Marketers at the Association of National Advertisers' annual conference in Phoenix last month agreed on a couple of key points: The media landscape is changing dramatically and customers are driving interactions with brands.
However, just how dramatically media will change over the next decade and what forms they will take were subject to debate.
In a keynote speech kicking off the event, Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer predicted that within a decade all media will be digital.
"Within 10 years, the consumption of anything we think of as media today, whether it is print, TV or the Internet, will in fact be delivered over IP [Internet protocol] and will all be digital," Ballmer said. "Everything will be delivered digitally. Everything you read, you'll read on a screen."
Holding up a sheet of paper, he asked, "What if we could give you a screen this light?"
Media executives interviewed by BtoB said that even with such technological advances in digital delivery, there will still be an important role for print.
"From an overall point of view, I can certainly see a lot of growth in what is analog today going to digital," said Matthew Yorke, senior VP-corporate sales and marketing at IDG. However, he said, print offers readers and advertisers distinct benefits that all-digital delivery can't provide, which is why it will continue to be an important part of the media mix.
"Our readers tell us that print offers them accidental discovery, which means you don't know about something until you read it," Yorke said.
"With online, the intent is usually very specific. The reader is looking for very specific information. It is hard to see how you'll take a print property, which is a very individual user experience, into a completely online world."
Neal Vitale, president-CEO of 1105 Media, also expressed skepticism about an all-digital media future.
"Looking to the future, I believe in the synergy of multiple media behind a brand. That is what integrated media is all about," Vitale said.
"One of the best vehicles for launching a brand is print. Having a print component is an essential piece of every brand-building effort that gets done."
Also at the ANA conference, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, who is chairman of user-generated content company Current TV, agreed that the media landscape is changing.
"The old format for TV advertising is being questioned," Gore said in his keynote speech. "Consumers are empowered with TiVos, remotes, mute buttons and ways to exercise individual and personal control over what they want to see and what they don't want to see."
He said advertisers must adapt to this new media model, offering users more control over the content they create, including TV commercials.
"Nothing can help your brand more than letting your customers join the conversation about your product," Gore said.
Wendy Clark, senior VP-advertising at AT&T, said this switch to a more user-focused environment has driven marketing strategy at AT&T following its acquisition of Bell South in December.
"AT&T 2.0 is very much about the customer," Clark said, referring to the rebranding effort AT&T launched following the completion of the deal.
"As we began to look at our assets, it was clear that our brand strategy needed to adjust," she said, most notably with regard to the acquisition of Cingular Wireless as a result of the Bell South deal. "We had to redefine the brand as a communications and entertainment company. We had to signal a change—that the new AT&T will compete and win in today's marketplace."
To do this, AT&T launched a series of new ads under its existing, "Your World. Delivered." tagline, focusing on its wireless products, mobility solutions and global networking. It also began exploring Web 2.0 applications and ways to engage its customers.
"A great brand engages its customers through communications, offerings and services," Clark said.
Also during the conference, the ANA released "Marketing and Media Ecosystem 2010," a cross-industry study conducted with the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the Interactive Advertising Bureau and management consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton.
The study was based on an online survey of more than 250 marketers conducted in August and September.
It identified several key priorities and challenges for marketers, media companies and agencies over the next several years.
Shift to digital marketing
One of the key trends is the shift to digital marketing. More than 90% of marketers said their digital spending will increase by 2010, and more than half said it would increase significantly.
Another trend is focusing more on the customer. More than half of the respondents said customer advocacy is a more important objective than awareness.
Another key priority is marketing measurement. The study found that lack of standard metrics across industries is an obstacle.
Bob Liodice, president-CEO of the ANA, said marketers should focus on four key areas in order to ensure success: brand building, integrated marketing communications, marketing measurement and accountability, and reinventing the marketing organization.
"Companies embracing these pillars will be able to continuously reinvent their businesses," Liodice said.