Whence Advertising? Bloomberg's Media Summit Answers

Advertising was at the center of many of the conversations at yesterday’s second day of Bloomberg’s Media Summit. It’s future, as we discussed yesterday, will be determined by how the media industry – publishers, platforms and agencies – responds to the technological and social disruptions it’s experiencing today.

As the recession wanes, brands are investing more in advertising and marketing. The proliferation of smart phones and tablets, the multi-threaded conversations of social media and new channels to spend their budgets offer new, promising, but little-tested opportunities.

How far will the industry pivot?

The volatility of the media industry was evidenced by AOL‘s Tim Armstrong having his keynote conversation in the context of AOL’s announcement of staff layoffs as part of its integration with Huffington Post. Referring to AOL, Armstrong noted:

The advertising space needs to change. I think brand advertising is something that is a wonderful opportunity for the Internet and for the customers there. And the innovation. My guess is the brand advertising space is going to explode, because the brand customers need to be there. And until now, people hadn’t spent enough time kind of looking at the pages to determine how consumers should interact with brands.

With us or against us?

At a panel titled, “Advertising Strategy, Expenditure and Analysis: Broadcast and Cable vs. the New Platforms: Broadband, Social Networks, Outdoor, Mobile, VOD & PVR,” I asked whether any of the panelists took issue with the use of the word, “versus.” Laurence Hallier of Show Media responded that TV ads work and getting the brand messages into the social conversation can help them work better. Some clients need social, he observed, so he was not sure it’s “versus.”

Media Storm‘s Crag Woerz said that we can’t look at it as “versus.” While clients are not leaving linear, the decision needs to be based on what the brand needs – it’s about goals and prioritization.

As the conversation moved to social media, Hallier observed that it frustrates most brands; it’s a big challenge for them. “Everyone wants to play at social,” commented Greg Kahn of Optimedia. He pointed to the need to address the bifurcation of the paid media and paid/owned/earned media paradigms.

The big table

I give Jane Barratt of Young & Rubicam props for using her live Twitter feed to inform her conversation on a panel about enhanced advertising. She noted that her agency works with enormously complex brands that need to make complicated decisions for complex customers. “Advertising is amazing,” she said. “It enables a lot of great stuff in world.”

Large brands leverage the expertise of multiple content publishers, delivery platforms and agencies. Barratt stated the need to have a good team sitting at the table; who sits at the head of the table depends on what the brand wants to achieve. The need to move to more strategic partnerships is evidenced by those tables with lots of people where everyone is trying to get the other’s business.

MTV Networks Digital‘s Mark Fortner noted that there are many small, specialized agencies with young, socially-savvy people making strong pitches for social media engagement. Brands can create a compelling social media campaign using these small companies. While Jane Olson of Oxygen Media sees agencies changing, albeit not as fast as they should, Fortner sees the internal silos of specialization that inhibit agencies being as strong as ever.

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