Thursday, August 30, 2012

Digital Media Convergence in Advertising and New Media

The transmission of information through the use of mass media to various populations at the same time is known as mass communication. In conjunction, mass media is a range of media technologies that is able to reach a large range of audience such as newspapers, televisions and radios. Used in various ways, one of the most long-standing and widespread uses of mass communication would be the advertising of products and campaigns.

An example of a
billboard/poster advertisement
What comes to mind when one thinks of advertising? Posters advertising various campaigns might come to mind first. A few years ago, the thought of televisions, radios, billboards and newspapers in relation to advertising would enter one’s head. However, with the emergence of the Internet and consequently the World Wide Web, the majority of advertising can now be found on the Internet via mediums such as computers, notebooks, laptops and mobile phones. These are the new technologies that are known as new media and the process by which advertising has evolved from posters and newspapers to the television and then to the Internet is known as digital media convergence.

Using Henry Jenkins’ (2006) understanding of convergence, “the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behavior of media audiences who will go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of entertainment experiences they want”, one is able to grasp the meaning of “where old and new media collide” (Jenkins 2006:2). Digital media convergence is essentially the adaptation of present media and communication industries and cultures to new technologies.

A major advertising medium was the telephone directory due to the telephone being an essential business tool. Another was the classifieds advertising usually found in newspapers. These two well-placed forms of advertisements soon lost out to the internet as the internet gradually “opened up to commercial users” (Spurgeon 2008:34). Replaced by online recruitment services and advertisers such as Seek and Yodel respectively, it was “more convenient, faster and cheaper” for consumers.

The emergence of social network sites also stimulated the new advertising age as advertisers were able to share their products and campaigns with consumers who in turn shared it with their network of friends. Marshall (2009) identifies ‘spreading’ as a way to which advertisers are able to expand. Facebook for example, allows the sharing of information between consumers’ networks based on similar interests or with all parties within a network. With the popularity of information sharing on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, a new revenue of opportunity opened up in the form of image sharing network sites such as Tumble and Pinterest. Allowing consumers to ‘spread’ images within their network, these sites gave advertisers new creative energy as they integrated and made full use of digital imaging softwares in their advertisements.

Television also played a part in advertising as brands strove to advertise their products and campaigns during the breaks of programs, entertaining the mass audience and appealing to their consumerism. In the 60s and 70s, television commercials used catchy songs and slogans to captivate their audience. Now, shorter commercials with more action than words appeal to the mass audience. Nonetheless, the emergence of the internet caused a drop in revenue for television advertisements. In order to re-capture the ever-decreasing attention span of consumers, advertisements have had to adapt and find new ways in which to capture attention.  A popular form of advertising in the form of entertainment that replaced television is YouTube. YouTube rose in the ranks rapidly since its 2005 debut, making it the “go-to website for finding topical and obscure streaming video clips” (Hilderbrand 2007:48). Marshall (2009:87) is of the opinion that “the success of YouTube is its connection to further distribution via email networks and links on social network sites”, making it the “starting point for a kind of viral movement of video content from friend to friend, email post to Facebook site”. Coupling social network sites with YouTube, advertisers are now able to assure themselves of a global audience within the span of a week at the most, depending on the topic of advertisement.

A Pepsi TV commercial in 1978

A Pepsi Commercial in 2007

After the internet, the ‘third generation’ of mobile phone standards, or more commonly known as 3G,  that merged "wide-area voice telephony with internet access” (Wilken 2009:436) emerged, allowing consumers and network operators a wider range of mass communication than before as 3G allows access to the “mobile internet, and send and receive mobile video and TV, and other forms of data in addition to test. This enables a wider base for mobile advertising with “considerable enhancements of the multimedia capabilities of MMS” (Wilken 2009:436) through 'apps' or applications. With an increase in internet usage, advertisers found new ways in which to spread their brands through the form of 'apps' on mobile phones.

Smirnoff advertisements can be used as an example of digital media convergence in advertising and new media. A 1966 poster featuring Woody Allen is one of the most popular earlier forms of advertising from Smirnoff.  One of the easiest ways to capture attention to this digital day and age through mass communication is by using well-known house-hold names and faces to endorse a product or campaign. In the 60s, it was a sure-fire way of advertising a brand. By using Woody Allen’s fame, Smirnoff was able to garner a large audience through magazines as well as through printed posters. Another way Smirnoff cashed in on their idea of using Woody Allen was through his stand-up comedy show as he dedicated one part of it to how he got to advertising the brand. 

Woody Allen's 'The Vodka Ad'
(Image from )

Between 2009 and 2010, a new range of advertisements in the form of images advertising Smirnoff were released. Instead of using popular names and faces, Smirnoff now chose to use digital imaging and editing in order to capture and relate to their audience. These images went viral on image sharing sites such as Pinterest and Tumblr as well as other social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter as its humor and edited images appealed to the technologically-savvy mass audience. 

Late in 2011, Smirnoff got on the YouTube train and uploaded short video advertisements as the audience for their still images decreased.

Smirnoff Intentions Commercial 

Advertising has come a long way since the days of printed advertisements in magazines and newspapers. It has evolved to keep up with the ever-changing new technologies available in order to re-capture the attention of consumers over and over again. From print to radio to television and then to the internet, advertising has made full use of available new media while still keeping with the old media in the forms of billboards.


Jenkins, H. 2006, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, New York, New York University Press, pp.1-24.

Spurgeon, C. 2008, Advertising and New Media, Oxon, Routledge, pp. 24-45.

Marshall, P. 2009, ‘New Media as Transformed Media Industry’, in Edt. Holt, J., Perren, A.  (eds.), Media Industries: History, Theory, and Method, Wiley-Blackwell, Malden, MA, pp. 81-89.

Hilderbrand, L. 2007, 'Youtube: Where Cultural Memory and Copyright Converge', Film Quarterly, vol. 61, pp. 48-57.

Wilken, R. 2009, ‘Waiting for the Kiss of Life: Mobile Media and Advertising’, Convergence, vol.15 (4), pp. 427-445.

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