Why Should Digital Marketers Care About the “L-Bar” TV Unit

Posted: January 10, 2008 in Digital Entertainment, Interoperability, Marketing Links, Mobile, Society & Culture, The Marketing Industry, Trends, TV

When I read this piece in MediaPost today, something really interesting dawned on me…

First – The “new” L-Bar unit is a piece of real estate shaped in a reverse L (across bottom and down the right hand side) around the programming content.  It’s being deemed innovative (see next paragraph), and in the MediaPost piece only MTV and Bravo, two progressive networks, have been named as experimenting with the unit.

Why should we, as digital marketers, care?

We will continue to see digital media impact traditional media, as well as the internet itself impacting many industries in different ways, such as the travel and music industries as prime examples. The new technologies and relevant consumer-marketer connections are inevitably forcing traditional media to morph along this evolutionary path. However, they are evolving and morphing, as are the large agencies, whose structures were not prepared for the digital age, yet operating in it. As they change before our eyes and integrated digital extensions of traditional channels become the activation points for all media, we need to be prepared for it. Oh by the way – it’s been happening already…

I will explain the power of this transformation in the context of my observations as a consumer in Asia, particularly in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, winter of 2004. As I flipped through the channels to find something interesting to watch on TV, most of the stations, particularly the “pop-culture” channels such as the music networks, had the programming wrapped with ad blocks down the right hand side and across the bottom. Voila – your “L-Bar” unit. What was most interesting was the type of response focused advertising, particularly SMS triggered purchases. Was I living in a digital wonderland or was it the jet lag from flying 24 hours from NY via Stockholm?

As it turned out – I was indeed living in a digital wonderland. Although there were no blue or red pills, no hookah smoking catepillars or mad hatters – only multiple offers for various SMS products and subscriptions.

I wondered…were these ads being inserted (a la TV) or served and tracked (a la online)? Was it database driven? Could it be? If so, think of the optimization opportunities, which would be akin to that of digital media. Of course I attempted to sign up for a service or two, but my international GSM phone wouldn’t allow it (it accepted the spam text messages every other day but not my purchase attempt). Oh well. The future will come to America one day…

But I thought of the potential of this type of  advertising for mobile and online based products or services. It’s huge, but with a slightly annoying downside. The unit if, run too frequently (as in always as some stations did in Malaysia), was more than a little intrusive and obstructive, sometimes even annoying, but engaging to a degree. I wasn’t sure if that critique / review was the marketer in me or not – sometimes it’s hard to shut that off. But as a consumer I know I did feel at least a little annoyed at times.

This was just another example of how digital media is impacting traditional media, and how the integration with tradition media is becoming a more important aspect of the mix than ever before. Welcome to the future present of media.

It’s all a blur – a Digital Blur!

  1. steven bakalar says:

    hi jason —

    enjoyed your piece. do you know which companies provide the l-bar technology to bravo and mtv?

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