Don't expect an overnight spend shift

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I've overheard a number of my colleagues whining over the lack of Internet media spending, given that 80% of the population are on the Web and spend considerable time there. With Americans spending 9.5 hours on the Internet per week, a 72% gain since 1974, and 12.7 hours per week watching television, a 3% drop since 1974, it seems strange to them that the percentage of media dollars spent are not reflective of that fact — 6.6% go to the Web while a whopping 65.2% go to TV.

The reason these numbers are not more reflective — and will never be — is “media dollars spent” is a 1.0 business metric. It's still about paying cash for “eyeballs”. I know there are those who will argue that performance priced media, like paid search, are different. My response is that we still bid to get in the top three positions or above the fold. We might not be technically paying for an impression, but we are trying to make one. It's no different than paying more for a Super Bowl commercial in the first quarter than the fourth quarter.

Today's World Wide Web usage is about connecting, transacting, community, exhibition, generating and sharing content. None of these activities are paid media. These behaviors are what many refer to as “earned” media. If you want to be a part of any of the above interactions, you must “earn” your place by offering unique content, information, insight or access.

Our role as agents for our clients is not to message to consumers, it is to engage them and enable positive behavior with our clients' products or services. Thus, we change from communications providers to consumer enablement providers. We provide consumers access to the content they desire and enable them to share it with others. Giving them a voice and place to exhibit themselves, providing tools to facilitate new content creation and widgets to easily access and distribute what they wish. If we look at this activity for Generation X and Y consumers, not to mention even younger teens, it dwarfs any media interaction and will continue to grow as mobile broadband expands globally.

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