This was the question I posed upfront at the Convergence Conversation I chaired last night. The topic of the conversation – “Advertising and the impact of convergence”, and a topic sufficiently compelling to attract 80 people on a summer’s evening.

Deloitte kindly hosted us, with Jolyon Barker, their Head of TMT, kicking off proceedings, and Knowledge and Research Director Paul Lee presenting an overview of their third “The state of the Media Democracy Survey”. One of the reports main findings is that, following a survey of 2000 Brits, 60% regard their computer to be the premier entertainment device, relegating TV to second place. Not an inconsequential finding for the advertising industry.

Which begged a second question “What is TV?”, and this garnered more responses than my first question of the evening, which went uncomfortably unanswered. How could such a simple question about describing a great ad, particularly when we have hundreds every day to chose from, draw such a blank response? (I've posted here one of a series of ads from Lloyds TSB that I loved because they tell a story rather than simply hit me over the head with a product.)

Well, despite chairing a debate on how advertising is morphing, I have spent most of my time in recent years persuading Marketing Directors to invest less in advertising and more in public relations, or more precisely in creating content that is useful to the right people at the right time and right place, and in conversational marketing. Opening up. Being more interactive, friendly, human. And as most people don’t procure 30 second ads or outdoor ads or newspaper ads or mobile ads or any ads, any entity that prioritises advertising in its marketing mix looks less like the individual to whom they are marketing... less like me... and therefore less likely to build empathy. But more on that in a few paragraphs.

“Television” has a number of meanings. First off is the tangible one... the box, or more lately the slab, with a screen on which the picture changes so frequently that the brain is deceived into thinking it’s real life motion. Then there’s the meaning that’s more content oriented, where the word is used to describe the programming that’s watched on the slab rather than the slab itself. And this then proceeds all the way to simply defining televisual or video content, where this “television” may be consumed across a variety of devices, a variety of form factors, whenever and wherever the consumer wishes. Paul confirmed that he believed the survey respondents still largely associate the term “television” with the device in the living room, although increasingly they are aware that they are consuming “television” on the computer, with innovations such as the iPlayer in the UK and Hulu in the US.

We were also delighted to have expert contributions throughout the evening from Gary Knight, Brand Partnerships Director at ITV, Nicki Lynas, Head of Research at the Internet Advertising Bureau, and James Collier, Commercial Director of Current TV. Their insights and those from all conversationalists last night were fascinating in too many respects to do justice here, but the new nature of adverts and the metrics to gauge effectiveness were two threads that ran throughout the evening.

The nature of advertising

Andrew Grill introduced the conversationalists to the 3P’s, each necessitate to mobile advertising (Andrew’s professional focus), but I believe the 3P’s may well end up applying universally. (See Andrew’s post here about Ogilvy’s Jonathan MacDonald). They are:

  • Permission - people will decide what they see / receive / engage with
  • Privacy - people will decide where their data is and how it is used
  • Preference - people will decide what content they find relevant... inference and assumption has limited lifespan.

Take the 30 second ad. Take a 30 second ad about Ronseal Power Sprayer; why not? I painted my fence three years ago, and I believe it will go another four. So every time Ronseal pays to interrupt my viewing pleasure with a Ronseal Power Sprayer ad this year, they’ve wasted their money. Hey, but at least I have a fence unlike many people they’ve just paid to reach.

But what if I did want to paint my fence later this summer? What if I wanted to clear my garden, redesign it, add plants and a shed and a gate, as I did three years ago? Then the ad that would be useful to me is one from Ronseal in a quick 10 seconds that would inform me that if I’m up for a bit of a garden overhaul then Ronseal has all the information I need and a handy garden design tool available to me at What’s more, I can compare my designs with everyone else who’s dropped in, and before you know it I could be swapping hints and tips with other people like me, and even critiquing local retailers and garden centres with others in West London.

Now that’s a powerful marketing mix. Sure, Ronseal interrupted my listening or viewing pleasure with the 10 second advert, so you could say they didn’t have my permission. But on the basis that I know I must expect commercials simply on the basis that I have chosen to listen to or watch a commercial channel, then my permission is granted.

My use of Ronseal’s Web tools is appropriately private. I can keep things to myself, or share as I see fit. And I can express my preferences fully, such as whether I would like to be emailed next time Ronseal upgrades their garden design application, or launches a new product, or next time someone else rates Hammersmith Fencing, or even comments on one of my garden designs.

Ronseal hasn’t done this to my knowledge, but check out Business Week’s coverage of the Nike+ social network which does the same sort of thing, albeit for runners rather than gardeners of course.


Yikes, this section deserves a book, so perhaps you won’t mind if I just say how it is today in a couple of bullet points.

  • Traditional metrics for traditional advertising effectiveness suck
  • New metrics for new advertising effectiveness suck

Perhaps the experts here are Audience Science, who will gladly tell you why they’re the bees knees here. And Nicki is doing some very interesting stuff at the IAB, and so is Nielsen. But we witnessed a bit of a ding-dong last night between those who believe in Da
vid Ogilvy
’s assertion that advertising has to “sell, or else”, and those who believe advertising contributes to the overall emotional attachment to a brand for the long-term. So what is it that we’re trying to measure? Return on investment? Yes says the first camp, no says the latter. Return on objectives?...

Ultimately, well run organisations have clearly articulated objectives. So it’s kinda obvious to me that every penny invested in something or other should move the organisation closer to achieving those objectives in proportion to the overall investment. And the longer advertising, and marketing and communications as a whole, lack science in sound measurement, it will be beholden to myth, bluff and obfuscation. It will be far easier to do more or less the same as you did last year than get the balance most appropriate for this year, a point David Meerman Scott makes in his open letter to GM following their recent “re-invention”.


So, depending on whether your glass is 50% up from the bottom or 50% down from the top, convergence has thrown a spanner in the works of the advertising industry, or created an opportunistic flux where the most nimble and imaginative will thrive. Perhaps because it’s a topic close to my heart, I feel we could easily have invested a day in this conversation than just an evening... and may be that’s how we’ll run it when the Convergence Conversation revisits the subject next year? By then, it's distinctly possible that we’ll be looking to update our definition of “advertising” itself.

Influence Crowd

So I’ll finish with a quick plug. Having completed my post-sale transition period at Racepoint Group, my new consultancy, Influence Crowd, will open its virtual doors this month. Following the success of my ebook, “The Social Web Analytics eBook 2008”, we will be working with the social Web analytics vendors around the world in distilling that science, in working with ahead-of-the-pack CMOs in making it happen, and re-gearing their organisations to influence and be influenced™, measurably. These leading organisations will be better placed to collaborate with their marketing, advertising and PR consultancies in establishing and maintaining the optimal strategic and tactical balance to their advantage and their customers's advantage.