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How The Economy Back During The Depression of 2009 Changed The World Part 8: Marketing

Posted on December 15, 2008. Filed under: advertising, Apple, consumer marketing, Mashable, RSS feed, Science Fiction, Second Life, Social Network, tv ad | Tags: , , , , , , , |

In my continuing series on the Depression of ’09, or Bush’s Collapse, as historians have come to call it, I will focus on how marketing and advertising was effected. In 2038 it’s hard to believe that only 30 years ago quotes such as “no one every got fired for doing television” and ideas like Mass Marketing weren’t ridiculed. One needs to remember that back then Social Media was used to differentiate a particular form of “online engagement”. Of course people still used the term Internet to qualify where they absorbed a particular piece of information. Most Gen A kids today are still confused by the fact that during the Gen X/Y days we received information from multiple devices with screens: one you could interact with, and one you just stared at. I won’t mention “radio” for fear of veering too off topic.

Leading up to Dep II folks used the Internet to gather data, purchase goods, and be entertained by music, vids and games. In most cases a company I’d individual would “post” media to a “web site” where users could read, click, watch, or download it. Users had very little choice on what they got, generally being given only a few options. Something was about to change all that though.

Just prior to the election of President Obama, the first of his 3 terms, several print publications (see references below for definitions) named the consumer as the Person of the Year and Marketer of the Year. The average citizen was beginning to take control of how goods and services were presented to them. Up to this point most manufacturers and service providers would build a generic product then hire marketers to create advertising campaigns to promote their product. The advertisements would, almost without exception, be focused on a wide demographic. Men: 18-45, teens: 12-22, were typical designations. Of course no one today would waste time on such a broad and incongruous grouping. Even now, at 79, I can remember being a teen, nine of us were very similar. There were jocks, studes, vocies, rich, poor, popular, geeks, etc. It still amazed me that anyone sold anything in such a broad way. It’s important to remember that back in the 20th Century and into the singles of the 21st Century, most people just accepted that they belonged to a demographic and accepted products and services as they were: Corporate America was in charge. Of course that is no longer the case: we get goods and services tailored personally to us, we brag about the cool advertising generated by our profile. Lime most of history, it is easy, in hindsight, to see the tipping point: The Attack on Pearl Harbor, the Chinese Colonization of Mars, Secretary Michelle Obama’s Global Union Initiative, etc. Bush’s Collapse changed the relationship between consumers and corporations forever.

It is unfair that the Collapse be completely blamed on George Bush, it is so named primarily because the Iraqi Folly put such a financial burden on the country, at a point when a brief financial meltdown was imminent. It took several decades of corporate greed, governmental missteps, and an economy based on speculation and Wall Street, to cause the Collapse. The “Silly President” just happened to push it over the edge.

The hardship had many unexpected consequences including the collapse of the television, radio (much different than what we consider it today), music and oil industries. The collapse of the oil industry and it’s evolution into an international conservatorship has been widely discussed and irrelevant to this story. The Big Media collapse has direct bearing though.

Citizens attention was divided in their entertainment, communications and informational options then: between a television, telephone and radio or a computer. With meager incomes most had to choose between the two. History shows they chose computers. These bulky, desktop machines were far less elegant than our current solution, yet they offered information, communication, entertainment and productivity in one package. This primitive machine had been used to market to consumers in a 19th Century manner, with 20th Century technology. A few technology advances offered the ability for social networks to begin to crop up, all separate and distinct. Very quickly more niche networks emerged, focused on specific subjects, forms of communication, and psychographics. CGTalk, Twitter, and Ning are examples of each that I was immersed in. Very quickly the populace found they had replaced one fractured interface with another, as their attention was now divided between multiple separate “sites”.

Yet the seeds of control had been sewn. Many of these sites, oddly called “networks”, offered personalization features as well as the ability to be viewed on mobile devices. Soon a demand was met: the ability to bring all of their desired content together under a universal, personalized ID, that they could interact with on any device. Early mobile and computer companies began building customized devices receiving customized information. Soon behavioral targeting was giving users information they wanted before they asked for it. Advertisers couldn’t bridge the gap. Most companies were still selling generic products using mass marketing tactics. The people demanded better. They had the power to make demands. It was easier fir a mom & pop operation to deliver customized goods, promoting them with customized messaging, easier than large companies. Product and Services industries as well as their advertisers couldn’t compete on such a micro-level. This signaled the end of marketing as it had been for decades.

Early social media proponents recognized early on that talking to one was better than shouting at a million. Advertisers and companies, in their desperation finally began to listen. An entire generation of marketers and advertisers was displaced. Their seats were filled by social media evangelists managing hundreds of non-employee brand evangelists. These weren’t just mouthpieces, they weren’t even paid! They were brand fans. It was the pyramid management system. One SoMe evangelist would invite brand loyalists, even competitive brand loyalist to try products and report on them. These loyalists in turn were followed by thousands, who, in turn, influenced millions of others.

Many companies during this time abandoned the strategy when they received negative feedback. The smart ones began to see this as positive input. It wasn’t long before companies were creating custom products for their loyalists. It was expensive. This zoo drove the desire from all consumers to have personalized products. Advertisers soon got in the act, creating customized messaging. Consumers had long given up the idea of privacy or anonymity online. Their tracked behavior, purchase history, financial background, resume, even family info now fed shared databases from which technology evolved to serve advertising unique to every recipient.

It seems odd, in this day and age, that a single add would be the basis of an entire product campaign. Teens in college, sports fans in bars, even the few that still work in offices, share their commercials as a bag of identity, as unique as a fingerprint. Just today my grand kids and I were laughing over our implant OS updates from Apple. I’m still on 10.4.2!

Who knows how personalization will effect us in the future. If I have to spend 4 hours on an airship to visit my grandkids on the West Coast, I’d like a seat that knows I have a bad back!

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What Defines a TV Hit (to the networks)

Posted on July 31, 2008. Filed under: ABC, broadcast, MediaPost, Michael Durwin, NBC, Sci Fi Channel, tv ad | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

In a recent post on MediaPost’s TV Watch, entitled ‘Mad Men’ A Hit? Try  Whopping TWO Million Viewers, author Wayne Friedman discusses the success of AMC’s Mad Men. The drama, based on a 1960’s Madison Avenue advertising agency and it’s creative director (who makes me jealous with his afternoon scotch and big budgets) just premiered it’s season two opener to an audience of 2 million. Friedman compares the show to The Sopranos’ 13 million viewers and The Closer’s 8 million. He doesn’t discuss the ridiculous viewership of reality shows such as American Idol or Big Three programs such as Desperate Housewives, whose ratings I’m sure, eclipse those of Mad Men. His article wonders just what constitutes a success. In his mind this is a huge success, if only by AMC’s standards. I completely agree. However, there is anothr angle to be taken:

The kinds of ratings such as those for Sopranos and Desperate Housewives are going to be increasingly hard to come by. ONLY 2 million may seem small compared to the Sopranos or reality programming like American Idol, but, regardless of what network they’re on, the days of national hits or shows with global appeal (such as I Love Lucy and ER) are rapidly coming to a close.

While the networks may blame the Internet for declining viewership, which certainly plays a part, they’ve also done it to themselves. There is just too much niche programming. And that’s a good thing. A program with a more niche appeal makes for a more loyal, if smaller, audience. If you’re smart enough to target your ads appropriately to that audience, you’ll get better conversion. The Sci Fi Channel is a great example. While viewing the season opener for their original series Eureka, I found 50-75% of the ads were sci-fi themed.

Hopefully networks and advertisers are getting this and we won’t have to lose quality shows like Carnivale and Journeyman.

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Earache My Eye

Posted on July 20, 2007. Filed under: 80s movies, 90s movies, Bose, Boston, Bruce Willis, Cambridge Soundworks, Die Hard, DVD, indie films, movie marketing, movie promotion, movie sound, movie trailer, movies, OnDemand, Robin Williams, sound editing, Toni Collete, tv ad, tv remote |

Dear Hollywood,
When I view the credits at the end of your movies I’m impressed on the number of people working on the film. One thing I wonder about though is the sound crew. Are they really necessary? From the perpective of a rabid movie watcher it seems like they’ve been severely underutilized. I recently watched the Robin Williams, Toni Collete film Night Listener. A good movie by all accounts. I enjoyed watching it. I did not, however, enjoy listening to it. 

Because I’m a bit of a multimedia geek, I have my tuner plugged into an amp powering a set of Cambridge Soundworks speakers and a pair of 80’s Bose home theater speakers as well as using my built in tv speakers.

This set up means I can control my tv speakers with one remote and have another for my stereo system. During the Night Listener I found my self on the couch playing Wyatt Earp. I had a control in each hand. I had to increase the volume to hear dialogue and decrease it every time excitable music or a loud truck came on the screen.

This isn’t the first instance of this I’ve run into. I could complain for days that network commercials and station IDs are considerably louder than their shows. I’m in marketing, I know why they do it. I also understand that networks can control volume levels in commercials and their own station IDs but not in the movies they broadcast. These films are in the hands of the producers just as DVDs and OnDemand features are.

Why then must I double fist all of the movies I watch? I know that directors and producers want to make an impact with loud noises to create a more dynamic movie. I get it. But does their need to be such a contrast between quiet moments and action sequences? In a Die Hard movie, it’s all loud. I can make one adjustment and enjoy the movie. But try watching a drama with some dynamics… it goes from whisper to nuclear blast.

Not only am I in advertising but I’m also a motion graphics artist and animator as well as a long time musician. I understand audio dynamics. I understand dynamics in a story. I understand that using audio or music in particular to enhance scenes is important. What I don’t understand is why it has to be SO dynamic.

I’ve been looking online for a compressor that will work with my setup to reduce the level jumps. I wish I didn’t have to spend hundreds of additional dollars on top of my cable, pay-per-view and DVD costs to be able to enjoy a movie in my home. So, Hollywood, could you either stop editing sound like a bad stock chart or send me a compressor? 

Thanks,
Avid Movie Watcher

p.s. If you want to hear it done right, try some movies from the 90s and previous.

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Good TV: Good bye or a Bad Buy

Posted on June 29, 2007. Filed under: 50 Cent, advertising, Apple, Battlestar Galactica, blog, Boston, Britney Spears, broadcast, Cat Deeley, CDs, Chris Isaac, Debbie Allen, Heroes, Jessi, Lauren, Mary Murphy, Michael Durwin, NBC, Nigel Lythgoe, NIN, Nine Inch Nails, NSYNC, Pasha, Sci Fi Channel, So You Think You Can Dance, Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, The X-Files, Tori Amos, tv ad, User Generated Content |

Tonight was a night of goodbyes. Many of us said goodbye to Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip before we even got to know the characters. I’ve commented elsewhere on NBC’s decision to cancel this fabulous show. I don’t get it.
Another how with a goodbye was So You Think You Can Dance. My wife got me into this show and I’m a bit hooked. It’s your basic competition like American Idol or Top Chef without the nasty behavior. Dancers are paired off in couples and perform a different type of dance each week. The public is allowed to vote and the bottom 3 couples each have to dance solos to stay in the competition. Judges choose one male and one female to drop from the competition based on their solo performance. Last week, just prior to her performance Jessi collapsed and was taken to the hospital. Her partner Pasha dances with his instructor’s assistant. Because Jessi missed her performance she must automatically dance a solo along with those in the bottom 3. Follow me so far? Turns out she was fine, some heart trouble due to dehydration.
Every show opens with the entire cast doing a routine. So Jessi performs in this routine. Then, so the audience, can see how Jessi and Pasha’s dance should have looked, they perform their number. Then all of the bottom 6 dancers, 3 couples do their solo, in addition to Jessi’s 3rd dance of the night.
Now, I’m no dance expert but it is clear to see who has a better performance. The judges tell all 4 female dancers that they were sub par, singling out Lauren for taking 15 seconds out of her 30 second routine to walk onto the stage and take her jacket off before dancing. Then Nigel abruptly tells Jessi she’s out. No explaination whatsoever, no feedback and apparently it was not a unanymous decision. I’m interested to know who wanted to keep her. My guess is Debbie Allen, dancing instructor extraordinaire. It was a 2-1 vote. I’m guessing that Nigel, the show’s producer and his employee Mary voted to kick her off to save themselves from liability.

You might wonder what the hell I’m doing talking about areality show about dancing, on Fox no less and Studio 60. The two have something in common. The networks made a mistake and will pay for it.

I’m usually someone who is very biased against the music industry. I think they waste too many of our airwaves shoving talentless hip hop thugs and pop princesses down our throat with cotton candy crap they we won’t remember past their two hits. But for every half dozen Britneys and 50s their are artists with substance like NIN or Tori Amos. Artists like these are hardly everyone’s cup of tea. Compared to someone like NSYNC they have a relatively small following. Unlike NSYNC and other flash in th epan bands they have a loyal following. I’m not talking about screaming fans that have riots outside hotel rooms, but fans that will continue to buy their music for decades. One hit wonders subsidize the cost of keeping artists like Chris Isaac who consistently puts out great, but not chart topping records.

If the music industry followed the TV model, all you’d have is one hit wonders and the hoodlum of the week. You’d see one, maybe two records and that’s it. You might even just hear a single and never see an album release.

There was a time when the networks would keep a show on long enough for it to come into it’s own. If Star Trek: The Next Generation was put on the air today, it would be lucky to last the season. It took years for that show to mature and to generate a large audience, but once it did, the momentum was enough to support several movies and 3 more series.

That’s not to say that every show should be on for 7-10 years. Another one of my favorites, Battlestar Galactica, despite being a sci-fi show, has shown amazing writing and character development. Like very early NYPD Blue in space. It started with a mini series to see if there was enough interest, then launched into a full-fledged series. Season 3 finished recently. Season 4 will be coming, if rumors serve, in late 2007. This will include a spin-off prequal 2 hour tv movie, then back to the original storyline for 22 episodes rather than the usual 13. If these last bits of information aren’t strange enough, the show also announced that this would be the last season. Shutting a show down after 4 seasons isn’ odd. What is odd is that the show is at the top of it’s game. The producers merely felt that, rather than drag the show on, lose it’s stars and viewers like the X-Files, they would take an extended break and wrap the series up with a bang.

But this is far out of the ordinairy for networks. Some shows barely make it through the first season before they are axed. Networks don’t dont nurture shows any longer. They shove them out of the nest. If the show flies right away, such as Heroes, they’ll let it go on. If it doexn’t attract the key demographic within a few weeks it’s the axe.

What they are missing though is that as consumers/viewers become more fragmented and more demanding, with more choices, neworks will find that they have fewer and fewer shows that have global appeal. They, like other businesses, will find that they’ll need to cater to ever more, yet smaller groups who will expect the same quality. What that means is more money per viewer. Networks won’t have a choice, the people are in charge now and if networks don’t get that, they’re going to be in trouble. There are alot of other distractions out there besides TV.

This brings me back to Studio 60 and So You Think You Can Dance. NBC had a great show right out of the box. Granted it didn’t appeal to everyone, but it did appeal to a good sized niche market that weren’t avid TV watchers, that were somewhat older, more affluent. Sounds like a good crowd to sell commercials too huh? Obviously it didn’t sound good enough to NBC. Besides outcries and petitions, it will be hard to judge how taking away that audiences favorite show will effect NBC.

So You Think You Can Dance might not be so lucky. Viewers were supposed to help choose the winner, but were left out of last night’s choice. I think there will be a major viewership change because of this. You can’t tell viewers that they are responsible for picking the bottom 3 and then have the judges through a fan favorite under the buss unceremoniously without expecting a backlash. I hope someone makes the numbers public on this one.

Enough TV talk from me. Chances are all I’ll be doing for the rest of the summer is watching Battlestar Galactica reruns on my iPhone. I’m off to line up at my local Boston Apple store at lunch time today. Wish me luck.

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Failure to Launch (Correctly)

Posted on April 4, 2007. Filed under: ABC, advertising, American Express, blog, Boston, broadcast, Chia Pet, consumer marketing, Kate Beckinsale, Lost, Michael Durwin, movie promotion, movie trailer, new media, OnDemand, Sony Pictures, tv ad, Vacancy, viral marketing, YouTube |

Vacancy Poster

I just saw a preview for the new movie Vacancy. Kate Beckinsale is in it so of course I’ll see it, when it comes to OnDemand. The trailer was interesting enough, mostly because Kate Beckinsale was in it, but I was most intrigued by a bit of text at the end of the trailer under the In Theaters…
The text gave a number: 1-888-VACANCY. So of course, being the marketing/tech geek that I am, I ran to my phone to give the number a call. 1-888-982-2262(9) for those who can’t stand dialing by letter. The extra 9 is moot, but necessary to spell the title. First, the number flashed so fast that I thought it said 1-800.. I got the Alliance Data Help Desk. Obviously the wrong place. I rewound my DVR and saw that it was 1-888. I called. Nothing. I just got a ring then a disconnect. I tried several times with the same result.
I did try again the next night (just a few minutes ago) and finally got through. There is a very creepy message with a few options; 0 for operator, 1 to hear specials and 2 to make reservations. The operator was a bad voice mail, 1 talked about slashing prices and 2 asked me to leave a number and hit pound for them to get back to me.
So first things first. When you run a commercial with a phone number attached for more information, make sure the number works and the system can handle the estimated amount of calls you expect. Even the people who sell Chia Pet know that. Next, make it worth my while! If I, as a consumer, are willing to make the effort and take on the expense of chewing up my minutes to interact with your marketing, make sure I’m going to get something out of it. A chance to have dinner with Kate Beckinsale would be a nice start, but even a chance to sign up for advanced screenings or unlock special features on the web site.
This promotion reminds me of the one American Express ran with Lost. They gave a special URL to a landing page with esupposedly exclusive content. Wrong! To begin with, once you hit the site it said nothing would be available until the next day. Great way to lose 75% of your audience. Then, when the content was available, it wasn’t exclusive, at least not to the show. It was merely clips from that episode. You could get that on ABC.com any time you wanted, or YouTube for that matter.
In all I think it’s great that companies are trying to take advantage of new media and new strategies online. But, when they do run a promotion like this, the only way it is going to be effective is if something engaging is going to be offered and for promotions like this that have the potential to reach millions, make sure it works!
Oh yeah, make sure it includes Kate Beckinsale!

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