Predicting Peak Media

At the IPG Media Lab one of the things we track intensely is the ways in which consumers adopt new media technology into their lives.  As consumers have more options to connect with content, we’ve noticed a trend towards fully mediated lives.  Just as the Rotarians eliminated Polio, the engineers of Silicon Valley have seemingly eliminated boredom.  Consumers are filling the dead zones in their lives with content—in the elevator, on the bus, in the bathroom!

There is a concept called “peak oil“  that attempts to predict when oil production will max out. Estimates vary, but it’s predicted that peak oil capacity will happen at some point between 2006 and 2020. These estimates are predicated within the boundaries of known reserves and man’s ability to extract them.

Like the notion of peak oil, is there a point at which consumers will reach a maximum capacity to accept media into their lives? If consumers are living fully mediated lives, shouldn’t we as marketers strive to predict the end state of total mediation? And if so, what will be the tipping point that defines “peak media”?

Here are five reasons we think pinpointing peak media will be challenging:

  1. Temporal boundaries based on the number of waking hours in a day do not account for a layered media experience driven by multitasking
  2. Technical boundaries do not seem to work as we have just begun to apply communication technology to senses like sound and smell
  3. Economic boundaries or the point at which ad impressions have no value denies the history of marketer willingness to pump impressions in to the world that seemingly have no audience
  4. Anyone who has watched friends or coworkers check their phones mid-conversation indicate that we are long way from Social boundaries where it becomes taboo to access more media
  5. Cognitive boundaries where the brain simply cannot process more stimuli also lack informative precedents

As our capacity to apply technology to storytelling continues to grow, the boundary that could define peak media becomes harder to imagine.

Is there such a thing as peak media or is it a state always over the horizon that marketers will forever chase?  Please let us know your thoughts!