September 25th, 2006

The State of OMMA: Making It Up As We Go Along

by

Rishad Tobaccowala, CEO of Denuo, gets my vote for most honest, “let’s cut out the bullshit” keynote speech. Speaking at the OMMA Conference in New York, Rishad admitted what most media and advertising stalwarts are deeply afraid of conceding: we’re just making this shit up (see his keynote here).

The world of media, marketing, and advertising is undergoing such rapid change that anyone who claims to have any visibility beyond the next three weeks is either kidding themselves or underestimating all of the game changing announcements that are just around the corner or both. Rishad pointed to the last three weeks of announcements: NBBC, Apples’ iTV, Windows Live, Amazon’s Unbox, and Redstone’s ousting of Viacom’s Tom Freston.

One of Rishad’s best riffs was on getting rid of the “crap” language that we use:

Please let’s talk about people and not consumer or user.

Taget Audience: Do I need to be hunted?

360 Sourround: Don’t you feel trapped when people talk about 360 marketing?

User Generated Content: Since when did I become a heroin addict?

Consumer: I create, I retransmit, I edit, I share — I’m not defined by your stupid brand.

People, that’s what we need to think about.

People, person, human.

Treat me as a person, not some user, consumer, addict, shallow person defined by your brand or some other form of low life.

Get rid of the crap language that we use because it makes no sense. You know it and I know it, yet we get taken for a ride. But I’m calling it like it is.

Ross Levinsohn of Fox Interactive Media gave a much more predictable uber-confident speech, bragging about the size of his online media company — #2 behind Yahoo. But Ross still doesn’t know how they are going to scale the profits. Donna Bogatin, my favorite iconoclast, was on hand during Q&A:

During the Q & A, however, I asked Levinsohn how user-generated content could be “king” for FIM as his 100 million MySpace friends are only commanding “junk” CPMs. I pointed out that I had written about one particular MySpace friend–Sexxy Sangria–and noted that even Google shows little interested in trying to sell ads against her very friendly profile.

Levinsohn replied that even at low CPMs there is a great value in an aggregated billions of impressions. He also expressed enthusiasm for “immersing” professionally produced content within the viral MySpace experience.

It’s worth watching Ross’ keynote just to see him make up his answer to Donna’s question.

Donna also caught NBC Universal’s Beth Comstock unable to make up an answer to that pesky “how do we make money” question:

Does NBC get paid from YouTube for the right to use its copyright content?
Does YouTube get paid for the promotions it does for NBC?

Comstock replied that the NBC-YouTube arrangement is purely a “promotional” one, no money changes hands between the two companies.

I indicated that besides NBC, YouTube has a “deal” with Warner Music; I posited that perhaps the reason Universal Music has not been able to arrange a “deal” with YouTube is that it seeks tangible money for its content rather than intangible exposure.

Comstock, of course, was unable to comment.

There’s no shame in not having the answer. Nobody’s got the answer yet. But admitting that you’re just making it up is a critical step in actually figuring it out.

I know there are a number of companies trying to figure out how to effectively monetize those billions of “crap” pages of content on MySpace (and other social media sites) — I wouldn’t be surprised to see that innovation come from outside FIM.

As Rishad pointed out, when someone hands him shit, he says, great, it’s fertilizer. There’s never been a more fertile time for innovation in media, marketing, and advertising.

To plow the field and avoid the ditch (to torture the metaphor) beware, at one extreme, of anyone who claims to have it all figured it out, and at the other, of anyone who says, don’t worry, we’ll figure out how to make money later.

  • Making it up as you go along is the fun part.

  • Marketing has always been made up as it goes along. There's hardly been an idea with genuine value since Trout and Ries' positioning. The rest is touchy, feely claptrap.

    The great thing about search marketing - SEO or Pay per click - is that the results are directly measurable. Most marketing was poor but it got away with it because of the lack of measurability.

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