Musings from Mike Atkinson on Internet strategy, usability, and more...

The rise of prosumers

“Realizing you have a problem is the first and most important moment in the recovery process of any addict. So it was with traditional agency executives at Advertising Week in New York…” (“At Advertising Week, All Hail Fragmentation”)

With major shifts occurring in the Internet – and society, in a larger sense – one of the industries greatly affected is advertising. And they seem to be finally dealing with this reality (for their own survival’s sake!).

These shifts were discussed in depth at a couple of recent conventions for the advertising/marketing world.

At Advertising Week 2005 in NYC, Mark Rosenthal, CEO of media operations for the ailing Interpublic Group, stated emphatically: “The agency has to be a more collaborative, communicative organization. The agency of 2010 has to provide total transparency. How else can you talk to the Internet generation?”

I constantly hear organizations complain about the lack of involvement with Millenials – especially non-profits, who can’t get them to donate, volunteer, or join. Transparency is a critical element in capturing their hearts.

The younger generation highly values authenticity…a genuine, honest tone is vital in communicating with them. Corporate-speak must die!

They also desire customization – in other words, help them get involved with your organization/product/service with interactivity.

At this same conference, advertisers brought a panel of teenagers on the stage to conduct a live critique of major teen-oriented websites. (“What’s Cool Online? Teenagers Render Verdict”)

The projects reviewed were from Nike, Coke, and Halo 2. The teens had great feedback but generally disliked the Coke site. “They destroyed me,” said the site’s ad exec.

Side note: This exercise was an awesome way to illustrate the value of customer feedback/user testing. Can you do something like this in your organization?

“I think what distinguishes how teenagers interact with the media in contrast to us older folks is that they want control over the media they consume,” another exec said. “The possibilities of self-expression are endless.”

If you read my previous post and the Wired article, then you may remember Kevin Kelly talking about one of the more recent shifts in Internet usage – that is, that users were thought to be all about downloading. But – with the advent of blogs, wikis, photo sharing, etc. – it’s actually becoming more about uploading.

Here’s another way to say it: ”...there is a wider group which marketers sometimes call ‘prosumers’; short for proactive consumers. Some people in the industry believe this group is the most powerful of all” (emphasis mine; “The harder hard sell”).

I actually like Kelly’s description better: ”...prosumers produce and consume at once. The producers are the audience, the act of making is the act of watching, and every link is both a point of departure and a destination” (emphasis mine).

At another ad conference, covered the address from Google’s CEO:

Technology and the interactivity it enables, such as the ability to measure an Internet ad’s success rate by viewing how many people click on it, is shifting power in the advertising industry from executives at corporations to consumers, he said.

The exec talked about the Adwords/Adsense programs and how they reflect this shift:

“The power is moving from us to the end user; it’s occurring by the power of the personal computer, by the power of the cell phone,” he said. “Thirty years ago we would make the decision (about ads). Now, that person, that individual makes that decision.”

This is why it is said that Web 2.0 is not about technology, but about mindset. If organizations are going to continue to exist – and thrive – they must get in touch with these shifts.


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