Procter & Gamble CEO A G Lafley was quoted at the ANA annual conference in October 2006, on: “We have to strike the right balance between being in touch, and being in control. The irony is, the more in control we are, the more out of touch we become.” That in a nutshell was what Gerd Leonhard, Media Futurist’s address at MipTV 2010 was about.
Leonhard was speaking about the changes that social media was bringing to the overall media ecosystem, and what this meant for content producers and media companies. Fragmentation is an issue that many in the industry are facing. The image of a teen watching television, listening to the iPod from one year, tweeting or facebooking and/or on the phone at the same time worries brands and media companies – how does anyone make room into the mind share of an audience like this. For Leonhard, the glass is half full. There are these many different ways of connecting with this audience, whom he defined as the ‘connected audience’.
He said, “The pattern of media consumption is already changing. Consider the e-Books or e-Movies, why would I pay for something that I can no longer give to my friends, sell back to someone, share the way I used to. The new forms of media are taking us backwards from that way of living, but people are still doing it because they trust the companies they are buying these things from. There is an experience that the companies have been able to create for this audience.”
The game is no longer about controlling your product. He cited the example of the music industry and pointed out that despite the fact that the industry had dropped by 52 per cent in the last decade, the music industry was still talking about the same problem and same solutions. “They haven’t seemed to learn any lesson from their experience. We are speaking about an audience that is control. They can, they connect and they matter. The ways of reaching out to this audience is changing that platforms like social media would soon be more important than we know it.”
Social Media: Of Growth and Driving Growth
Leonhard observed that it took radio 38 years to reaching 50 million people, it took TV 13 year, and it took Facebook 2 years. Chances are that the iPad, and its equivalents are likely to take 18 months. The way forward has to be about aggregating and shaping the fragments. He said, “We have to face the demise of the watering can. It is now hard to water people when they are in a 100 different places. We have to develop the funnel approach, and get your audience on the deep end of it.”
His first solution is social networks. He said, “If you look at some statistics, you would know that social media is already reaching to the numbers that search from companies like Google are offering. Many companies like Dell are already finding people doing business with them through Facebook and Twitter. If you don't exist in social network, you won't exist in the next few years, because no one would be able to find you.”
Some quick take offs from Leonhard’s session was create a magnetic brand, and turn attraction into transaction. The key is to engage, not enrage. He said, “Free gets you to the place where you can ask to get paid. In 2009, Hyundai launched an initiative called ‘assurance’. This was in the middle of the financial crisis, where they said we can take out car back, or get you covered. That was how they built more trust, and they sold 14 per cent more cars when everyone sold 36 per cent lesser.” Leonhard also spoke about George Lucas’ Star Wars Mash Up platform as soon as the movie maker realised what people were doing with Star Wars online.
Internet complements TV
Another point that Leonhard reiterated was that internet did not take away from television. He said, “They work hand in hand, it is not one or the other. We are seeing complete convergence of television in the net. Five years from now, we won't even be talking about internet and TV as separate entities. And there comes the concept of ‘TeleWeb’, where news magazine meets TV. In two or three years, every single TV would easily and automatically be connected to the Internet. The TV generation is different from the net generation. The latter is already multicultural. That is standard procedure for kids.”
Leonhard suggested that Facebook could well be the next BBC. At present FB doesn't have the license to broadcast but it is already broadcasting, imagine what happens if they get a license. Social networks are the next broadcasters and in there lies huge potential of collaboration with these companies. He said, “Prepare for convergence. TV is push and web is pull -- mix and blend the two. This is not linear growth -- they are either explosive or dead.
At the end, experience matters. The next in Leonhard’s ‘Must Do’ list for content producers and media companies was to hone the ability of telling a story in ‘transmedia’. The concept refers to being able to tell a story, across multiple platforms, wherein each of these platforms contributed to the story. For Leonhard, transmedia was going to be standard. He said, people were spending money on the web, media companies needed to find a way of getting it. And control was not the answer. “Control means to go swimming but saying you don’t want to get wet. Don't protect, grow, engagement grows. Reduce control to get more share. Today only users are in control. Look at the Facebook example. FB changed rules eight months back, and millions signed out and then FB said, sorry we did a mistake, and more people joined than what had left!”
People will give you money if they trust you... media companies should relinquish control, and focus on trust.