The Ripple or the Drill?
I’ve learned that if you stick around long enough, fashions will always come back. My 13 year old son is taking a keen interest in my late 1990s wardrobe and record collection, which is a worrying sign in itself. Meanwhile, maybe it’s just coincidence, but I’m starting to see echoes of two phrases that infested the dozens of ‘new media’ business plans I had to wade through in my channel development role during that first 1990s dotcom boom; “if we build it, they will come” and “killer apps”.
The former was a line taken from Kevin Costner’s overblown 1990s philosophiser ‘Field of Dreams’ and if the quote appeared in any of the aforesaid business plans, they would go straight into the bin. I was much more interested in those adhering to another 1990s movie catchphrase, “show me the money!” I wonder whether some of the more recent digital disappointments, such as the Facebook share price, contain an element of that late 1990s wish fulfilment.
‘Killer apps’ is a much more interesting proposition. Back then it referred to the stand-out benefits that would drive consumer take-up. I always felt it was a bit conceptual, until real apps came along, and in a sense embodied it. The app is a killer app, or if it isn’t the app doesn’t get downloaded
Although apps are coming(quite slowly) to the main TV screen, I’ve long argued that their main influence will be on the companion screens that are now becoming a significant viewing accessory/distractor (pretty much in equal measure according the latest Thinkbox multi-screening research) . They provide an efficient way to access ancillary content and TV viewers are responding accordingly (1.5 million downloads of the BBC Olympics app alone).
Which is where I introduce Deloitte’s TV:Why? Report, which was unveiled at the Edinburgh TV Festival and, more recently, at last week’s IBC Conference in Amsterdam. It is, as always, full of well-argued, evidence-based insights into TV’s emerging role in the digital landscape. It analyses issues such as TV’s role in household entertainment, the future for connected TVs and the reasons behind the resilience of TV viewing and advertising revenues. The hot topic of the moment, though, and one the Deloitte report covers well, is the evolution of multi-screening. This is the landscape where the ‘killer apps’ affect (and are affected by) what is viewed via the main TV screen.
The fascinating headline from the report is that multi-screening is more about talking than interacting. Deloitte’s research suggests that most viewers will use companion screens to talk about the TV they are watching, rising to 4 out of every 5 teens and 3 out of every 4 under-24s. It is an extension of what TV viewers have always done; talk about the programmes and ads they are watching.
Meanwhile, there is far less enthusiasm for interacting with programmes. Only 4% of people strongly disagree with the statement “I can’t be bothered to interact with programmes” and only one in eight disagrees at all (compared to two out of three who agree). This has massive implications for how connected TVs are marketed and helps to explain why take-up and connectivity has been so slow.
The primacy of talk over interaction reflects the shared, communal nature of TV viewing, whereas interaction is often a personalised activity. It suggests the main impact of TV advertising is likely to be the ripple of discussion rather than the drilling down into deeper interactive experiences.
This ripple vs. drill analogy interests me, because much of IBC was focussed on the drill effect; the ability to drill right down into content or ancillary interactive applications. Now, drills are very loud and noticeable, suggesting great power is at play, whereas I think the power of the ripple effect is too easily underestimated.
And yet, as we know , waves contain massive forces which, in the extreme, can destroy cities and potentially create sustainable energy that dwarfs that of solar, wind and even nuclear.
So, the ripple of conversation or the drill effect of interactivity? Of course, all fully integrated communications plans should accommodate both, but as the Deloitte research suggests, it is the ripple effect that will probably have the greatest impact on a brand’s fortunes.