Letters - 17-24 April 2007

Tanla Mobile, Progress Communications, Propeller Communications, Ideocracy.

MEDIA FIRMS CAN USE MOBILE'S ORIGINAL CONTENT TO GENERATE REVENUE STREAMS.

Gerry Drew, Head of sales, Tanla Mobile

It was interesting to note at last week's Swedish Beers, the mobile industry networking event, that much of the talk revolved around monetising user-generated content and social networking on mobile platforms.

Informa has already estimated that in five years, UGC and communities on mobile will be worth £6.95bn. But before companies exploit the opportunities, there are several important factors they should explore.

Certainly, the advent of UGC marks a shift among media firms who want to get in on the game. Early examples of UGC include bulletin boards and groups on portals such as Yahoo! and AOL.

However, with big online players such as MySpace, Bebo and YouTube rolling out mobile strategies, the value of creating content available to consumers for their own publishing needs is set to intensify.

Companies embracing this new trend as part of their marketing mix will find they can actually harness the brand-consumer relationships. Social networks give consumers the power to feed back and adapt the messages they are receiving and, if this is done correctly, it will offer a new and effective way of targeting.

Indeed, mobile phones are perfect for capturing content and uploading it immediately. With users able to access content on the move, the mobile provides a far greater reach.

Furthermore, improvements in mobile technology services, along with faster data speeds and increasingly advanced handsets, will generate much more sophisticated content than we've seen before.

There are pitfalls to be aware of however - content and rights ownership and regulation surrounding some forms of content, particularly in the adult and music sectors, need to be considered.

Nevertheless, there is a lot of good original content out there that will be sure to generate additional revenues and brand awareness for most media companies.

EDITORIAL AND AD TEAMS NEED TO WORK TOGETHER

Rob Isaacs, Strategy director, Progress Communications

I read your article Magazine publishers go digital (27 March, page 30) with interest. As a comms strategist dealing with innovative digital solutions, I urge magazine publishers to build in more flexible and creative ways of working as they migrate their titles online.

As we know, all forms of push advertising are forever becoming less effective and, yes, that includes the humble banner.

Agencies need your help in allowing their clients' brands to come to life online and interact with your audiences.

This can only be done by coaxing your editorial and commercial teams to work effectively together (and we know some media owners are better at doing this than others).

Only then will our clients' brands get the big ideas they deserve from our biggest media owners.

MEDIA AGENCIES NOT FIRST TO USE WORD OF MOUTH

Martin Loat, Director, Propeller Communications

You reported that MediaCom is creating a unit called Word of Mouth with BzzAgent (page 3, 3 April). We are now in an era of "dialogue" with consumers. All fine and dandy.

But your report stresses that the new initiative will aim to get people talking about clients' brands in "the real world" ... "unlike the growing area of online PR, which aims to get brands talked about online ..."

I'll leave the debate about whether the online world is the new real world to others. My main point is that your story suggests media agencies are leading the way in stimulating real conversations between people about brands and that PR has recently pitched up to jump on the online bandwagon.

As a PR company that promotes advertising and media concepts, Propeller can see both sides of the coin. In truth, PR people have been creating buzz and word of mouth about brands in "the real world" since before computers, the internet (or even media agencies) were invented. This can be anything from seeding samples, briefing opinion-formers or good old editorial placement. We are delighted that media agencies have realised the potency of the most powerful of media channels - word of mouth and personal recommendation.

They might even bring a degree of measurement and analysis rigour that some PR agencies will find hard to match, but they are not the first to talk about word of mouth.

AD BREAKS ARE BECOMING SO MUCH MORE ENGAGING

Ted D'Cruz-Young, Managing partner, Ideocracy (New York-based media innovation agency)

In his blog last week, NP Hamlet. blogspot, NPH wrote of our First Look content deal with Fox: "The real entertainment during Fox's broadcast last week was not the parade of magnificently mediocre Idol wannabes, but rather Oleg the Cab Driver, the star of Fox's innovative eight-second commercial pods. Could it be that viewers' habits finally caught the attention of programmers, so that the 30-second ad spot will soon be a thing of the past?"

As the first non-ad supported, non-promotional content to air in the commercial break, Oleg is abruptly changing the form and function of television advertising. Some get it, some don't.

Some time ago we approached two big networks (one UK, one US), with this simple idea. Time-shifting and place-shifting technologies are not killing your business - it's lack of entertainment. You've allowed an entertainment chasm to emerge between the programme and advertising content.

You've allowed agencies and advertisers to abuse your commercial real estate with stuff that might be good advertising, but is bad content. You've allowed the old way to continue after technology has made that entertainment deficit unacceptable. This you must fix.

But while Fox ran at the chance to "break up the break", to make a new revenue platform (no doubt incentivised with the prospect of commercial ratings), our UK dance partners couldn't find their patent shoes - not yet, at least.

The commercial break is bust, it's time for something quite different. No more messaging screamfest; more like a branded content platform, a gateway to deeper engagement and stronger brand relationships that can happen only within those more accommodating media environments.

As Mark Hughes, author of Buzz-marketing, said last week: "What happens now might be the smartest thinking since cable ... Fox makes the first step."

Typical - just when we thought we had better ads than them, those pesky Americans go and get rid of them.

- We welcome your letters and e-mails by Wednesday to mwnewsdesk@haymarket.com or MediaWeek, Haymarket Business Media, 174 Hammersmith Road, London, W6 7JP, or fax us 020 8267 8020.

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