CMDC Conference: ‘Change sucks’ but is it good for the media industry?

Media executives discuss major transformations in the industry and how to successfully guide brands through them.

It sounds dirty but it isn’t: digital leakage. It’s the blurring of media platforms that can have a detrimental effect on entire industries, explained Rishad Tobaccowala, chief innovation and strategy officer at Vivaki, to a crowd of over 500 people gathered at the Canadian Media Directors’ Council Conference yesterday morning at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

Because when consumers can take photos and play videogames on their phone, ‘there goes Nintendo, there goes Nokia,’ said Tobaccowala, the conference’s keynote speaker.

But there is hope for those who really understand their target audience, and drop marketing nonsense about ‘empowering the consumer,’ Tobaccowala says.

‘We have to recognize that people already are empowered,’ he explains, about his view of the increasingly complex audience that all brands need to understand.

He adds that consumers like self-recognition because they are narcissistic, but paradoxically, they are also online because they want to be a part of something greater than themselves – ‘it’s not all about me, it’s about we,’ he said.

If brands and media agencies don’t recognize these fundamentals about their target, they ‘have a fantasy; a marketing plan that makes no sense. And you know it because at home you laugh at it,’ said Tobaccowala.

He went on to discuss business reinvention – although ‘change sucks,’ it is necessary for all businesses to stay relevant, he said.

This emphasis on adjustment was a fitting opening for the conference’s pre-lunch panel that also included speeches by the heads of four media companies undergoing major transformations – CTV globemedia, Rogers Media, Postmedia Network and Shaw.

Armed with a boastful, Upfront-style video presentation, Kevin Crull, COO, CTV Globemedia, who is slated to take over as president of CTV later this year, emphasized the network’s dominance in the conventional TV market.

He did allow, however, that CTV has not invested as much in non-sports specialty channels, and that the future for the network is launching new brands and spending more on highly targeted demos.

During a review panel of the CEO’s speeches, the Globe and Mail‘s advertising columnist Simon Houpt expressed disappointment at the lack of disclosure with respect to the main challenges facing the broadcasters.

‘We only heard about a few of them from the execs,’ he said. ‘It’s good to be the leader, but what’s the thing that keeps [Crull] up at night?’ said Houpt.

Issues he felt were glazed over included the lack of importance of Canadian content and the kind of nonchalance that the struggling A channels are treated with. In Houpt’s opinion, Crull’s revelation that $30 million will go the A channels following the new Bell deal is like saying the ‘A channels are staying on for another three years because we promised they would be.’

But the main issue that went unaddressed was that viewers can access programming without the BDUs. Some producers may have already started thinking that it’s more profitable to sell directly to the consumer online without going through the broadcasters, Houpt said.

One can’t argue against the power of conventional TV to shape culture and desire among viewers, said Keith Pelley, president, Rogers Media.

‘We can build brands, we can shape opinions,’ said Pelley.

He gives as an example the rebranding of the CFL on TSN. When sports execs decided to increase promotion of the league, focus on ‘good’ stories, and brand it as Friday Night Football, ratings increased by 200%. This is despite the fact that CFL had already been on Friday nights for about a decade.

Another example is the world junior hockey championships, which are largely ignored everywhere except Canada, he said.

‘It is a good, big, safe buy, but it is something the media created,’ said Pelley.

High-profile sports properties are not only safe – they also invite the type of viewership that wants mobile and digital content that advertisers get excited about, said Lorraine Hughes, president, OMD Canada, who was on the review panel with Houpt.

‘Content on the web is no longer a new concept, but what is new is the four-screen approach,’ said Hughes.

But for buyers, this doesn’t mean bigger ad budgets. ‘Different media and different platforms are all cutting up the same share,’ she said.

The morning wrapped with a lunchtime presentation by Ian Troop, CEO of the Toronto 2015 Pan and Parapan American Games Organizing Committee, who shared the vision for the games and how it will bolster Canada’s reputation for hosting prestige events.

For MiC blogger and J3 broadcast supervisor Bailey Wilson’s take on the afternoon Media CEO Dragons’ Den session, click here.