AAAA Media Conference 2009

Consumers Share Media Habits With 4A's Conference

Customization Is Great, but People Also Want to Be Surprised

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NEW ORLEANS (AdAge.com) -- The American Association of Advertising Agencies' Media Conference & Tradeshow this year is focused on discovering changing consumer habits, so attendees were treated to three panels made up of New Orleans residents -- young adults, baby boomers and women 25 to 54 -- who offered their thoughts on everything from from social media and Hulu to their web usage and what advertisers are doing right and wrong.

Not a bad idea, except there weren't all that many groundbreaking revelations offered up by the consumer panelists for industry types to break down. To wit: Young consumers use the web more than the other groups; none of the boomers had a Facebook page; and the women-only panelist lead extremely busy lives that start before or at 6 a.m. but still have to time to surf the web.

But that's not to say there weren't any significant insights to be taken away from the discussions: When one 20-something female was asked if she was on Twitter, she responded, "What's Twitter?" And while the panels were broken down into three categories, each revealed that there are numerous subsets within each of those categories.

The panel discussions were followed by a conversation of industry professionals, led by Michael Kassan of Media Link, who analyzed the revelations of the 18 consumers.

Jim Kite, president, connections research and analytics at MediaVest USA, who was on the panel with Mike Bloxham from Ball State University, Daryl Evans of AT&T, Rick Gagnon from DraftFCB and Paul Silverman of Novartis, said we "saw 18 people, not groups of consumers. It's good to remember we don't need to compartmentalize all the time."

When asked what advertisers do right and wrong, one young man said sees too many of the same commercials while one of his female co-panelists said she thought advertising was too one dimensional and wanted ads to tell a story. But one of the panelists shot down an idea that many of those in attendance are chasing: customization. "If we only saw the ads that we wanted to see that would be dangerous because it limits us and puts us in a small box," the panelist said. "I want to be surprised and learn new things."

Mr. Kite said addressable advertising is part of what this age group of consumers wants, but "people will always want to see new things."

A number of the women on the "Women 25-54" panel said their media habits have dramatically changed over the past few years to now include more resources and more time spent with media. "I watch CNN more since [Hurricane] Katrina and the election," said one. "I'm more connected now than I have ever been in the past. I have a laptop I bring with me everywhere," said another.

"There are new cultural tidal waves happening and it's going to continue to evolve," DraftFCB's Mr. Gangon said, referring to the growing use of different mediums. "A lot of these things have only been around 10 years or so, imagine what will happen in the next five years."

When asked where they get their news, boomers touched on the broadest use of media, from newspapers and weekly magazines to TV and the web. "I watch [MSNBC's] 'Morning Joe,' listen to the radio and read magazines as well, because there are slants to all news coverage," said one boomer panelist. "To be well read you have to use various sources, that's what I tell my granddaughters. But I don't use the internet."

Novartis's Mr. Silverman said this speaks directly to the issue that everyone has become their own program director and if marketers think specific groups of people are all still the same in terms of media consumption, they are sadly mistaken. "Everyone has 10 things they love and they are different," he said.

But the groups all revealed an affinity for free content. "News and music should be free," said one of the young consumer panelists. "I'm not going to give you a couple of cents for news. Create timeless content because you can then sell it, but if it's news AP-wire-style, it should be free."

And a number of boomer panelists said they all go to NOLA.com for news updates and other information instead of buying the paper.

"This move for free content is ultimately going to result in a real comedown for people wanting to monetize content. If people stop getting compensated for creating that content, people will stop pushing that content out," Mr. Silverman said.

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