The changing face of advertising
“In the ‘60s,” Guyon Espiner suggests, “the hippies wanted free love, but in this century millennials want free media.”
The crisis facing traditional media is well-known – the decline in print media advertising forcing closures and downsizing of newsrooms in New Zealand and world over. The rise of fake news, the dominance of social media, the easy accessibility of online content, the increasing irrelevance of linear broadcasting (in real time), the rise of video streaming services – all of these are markers of change.
The overturning of the traditional ways the media is funded is leading to turmoil in the media industry, one which is dominated by Facebook. Not only is it the most significant source of news for many, but it provides for advertisers a degree of detail about their potential markets which would once have been unimaginable.
Sam Stuchbury’s advertising agency Motion Sickness uses a suite of Facebook and Instagram products – data-mining tools which enable ultra-specific targeting of a particular message.
“It’s pretty scary, the level of detail you can go into,” he says. “Not just by targeting someone based on what they have done, or their interests, but by tracking an individual. Targeting someone by remarketing shows up when you get followed by ads as you move around the internet. Facebook will even track you when you’re logged off Facebook. They’ll drop a cookie on your web browser, and then reconnect to in when you log back in.”
This enables Facebook to supply fresh advertisements based on activity which you might have thought was private.
Facebook can also track users according to where they are, and use this information provided by their mobile phones to provide individualised advertising.
“So if you’re walking past Bunnings, you will get an ad for lawnmowers, or whatever?” asks Guyon Espiner.
Stuchbury’s response is crisp: “You can do that now.”
For Leonie Hayden, the threat to personal privacy is less of an issue. In fact, she’d like Google to be a lot better and more intelligent about how it uses her tracking data to deliver advertising to her. “What I hate is when you buy something,” she says, “And then Google shows you an ad for the thing you’ve already bought every day for the next few weeks.”
Standing back to look at the commercial media landscape, Guyon Espiner notes that a significant change has occurred this year, as the amount of money spent on internet advertising in New Zealand has, as predicted, overtaken television advertising.
And why is this? According to Leonie Hayden, part of the reason is sheer convenience. “People don’t want to have to be in their lounge at 6pm. They want to be able to watch whenever they want to watch it.”
Despite this change, linear television viewing is holding up reasonably well. But not among young people. When Hayden was at the TV awards last year, she heard a lot of talk along the lines that TV is “not dead, not over.” TV industry insiders said “We’re making the best work of our lives.”
And yet she couldn’t help but think, that none of these insiders are showing their own children linear television: “Every single one of you has Lightbox or Neon so that you can put on whatever show you want in front of your children when you need them to shut up. Which means you’re as complicit as everyone else in raising a generation of people who have no idea of what broadcast television is.”
In addition, Hayden is also critical of how TVNZ and TV3 are delivering content online. “I don’t think our big broadcasters are keeping up platform-wise,” she says. “I think a lot of the on-demand platforms are clunky. And they still have ad breaks. And sometimes if they don’t have enough ads to fill their ad breaks, they supply the same ad three times. No-one’s going to keep watching that. Even if it’s online. Even though I have a show on broadcast television, I think it’s done for.”
More about the speakers
Dr Brett Nicholls is a Senior Lecturer in Otago’s Department of Media, Film and Communication. He provides critical analysis of the media landscape and news journalism, and the repercussions of the changing dynamic of the media industry.
Leonie Hayden (Ngāti Whātua o Kaipara, Ngāti Rango) is the editor of Ātea, the Māori and indigenous platform hosted on thespinoff.co.nz, and former editor of Mana and Rip It Up magazines. She is the co-host of podcast On The Rag, which is billed as offering “a monthly middle-finger to misogyny in culture.”
Dr Anne Begg is a fixed-term lecturer at the University of Otago’s Department of Media, Film and Communication. Her research interests include media culture, media “governmentality,” neoliberalism and biopolitics.
A former Otago graduate, Sam Stutchbury founded the advertising agency Motion Sickness which focuses on content creation and delivery in this era of online broadcasting and marketing.
A senior lecturer in the Department of Marketing, Dr John Williams has focused his research on the philosophy of science; consumer behaviour; tourism; business ethics and 'social' marketing. He is interested in information technology and its impact on business and society.
This session was recorded by RNZ in association with Otago University