The future is already here

Effectiveness guru Les Binet looks at the commercial media landscape and how marketers can make sense of it.

Godfather of Effectiveness Les Binet breaks down the findings of our IPA TouchPoints report 'Making Sense. The Commercial Media Landscape' and what it means for marketers.

These are exciting times. We are in the middle of the biggest transformation in media consumption since broadcasting began in the 1920s, and the revolution continues. Marketers are discovering new ways to reach and influence people and, used correctly, these new tools can dramatically increase marketing effectiveness.

But it can sometimes be hard to see the wood for the trees. Our industry has always been susceptible to hype and fashion, but things seem to be getting worse. It’s an odd paradox that the more information we have at our fingertips, the less we seem to understand what’s really going on.

So thank God for TouchPoints. As far as I know, this is the only readily-available data source that measures all media on a consistent like-for-like basis. And because the TouchPoints team have been doing that for 15 years now, they can give us a fantastic bird’s-eye view of the changing media landscape.

A great deal has changed since the first TouchPoints study in 2005, but perhaps the biggest surprises here are the things that have stayed constant. Looking at the big picture, it’s clear that the overall patterns of media consumption have changed remarkably little. The amount of time we spend with curated media has not changed much, the mix of video, audio and text has remained surprisingly stable, and the way we shift between these things during the course of the day is almost exactly the same as it was 15 years ago.

But the way we access these media has changed remarkably, with a shift to digital delivery becoming the norm for every channel. Contrary to popular belief, the biggest shift so far has been away from print, not broadcast. But these trends
will no doubt continue, and one day all media will be digital. Indeed, the phrase 'digital media' is beginning to seem rather quaint, and about as relevant as 'electrical media'.

While broadcasters and news outlets are shifting online, the internet itself is beginning to look a little more like the traditional media landscape. I was fascinated to see that functional internet usage (the world of websites and search engines) is actually falling amongst young people. Instead youngsters increasingly access content via social media (which look a lot more like newspapers these days) and online video channels (which are beginning to look a lot more like TV).

Unsurprisingly, young people have been in the vanguard of these changes. But beware the lazy assumption that they no longer consume 'traditional' media. TouchPoints shows that for 16-34s Facebook, YouTube and Instagram are the top channels in terms of reach, but ITV and Channel 4 are not far behind.

Meanwhile, older people remain a bit stuck in their ways. If you want to tap the economic potential of all those affluent empty-nesters, you’d be a fool to ignore good old TV.

So, as William Gibson said, the future is already here, but it's just not evenly distributed. New ways of consuming media are filtering up through society, but much more slowly than most pundits predicted 20 years ago. Different age groups now have very different patterns of media consumption, and this is likely to persist. Indeed, the great Digital Transformation probably won’t be complete until the pre-internet generation is dead and buried.

This makes life more complex for marketers, but it also makes it more interesting. We need to master a wider range of channels now, but we can use them to evoke a wider range of effects. Enthusiasm, hype and fashion are not enough in this confusing landscape – we need solid evidence. As always, the TouchPoints team have made a valuable contribution with this report.

Download your free copy of Making Sense. The Commercial Media Landscape
Last updated 02 June 2020