Streaming Media Mixes Old and New
The streaming of audio and video programming gives the Web the look and feel of more traditional broadcast media such as radio and television. However, the dynamic and interactive nature of the Internet presents the consumer with choices and provides advertisers with opportunities that never existed in broadcasting.
Advertisers look at the evolution of banner advertising and consider its value to be largely one measured by click-throughs, but the opportunity for branding is difficult to achieve in the land of page views. Between May 1997 and March 2000, click-through rates have fallen 71 percent, according to NetRatings 2000.
This sharp drop-off has been attributed to Web site clutter leading to saturation and the desensitizing of the consumer. Netizens now simply look at a site's content and treat the surrounding banner ads like a decorative page boarder.
Enter streaming media. Consumers are conditioned to respond to radio and television advertising, and these new multiplatform online commercials combine these proven and effective advertising mediums with the unique interactive properties of the Internet. Not only will users hear and view a product pitch in a familiar way, but they also will be able to respond to the ad by seeking out the corresponding banner and clicking through to the advertiser's site.
Advertisers even have the opportunity to display their messages to a captive audience by placing their commercials at the start of each stream, guaranteeing that they have consumers' attention when their concentration is most intense. What could be a more compelling platform, from an advertiser's point of view, to showcase a product or service?
Another element that differentiates online streaming media commercials from traditional banner ads is the way the audience is measured. Streaming media ads are delivered through a stream, not through the page view. Office workers listen to a streaming site throughout the workday, just as they would a radio station. The site may be minimized on the screen, so while they won't see the banner, they will hear the audio commercial. If they are compelled to respond to this call-to-action, they have the opportunity to maximize the site and click through on the interactive banner associated with the audio commercial. Therefore, streaming media commercials are more accurately measured in concurrent streams, as opposed to click-through rates.
In the land of traditional broadcast, there have been many theories throughout the years concerning the most effective way to reach consumers. The "recency" theory basically states that you want to reach a consumer just before a purchasing decision is made because this is when your message has the most impact.
The "effective frequency" theory states that a consumer should be exposed to a message three to eight times to prompt a purchase decision.
Streaming audio entertainment is a medium that has its largest usage at the workplace. Therefore, an advertiser trying to reach active, working adults would want to showcase its product in a personal environment that provides not only effective frequency and recency, but interactivity as well. This new medium provides an opportunity for branding products in a way previously unavailable on the Web.
While streaming media advertising is in its early stages, it represents not only a new way to evaluate the possibilities of promoting one brand or service on the Web, but the realization that there is a convergence of advertising for the Web. Streaming media is analogous to broadcast, even though it is interactive and on the Internet. Therefore, creative applications pull from both offline creative (radio and television) and online creative (banners).
A brand manager needs to plan his agency advertising assignments to accommodate this convergence. If the online assignment is at one agency and the offline assignment is somewhere else and there's no coordination between the two, then there will be problems for that brand as media continues to converge. Creative applications need to carry the same campaign message (and look and feel) across multiple platforms.
Then there is the royalties issue that some clients encounter as they move into video on the Web. If their ad is a union commercial with Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, then certain issues need to be addressed before television and radio creative can be re-purposed for the Web. You can work with clients' existing creative whenever possible and make it work for the new medium. Both the audio and video can be digitized at multiple levels so they can be displayed effectively at any modem speed. While there are logistical issues for clients and agencies to consider, they are minimal compared to the benefits this new and exciting medium has to offer.
Whether you are aiming for the 12- to 24-year-old male, so elusive in every other medium, or an office worker right before the purchase of "What's for dinner?" or the business executive who downloads his customized news into his portable digital assistant, you finally have a viable method for reaching them.
Audio streaming is effectively received over dial-up modems of 28.8k and 56k. More pipe will make it better -- but it is an operative business, and radio on the Web with all the attributes of both broadcast and Web advertising is available to advertisers right now. It is a very exciting time with incredible opportunities for branding; after all, it is not often that we are present at the birth of a new, highly effective advertising medium.