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Digital Media Integration

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Whether you're using electronic media to enrich users' experiences or sell them something, you must learn to harness the strengths of all available media to reach your target audience. Learn here how to integrate digital media harmoniously and effectively.
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Attention Getters: Integrating Digital Media

Whether for good or ill, electronic media are pervasive in our lives and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. Whether we're looking to enrich the user's experience or sell him or her something, we need to learn to use all the media available to our target audience to reach them by using each medium in a manner appropriate to its strengths and so that each medium we use operates in a symbiotic way with all the others.

The concept of digital media integration can be defined in two ways, although the two are not entirely unrelated:

  1. Various media (film, Web sites, CDs, etc.) being used together in an effort to enrich the user's experience of creative content (for example, a movie that has both a soundtrack and a Web site)

  2. Various means of distribution (newspapers, television, radio, the Internet, etc.) used in concert to deliver an advertiser's message to targeted consumers

We'll begin with the first definition, which in the old days in this business (10 years ago) was called simply multimedia, or interactive multimedia.

Interactive Multimedia

The definition of multimedia has changed since then and has taken on a more market-driven coloration. Those of us who survived the dotcom meltdown learned that, with the exception of eBay and one other company, businesses can't make it on an Internet-only play. eBay is an anomaly; it could not have existed before the Internet. Virtually all other businesses need a bricks-and-mortar presence to reach their consumers and maintain consistent profitability.

NOTE

The "one other company" was inspired by Ulysses S. Grant, our 18th president (1869–1877), who, when asked to name his two favorite songs, said that one was "Yankee Doodle" and the other one wasn't.

In the "Good Old Days," it was about the immersive experience one had when text, stills, video, audio, animation, and so on were used in a coordinated manner in a presentation. That "stew" has been replaced by a media buffet. There is a tacit understanding that no one medium—not even the mighty Internet—can substitute for other media. Nor can the Internet fully incorporate the experience that the user has with other media. You might have video on a Web site, but it's not the same as watching television; you might have audio, but it's not like putting on headphones to focus on enjoying a song.

So, the current thinking is to use appropriate media side by side, so to speak, and have them piggyback on each other. For example, Spider-Man has trailers that are seen in theatres and on television, which, in turn, seek to drive you to the movie's Web site. Commercials for the movie drive you to the Web site and may also invite you to enter a contest, the clues for which will be revealed in the trailer, on the site, or in the movie. Presuming that you like the movie and are a fan of the concept or the actors, your "experience" of the movie (or, more precisely, the movie's "environment" or "world") is heightened beyond what you feel by just going to see it. The experience can be part of your life, both before and after you've seen the movie; you can bathe in a sort of "preglow" and afterglow. It doesn't have to go away after the movie's over, like the lingering scent of someone's perfume or aftershave after that person has left the room.

No one medium can do it all. No medium can be said to be the best or ultimate medium. Each has attributes that make it unique. For example, television at its best has great picture and sound, yet it's not interactive. The Internet is interactive, yet the quality of the images is vastly inferior to those on a large, flat-screen TV monitor. Films are immersive, with the finest audio and image quality currently available, yet they lack the intimacy of television and the interactivity of the Net. It's a matter of understanding what each medium offers, what each of their strengths and weaknesses are, and packaging together for the user.

A good analogy is building a team to tackle a project. No one is great at everything; the best teams integrate the best qualities of their members to achieve the desired result. A good leader harnesses the strengths of each member of the team to produce the desired objective.

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