Drinking on a rollercoaster
Imagine you have a bottle of booze that you'd like to drink[i]. The booze is the content that you want to consume. Now imagine that you can drink it at home on your sofa, or you can drink it on a rollercoaster. Drinking booze on a rollercoaster is going to be a different experience than drinking it on your sofa at home, isn't it. It's obvious. The content is the same (booze), the audience is the same (you), but the context (rollercoaster vs. sofa) is different. To pretend that context doesn't matter is to ignore reality.
And yet many people in our industry think we should do just that, we should ignore the reality of context. The prevalent line is that the only appropriate way to buy media is by concentrating exclusively on the audience. In other words, we should move away from buying 'program/station/site (don't worry about who's watching/listening)' to buying 'impatient parents of toddlers (don't worry about where the ad's appearing)'. From platform is all, to audience is all.
The problem with this is that it's a black and white approach to an incontrovertibly grey world. It pushes an 'either/or' frame onto a situation that is clearly 'both/and'. As is usually the case, the reality lies somewhere in the middle. Yes, the audience is important – of course it is. After all, the audience is the point of all of this. But to ignore the impact of context on that audience is to ignore reality. Where you receive a message makes a meaningful difference, just like where you drink booze can make a meaningful difference.
We all have a tendency to try and make things simpler than they are. In reality, most things are complicated; most things are shades of grey. But grey is complicated and so grey is difficult. Black and white is simpler, easier and so we tend to look for it even when it isn't actually there. But if simple means false, then we should embrace complicated.
So just as it doesn't make sense to believe that drinking on a sofa is the same experience as drinking on a rollercoaster, it doesn't make sense to ignore the context of a message. Both the audience and the platform are important. Anyone saying otherwise is ignoring reality for the sake of their own operational simplicity.
After all, the point of it all is people. And people are nothing if not complicated!
[i] Just imagine. Now stop imagining. Stop imagining. You're still imagining drinking booze aren't you? Listen, if you can wait just one more minute then you can go back to imagining you have a bottle of booze. You can see there isn't much left of this blog to go. Sheesh, honestly. You're still imagining a bottle of booze aren't you? Anyway, where was I?
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