Discuss the phenomenon of digital media convergence in relation to advertising and new media
- By Kristen Gillies 
T. Dwyer states that digital media convergence is the “process wherby new technologies are accommodated by existing media and communication industries and cultures.” [Dwyer, 2010]. The innovation of convergence media and emergence of alternative media methods has governed society to adopt new forms of advertising, abandoning all traditional advertising mediums. Product placement within film and music video has led to the creation of a commercial culture through the overemphasis of brand awareness and equity, creating an aggressive and invasive advertising form. Similarly, the hybridization of entertainment and new media has enabled advertisers to harness the medium of convergence through the Internet, allowing digital recordings to be spread virally, positioning social media as a testing platform for marketing success.
Thus, convergence is characterizing the technological, industrial, cultural and social changes of the late 20th century [Jenkins, 2006].
Convergence can be understood as “the technological process of bringing together multiple media functions within the same devices” [Jenkins, 2006]. In this instance, commercial culture has converged elements from entertainment with elements of advertising to create a mediated culture that is designed to sell a product.
The introduction of personal digital recording devices such as VCRs, TiVo and Foxtel IQ have enabled consumers to mute, pause and fast forward through advertisements when they want. Thus, creating consumer sovereignty, positioning the consumer as ‘king’. Advertisers have been forced to adopt a cutting-through-the-clutter method in that advertisements now target the subconscious mind of the consumer making the brand and message of the product noticeable at point of sale. Advertisers discovered that selling their products through consumer’s favourite television shows and films is an excellent way of creating brand awareness. Paradoxically, consumer’s believed this tactic was a forced, desperate and subtle way of integrating a product invasively through advertising.
Blockbuster film, Risky Business (1983), is a quintessential example of using product placement to gain awareness and recognition from consumers. For example, Tom Cruise’s character wore Ray Ban Wayfarer sunglasses throughout the film. That year, more than
360, 000 pairs were sold, highlighting the success of the inclusion of products within film.
Alike film, music video is another modern medium advertisers have been forced to adopt, due to the innovation of TiVo technology, in order showcase their brands to build awareness and recognition.
Avril Lavigne’s music video for song ‘What The Hell’, embeds perfume, clothing and electronics to expose her own products in a cost-effective manner whilst aiming to influence and persuade what her consumer’s purchase. Advertisers are now integrating their products into the actual script of music video and film in a very subtle way and use a cutting-through-the-clutter approach to become noticed in the minds of the consumer at point of sale. If done successfully, specific messages and songs become associated with particular brands, creating a linkage between the audio and the visual.
Whilst marketers are able to heighten brand awareness and create word association, some scholars believe that the creation of a commercial culture through product placement is generating a destructive trend, leading to a devalued culture through raising issues of commercial intrusion and pervasive stereotyping [McAllister, 2003], in the hope of making a profit. New ways of understanding commercial discourse have arisen and the competition for audiences and opening of new global markets, has led to corporate media promoting themselves more aggressively than ever before [McAllister, 2003].
Although film and music video are popular innovative mediums used by advertiser’s to incorporate brands and messages through product placement, Hale states “the Internet is proving to be an outstanding marketing tool in the advertising arsenal…[and] is this generation’s greatest promotional tool.” [Hale, 1997]. The introduction of technologies such a picture sharing, email and wall postings sparked the creation of media sites such as blogs (Twitter), content communities (YouTube) and social networking sites (MySpace, Facebook).
Advertisers have successfully harnessed the medium of convergence through the Internet, allowing digital recordings of their advertisements to exist on the Internet. T. Dwyer explains, “audiences will be accessing the full spectrum of content genres, no matter where the provider is located.” [Dwyer, 2010] This ideology demonstrates that advertisements can be spread virally through applications and devices such as the iPhone and desktop computer, that can be saved, sent to friends and super-imposed on content community websites such as Youtube.
Advertisers found that converging advertising through the Internet is a cheaper alternative to broadcasting commercials through television as the audience is fragmented, enabling the exposure of the product to a global market, with advertisers being less confined by broadcast restrictions and government regulations.
New social media has created a confined culture in that advertisers are beginning to broadcast their commercials online first, leading to viral spreading through content community websites, heightening brand awareness and knowledge, illustrating their popularity through how many Facebook likes they receive.
Evian’s ‘Roller Babies’ campaign demonstrates the epitomy of social media success, breaking the world record of most views online (61.4million) and attracting over 440, 000 fans on Twitter where the video was re-tweeted 16, 000 times [Freeman, 2007], even before it had been broadcasted on television, illustrating how advertisers are using social media technology as a testing platform for marketing success.
Comparably, Youtube has evolved into a popular “entertainment destination” [Chapman, 2006] converging elements of Facebook, including the ability to embed and share the video’s links to other social networking websites, as well as the ability to ‘Like’, ‘Dislike’ and comment on particular videos. This demonstrates the speed at which a commercial can be spread virally, spawning an online buzz, yet encouraging illegal downloading and piracy through the convenience of peer-to-peer file sharing software [P2P]. The introduction of Web 2.0 technology has enabled criticism within blogging, tweeting and liking through social network websites to become a lot easier. Although negative comments are bad publicity and do tarnish brands, they are interesting, sharable, and can lead to publicity in the mainstream media.
Although this exhibits the viewer’s personal attachment and involvement to the video, advertising is beginning to bombard the website. In particular, every time a viewer watches a video, they are forced to sit through a 30 second commercial, similarly when they are watching the video of their choice at least two generic advertisements appear in the sidebar, disabling viewers to eliminate them.
Similarly, Youtube enables consumers to appropriate successful advertisements and develop parodies for other’s enjoyment, such as the ‘Old Spice’ commercial featuring Isaiah Mustafa. Although some managers may not be able to utilize the power of parody memes, it works to the advertiser’s advantage through creating brand awareness, though pre-supposes the viewer’s familiarity with the advertisement.
|Old Spice 'Parody' Version|
Ultimately, digital media convergence in relation to advertising is demonstrated through product placement within film and music video enabling brands to build recognition and awareness. Comparably, the ability of advertisers to successfully harness the medium of convergence through the Internet, has enabled digital recordings of advertisements to be spread virally through social media, thus exposing the product to a global market.
Jenkins, H. (2006) 'Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide', NY University Press
Dwyer, T. (2010) ‘Media Convergence’, McGraw Hill, Berkshire, pp 1-23
Spurgeon. C. (2008) ‘From the ‘Long Tail’ to Madison and Vine’, Advertising and New Media, Ozon Routledge, pp 24-45
Recommended Reading List:
Sheehan, Kim and Morrison, Deborah (2009) Beyond convergence: Confluence culture and the role of the advertising agency in a changing world in First Monday vol 14 no 3 - http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2239/2121 [Accessed 20 August 2012]
Sinclair, John and Wilken, Rowan (2009) 'Waiting for the kiss of life : mobile media and advertising' Convergence: the journal of research into new media, vol 15 no 5 pp 427 - 445 http://con.sagepub.com.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/content/15/4/427.full.pdf+html [Accessed 23 August 2012]
Academic Readings Through Independent Research:
Sutherland, M. (1981) ‘Role Of Advertising: Persuasion Or Agenda Setting?’, The Journal of Advertising Research, V 21, No 5, pp 25-29
Waller, D. (1999) ‘Attitude Towards Offensive Advertising: An Australian Study’, The Journal of Consumer Marketing’, Vol 16, No 3, pp 288-294
Herbig, P., Hale, B. (1997) ‘Internet: The Marketing Challenge Of The Twentieth Century’, Internet Research, Vol 7, No 2, pp 95-100,
McAllister, M. (2003) ‘Is Commercial Culture Popular Culture?: A Question For Popular Communication Scholars’, Virginia Tech: Department Of Communication Studies, pp 41-49, http://www.personal.psu.edu/mpm15/CommercialCulture.pdf [Accessed 21 August 2012]
Erdelyi, M., Zizak, D., (2004) ‘Beyond Gizmo Subliminality’, Psychology of Entertainment Media, pp13-45, http://www.scribd.com/doc/4078582/The-Psychology-of-Entertainment-Media-Blurring-the-Lines-Between-Entertainment-and-Persuasion- [Accessed: 20 August 2012]
Freeman, B., Chapman, S. (2007) ‘Is “YouTube” Telling or Selling You Something? Tobacco Content on the YouTube Video-sharing Website’, Consumer Perspectives, http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/16/3/207.full [Accessed 24 August]