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Let Television Do What It Does Best

March 6th, 2019   ||    by Rick Howe

At the recent MediaPost TV & Video Insider Summit, one speaker said, “We are in a war for the consumers’ attention.” In the Q&A after the panel, I suggested to the speaker, “It sounds like you are in a war WITH the consumers for their attention. Is that really your position?”

At which point the speaker backed off quickly. “We love our consumers,” he said. “We’ll do anything to meet their needs.”

Perhaps that’s the root of the problem. Meeting the consumers’ needs is shorthand for selling them a product. If we’re old-school, we just push the products we’ve got. If we’re new-school, we develop products to meet their needs – and hope that our development cycle is fast enough to bring the product to market before “their” needs change.

Ram Dass (Dr. Richard Alpert, prominent Harvard psychologist and psychedelic pioneer with Dr. Timothy Leary), wrote “The quieter you become, the more you can hear.”

Those words are important today. We shout so incessantly in our desire to be heard over the din of everybody else in the market, we simply cannot listen. Yeah, we’ll read that data that primarily tells us how our consumers are exercising their consumer behavior: talking about products, Tweeting about products, driving close to products and hopefully buying products.

As suggested by Publicis Groupe’s Rishad Tobaccowala, “companies who treat everybody as consumers ignore their humanity; there is more to people than their wallets.”

The demands of our commerce-centric society make it difficult to see the humans who are reaching for those wallets.

Last month I wrote for MediaWave  about a chat that I had Joanna O’Connell, VP and Principal Analyst from Forrester. We were talking about how we have turned consumers into absolute cynics about everything they read, see and hear. She agreed with my suggestion that, like parents dealing with teenagers, the harder we push, the more they pull away (or push back).

Behavior, whether consumer or otherwise, is the result of motivation and execution. I can think about buying a pickup truck; but until I start looking for a truck, reading about a truck or shopping for a truck, you don’t even know I exist. Until I actually do something, you ignore me.

Let’s look at that another way. There are, in any society or sub-culture, group motivations. If I am active in a social organization, like a Facebook group, and a few members of that group talk about their new pickup trucks, I probably have the tickling of a thought about getting a truck myself.

Reasonable, logical, and we can already connect those dots.

And as soon as we DO act on that data, we risk stepping over the “creep factor” line. “How did they know that????”

Perhaps, just perhaps, we should let people decide what they’re interested in, rather than jamming it into their brains. Uber-targeted messaging may be the exact thing that’s driving consumers away. What if we took reliable and relatable products, advertised them broadly to mass audiences, and let people decide if they are interested or not?

Hmmm, sounds like television to me. But maybe we can do-away from long ad pods in the middle of the shows. Front-end, back-end and maybe one or two in the middle. Not hyper-targeted. Broad reach brands.

Let FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google) fight it out for the next variation of a talking tape-dispenser. Let television be the place where big brands come to reach large audiences: premium programming and well-produced advertising (and sponsorship).

Let television do what it does best: reach people.

As Marshall McLuhan intoned 50 years ago, “The Medium is The Message.”

 

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