Saturday, September 1, 2012

MAS110 Assignment 1 - Samuel Ip (43005624)

Discuss the phenomenon of digital media convergence in relation to Advertising & New Media.

Mass media has always been the pushing force behind the development of various aspects of the society, and the recent notion of new media and the digital media convergence have demonstrated yet another development – changing the way of advertisement. To discuss this change, it is important to first understand what is “digital media convergence”. As described by Henry Jenkins in his book “Convergence Culture”, convergence is the “flow of content across multiple media platforms” (Jenkins, 2006, p. 2). He also identified it as the “cooperation between multiple media industries” (Jenkins, 2006, p. 2). Thus, digital media convergence can be considered as the mix and match of different sources from different media platforms in creating new contents, or giving existing contents new meanings. According to Jenkins, the digital media convergence is also the result of audiences’ behavior. In the modern age, audiences are no longer passive as they used to be, but rather they are actively “in search of the kind of entertainment experience they want” (Jenkins, 2006, p. 2). With this digital media convergence, the many aspects of advertising have been shifting vigorously. This article would like to examine these changes firstly by studying the change of how an advertisement is made, to the change of its major release medium, and finally the various new media tools that are utilized in the process. A number of real life examples would be mentioned to further illustrate these changes.

To begin with, advertising has long been broken into segregated segments. There were TV ads, radio ads, poster ads on the streets, printed advertisement on magazines and newspapers, and so on, all occupying their own turfs. They were never really cooperating with each other in the past. While this has worked fine in the past, the modern age audiences were, as Kim Bartel Sheehan has put it, “fragmented” (Sheehan & Morrison, 2009) among different traditional media because they have different new media tools in their hand, and are easier to get distracted by them. Sites such as Facebook and YouTube provide contents that are interactive, pulling audience to not just access the media, but also add to them or re-purpose the contents “for new and different uses” (Sheehan & Morrison, 2009). No doubt the advertising industry has to adapt to the situation. It is then the idea of viral marketing began to surface (Phelps, Lewis, Mobilio, Perry, & Raman, 2004). Ads such as the Cadbury Chocolate’s “Eyebrows” and the Blendtec’s “Will It Blend” are all part of this new type of advertising. These ads took a different approach to their counterparts in the past in that they try to be as short, funny and catchy as possible. For the Cadbury’s “Eyebrows”, it features two children tickling their eyebrows following a tune, and while this is not exactly related to the chocolate brand, the fact that it features a very catchy tune and funny eyebrow action sparked a lot of imitations and parodies on YouTube, as well as getting huge exposure on different media, successfully advertised the brand. Another example is the Blendtec’s “Will It Blend” series of ads. Made with low budgets, this series features the company CEO Tom Dickson trying to blend all sorts of objects such as toys, old electronic devices, to even iPhones with the company’s blender (The Age, 2007). In the videos, he often asks audience to send him suggestions and even send him real things that they want to blend. This has also successfully captured a lot of views and in 2010 the company’s YouTube channel was one of the most viewed advertising channels of all time (Learmonth, 2010). All of this suggested that there is a shifting of how advertisements were made, in that they often have the elements to go viral and audience participation.

Apart from the change of methods in advertising, there is also a change of medium. In the past, advertisements were confined to traditional media such as TV and prints, but today they are virtually everywhere. In Sheehan’s article, she gave an example of Apple’s YouTube iPod ads (Sheehan & Morrison, 2009), suggesting that YouTube can be a good medium for advertising in its early years. Recently, there are more examples of made for YouTube ads, with a number of them even flow back to air on TV and the big screens. Among these advertisement was the Google ad “Parisian Love”, which was made with low budget and aimed as a YouTube only ad. In the 2009 Superbowl, however, this particular ad was aired on TV after its huge success on YouTube (Google, 2010). Here the notion of digital media convergence is clearly demonstrated, showing the cooperation of different media medium. In addition, the Blendtec’s “Will It Blend” series is also another example of made-for-YouTube ads, suggesting that the online platform will be the next main stage for advertising.

Finally, the use of new media, especially social media, have been significant in the current trend of advertising through digital media convergence. As more and more people are having a smart phone nowadays, advertisers are moving towards advertising with new media in mind. From utilizing Facebook Fan Pages, to creating Twitter live feeds, to the use of QR codes on traditional media points to the trend of multi-platform advertising as envisioned by Jenkins.  Advertisers would often offer discounts or inform deals through their Fan Pages, Twitter feeds, and webpages, while the use of QR codes on printed, traditional ads add interactivity to the older forms of advertising. In the future, it is suggested that mobile phones and wireless technology will continue to take up a huge proportion of in advertising, with advancement such as Augmented Reality (AR) and Near Field Communication (NFC) becoming more prominent. Ads in the future might even be tailored to target specific individuals by understanding their needs and purchasing history (Wilken & Sinclair, 2009).

All in all, as shown in the aforementioned cases, the faces of advertising have been heavily changed by new media, and moving onward to more radical changes in the modern digital age. It is then the phenomenon of digital media convergence is seen clearly.


A Glass and A Half Full Production. (2009, January 23). Cadbury Eyebrows (Official Version). Retrieved August 29, 2012, from YouTube:
Google. (2010, February 8). Google Official Blog - Love and the Super Bowl. Retrieved August 25, 2012, from Google Official Blog:
Jenkins, H. (2006). Introduction: "Worship at the Altar of Convergence" A New Paradigm for Understanding Media Change. In H. Jenkins, Convergence Culture (pp. 1-24). New York: New York University Press.
Learmonth, M. (2010, September 2). The Top 10 Viral Ads of All Time. Ad Age .
Phelps, J., Lewis, R., Mobilio, L., Perry, D., & Raman, N. (2004, December). Viral Marketing or Electronic Word-of-Mouth Advertising: Examining Consumer Responses and Motivations to Pass Along Email. Journal of Advertising Research , 333-348.
Sheehan, K. B., & Morrison, D. K. (2009). Beyond convergence: Confluence culture and the role of the advertising agency in a changing world. First Monday , 14 (3), 1-8.
The Age. (2007, October 28). Can he blend it? Yes he can. The Age .
Wilken, R., & Sinclair, J. (2009). Waiting for the Kiss of Life: Mobile Media and Advertising. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies , 15 (4), 427-445.

Posted by Samuel Ip (43005624)

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