Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Is play time over?

Can digital media continue to successfully self-regulate or is it time for more stringent legislation to be introduced?

This is far too big a topic to comment with anything more than my own personal thoughts, however I'm hoping that maybe I can generate some sort of discussion.

I don't pretend to be in a position to have a fully educated opinion on this, however what I would say is based on my experience of the industry from a planner's perspective and what changes I think could be made so that the client and consumer (I don't like using that description but it seems the most apt) have a better understanding of what the digital world can offer but also take away in terms of brand integrity and user experience.

The comparison I would like to draw upon are the systems that are in place in offline media where checks are continually made on behalf of the consumer and breaches are punishable accordingly (i.e. C4 Big Brother). Where are these checks online? Are these checks possible on a global media where the consumer has complete choice over what they expose themselves to?

Digital media is still young in comparison to national press and TV and it's only now that there are trusted media houses such as MSN, Yahoo, AOL where it's probably safe to let your children browse the content but step away from these established areas and there is dangerous content in abundance. This is a massive generalisation and I am not suggesting for one minute that we should only use these online bastions, far from it. But the point I'm trying make is the only real comparison I can make between on and offline is through established online brands who have their own integrity and reputation to protect.

Another question is, are these checks possible on an ever changing medium where the consumer is hugely involved in a lot of the content that is produced? Some argue that if user generated content was removed from digital media plans then the client will dramatically reduce the chances of association with untoward content. The question that then needs to be asked is, are official political parties (who's views the client may not agree with) who have set up their own presence online, considered UGC? The answer to this is both yes and no. Yes, because they are appearing on a social network that is in essence user generated (and it is for this reason that places like Facebook are so popular) and no because an institution such as the BNP is a recognised party in the UK and as such is substantiated (unlike a lot of UGC that is out there). It would be fairly straightforward for brands to disassociate themselves from networks that have this sort of content (believe me I've just spent the last week removing all my client's advertising from any networks that might have unsavory sites as part of their portfolio) but is this actually such a smart move? Following on from both of my earlier posts, if clients are not advertising in these areas and engaging with these audiences, they are surely missing out on a massive user base. In respect of this I think clients need to be educated about what's available and the best way to interact with users using this medium.

To return to my original question of whether or not digital can establish a set of rules and guidelines that would be adhered to by both sites and the brands that advertise on them, I think we are still a long way off. Personally I think that the speed that this medium is moving at, means it has always been and will continue to be very difficult to fence in those involved in it, and I think if strict legislation is put in place, the amazing creative possibilities that digital can offer will be curbed along with it.

No comments:

Fly Thomas Cook Weather Widget