Access vs Ownership –The rise of the Sharing Economy

I attended this talk because our very own Rian Shah was part of the panel debating the trends around access vs. ownership. I hadn’t realised how much it would apply to me personally however, until the opening anecdote of Spotify’s Chris Forrester hit home almost immediately: “My 17th birthday was of paramount importance because it meant driving lessons – the precursor to owning my first car. My son is about to turn 17 and when offered the choice of my second car which wasn’t getting enough use to keep the battery running, he asked instead for an Uber account”.

Now upon moving back from Rome last summer, my husband and I bought a totally London-hating gas-guzzling Chelsea tractor which does about 48 centimetres to the gallon. As I try to shift it on Autotrader (anyone interested in buying it, let me know – we can take it offline) having done the calculations of the Zip Car sharing economy offering, I now realise that more and more of my decisions are moving towards an access rather than ownership model: (Apple) Music, AirBnB minibreaks, Sky, Netflix and even a piano (we didn’t want to risk buying a Baby Grand for baby Constance who might turn out to be tone deaf).

The panel also consisted of Sky’s Andrew Mortimer, Andy Batty from One Fine Stay, and Reeka Rosenlund – founder of Borrow My Doggy which through a membership scheme matches up animal lovers whom for one reason or another can’t own their own 4 legged friend, with dog owners that could do with a bit of dog walking/sitting (I’ve also got 2 mutts myself and have already trialled this service – if I were a demand map, I would definitely fall into the EXISTING bucket for pretty much every brand on show today).

The panel debated what kinds of access models existed (predominantly subscription vs. advertiser funded) and the merits of each. Spotify with its clear majority of streamers still using the free service rather than paid-for Premium, understand that the younger, digitally native consumer is more ad-savvy than previous generations, and recognises that there is a value exchange with brands which they enter into in order to receive access to over 30 million songs. Sky with its subscription model also gives credit to their huge database of consumers – they expect premium, exclusive content and they want a personalised experience. Rian, because he knows the answer to every “Is this better…. or is this better?” question is “it’s not an either / or equation”, said that a blend would probably work hardest for both brand and consumer, and what was more interesting for him (and for our clients) is how we harness the data through persistent identities that these access models (subs or logged-in platforms) provide us, so we can create more relevant and desire-driving communications in environments where our (known, not look-alike) buyers are most receptive to the content and advertising we serve. “That’s when it gets powerful”.

Sky’s Andrew agreed: “The data we have as a result of our subscription user profiles has informed almost every decision we make – bidding for sports’ rights, content creation and selection, advertising and product personalisation, pricing etc., which obviously helps our business grow, but also gives our customers the high quality, personalised experience they expect”.

It is perhaps up to us here at OMD (as a marketing performance partner with our clients, not just a media planning and buying provider) to help brands identify when moving towards an access/ownership economy model blend – a hedging strategy in this case – might give them a business advantage when ownership trends continue to decline. For example, if we believe shared mobility is going to continue its upwards spiral, we should help our automotive accounts plot the demand opportunity for non-ownership drivers, to help them understand the size of the prize if they were to create a new access service for this segment, and the barriers and triggers we need to overcome or leverage when speaking to them about it. As Chris said, “be prepared to change your business models”.

The talk also covered TV viewing trends, the history of music, the timeshare revamp, and block-chain micro transactions for insuring half an hour of bungee jumping – alas I’ve run out of my word count.

But as I finish tapping this out listening to my personally compiled playlist from Apple with the kids being babysat by Amazon Prime in the background, I certainly feel the sharing economy has taken hold of this household with chutzpah (and if anyone wants to walk my dog for free, just let me know).


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