“Whoever controls the media, controls the mind.”
Over a hundred years ago, in the 1980s, there used to be a television show called Dallas. Now, when I was growing up, it was so popular that restaurants would close on a Tuesday evening because nobody went out. The entire country watched the show at the same time on the same station.
Try and think of anything today that even comes close to that kind of power and dominance. I am guessing we would all come up with the same answer. Sport.
It is pretty much the last piece of content from a broadcast perspective that can guarantee everybody is watching something at the same time. So, I thought it would be interesting to use one of the biggest sporting events in the last five years to look at how things are changing. For me, Floyd versus Manny was an excellent barometer of one of the largest seismic shifts to happen in our business. And it all comes down to one word: control.
Floyd versus Manny was a fight the whole world wanted to see. There were people that were willing to pay over 300,000 dollars for a single seat. One seat!
That tells me two things. Firstly, if you have a great product and people really want it, there will always be a market no matter how insane the price. Secondly, nothing will trump experience. Being there is everything. That gives those running the event a whole lot of control.
So, if I had to make a bet, experiential in our industry will become far more important than it already is. There are two reasons for this. One, it gives you a modicum of control as to who sees content and possibly when they see it. Two, it might be the most cost effective ways to make enough content for the millions of channels we are creating. For years, I have listened to stupid arguments about the definition of digital versus conventional advertising. Do yourself a favour, walk through the halls in a global show like Cannes. See how many of the same entries are in ambient, outdoor, branded content, experiential, direct, pr, digital, events and mobile, which glues it all together, and you will see how ridiculous this argument has become. The truth is, in our business, we talk about singular categories that no longer really exist. And I believe that has been true for at least a decade.
What does still exist is people’s desire for emotional, unexpected, life changing experiences and the need to share them. So, I believe all of the categories I have mentioned will grow massively and become a very powerful ecosystem. This has massive implications for how advertising and marketing departments should be operating now and how they will operate in the future. The problem is that what is happening doesn’t really fit on a spreadsheet anymore. It is very fast and fluid. Responsiveness out of necessity will become the new control.
Control. It is something the industry was built on. Time, space and access. It is the cornerstone of how it all works. And what can you control? Or, more accurately, what could we control in the past. Only two things. Content and distribution.
Content has one large problem. There is not enough of it. And that might actually be an opportunity for advertising. If people are going to be in many places at different times, in different ways, we will have to be there too. And, if that content has to be personalised, we will need to create more content. And, if it has to be in real time, we will have to move fast. And, of course, it will have to all connect and be of the highest quality. So, as budgets get squeezed, we will need to make more better and make faster. That is a big challenge but one I believe that can be solved simply because it has to be solved.
So, let me give you one other challenge that I believe is far bigger: distribution. This has always been the ultimate form of control. And control, is just another word for money.
After the fight, I read a piece about millions of people using Meerkat and Periscope, apps that stream live, to watch the fight. In essence, one person with a mobile can broadcast a billion dollar fight in Vegas to the entire world for free.
This is a rather large genie that has been let out of the bottle. Access. Now, everybody can get into the club because the bouncer doesn’t know there's a backdoor. It started with search, moved to media and publications and now it's happening with live events. This all inevitably gets you to the following question:
If I can get whatever I want for free, whenever I want, why would I pay for it?
There are only a few answers. The quality is better. I get more. I get it faster. Or like a 300,000 dollar seat, I just want the experience.
This is an old battleground that will change the future of our business forever.
Seconds out. Round one. Ding.
- Damon Stapleton is the chief creative officer at DDB.