Friday, August 31, 2012

Online Essay - 42455421 Hamish Conroy

MAS110 – Introduction to Digital Media Production

Online Essay

42455421 – Hamish Conroy

“The perfection of the image has brought us to a whole new state of expectation. We are the image. We are the viewer and the viewed” – John Ralston Saul, Voltaires Bastards

In an era defined by the phenomenally rapid convergence of media and technology, the advertising industry has been presented, the challenge of embracing and adapting to a new way of connecting with a tech-savvy market. The shift to a digital culture has influenced the advertising industry in three significant ways. The first of these being the evolution of the consumer to the producer, as the individual, also known as the ‘citizen consumer’, assumes a highly empowered role in the dissemination of media content (Spurgeon, 2008). Secondly the essay will draw focus to the popularity of branded entertainment as a means of response to an increasingly critical and disengaged market. Finally, the essay will draw attention to the increasing prominence of the viral campaign. In discussing the aforementioned topics, the essay will aim to present varying viewpoints on the way in which digital media convergence has influenced the advertising industry via new media, and in particular the way in which this has affected the concept of consumer sovereignty.

As technology has evolved so too has the role of the citizen consumer in the circulation of media content. Today’s citizen consumer is empowered with the ability and knowledge to be highly exclusive in regards to the media content they are exposed to. With the increased use of ‘pull technology’ such as TIVO as well as other wed-based programs e.g. AdBlock, it is now possible for the citizen consumer to avoid advertising altogether (Sheehan & Morrison, 2009).

This avoidance issue has presented a dilemma to those in the advertising industry, as the as the consumer has become distracted, distrustful and disinterested, ultimately making the market harder to engage (Spurgeon, 2008, pg. 26). Sheehan & Morrison, present the idea of a ‘confluence culture’ to describe the relationship between the advertising industry and new forms of digital media (2009). The theory establishes an understanding of the responses that need to be made by advertisers in order to adequately deal with the challenges presented by convergent media. Defined as “the situation where traditional methods of work adapt to embrace the new reality of interactive content” (Sheehan et al, 2009), confluence culture points to the need to empower consumers with the ability to create content in collaboration with the advertiser. In regards to this, Sheehan et al argue that advertisers must recognize change and consider new techniques that encourage consumers to participate more actively in the creation and distribution of media content. Understandings presented by Sheehan establish the challenges faced by advertisers in connecting to the modern citizen consumer, as well as presenting a viable framework for forging new methods of communication.
The ways in which the advertising industry communicates with the broader market have changed significantly since the days of old media dominance. As the citizen consumer has become harder to reach, approaches to marketing have aimed to infiltrate new media as a means of increasing consumer participation as well as reestablishing lines of communication. This area of discussion will be examined in relation to the case study of BMW Films.

Branded entertainment, defined by Grainge as the “creation of content that contextualizes brand images in ways that are so appealing that consumers will seek them out for inclusion in their personalized media and entertainment flows” (2011, pg. 167), aims to extend the role of advertiser involvement in the production of media content. In the case study of BMW Films, branded entertainment seeks to foster online communities comprised of citizen consumers from within BMW’s target market (Grainge, 2011). The series of productions by BMW Films under the banner of ‘The Hire’, showcased Hollywood produced short films directed by the likes of Guy Ritchie and Ang Lee, geared towards displaying BMW’s auto-manufacturing prowess. With an estimated budget of $US15 million, BMW films successfully strengthened avenues of communication with a highly desirable segment of the market, as well as announcing an immediate spike in sales despite the US Economic Downturn (Spurgeon, 2008, pg. 40).  While proving to be financially lucrative, the increased popularity in branded entertainment serves to “perpetuate the blurring of the distinction between commerce and art” (Spurgeon, 2008, pg. 41). Building on Sheehan et al’s theory of confluence culture, BMW Film’s advertising initiatives demonstrate the way in which the advertising industry as a whole has responded to convergent culture.

In discussing the responses of the advertising industry to the large-scale challenges presented by a highly pluralised digital media, the rise of the viral campaign demonstrates a key way in which marketing practices have shifted in order to communicate more effectively with a dispersed and individualized market. In order to effectively discuss the aforementioned issue, pertinent concepts will be contextualized in relation to the case study of T-Mobile’s ‘Life’s for Sharing’ campaign.

The facilitation of the viral marketing process, as outlined in the work of Wilken and Sinclair (2009), can be largely credited to the development of 3G technology, enabling advertisers to “move beyond text-based SMS messages” to more engaging forms of communication (ibid). This is particularly evident in the example of T-Mobile’s virally disseminated, Life’s for Sharing’ campaign. The campaign involved T-Mobile launching a promotional campaign on television and YouTube that “literally performed the company’s brand slogan ‘Life’s for Sharing’”. Taking the form of a spontaneous dance routine in Liverpool Street Station in downtown London. ‘The Dance’ became an immediate television talking point and YouTube hit (Grainge, 2011, pg. 166). As an example of viral marketing, the campaign exemplifies the tendency within current advertising think tanks, to utilize the citizen consumer as a creative participant in the overall production and circulation process. In relation to the discussion of the influence of convergence on advertising, the campaign demonstrates the utilization of new media by marketing organisations.

As media and technology have synergized the advertising industry has faced challenges in communicating with an increasingly disengaged market. As the advertising industry as a whole has adjusted to these changes through branded entertainment, viral marketing and promoting consumer participation, avenues of communication will become increasingly more efficient. In correlation with this process, citizen consumers will also become more empowered, having the ability to scrutinize the media content they are presented, ultimately creating a cycle of mutual participation and creation.


Spurgeon, C, 2008, Advertising and New Media, Oxon, Routledge, pp 24-45.

Sheehan, K & Morrison, K, 2009, Beyond convergence: Confluence culture and the role of the advertising agency in a changing world, First Monday, 14(3)

Grainge, P, 2012, A song and dance: Branded entertainment and mobile promotion, International Journal of Cultural Studies, 15(2)

Wilken, R & Sinclair, J, 2009, Waiting for the Kiss of Life: Mobile Media and Advertising, Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 15(4)

abmwfan, 2007, BMW Films – The Hire – Ambush (online), Date Accessed: 31/8/2012, Available from:

lifesforsharing, 2009, The T-Mobile Dance (online), Date Accessed: 31/8/2012, Available from:

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