Advice to the Ad Community From an Unlikely Source: John Lennon

Oct 15, 2013

John Lennon sure had it nailed when he sang, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

I think of that this morning in the context of advertising. It must have been well over 20 years ago when I had my earliest conversations about interactivity being the future of advertising with Wes Dubin, who was then in charge of national broadcasting in the media department of DDB Needham in Chicago.

Much more recently, my pal Barry Frey was actually on the forefront of that movement when he ran the advanced ad platforms for the cable operator Cablevision. But as Barry eventually found out, while he and others were working on advertising’s version of “other plans,” real life was bringing even more exciting ideas to media.

And it’s in that stream of life that Barry has now hung his hat.

For the past several months Barry has been the president and CEO of the Digital Place-Based Advertising Association (DPAA).

As he explained to me the other day, digital place-based media is defined as digital video screens that exist in places where people dwell that has programming content and advertising. So it’s not static boards.

And next week the DPAA has its annual summit.

Frey explains: “We’re calling it our Video Everywhere event. It’s Oct. 22 at the New York Hilton.”

Clearly it’s a takeoff on cable’s TV Everywhere idea. As Frey says: “Video Everywhere speaks to the fact that video is being consumed everywhere by consumers, on all devices: smartphones, tablets, phablets, mobile, over the top. Advertisers need to follow the impressions from what was once just video in the living room to all these other screens. The screens of our members are a very important part of this eco-system.”

He continues: “People see our members’ screens all day: at the office, at the gym, on planes, at airports and in malls. They are inside taxis, in retail, at gas stations, bars, points of care and on college campuses. According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, it’s over five hours a day that consumers watch these screens that are beyond the TV screens in their homes.”

Next week’s conference revolves around the planning and buying of video commercials across all screens, Barry says, noting: “To a large degree now, the decision makers and the folks that are planning and buying digital video are also either the same people, or are teamed up with the people, who buy regular video advertising.”

I asked him whether he thinks all these other screens are replacing or supplementing traditional TV advertising.

“We have examples where advertisers are spending more money against TV audiences but are topping out on their reach,” Barry replied. “So our members have been able to add reach to those executions with a very effective CPM. What’s happening is that consumers are leaving traditional television and watching our members’ screens more and more. And these screens are measured by Nielsen. So we can add reach to the traditional schedules.”

Now Barry was on a roll: “As video viewing is now becoming untethered from the living room and is spreading out to such a litany of screens and devices, our members are a way to reach people on the go, when they are on their way to make a purchase, when they are welcoming of brand awareness and brand inculcation. They are not sitting soporifically in front of the TV set — their hearts are beating and they are very active.

“We have done a study, and we’ve found that the budgets going to digital place-based advertising are starting to come out of TV or digital budgets, in addition to what traditionally have been some out-of-home budgets.”

I then asked Frey who he thought would most benefit from coming to the Video Everywhere summit.

“Certainly advertisers, agencies, brand managers, media directors and media planners," he said. "Many of the digital place-based media companies will be showcasing their products. I’m a big believer that if you can touch and feel something you can understand it. I went to many of the upfront and new-front presentations this year, and I was inspired by what I thought was the best one I saw, which was the one for the AMC Networks. As you walked in you had zombies grabbing at your feet, then you went through a meth lab, and from there you walked into an office where you got involved in a pitch for Ovaltine. So you literally got to feel what the AMC programs were.

“And an old Chinese proverb was part of that inspiration. Here’s how it goes: Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I’ll understand. So what we’ll be doing is involving the advertising community with our members’ products so they will be able to touch, feel and understand them.”

Key to any conference is who’s doing the talking, and Frey has lined up some interesting panels.

For example, the opening one features Robert Tas, managing director, head of digital marketing, JPMorgan Chase; Edward C. Gold, advertising director, State Farm; Bob Liodice, president & CEO, Association of National Advertisers; and Phil Cowdell, president, Client Services, GroupM. Tying it all together will be panel moderator David Verklin, a longtime advertising media maven who has always had a strong interest in how the consumer consumes media and the various implications we can draw from that behavior.

Later in the day, one of the fifth estate’s best and brightest media observers, Ken Auletta, makes an appearance at the conference.

If I’m not at my gym working out on my elliptical, with its engaging little TV screen, I’ll try to make it over there as well.

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