Advertiser’s Input: A Business Model Afterthought?

By June 30, 2011

Two weeks ago, I attended the 2011 Cable Show here in Chicago — an annual conference celebrating, depending on whom you talk to, the burgeoning world of cable television.  Being someone who has worked primarily in digital media (minus my inaugural gig in advertising as a local TV and radio buyer), it was my first time making an appearance at the show.

While sitting through panel after panel on the current state of affairs, it was clear to me that this year’s conference was unlike any other in the overwhelming influence of web-based services, on not only programmers and cable operators, but advertisers as well.  As my current professional focus is on exactly that type of convergence, I was not surprised in the least.  What I did find alarming, however, was the absence of input regarding these emerging products from those who spend billions of dollars in this industry: advertisers.

If you did not attend the show, I’ll save you the trouble of looking up three days worth of panel participants and explain how I came to my conclusion.  Each day kicked off with a general session that included multiple topics, from “Disruption Central: A Roadmap for Reward in a Shifting Marketplace,” which focused on the need for new business models, to “Applications Accepted: Devices, Developers and the Transformation of Media,” a spotlight on the transformation of television consumption.  Of the 37 speakers to grace the stage during those sessions, only ONE speaker represented advertisers (Bill Tucker, CEO of Mediavest).  Furthermore, as panel discussions moved to side rooms inside the vast epicenter that is Chicago’s McCormick Place, issues such as “Executive Perspective: Cable Advertising Executives on the State of the Business” and “Television with a Twist: New Possibilities in Advanced Advertising” occurred completely devoid of advertiser input.

After gathering my thoughts at the end of the week, I realized there were two major factors that contributed to my distress:  a) I’m a biased party considering my field of work, and b) there seems to be a certain type of arrogance that exists in the business of cable television.  The latter of which refers to this notion that the cable providers, and the technology companies powering their platforms (many of which are startups, bringing relevance to my soapbox rant), need only to introduce an “innovative” product to the archaic cable television ecosystem and advertisers will come running, orders in hand.  Well, my dear friends, I can tell you that it is certainly not the case and we take insult to your lack of consideration.

I’ll end this tirade with another quick, more personal example.  I was recently invited to speak at a conference towards the end of this year (I’ll keep it anonymous for now) with a chance to choose exactly the panel in which I’d like to be a participant.  While the coordinator steered me towards the advertising-focused topics (they’re already ahead of the curve there), those were already filled with plenty of agency folk like myself.  What did peak my interest though, were multiple discussions on how to monetize emerging media platforms, of which none had advertising representation.

How do you plan to create a business model that includes advertising (or maybe it doesn’t, I’m not that one-sided), without consulting those that control the dollars?  If you stop thinking of advertising input as an afterthought, I promise the move will prove to be mutually beneficial.