The separation of audience from context is a much discussed if unresolved argument. The general thesis of the ‘pork bellies versus diamonds’ debate is either that context amplifies the value of messaging or that audience is everything and the cost and targeting advantages more than offset the specifics of contextual relevance. The seller community is neatly divided on this issue with producers of original content on one side and ad networks, by and large, on the other. Readers will be relieved to know that this post is not on that topic.
A more profound degree of separation may be the idea that the commercial message no longer requires the carriage vehicle of media at all. This argument was made at an IAA gathering in Tokyo by Masataka Hosagane an executive creative director at Dentsu. Mr. Hosagane showed some creative work for a PS3 game, Last Man Everywhere, and an innovative hybrid of a children’s book and an I Phone (called PhoneBook of course) and described both of them as communication ideas ‘beyond the frame’.
Without doubt, both were compelling and both seemed to be independent of any given distribution channel. The specifics of these pieces are less important than the growing notion that there are more and more marketing communications in the form of seeded video in general and applications in particular that are intended for peer to peer distribution and thereby bypass paid distribution channels and, by extension, the invoicing departments of media vendors. The most obvious manifestation of this trend is the spawning of brand owner iPhones and Droid apps from a raft of advertisers big and small that fill the marketing trades on a daily basis.
The problem, however, is this. Firstly it is hard to really gain traction in an environment shared with 100,000 other apps, secondly all the data suggests that even the most successful apps with significant download volume trail off in usage with a rate of decay that is alarmingly precipitous. Finally, consumers en masse don’t read the marketing trades. The maintenance of reach, recency and frequency remain an essential plank of any brand marketing strategy that depends on durable visibility and it’s simply not possible to maintain a flow of apps and sustained usage that can fulfill this role.
As a consequence the frame remains central to the message distribution process and those applications that break out should be celebrated as a supplement but not relied upon as a replacement.