Thursday, October 30, 2008

What if Don Draper was a B2B Marketer?

I was watching the Mad Men season finale last night on my DVR, thinking how ironic it was that I was (1) watching a show about advertising and (2) watching said show on a DVR. A show about advertising. Or for another example, if you like, a show about a show... actually a show about a show in the context of a real company (30 Rock). Have we reached the postmodern singularity event where all media implodes on itself in a giant self-aware fusion reaction? Or how about this. I was watching a show about advertising on a DVR instead of watching an historic 30 minute address by Obama. And in the show, the background plot line was Kennedy's addresses to the country on the Cuban Missile Crisis.

I see all this as a good thing for advertisers, and here's why. I am watching something. I am engaged in something in a way that I wasn't ten years ago. Ten years ago, television had reached its nadir. It was clear that post-Seinfeld, there wasn't anything not on HBO that truly captured the zeitgeist out there. But now, we have all kinds of zeitgeist forming going on all over the spectrum. SNL has managed to massively elevate its profile courtesy of Tina Feylin. John Stewart of The Daily Show continues to function as the zeitgeist puppet master. Mad Men has somehow broken into the mainstream from AMC. Quality--at least for a few shows--is way, way up.

What's down is distribution. The switch to digital signals this fall is symbolic for most, but it does mark an important turning point. Video in all its forms will become one massive feed. Accessed through Apple TV, DVRs, "live", via Browser, or via handset, it doesn't really matter anymore. The content creation is being decoupled from the distribution--and thank God!

I guess this is really the democratization of content. The doomsayers who think that we'll see the death of (the novel; the TV show; the sitcom; the drama; etc. etc.) are clearly spectacularly wrong. We are actually seeing quality improve because monetization potential is and will be going way up. Why has Mad Men been able to spend $2.5 M / show on AMC? Because they can now distribute on Apple TV / ITunes. Why is GE investing so much in SNL? Because they are getting huge pageviews on the NBC domain for SNL skits (bite sized, perfect for office viewing).

My possibly naiive hope is that we'll get smarter and better entertained over the next ten years, and that marketers will thrive. As we have access to everything we want, we'll be more and more targetable. Just as email marketers crave the "opt in", video marketers crave the audience that cares. There are monetization technicalities--such as the fact that there's no advertising in Apple's model--but I believe that this will work itself out through the free market. Not sure exactly how yet.

So what if Don Draper were a B2B marketer? I think he'd quit his agency and become a consumer focused Digital marketer. So I guess my post title was misleading. Sorry.

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