Look Back/Look Ahead: online video and game consoles the next battleground, says digital media guru

From next-gen cellphones to video game consoles, Cossette Communications' director of digital solutions Nick Barbuto says we're surrounded by some of the most compelling and advantageous media opportunities in history.

Video game consoles are finally bringing the full multimedia experience they promised, says Cossette Communications director of digital solutions Nick Barbuto, MiC‘s final Look Back/Look Ahead pundit. With the launch of the latest generation of networked consoles over the past few years, marketers are better positioned to take advantage of the medium, whether through content dissemination or deep integration opportunities.

MiC What were the key trends in ’08?

Consumers are watching online video in droves. The penetration and speed of Internet access in Canada continues to increase, computer displays are becoming more like ‘TVs’ and premium content is being licensed for the Canadian market. Already, comScore Media Metrix shows the Canadian Internet population as the world leader in terms of consuming video-centric content/communications.

Digital Out of Home has begun to pop up in more places and more variations than ever before. From interactive projections to directional audio, the digital toolbox is now being used more often and in greater breadth and depth.

Social media tactics are becoming more refined as ‘first mover’ opportunities to make an impact with consumers are less common. It’s no longer enough to have a Facebook application and call yourself a social marketer.

MiC What surprised you?

Click-based metrics are still being used as a measure of success for online advertising campaigns. With the abundance of research on this topic – both public and proprietary – it’s hard to comprehend why it’s still being used to justify (or not) expenditures. The tools needed to properly measure the holistic impact of display advertising are out there and have been used for years by savvy planners. Click-based objectives for most clients hurt the industry and have the potential for misguided optimization and client spending waste.

MiC What happened in ’08 that you applaud?

The ACTRA agreement being ratified – allowing video-centric content to run outside of broadcast environments without exorbitant talent fees.

The launch of next-generation cell phones in Canada and the reduction of mobile data costs have begun to entice consumers to move beyond simple voice-based usage of their mobile devices. The end results of this evolution will mark one of the most compelling and advantageous media opportunities in history.

MiC What trends or issues are you watching for ’09?

Search engine marketing will continue to grow. In tough economic times, marketers are looking to reach the right consumer at the right time – ideally while only paying for ‘response.’ This is exactly what search has to offer and it will continue to thrive as a result.

Online video environments will offer marketers a more efficient and effective TV-like opportunity. By being able to purchase the same shows they do on TV with absolutely no advertising clutter, smart media buyers will flock to this space to help augment their media plan. The relatively large ACTRA talent fees that hindered this opportunity in the past are no longer there.

Online ad formats in Canada will increase in size. Finally, the double and triple big-box ads that are prevalent on many US web properties are making their way up north. From an impact perspective, the Internet is finally going to get its equivalent of a full-page newspaper ad or a 30-second commercial – something both creatives and clients can get excited about filling in.

With the launch of the latest generation of consoles over the past few years and the recent software updates applied to these systems, video game consoles are finally bringing the full multimedia experience they promised – and marketers are better positioned to be able to take advantage of this evolving form of communication. From content dissemination to deep integration opportunities, video game consoles are quickly becoming a key media battleground.

The cellphone industry will finally begin to legitimately move from a consumer service to a medium. Advanced cell phones will increasingly be sold as mobile content conduits rather than pieces of hardware. As a result, the revenue focus will be on post-purchase sales and advertising through mobile application stores at the sacrifice of lower hardware and data costs. As a result, the iPhone (and alike) will become as ubiquitous as the Motorola Razor was a few years ago – and even my grandmother will have one.

MiC What do you see as the next big looming threat?

Unfavourable economic conditions will lead to more conservative media plans. As a result, exploratory digital media opportunities will be reserved for the most adventurous of clients and brands that do not want to simply deliver tonnage.