I came to the 2010 Cannes Lions Advertising Festival to learn, share, and collaborate with my peers in the advertising industry (OK, and to catch some rays on the incomparable French Riviera).
I was also looking forward to a vigorous discussion on the topic of the future of television during a workshop I led called, “The Rise of Rich TV.” The workshop was filled to capacity – in fact, standing room only -- confirming that this is indeed a hot topic.
What surprised me, however, is how much the people in that room were in agreement about where TV is headed. There was a palatable shift from the uncertainty of last few years – a tension rooted in the enormous changes that have roiled the broadcast landscape – to a sense of inevitability about TV’s evolution (I’ve blogged about this evolution in previous posts).
At Cannes, we invited industry leaders to provide solid evidence on the key trends which are changing the way advertisers think about engaging their audience through the largest screen in the home.
This consensus was not the result of an overly polite crowd. The room was bursting with creative and strategic thinkers and leaders from across the globe, each of whom has strong opinions around TV advertising. Rather, the consensus was a strong signal that the advertising community has collectively crossed some kind of line, where we acknowledge that the TV of tomorrow simply will not look like the TV of today. And the attributes that define the new world of interactive TV are coming into sharper focus.
I had expected a spirited, even contentious discussion, similar to the rather heated debate between Mark Cuban, the Chairman of HDnet, and Boxee CEO Avner Ronen. This ongoing discussion centers around their differing points of view on how internet video can be monetized. Cuban is adamant that streaming content from the web to the TV screen is not the future of TV. While this debate is interesting, it is beside the point. The real question is: how can you get the best of the web and the best of TV to work together in ways that will engage consumers? How the consumer engages with the content is more relevant than how the content arrives on the screen.
I look at this issue from the advertiser’s perspective: certainly, they want the interactivity and measurability of the web, but this by itself is not enough. Even more important is the desire for an immersive, big screen HD experience that truly engages the audience. Xbox has been delivering on this “best of both worlds” vision for some time now, and we continue to explore new and innovative ways to engage audiences with brands. In the last year, dozens of marquee brands such as Nike, McDonalds, Porsche and American Express spent hundreds of millions of dollars promoting their brands with breakthrough results – some of them coming back for their second or third Xbox campaign.
Industry stalwarts like Cuban, Ronen and others will no doubt continue to slug out the issue of how content should make its way onto that big screen, which keeps things interesting for the rest of us. But there is another, more pressing debate that lives at the intersection of the consumer’s interactive TV experience and advertiser ROI. That debate is about audience engagement and I’ll be tackling that head-on in my next blog post.
On Xbox, marketers are learning that consumer’s tend to react favorably to advertising that invites – not interrupts – the consumer into a conversation, and offers them something in exchange for their attention.
In the increasingly frenetic, multi-screen, A.D.D. digital world we have created for ourselves, the Cannes crowd agreed that audience engagement with content and brands is the issue facing advertisers today.
We also agreed to spend the next decade returning to Cannes’ inspired beachfront to talk endlessly about just how we address the issue.
Mark Kroese - General Manager, Advertising Business Group