Discuss the phenomenon of digital media convergence in relation to advertising and new media
Digital media convergence has transformed advertising and the way advertising agencies approach a marketing campaign. With the ever increasing dominance of online social media sites such as YouTube as well as widely used search engines Google and Yahoo!, advertising agencies have had to adapt to the significant cultural shift and create campaigns accordingly. Advertisements are no longer simply informative, they are now entertaining, engaging and messages are being embedded and hidden in extravagant ways to appeal to sophisticated consumers of today’s society. The cultural shift to an increasingly online society has also seen the shift in the way advertisements are created.
Jenkins names the cultural shift towards new media convergence and defines it as “old and new media colliding, where grassroots and corporate media intersect, where the power of the media producer and the power of the media consumer interact in unprecedented ways.” Morrison and Sheehan have adapted Jenkins’ definition and have introduced the term “Confluence culture”. “Confluence culture, for media industries, is the situation where traditional methods of work adapt to embrace the new reality of interactive content.”
Spurgeon’s From the ‘Long Tail’ to ‘Madison and Vine’ Trends in advertising and new media discusses the shift from “old media” advertising in the phone book, to “new media” advertising online and through search engines such as Yahoo! and Google. The search engine is a huge development for advertising since newspaper advertising and the phone book. In less than a decade, search engines have transformed into new, globally significant and increasingly, locally relevant, advertising-funded media services and institutions (Battelle 2005). Advertising through search engines has become one of the fastest growing outlets for online advertising. Between 2004 and 2005 online advertising all over the world saw enormous growth. In the USA, advertising online increased 33%, in the UK the growth was 40% and Australia 60%. This rapid growth meant that advertisers and advertising agencies had to adapt to these new forms and outlets of advertising and produce ads that reach increasingly distracted, distrustful and disinterested consumers (Spurgeon 2008). Of the 388 million monthly users of Yahoo! in August 2005, over 24 million streamed 2.9 billion videos and spent over 3 hours per week on Yahoo!
YouTube’s 2005 creation allowed yet another outlet for advertisers to communicate with the growing online culture. Advertisers began to develop ads that creatively appealed to coveted consumers in ways that would push them to actively seek them out. An advertisement such as Evian’s wildly successful viral campaign was one of the first YouTube exclusive campaigns by a major brand. It was launched in 2009 and surpassed 100 million views by the mid 2010. The ad was then debuted on television late April 2010 after its enormous success online.
This revolutionary method of advertising, designed specifically for online consumers saw advertisers all over the world follow suit, and YouTube has become largely dominated by these “viral” ads. Another ad campaign that was extraordinarily popular online was Cadbury’s 2007 ad with a gorilla playing the drums to Phil Collins’ song “In The Air Tonight”. The ad never featured a block of Cadbury milk chocolate nor any strong persuasive message, yet its success on YouTube alone boosted Cadbury’s online presence. The ad first appeared on British television on 31 August 2007 and received over 500,000 views online in its first week.
Following the success of the initial ad, several consumer created “spoofs” emerged also gaining fair amount of online attention. Several of these consumer created “spoofs” kept the original pictures of the ad, and only replaced the music used. On 5 September 2008, a second Gorilla advertisement, featuring Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart” was released on British TV after a consumer spoof using the same song became extremely popular online. This saw the blurring between producer and consumer and interaction between the two that had rarely occurred before.
Spurgeon discusses the “Madison and Vine” phenomenon, which saw the intersection of Hollywood content (Vine) and advertising (Madison) to produce advertising content that is enticing to the consumer. BMW created an ad campaign that fell under this convergence of both Hollywood and advertising.
BMW’s ad campaign known as The Hire featured 8 short films most just short of 10 minutes, making them “YouTube friendly”. The campaign was designed for online consumption and was created by a team of Hollywood’s best producers, directors and actors. The campaign produced a more sophisticated form of product placement usually confined to films and music videos. The idea was to provide content that delivers a marketing message that is so seductively packaged that the consumer would not only mind that it is an advertisement but enjoy it also. Over 90% of the $US15 million budget went into production as it was distributed online, large budgets for distribution was not necessary. The clever use of convergence between advertising and the film industry saw BMW’s 2001 sales jump 12% from the previous year.
The founder of a British marketing firm Justin Kirby stated that if the content of an ad is provocative enough the product does not need to have exceptional value. "It avoids the need to have a product with a ‘wow' factor in order to generate buzz. Instead, the viral campaign's communication agent - often video-based advertainment content-is the element that needs a ‘wow' factor...The focus is on campaigns that consumers want to interact with" (Kirby 2004, p. 33).
In essence, Jenkins’ phenomenon of convergence culture and new media has dominated the advertising world in the last decade and has seen an enormous growth of online advertising through YouTube. Spurgeon’s study of the merging of “Madison and Vine” saw the development of increasingly entertaining advertisements and traditional methods of work adapting to embrace the new reality of interactive content as discussed by Sheehan and Morrison. Advertising has evolved as a result of this cultural shift and advertisers will continue to work to adapt to these changes. Convergence culture has had a significant impact on the world of advertising and new media and will continue to influence and evolve the media sphere as we know it.
Jenkins, H. (2006) Convergence Culture, New York, New YorkUniversity Press, pp 1-24
Spurgeon, C. (2008) Advertising and New Media, Oxon, Routledge, pp 24-45
Dwyer, T. (2010) Media Convergence, McGraw Hill, Berksire, pp 1-23
Sheehan, Kim and Morrison, Deborah (2009) Beyond convergence: Confluence culture and the role of the advertising agency in a changing world in First Monday vol 14 no 3 - http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2239/2121
L Porter, GJ Golan (2006) From Subservient Chickens To Brawny Men: A Comparison Of Viral Advertising To Television Advertising - Journal of Interactive Advertising
Original Cadbury Ad http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TnzFRV1LwIo
Spoof Cadbury Ad http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdgI0j1odkY
BMW The Hire http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nK87YLmagt4