, 2012; Yu & Sung, 2010). This means advertisers can focus funds on production as they need not put the same costs into time slots and paper space like in traditional media advertising (Yu & Sung, 2010; Learmonth, 2009). For example, Ford has, for free, created a whole Youtube channel dedicated to promoting its Fiesta (Learmonth, 2009). From 2006 to 2011, advertorial/entertainment videos were posted, creating a cheap, enduring relationship with consumers.
In the ultimate example of media convergence, advertisers now use new media as free focus groups to determine the potential success of campaigns on traditional broadcast platforms. On 17th August 2012, the U by Kotex Facebook page and Youtube channel posted a “sneak preview” of their newest TV ad, “just for fans”. Fans were invited to post their thoughts or like it, not only directly giving advertisers feedback on effectiveness but perpetuating the sense of closeness and broken corporate/consumer barriers (Hilderbrand, 2007). Advertisers also employ user-generated content found on new media platforms for inspiration. In 2007, Nick Haley used freely available web images to make his own advertisement for the iPod Touch which was spotted by Apple on Youtube, who then paid to have him come out and help them recreate it professionally for broadcast on television (Sheehan & Morrison, 2009). Another advantage of new media advertising is that it remains in circulation for years after inception. One comment on the Youtube posting of the professional iPod Touch advertisement was; “Why am I watching this in 2011? LOL”. 

Finally, new media and the choices new media allows consumers to make have driven advertisers to make entertainment out of advertising. Spurgeon calls this the Madison and Vine phenomenon – the convergence of the advertising industry (with their traditional locus on Madison Avenue) and entertainment industry (the famous Vine Street in Hollywood). This has occurred because while the aforementioned factors have allowed advertisers easy access, new media also allows consumers to choose to avoid advertisements. In response, advertisers are making advertising that consumers want to watch (Spurgeon, 2008; Yu & Sung, 2010). Take the aforementioned Ford Fiesta channel. Embedded is just one example of how the informational aspects of advertising have been incorporated into the entertainment factor. Many other companies have created similar informative/entertaining hybrids (see embedded Ikea advertisement). 

Other approaches have been to completely abandon the informative aspect, offering advertisements in the style of short films directed by high profile figures that only reveal themselves as advertisements subtly throughout and then only properly at the end (Spurgeon, 2008). Spurgeon gives the example of the BMW film series but Absolut Vodka took a similar tack with Spike Jonze’s film ‘I’m Here’. 
On other occasions, television advertisements have become successful thanks to their entertainment value once put onto the new media platform. The classic example is the Old Spice advertisement. Entertainment value is a key factor in videos going viral (Yu & Sung, 2010) and advertisers now are capitalising on this to easily permeate consumers’ minds and the public consciousness (Spurgeon, 2008). Thus, convergence and new media mean advertisers are employing entertainment to easily access consumers.

In conclusion, advertising and new media exemplify principles of convergence. New media allows advertisers greater access to consumers. In embracing new media platforms, advertisers can target consumers across inter-relating platforms; advertisers have found a new, cheaper forum and have begun to make entertainment from advertising. 


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