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April 26, 2007

Dreaming of Disruption

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Are you dreaming of disruption? Do you call people late at night just hoping to disrupt their peaceful slumber? Do you spend your work days thinking of contraptions you can put over your coworkers office door to disrupt them and scare them half to death when they stumble in? Are you a mean, disruptive person in general?

I appreciate your honesty but that’s not actually what this morning’s keynote is about. It’s about the disruptive forces of digital technology that are transforming the entire industry. That’s why this morning’s keynote speaker David Clark (Joost) is here. As far as I know, he has no interest in your other mean-spirited activities. I, however, am appalled.

[Speaking of disruptive, if you're reading this, are in the Bay area, and have access to some form of make-the-killer-headache-go-away medicine, I'd love you forever if you came and found me. It feels like chubby oompa loompas are jumping on my head.]

It’s another day at Ad:Tech and like all new days at Ad:Tech we start off with a few words from Chairman Drew Ianni. Drew’s talking about Kazaa and I got excited for a second because I thought he said huzzah. But he didn’t. Oh, well.

Time for David Clark to appear from the shadows. Good morning, David.

Drew says he’s been disruptive since high school and then starts talking about Dick Fosbury. Dick was the inventor of the Fosbury flop and showed the high jumping industry a new way to do things. He disrupted the norm and found a better way. His approach is still being used today.

Here’s the thing about disruption, says David, it’s too often associated with the term destruction. It’s used to explain a "better" world where only the new stuff is the good stuff. David believes that sometimes you have to let things stay the same. TV is one of those things, at least the parts of TV that make it a unique video.

You’re going to hear a lot of talk about how the Internet is going to disrupt and TV and that VOD may kill it, says David, but Joost disagrees. It’s forcing the TV to create better cinematic projects. Storytelling matters. It has mattered since the dawn of men, yet somehow it gets left out of every formulation of media. Well-told stories matter. Brands matter. Talent matters.

This is not easy stuff. TV is the most successful entertainment media invented, according to David. Joost is not betting against TV, however, they like the Internet too. It has what TV lacks – community, intelligence, accountability, etc. Plug yourself in from the right stream and you’re drinking from a firehouse. It’s incredible and addictive.

David says today we’re seeing a marriage of both. It will be the birth of a new medium. Viewers are already there.

What’s in this new world?

It’s founded on video content. That’s a no-brainer. With Joost, anyone with copyright ownership can create a channel and broadcast to the world. Joost has already received hundreds of thousands of emails from content producers wanting to set up a channel on Joost and the company has been around for about 10 minutes. The gates are coming down.

David brings up Ze Frank. Yey, Ze Frank! (I miss you, Ze.)

David says we’re going to see new kinds of entertainment models emerge. Your sister will ping you and you’ll be watching a show as it airs and chatting about it with her. [I do that already. It's how my friends and I watch American Idol. --Susan] We’ll be using widgets and interactive overlays to create new features and functionalities. Your programming guide will become your community. Channels are playlists. The wisdom of a crowd will help you navigate a huge range of choices.

Or something like that. David says these are just educated guesses. We don’t have a time machine. David’s just providing the technology to see what’s going to happen.

The key to changing our sport the way Fosbury did is to know what’s sacred and what is not. You do this by looking at things through your consumer eyes, not through the eyes of your boss or your marketing department. When you do this you will find that storytelling, control, quality, copyright and the opportunity to share with your peers is sacred. Everything else is up for grabs. David likes those odds.

So how’s all this going so far?

Joost is still in the early days of beta. They’re going to open up the platform to everyone very soon. Joost feels a lot like TV. That’s deliberate. Just like the first car looked like a horse buggy.

To David, Joost is great if you just want to sit back and watch or if you want to dive in and get involved. There’s lots of powerful stuff under the hood.

TV 2.0 is not going to happen overnight. One of things holding it back is an ad model that makes sense for both consumers and advertisers.

The consumer is now firmly in control. This has become such a cliché that we risk not understanding what it really means. For the ad industry this spells disruption. We’re an industry that hasn’t really had to deal with consumer control. It’s ironic but it’s true. The ad industry has been organized as a command and control center for several years. The architecture of the entire industry now needs to be rethought. We need to have the consumer on speaker phone, if not in the media chair itself. Advertising is not a product and it’s not entertainment. It’s designed to snatch you away and give you a pitch.

Clutter and fragmentation drown out brand messages. The number of brands fighting for your attention has doubled. Compounding the challenge, media has fragmented and users are overwhelmed with choices. As a brand advertiser, where do you place your bets?

Never has a marketer’s job been so difficult, says David. The marketing tactics of today were designed for the consumer behavior of yesterday. This is not because marketers are fools. It’s because new models have not emerged fast enough. The tired old models are still the most powerful we have. But things are about to change.

This is where the fun begins. Everything looks doom and gloom but all it takes is a little willingness to experiment.

It goes back to defining what’s scared. Marketing and communications is sacred, advertising is not. Reach is sacred, frequency is not. Invitation is sacred, frequency is not. It’s invitation over interruption, relevancy and engagement over impression count, ROI over CPM. Selling products and building brands is sacred. Everything else is up for grabs.

Marketers will have to teach consumers and consumers are still interested. That’s not going to change. The platforms that can unite them will be fine.

David remarks that Joost is announcing a series of new launch partners today, including Proctor & Gamble, Coke, Nike, Kraft, General Motors, Warner Brothers, Purina, Visa, Motorola, Taco Bell, Sony, Intel, etc.

And that’s it from David.

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