Opinion piece by Tyler Greer, Exponential’s Head of Strategy fo APAC.
As published in Mumbrella article,
The channels we’re watching TV on are stateless and global, but if we abandon our support for local content, who will be left to tell the stories that only we can tell? Tyler Greer makes the case for supporting local TV content.
I’m old enough to remember Paul Hogan before he was a divorced, international movie-making tax dodger.
He was funny. Real funny. Aussie funny. My favourite of his creations, Leo Wanker, was a wanna-be stuntman with a handlebar moustache and fearless approach to danger. His attempts at stunts would always end the same way: disaster for him, tears of laughter for me.
Today, even the name ‘Leo Wanker’ seems so puerile as to be tragic, but at the time that name embodied something uniquely Australian.
Iconoclastic, knock-about, free of self-importance, funny; that’s actually how we used to see ourselves. Some remnant patches of it remain, but you’ll need a full tank of petrol and a compass to find it.
The point is not the changing face of Australian society and how we view ourselves. It’s the delivery of that view. Local media channels, in particular TV, are the primary custodians and storytelling repositories of national culture. The content they distribute reflects the way we are, the way we have been, and the ways in which we would like to be.
They may not always be absolutely accurate, but cultural identities seldom are. If Australia is not Summer Bay or Ramsey Street, it’s pretty bloody close. But the channels which bring this content to us are being quickly usurped by borderless content which is not anchored to any state in particular.
Or if it is, it is often a marketing device – think ‘Nordic noir’, for example.
Traditional TV is shedding viewers in favour of digital on-demand alternatives. Every subscriber to Netflix potentially means one less set of eyeballs consuming content set in Australia.
Newspapers have lost vast readership from their printed versions, but these people have not been converted to their online mastheads. It’s easier – and often cheaper – to grab news from one of a thousand other providers, or to simply get the general gist via social media.
Radio maintains its position because it has personalities driving an intimacy that is often lacking elsewhere, but the moment Pandora or other digital alternatives master this, the game is up.
You get the picture. The channels through which we are consuming media are stateless and global, and so too are the ways in which we are starting to think of ourselves and our places in the world.
At a recent presentation to a group of happening media and advertising types, I asked them who they felt more culturally connected to: the populations of western Sydney or outer Melbourne, or their inner city contemporaries living in London, Brooklyn and Berlin. You can guess the answer.
For many of us, our identity is no longer tied to our national culture in the ways in which it once was, and much of this is driven by the expansion of global media channels.
At Exponential, where I work, we look at the sorts of behaviours which drive consumers to consider and purchase brands, and we do so across over 20 countries.
And other than a few nuances, the journey is mostly the same – expanding or shrinking families change car types; women getting married seek weight loss solutions; solar panel purchase is driven by economics rather than ethics, and so on.
If a channel is taking a brand to a global audience whose journey is more or less similar regardless of location, global brands can engineer global media campaigns delivered through a single central source.
This, in turn, means advertising which is not tied to any single location, but rather embodies the sensibilities of a monochromatic, world culture. Same goals, same dreams, same access to goods.
The implications for media agencies are a discussion for another time.
Despite this rising tide we appear to be in the middle of a global socio-political backlash against citizens feeling they are losing their national identity. Globalisation brings to mind trade and immigration – rarely media content. But it should.
Where citizens lack the stories that reflect who they are, their sense of belonging is compromised.
Local content is still a feature on our TVs not just because networks are legally bound to dedicate a minimum amount of airtime to them, but because it is precisely that which cannot be created offshore.
The Aussie bio-pic has become an increasing go-to ratings driver for commercial stations, and right now the appetite for these kind of local stories remains strong. However, as Posie Graeme-Evans noted in her Hector Crawford Memorial Lecture earlier this month, they don’t play well on the international stage.
In a culture that is increasingly globalised, and the channels which deliver them viewed more infrequently, that appetite may wain significantly.
For most of you reading this (me included) if we are ruthlessly honest then ‘media’ in our professional capacity is simply an engine through which to deliver advertising and drive revenue.
With the exception of creative houses who find the Australian persona to be a rich vein of comic ideas, most of us don’t really care what the content is so long as it provides an audience we can segment and reach.
Which media buyer in Australia would not pull at least some spend from free-to-air and place it on Nextflix if they could?
This begs the question. Where then, as we move through the decades, will we find the critical stories that inform who we are? How does culture survive if the mechanism through which it is celebrated and examined is no longer consumed?
The answer is pretty simple: it disappears.
Tyler Greer is head of strategy at Exponential, APAC
This is the blog of Exponential Interactive Inc.,(www.exponential.com) a global provider of advertising intelligence and digital media solutions to brand advertisers.
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