Advertising Assoc head: Media can’t ignore digital revolution

Julie Harris -
Julie Harris -

THIS country’s traditional media cannot ignore the digital revolution but must adapt to it, including focusing on ways to do things that social media cannot do, remarked Julie Harris, head of the Advertising Association of TT.

Newsday sought her views on a Senator’s recent call for the Government to tax foreign tech giants such as Google,

Amazon and Facebook whose online platforms undercut local firms such as media houses.

Harris said, “It’s a tough one. Part of our business is to get the best platform for our clients to reach their target audience. Sometimes that channel happens to be digital platforms, social media platforms.” She said advertising agencies have relationships with both their clients and media houses and they’d like to see a win-win situation for everyone.

“Where the difficulty lies here is that if you are talking about potentially putting a levy on social media platforms, where does that levy go? How does that benefit your traditional media? Is it that you are essentially saying that even if the digital media might be the best channel to use, you trying to deter people from doing that?”

She asked who would pay that levy, say the client or the agency?

“But most importantly, what is the point of it? What is it meant to achieve? Is it a deterrent? Or is it meant to be a way of subsidising?”

Harris said people are beginning to think about and talk about such questions.

“But it might well be that the genie is out of the bottle already.”

She said to put a levy on digital platforms might not be the best solution.

“It’s not as simple as putting a levy on AirBnB.

“When you are talking about marketing and advertising, you can’t sell something to people where they are not.” Alluding to a migration to social media, she said, “Our job is to reach people where they are. If they are not there, then no amount of levy is going to change the fact that you’ll have end up talking to them there, because that’s where they ar e.”

Harris again asked how would a levy on social media benefit the traditional media. “It’s not a straightforward thing at all.”

Amid calls to “tax them!” she said everyone has to be clear about what they wish to achieve.

“You want to know you have an audience. That’s your point. If you don’t have an audience, you have no raison d’etre.”

Newsday asked if platforms like social media do active news reporting?

Harris replied, “What really has to happen is people have to recognise that media is good for doing what. So every media has a role to play. The best marketing works when you use all and when you’re able to drive people from one channel to the other.

“There are certain things that social media just doesn’t handle very well.

“If you can find a way to get the newspaper to do something social media cannot do.” She said likewise, advertising agencies have had to rethink where and how they place adverts, including the cost. Newsday said the media’s role to give structure, balance, packaging and local insights.

Harris said, “All the newspapers are online now and are trying to get people to pay to subscribe to that. The real challenge you have I think is people feeling whatever is on the Internet is free. If the newspapers were able to convince people to subscribe to them online, I don’t think they would feel so terrible.”

She said advertising agencies have similar challenges to media houses.

“So it’s a whole revolution. All of us have the same challenge.”

Harris described it as “a fight for relevance.”

She said, “Putting a tax is not going to change that.”

Harris said it was all not a bad thing. “Nothing new was created out of doing things in the same way. Because our ‘normal,’ our comfort has been disrupted, it is a fantastic opportunity. It is an opportunity for us to re-examine the way we do business. I don’t know that it suits us to try to protect what we’ve had.

“It suits us to re-invent. The struggle is to be relevant. We have it within us to find that. It’s not about what we do but how we do what we do.”

On the heels of ANSA Mc Al head A Norman Sabga last year blaming social media for a $11 million loss by CNC3/Guardian Media Ltd, Independent Senator Charrise Seepersad in the recent budget debate urged the Government to tax these tech giants which she said drain foreign exchange from TT without having a local economic footprint by having invested in TT.


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