Engaging God for fun and profit

Engaging God for fun and profit.
Rishad Tobaccowala is one of the people who gets it. He’s president-Starcom IP and SMG Next, and exec-VP, Starcom MediaVest Group, a company that gets it. Tobaccowala is Starcom’s chief broadband strategist. As such, he’s at the leading edge of the media giant’s future thrust, and that gives him a unique platform from which to view the staggering changes taking place within the media world. Tobaccowala’s latest pronouncements came in front of DoubleClick’s annual Insight Conference, as reported in MediaDailyNews.

2004 ushers in an “empowered era” in which “humans are God,” because technology allows them to be godlike. The question Tobaccowala put to conference attendees is: “How will you engage God?”

Tobaccowala told a crowd of digital media buyers, planners, and strategists that they must extend their focus beyond the Internet, citing projections for consumer adoption rates in high-definition TV, digital video recorders, video-on-demand, console, PC, and multi-player gaming. Wireless devices, instant messaging, and yet-to-be-seen applications —including, perhaps, a video iPod—will all have a role to play in marketing. These technologies will be incorporated—and in some cases are already integrated—into consumers’ lifestyles alongside the broadband Internet.

Tobaccowala suggested that media strategists can engage God — i.e., consumers — by combining exposure and experience. Exposure, via targeting consumers appropriately and using online marketing to engage the already empowered masses. “Exposure doesn’t equal engagement,” he said. “Merely showing up at their temple isn’t enough.” He suggested that “targeting, context, and involvement equals engagement,” and that those marketers that aren’t interested in online may be out of a job—“soon”—if they don’t prepare to engage the empowered consumer.

Tobaccowala’s God metaphor isn’t far off. The Postmodernist credo — “I experience; therefore I understand.” — rejects the idea of a distant authority, and I’ve said for years that the desire of mankind to overcome the restraints of time and distance will always produce successful businesses. Whether it’s the leadership of people like Tobaccowala or Starcom’s hefty and creative client base (McDonald’s, Coke, Kellogg, Lego, Nintendo, and the U.S. Army), the company is forcing people to weigh the realities of the Internet in the daily lives of consumers.

This is especially true for the institutional news media, including television news. Starcom’s “TV 2.0” concept (a combination of broadband, gaming, and television) begins with the interactivity provided by broadband Internet, and television has been painfully slow in getting into the game.

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