Convergence confusion

Convergence confusion
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Multiple platforms and devices mean we are all multi-screening with a vengeance. This fragmentation of our media was the first challenge. The new challenge is convergence, as Lucy Clark learns

First it was ‘fragmentation’. Now it’s ‘convergence’. It’s enough to bemuse even the technologically savviest of us. But, are they just two sides of the same digital coin?

Ever since the birth of digital, the advertising and media industries have grappled with fragmentation. No longer was mass media controlling what we watch and read.

Suddenly, there was a whole spectrum of digital channels fighting for our attention, distracting us from sitting through the TV ads or from reading a newspaper – in paper form – from cover to cover.

Fragmentation and multi-screening has long been accepted and dealt with. Now, however, the focus is on bringing it together to deliver audiences deeper advertising content; content that they enjoy and want to engage with.

Convergence refers to the bringing together of the multiple screens with which we engage at any one time, creating linked-up and seamless experiences. While devices have fragmented, convergence is about bringing them back together.

The benefits of convergence stretch from brands to consumers. There are huge benefits to brands – not least much stronger relationships with consumers.

But there are still huge challenges in enabling convergence to happen, especially when it comes to calculating its value and to the digital capabilities out there.

Advertising challenges

According to Matt Von der Muhll, country director of video advertising marketplace SpotXchange, it’s early days for convergence and “there is still a minefield of untapped opportunities” for mobile and digital advertising.

“Between 2008 and 2011, mobile ad spending increased sevenfold, and within the last year alone spending has nearly doubled – but still only 11% of the general online advertising dollars are spent on mobile advertising,” he says.

Von der Muhll says challenges include a lack of common standards on different screens, making it difficult to produce a single ad that works across platforms. On top of this, low CPMs discourage sellers from providing advertising inventory, and few publishers are currently using technology that helps integrate video into mobile.

“At present, it seems that both industries are at a standoff: advertisers are slow to invest in the mobile platform unless they know their content will get eyeballs, whilst publishers need to justify developing new technologies through significant demand from advertisers,” Von der Muhll concludes. “The sooner advertisers can adjust and take advantage of multi-screen advertising, the quicker the industry will adapt, in turn providing greater opportunities.”

Carolyn Bollaci, regional vice president of digital ad platform MediaMind, which recently rebranded as DG, suggests another issue is the current lack of currency for buying online advertising. Online does not yet have an equivalent of TARPs (Target Audience Rating Points), which assesses a commercial’s audience.

“Forever and a day, online has been trying to work out a currency that is similar to TARPs,” she says. “DG has looked at it holistically, as we don’t think one has to sacrifice the other. There is too much invested in TV and it’s not going away any time soon. We believe if we have one platform that can book and deliver TV, online, mobile and display, we will win. It’s definitely something clients are asking for. As media gets more and more complicated, we need to pull it back and simplify it.”

Converging for the consumer

Convergence isn’t just about making things simpler for advertisers. Consumers benefit too – and they expect to.

“Consumers are now adept at media multitasking,” says Rebecca Haagsma, director of convergence at Mi9.

“They expect to be able to consume content anytime, anywhere. This opens up huge opportunities for publishers and brands to weave their stories across multiple screens and platforms.”

Viacom managing director, David Lynn, believes convergence is the most natural way for consumers to engage with content.

Lynn, managing director in the UK, Australia, Central and Eastern Europe and executive vice president of international content distribution for the media company, says: “Our consumers are growing up in a converging environment. We see online apps and mobile as a natural extension of TV.”

He explains that convergence leads to better relationships with audiences: “It gives us much deeper engagement and interaction with our consumers. One of the amazing things we can do online and with social media is that the audience can continue to have a relationship with a show while it’s not on air. It’s a much more ongoing, fluid and dynamic relationship.”

Mark Frain, national sales director of the Multi Channel Network, agrees that “convergence is really about bringing life to the powerful medium of television”.

“All the research we’ve seen overseas and locally demonstrates that additional devices continue to strengthen television as a medium,” says Frain. “Convergence adds impact to a multi-channel campaign.

“Convergence is about embracing multiple devices so viewers can have access to quality content that’s relevant to their viewing interests and community groups in addition to their first viewing experience.”

But Haagsma stresses that content should not just be replicated across devices.

“Instead of duplicating content, the best marketers are complementing and optimising the message depending on the screen and purpose, providing an enhanced and rewarding experience for consumers.”

She said Mi9 is currently working on the “converged” experience of the 2013 Logie Awards, incorporating TV, digital and print.

“Consumers will be rewarded for engaging with the Logies across additional mediums,” she says. “TV will be the live, in the moment experience, which will be enhanced if a viewer researched the nominees before the event, votes on ‘best dressed’ via Jump-In during the broadcast, then buys the magazine for a sit-back recap of the night.

“From each medium, the consumer is getting a different piece of the story, creating an immersive Logies experience.”

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