"Facebook is a wave. The wave will die down and then I have to paddle out again and find a new wave." So said Werner Brell, Chief Digital Officer of Red Bull Mediahouse GmbH at last week's Monaco Media Forum. While Facebook is more tsunami than wave, speakers and attendees at MMF, hosted by His Royal Highness Prince Albert, agreed that at the intersection of consumers, media and marketing, social media marketing is sweeping through the industry with a force that promises the radical change pundits have been forecasting for decades and traditional television media leaders have been confident is still far in the future. Unfortunately only a small handful of traditional media company executives attended MMF, even though digital media and media agencies were well represented. The event typically offers a coherent window into the global industry's future, which Russian media magnate (and second largest Facebook shareholder) Yuri Milner of DST succinctly summed up (quoting Mark Zuckerberg): "Every single business model will be disrupted by social media," he said in an interview with Adweek Publications' Michael Wolff.
"It's a confusing landscape today," acknowledged Carolyn Everson, Microsoft's new corporate vice president for global ad sales. She challenged the industry to develop a "web 3.0-focus on what brand marketing will look like in the future. We need to create a new canvass that excites marketers and engages all the stakeholders in the marketing process." "Chief marketing officers are thinking about the media canvass in new ways," agreed Curt Hecht, the CEO of VivaKi Nerve Center who recently relocated to Publicis' corporate headquarters in Paris.
On a panel moderated by Activate founder Michael Wolf, Sony's EVP Global Digital Operations & New Technology Scott Dinsdale explained "it is no longer about distribution and pushing content to the marketplace. The key is experimentation and creating content that people want to come to." Premium media content, he suggested, will be successfully monetized by following the fan-based model being learned by the music industry: "Fan-based experiences require intimate and engaging content," he pointed out. Other speakers pointed to the convergence of paid, earned and owned media and to content extensions into gaming and commerce as best practices for replacing traditional revenues.
Unlike past MMF events that focused heavily on the future promise of media technology, this year's conference emphasized the realities being experienced by both new and traditional media, and offered specific examples of new monetization models. "Digital is the only area of sustained growth" commented Thomas Kunster, VP of Booz & Company. "Innovation in user experiences and business models is required along with new alliances and new partner strategies."
"We need to understand the consumer experience across platforms, make sure all the platforms work together, and develop a currency and measurement system that works across all the platforms," suggested Everson and Kate Burns, SVP Sales and Operations for AOL Europe.
Eric Hippeau, chairman of The Huffington Post, pointed out "Everyone in the news category who has tried to charge for news content has failed, except possibly The Wall Street Journal." James Murdoch, News Corp CEO for Europe and Asia, disagreed: "If you are going to monetize something, you probably should not give it away for free." Hippeau countered that advertisers are developing pioneering social marketing campaigns that engage users who not only read the news but who share, post comments and discuss what they read. These are better educated and more affluent consumers, Hippeau pointed out, and marketers can engage with them in real time. "Social commerce is content."
Mobile and online video were central topics throughout the three day event, with a focus on the implications of an open video ecosystem that will evolve to a web and app-like experience. "We need to combine TV and online video into one marketplace," Everson argued, but there is "still not enough quality online video inventory where brands feel comfortable." Tablets such as the iPad and the new Samsung tablet are more immersive experiences with longer session times for video viewing. Hugo Barra, director of Mobile Product Management for Google, explained that the new television sets now being manufactured integrate full and open web browser access and that Google TV will be launching TV app stores. "Consumers will find alternatives and the revenues might not come to the traditional networks," Barra said. The audience appreciated his observation that "The networks are not blocking Google TV. They are blocking themselves from appearing on us" (due to rights issues). He said Google is trying to work with Hulu to help the multi-network collaborative optimize the seamless integration of web and TV.
On the mobile front, Hans Vestberg, CEO of Ericsson, pointed out "85 percent of the earth has mobile coverage today and it will be 90 percent in five years. 750 million people have broadband access, growing to four billion people in 2015." These new mobile users, he observed, use their mobile devices for Internet search first and as a phone second. Globally we are shifting to an on-demand world with multiple devices and a different user interface for each platform.
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