Registration is available here. Also, note there is a pre-conference MIT Communications Forum free and open to the public on Thursday, Nov. 8.
At the two-day conference, each morning will be spent discussing key issues faced by media producers, marketers, and audiences alike, at the heart of the futures of entertainment. Each afternoon, we will look into how some of those issues are manifesting themselves in specific media industries.
More information will be released regularly from @futuresof on Twitter.
Also, in anticipation of FOE6, we are finally archiving the video from Transmedia Hollywood 3 here at the FOE site. Transmedia Hollywood is our sister event, held annually in the spring at the USC or UCLA campus. A description of Transmedia Hollywood and the videos can be found below.
Transmedia Hollywood 3: Rethinking Creative Relations
As transmedia models become more central to the ways that the entertainment industry operates, the result has been some dramatic shifts within production culture, shifts in the ways labor gets organized, in how productions get financed and distributed, in the relations between media industries, and in the locations from which creative decisions are being made.
This year’s Transmedia, Hollywood examines the ways that transmedia approaches are forcing the media industry to reconsider old production logics and practices, paving the way for new kinds of creative output. Our hope is to capture these transitions by bringing together established players from mainstream media industries and independent producers trying new routes to the market. We also hope to bring a global perspective to the conversation, looking closely at the ways transmedia operates in a range of different creative economies and how these different imperatives result in different understandings of what transmedia can contribute to the storytelling process – for traditional Hollywood, the global media industries, and for all the independent media-makers who are taking up the challenge to reinvent traditional media-making for a “connected” audience of collaborators.
Many of Hollywood’s entrenched business and creative practices remain deeply mired in the past, weighed down by rigid hierarchies, interlocking bureaucracies, and institutionalized gatekeepers (e.g. the corporate executives, agents, managers, and lawyers). In this volatile moment of crisis and opportunity, as Hollywood shifts from an analog to a digital industry, one which embraces collaboration, collectivity, and compelling uses of social media, a number of powerful independent voices have emerged. These include high-profile transmedia production companies such as Jeff Gomez’s Starlight Runner Entertainment as well as less well-funded and well-staffed solo artists who are coming together virtually from various locations across the globe. What these top-down and bottom-up developments have in common is a desire to buck tradition and to help invent the future of entertainment. One of the issues we hope to address today is the social, cultural, and industrial impact of these new forms of international collaboration and mixtures of old and new work cultures.
Another topic is the future of independent film. Will creative commons replace copyright? Will crowdsourcing replace the antiquated foreign sales model? Will the guilds be able to protect the rights of digital laborers who work for peanuts? What about audiences who work for free? Given that most people today spend the bulk of their leisure time online, why aren’t independent artists going online and connecting with their community before committing their hard-earned dollars on a speculative project designed for the smallest group of people imaginable – those that frequent art-house theaters?
Fearing obsolescence in the near future, many of Hollywood’s traditional studios and networks are looking increasingly to outsiders – often from Silicon Valley or Madison Avenue – to teach these old dogs some new tricks. Many current studio and network executives are overseeing in-house agencies, whose names – Sony Interactive Imageworks, NBC Digital, and Disney Interactive Media Group – are meant to describe their cutting-edge activities and differentiate themselves from Hollywood’s old guard.
Creating media in the digital age is “nice work if you can get it,” according to labor scholar Andrew Ross in a recent book of the same name. Frequently situated in park-like “campuses,” many of these new, experimental companies and divisions are hiring large numbers of next generation workers, offering them attractive amenities ranging from coffee bars to well-prepared organic food to basketball courts. However, even though these perks help to humanize the workplace, several labor scholars (e.g. Andrew Ross, Mark Deuze, Rosalind Gill) see them as glittering distractions, obscuring a looming problem on the horizon – a new workforce of “temps, freelancers, adjuncts, and migrants.”
While the analog model still dominates in Hollywood, the digital hand-writing is on the wall; therefore, the labor guilds, lawyers, and agent/managers must intervene to find ways to restore the eroding power/leverage of creators. In addition, shouldn’t the guilds be mindful of the new generation of digital laborers working inside these in-house agencies? What about the creative talent that emerges from Madison Avenue ad agencies like Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, makers of the Asylum 626 first-person horror experience for Doritos; or Grey’s Advertising, makers of the Behind the Still collective campaign for Canon? Google has not only put the networks’ 30-second ad to shame using Adword, but its Creative Labs has taken marketing to new aesthetic heights with its breathtaking Johnny Cash [collective] Project. Furthermore, Google’s evocative Parisian Love campaign reminds us just how intimately intertwined our real and virtual lives have become.
Shouldn’t Hollywood take note that many of its most powerful writers, directors, and producers are starting to embrace transmedia in direct and meaningful ways by inviting artists from the worlds of comic books, gaming, and web design to collaborate? These collaborations enhance the storytelling and aesthetic worlds tenfold, enriching “worlds” as diverse as The Dark Knight, The Avengers, and cable’s The Walking Dead. Hopefully, this conference will leave all of us with a broader understanding of what it means to be a media maker today – by revealing new and expansive ways for artists to collaborate with Hollywood media managers, audiences, advertisers, members of the tech culture, and with one another.
Once the dominant player in the content industry, Hollywood today is having to look as far away as Silicon Valley and Madison Avenue for collaborators in the 2.0 space.
Moderator: Denise Mann, UCLA
Nick Childs, Executive Creative Director, Fleishman Hillard
Jennifer Holt, co-Director, Media Industries Project, UCSB
Lee Hunter, Global Head of Marketing, YouTube
Jordan Levin, CEO, Generate
In countries with strong state support for media production, alternative forms of transmedia are taking shape. How has transmedia fit within the effort of nation-states to promote and expand their creative economies?
Moderator: Laurie Baird, Strategic Consultant – Media and Entertainment at Georgia Tech Institute for People and Technology.
Jesse Albert, Producer & Consultant in Film, Television, Digital Media, Live Events & Branded Content
Morgan Bouchet, Vice-President, Transmedia and Social Media, Content Division, Orange
Christy Dena, Director, Universe Creation 101
Sara DIamond, President, Ontario College of Art and Design University
Mauricio Mota, Chief Storytelling Officer, Co-founder of The Alchemists
A new generation of media makers are taking art out of the rarefied world of crumbling art-house theaters, museums, and galleries and putting it back in the hands of the masses, creating immersive, interactive, and collaborative works of transmedia entertainment, made for and by the people who enjoy it most.
Ted Hope, Producer/Partner/Founder, Double Hope Films
Sheila C. Murphy, Associate Professor, University of Michigan
By many accounts, the comics industry is failing. Yet, comics have never played a more central role in the entertainment industry, seeding more and more film and television franchises. What advantages does audience-tested content bring to other media? What do the producers owe to those die-hard fans as they translate comic book mythology to screen? And why have so many TV series expanded their narrative through graphic novels in recent years?
Moderator: Geoffrey Long, Lead Narrative Producer for the Narrative Design Team at Microsoft Studios.
Katherine Keller, Culture Vultures Editrix at Sequential Tart
Joe LeFavi, Quixotic Transmedia
Mike Richardson, President, Dark Horse Comics
Mark Verheiden, Writer (Falling Skies, Heroes)
Mary Vogt, Costume Designer (Rise Of The Silver Surfer, Men In Black)
The marketing industry has been whipped into a frenzy by a 17-year-old Canadian pop star. Justin Bieber has been hailed as Master of the Twitterverse while most brands are still trying to figure out what a Twitterverse is. A quick tour of Google yields pages and pages on social media marketing a la Bieber, creating Bieber-based marketing strategies, and adulations of Justin Bieber as an "Internet Marketing Guru." While many of these articles contain not entirely un-useful platitudes along the lines of "listen to your customers" and "respond to your fans," the fact is that brands simply shouldn't try to out-Bieber Bieber.
When Fans Become Advertisers: Smallville Becomes Legendary
When we hear that fans are rallying support behind a favorite television series, we might imagine the letter writing campaign in the late 1960s which kept Star Trek on the air; we might imagine fans of Jericho sending crates of peanuts to network executives; we might even picture fans of Chuck organizing a large scale "buycot," getting people to purchase foot long sandwiches at Subways to show their enthusiasm for the series. What we probably do not picture is fans raising the money to support and air their own commercial paying tribute to the star of their favorite series. So, I was impressed when I received this press release the other week:
Smallville fans have funded a professionally-filmed tribute commercial for the CW leading lady Allison Mack and her tv character, Chloe Sullivan, to air this Spring in Los Angeles before this season concludes. Starring on Smallville since 2001, Ms. Mack has gained a large and devoted fan base as one of the CW's most beloved stars. For the completion of her 9th year on the series, Smallville fans decided to celebrate Allison Mack and her tv character, Chloe Sullivan, with a commercial project entitled Legendary. Scripted and funded entirely by fans, this first of its kind tribute ad was filmed in Los Angeles in late February. In the capable hands of the director, Jon Michael Kondrath, cast and crew created a tribute ad focusing on who Chloe Sullivan is and what she means to Smallville fans. The ad highlights milestones in Chloe Sullivan's journey from her introduction as a high school student in Smallville to being hired at the Daily Planet as well as becoming Clark Kent's confidante
I wanted to know more of the story behind this project and reached out to Maggie Bridger, who is one of the organizers, to learn more about how fans have been able to mount such an ambitious undertaking and to explore with her what it's implications might be for future forms of fan activism.
Why We Should Care About Retrans Part II: Battles for the TV Audience
This is the second installment in a series on TV retransmission fees. The introduction ran yesterday. In brief Disney, WABC's parent company demanded a per-subscriber retransmission fee from New York area cable provider, Cablevision. Cablevision thought the fee was too much. A messy public battle ensued and WABC disappeared from Cablevision at midnight on Sunday, March 7, night before the Oscars. If you want to learn more about retrans in general, check out this great article from Broadcasting & Cable.
WABC and Cablevision had already been engaged in a nasty fight to win the hearts and minds of Cablevision subscribers before WABC went black at midnight on March 7. ABC and Cablevision each ran a series of ads blasting the other. Check out the two ads below. Both are propaganda its best and most manipulative, but they each present a very different picture of why audiences should care about TV and the retrans battle.
Innovating the Medium for Transmedia: The Case Study of Valve's "Portal"
A sequel to the smash hit PC video game, Portal, is coming in 2010. Portal, produced by Valve, was released in 2007 in The Orange Box, for PC, Xbox 360, and PS3. The unique gameplay and interaction with the game's environment brought Portal to immediate popularity among gaming communities.
Over the past week or so, Valve took an interesting transmedial approach to announce Portal 2.
A few weeks ago I attended C3 affiliate Grant McCracken's Chief Culture Officer Boot Camp in New York. The boot camp was a day long session on McCracken's new book Chief Culture Officer, which you should definitely check out.
C3 White Paper: More Than Money Can Buy: Locating Value in Spreadable Media
The next installment of our 2009 C3 white paper releases.
My white paper extends the work I began with If It Doesn't Spread, it's Dead in 2008. It digs deeper into how the social principles that shape the flow "free" goods and services online shape concepts of value.
Through theoretical analysis and practical case studies, the paper:
Explains why "free" things aren't really free, and the social contracts that regulate these exchanges
Outlines the key differences between socially-driven exchanges and market-driven ones, with an eye towards how to develop online monetization models that can bridge the two systems.
Breaks down examples of best (and worst) practices
Proposes general principles for understanding online communities and socially-motivated content creators, and how to build business models around their activities.
Sunday night, to the praise of advertising and marketing professionals and all those who fall under Alterian's Social Engagement Index. I was preoccupied with making sure the make-shift stadium seating in my loft wasn't in danger of collapsing to catch it during the game, but the next morning I watched it on YouTube. Then I watched it again.
Google's Parisian Love is everything that people have been saying: remarkable in potency of its message and the simplicity of its delivery, startlingly efficient in conveying a multitude of themes and features, and narratively delightful. But it is also a beautifully concise argument for the need to understand culture -- and not just trends and technologies -- in advertising.
Trends are surface patterns that can be viewed from a distance. Culture is the all the reasons underneath them, the complex structures and formations on the ocean floor shaped from countless years of symbolic debris and sediment that dictate which way the waves go. Identifying trends is just the first (and crucial) step towards understanding culture.
Streaming Sports: Superbowls, Olympics, and Online Video
If you live in America, you probably did not miss out on the constant chatter about the Superbowl this past weekend, whether you were paying attention to the football or the commercials. Nevertheless, you might not have watched the actual event -- like myself, who was on a bus from New York to Boston throughout the duration of the pre-, in-, and post-game periods. However, I followed the by-the-moment hype of the sport and the advertisements on my phone's Twitter client, and the morning after I caught up on the game highlights and commercials (rated and organized by social media addicts via services like BrandBowl 2010).
Even though the Bowl lasted at least 4 hours, I feel like I didn't miss much after spending about 40 minutes rewatching -- for no fee -- game highlights and the Bowl's funnier commercials. Watching this content via the Web is not something I could have done a few years ago. The potentials of online video have created an environment in which I don't need to own a television. I can simply flip to NFL.com to watch a 10-minute recap of the best plays while spending the time it takes to wait through NFL.com's ads watching the previous day's commercials on Hulu's 2010 AdZone. I can even jump over to the Discovery Channel's website to watch the annual Puppy Bowl.
However, I still need to own a television set to watch everything. What gives? I thought this was the Age of the Internet, where all content would be beamed to my computer screen through my Apple TV (no, I don't actually own one). The situation for most television shows at the moment is that I can see most episodes online at some point in time, until they are removed (producers need to make some money off DVD sales, and online ad revenues are still nowhere comparable to those of television ads). But sports events are pretty hard to come by for free online. Occasionally we will find a hub of clips (eg., NFL.com), or we can subscribe to a subscription service which grants access to high-quality streams (eg., MLB.com).
Why? Well, while most networks are feeling the heat, sports are still bringing in all the viewers.
A few weeks ago I saw Up in the Air, the new film directed by Jason Reitman. It's a great movie, worthy of the hype it's been getting, but I was most intrigued not by the acting or the topical themes, but by the very obvious product placement from Hilton hotels and American Airlines.
In fact, Hilton and American are more than just product placements in Up in the Air. According to a recent article in Advertising Age, Hilton and American Airlines are integrated-marketing partners for the film. This allows the film to promote the brands and vice versa: both Hilton and American are currently running sweepstakes related to the film and Up in the Air's website has a prominent section devoted to its partners.
Participation and Crowd Control: Stephen King's Under the Dome promotional puzzle
In build-up to the release of his much anticipated new novel, Under the Dome, Stephen King's UK publishers Hodder & Stoughton have launched what they're calling "the biggest ever game of literary hide-and-seek." For the game, fans across the UK are enlisted to help both hide and find the 5,196 excerpts that makes up the 335,114 word novel both online and in the real world. The found pieces are then posted to Stephenking.co.uk, where people can take a crack at piecing all the parts together.
While the initial description of the project reminded me of Nick Montfort and Scott Rettberg's Implementation -- a novel that was distributed across the globe on a series of stickers that was then reassembled online -- the commercial promotional focus of the Stephen King effort seems to have elements intended to control and curb certain types of participation even as it hopes to incite fan engagement and interactivity.
Collaboration or Competition: Levi's Go Forth campaign
Levi's recently launched a new ARG-style scavenger hunt to promote deeper involvement with their brand mythology. The story centers around the last will and testament of Grayson Ozias IV, a fabled friend of Nathan Strauss who disappeared mysteriously into the wilderness with $100,000, which in turn is the grand prize for the game.
While the game and story themselves seem like a fairly straight-forward multi-platform scavenger hunt -- a three-tiered system of challenges, quizzes, and puzzles that will eventually identify 100 finalists that will compete for the grand prize -- the nature of the grand prize caught my eye. While it's certainly not the first of it's kind of offer a large cash reward as an incentive to participate (Mind Candy's Perplex City memorably offered 100,000GBP to their winner) , the Levi's campaign does represent a rising trend in contest-focused efforts.
District 9 (Part One): Can a Bench Be a Transmedia Extension?
Yesterday, Daniel wrote Part 1 of an article (International Development Enterprises India: Can a Mobile Cinema Truck be a Transmedia Extension?) relating his personal impressions and applications of a recent post written by Henry over at Confessions of an Aca-Fan. Henry provides a comprehensive introduction to the wildly-successful marketing strategy conceived by the production staff of Neill Blomkamp's recent film, District 9. Benches, bus stops, and phone booths plastered in "propaganda" -- ultimately a marketing scheme for the film -- were scattered throughout major U.S. cities this summer before the release of the movie and seemed to impress (or confuse) enough people into buying a movie ticket. In case you didn't get the chance to pop over to Henry's blog to peruse the article, we've reproduced it in full after the jump (you can also visit Henry's blog to read Part 2).
Selling Out on YouTube: vloggers weigh in on brand integration online
Recently, a string of prominent vloggers on YouTube have been having a conversation about advertising, product promotion, and the notion of 'selling out'. This was triggered by their experiences with various companies who courted them to help promote their products amongst their viewers and community and generated a lot of great conversation around how to intergrate brands into their videos.
The first video was one by UK vlogger Alex Day (nerimon), who called on vloggers to discuss the topic of "selling out" after turning down an offer from Sanyo for a free camera and 1000GBP (~1700 USD) in exchange for sticking a 15-second spot in one of his videos:
Throughout the week we'll continue posting our recaps of the wonderfully intense Media in Transition 6 Conference that just took place here at MIT. On Saturday I had the pleasure of moderating the "New Media Business Models" panel. with participation. Goran Bolin, professor in the Department of Media & Communication Studies at Södertörn University in Stockholm and Leif Dahlberg, who teaches media and literature in the School of Computer Science and Communication at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, were our panelists.
Throughout the week we'll continue posting our recaps of the wonderfully intense Media in Transition 6 Conference that just took place here at MIT. On Saturday I had the pleasure of moderating the "New Media Business Models" panel. with participation. Goran Bolin, professor in the Department of Media & Communication Studies at Sodertorn University in Stockholm and Leif Dahlberg, who teaches media and literature in the School of Computer Science and Communication at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, were our panelists.
Branding in Bahia: camarote T-shirts and Spreadable media made (literally) material
For details about how Carnival works in Bahia, please refer to Ana Domb's post.
It's fitting that we're closing in on the end of our Spreadable Media white paper series on the blog just as Ana and I begin to discuss our experiences and research in Brazil, beginning with our time spent in Salvador for Carnival. In Spreadability, we propose a model of thinking about media brands and properties as not only consumer products, but as symbolic goods that circulate and thrive due to the adaptability and customizability of their social value. That is, media is spread when we can make personal and social use of it.
In addition to being an unparallel social and cultural event, it was evident from the 500% hotel mark-ups and tightly and intricately produced events that Carnival is also very much an industry, especially in Salvador. And much of that industry has to do with event-based advertising and sponsorship. Thus, advertising at Carnival serves as a provocative example of precisely this hybrid social/commericial space, as Ana suggested in her post with the notion of "brand syncretism," in which brands provide rich materials for cultural expression and the articulation of community or loose social affiliations.
FOE3 Liveblog: Session 1 -- Consumption, Value and Worth
First full panel of the day, with liveblogging services courtesy of CMS Graduate student Lana Swartz and CMS/C3 Alumni Sam Ford.
Liveblogger's Note: Hello, dear reader, I did the best I could to make this coherent, but now I need to eat foods.
HJ: This panel is really intended to extend the conversation, continuing to lay out the core vocabulary that was developed in earlier remarks
PANELIST INTRODUCTIONS Rishi Dean - VP Visible Measures, working on metrics of the consumption of video content and advertising. Finds more about more that it's less about the technology and more about the dynamics of the medium and then working on how to leverage those dynamics
Anita Elberse - prof at Harvard Business School, media entertainment - media and entertainment industries - invited here likely because of an article on the Long Tail and why it might not be correct
Anne White - VP of programming Premiere Retail Networks - met Henry at at 5D conference last month, in charge of visualizing the future of advertising for Minority Report, who and what should be advertised in the future and placing it into the film, multimedia and branding projects, putting video everywhere and annoying people by targeting it directly to them. creative, but very strategic,
Renee Ann Richardson - doctoral student at HBS, working on status and brand status and authenticity, looks at what happens when there are counterfeits. Previously worked in marketing and advertising at Leo Burnett and LVMH
In my final piece this afternoon regarding product placement, I wanted to provide some excerpts from my research on the subject of acceptable and unacceptable placement. This project started as my Master's thesis work (see original submitted version here--today is the one year anniversary of my thesis defens...ahem...consultation), and I have continued editing the manuscript, eyeing eventual publication. Let me know if you have any thoughts, queries, or disagreements.
Product Placement in As the World Turns
In my manuscript chapter entitled "Not So Nice 'n Easy," I wrote about an example from As the World Turns, in which a longtime character, Margo Hughes, notices gray in her hair. Hughes, one of the senior officers of the local police station, talks to her mother-in-law about it at the police station and gets a recommendation to use Nice 'n Easy, which she does. Later, in the same episode, we hear how satisfied she is with the results...
While there was some attempt to use the Nice 'n Easy product integration for humor, viewers and columnists did not find the disruptive audio references to the hair product amusing in the least.
Product Placement: C3's Work on Implicit Contracts and Reverse Placement
I think product placement and good television can co-exist in cases where the product doesn't get in the way of the text. It should be a utility to further the story, first and foremost, or to add realism to the drama, not a way to insert commercials into the text. If it provides some of the latter, great for business, but the $$$ deal can't be put first, at least if companies don't want to annoy their audiences.
However, as I wrote about in my thesis work, the worst that can happen is visual combined with reference, unless it is done in an ironic way (and that only works in rare form, so marketers don't think you can just pull an out by being funny with the brand and then laughing all the way to the bank).
C3 Alum Alec Austin did a significant amount of work while he was here looking into the history of product placement and what makes product placement look particularly good or bad. For one of the internal studies for the Consortium, entitled Selling Creatively: Product Placement in the New Media Landscape, Alec writes about the long history of product placement in American television, the problem with industry and critics alike pretending as if product placement is new considering its central place on radio and in early television (i.e. the Texaco men, the origin of "soap operas," etc.), and the need for a more nuanced way to understand what successful product placement would look like.
In trying to catch up on my reading this week, I noticed that C3 Consulting Researcher Grant McCracken continues his look at product placement done poorly over at FX, this time writing about a conversation about buying a GMC as part of the dialogue of the show.
Grant first writes about a character in The Riches driving a GMC car, noting that GMC both appears throughout the show and is advertised at several points during commercial breaks. He says, "I don't like product placement, as I have argued here, but as long as we TIVO through the ads this is perhaps forgivable."
However, it is the insertion of a pitch about the GMC into dialogue that becomes the blatant offender here. Grant writes:
Holy ****. This may very well be the most egregious example of commercial interference ever registered in our culture. Recall that my original objection to FX was that they put an ad for one of their shows in the corner of the screen for the duration of an episode. I thought this was a little much. But to put a sales pitch in the middle of the dramatic action, and to reduce a dramatic genius like Minnie Driver to a product pitcher, this is insufferable.
Grant ends with a call to action, wondering how the audience can discourage such blatant pitching in the middle of a show and questioning what commercial force might be held responsible for such a deal.
As Henry Jenkins mentioned briefly in his post earlier today, the podcast from the colloquium event hosted by the Convergence Culture Consortium back in February is now available online. That event, entitled "Viral Media--Hows and Whys," featured C3 Consulting Researcher Shenja van der Graaf hosting Mike Rubenstein from The Barbarian Group, who was one of our guest speakers at Futures of Entertainment 2, and Fanista's Natalie Lent, a Harvard alum who I first met at FoE2.
A few days ago, Nielsen released a report where they estimated that 58 million Americans had seen advertising on their phones in the last month. Even though no one would debate that's a lot of people, it represents 23%, less than a quarter, of subscribers in the U.S.
And that number might be a little high.
According to Nielsen's site, the findings were based on a survey of 22,000 people who were "active mobile data users who used at least one non-voice mobile service in the fourth quarter," suggesting that the respondents may be more open to or better able to receive advertising in a variety of formats than the average subscriber.
Clearly, there is growing interest in mobile as an advertising channel, but the study found that just 10% of respondents thought that "advertising on their mobile device was acceptable."
Crossing Over: Viral Marketing and Alternate Reality Games (2 of 2)
Five Key Components of Viral Marketing and ARGs
You can certainly have a viral marketing campaign without an ARG, but I've been thinking that leveraging the common elements of viral marketing with the concepts behind an ARG while executing the campaign could really engage audiences and create significant buzz in the popular press, especially when the field is becoming more crowded and the ideas less novel.
There seem to be five key components shared by successful viral marketing and ARGs:
Crossing Over: Viral Marketing and Alternate Reality Games (1 of 2)
One of the things I enjoy about working with C3 is that you actually get to see many of the concepts and tools that we study applied in practice. How I discovered a new ARG, Find the Lost Ring, made me think about four common elements of viral marketing and alternate reality games (ARGs) - two things I've been thinking about of late - and how these concepts can be used together to build a franchise or a brand.
In a post earlier today, I began a comparison between the Super Bowl and the Oscars and the difference in emphasis of advertisements for each. I wanted to continue that discussion here.
While I referenced some fundamental differences between the two events and their place in American culture, I think the other part of the hype problem can be changed.
Even though two major brands, Dove and MasterCard, incorporated opportunities for interaction in their advertising through a UGC contest where viewers could vote and the announcement of a new promotional contest, I realized I'd never heard of either initiative before.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how advertising rates and viewership for the Super Bowl have changed over time, and mused a little bit on how to draw viewers into the ads during other major telecasts. Watching Sunday's broadcast of the 80th Academy Awards, even though I'm very interested in advertising, I realized that I really wasn't thinking about, or watching for, the commercials. I asked my friends why we don't look at Oscar ads as such a big deal. Everyone shrugged.
Transparency and Viral Media--Notes from the CMS/C3 Colloquium
The Viral Media--Hows and Whys colloquium event I wrote about in my previous post earlier tonight featured a discussion of a few issues that are of particular interest of me with regard to the issues I've been writing about here on the C3 blog over the past several months.
During the panel, Natalie Lent brought up issues of transparency and authenticity when it comes to promoting word of mouth as an advocate. I've written a few posts recently about transparency and what I see as its great importance in that, despite being a buzzword, it still seems to be primarily undervalued as an essential component of online presence for many companies. See a couple of the anecdotes I shared regarding transparency here and here.
Tonight, we hosted an event in conjunction with our parent academic program, the Program in Comparative Media Studies, here at MIT, dealing with viral media. For those of you who follow the blog regularly, you know that we're doing a fair bit of research within the Consortium right now about this concept of "viral," and some anecdotes from that research have made their way here on the blog. This CMS colloquium event also flowed out of that work.
The event was hosted by C3 Consulting Researcher Shenja van der Graaf (see her bio here), who is a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society here in Cambridge at Harvard Law School and who works with the London School of Economics, moderating a discussion between two practitioners working in the digital space who incorporate tactics that are often labeled as "viral."
Pulling Out the Crystal Ball: Is Streaming the Way of the Future? (2 of 2)
In my previous post, I said, "How prevalent streaming becomes in relation to other methods (DVD, VOD, broadcast, downloads) will ultimately depend on the collective movement of five interdependent forces: content creators (including writers), technological change, cable companies, advertisers and audiences." While I looked at the first of those forces--content creators--in that post earlier today, I wanted to elaborate on each of the other four aspects I mentioned as well.
Let's face it, most people still watch television on their TV, and moving content from your computer to the television screen isn't exactly simple at the moment. There are definitely options, but they aren't obvious, simple, or convenient for most people (myself included). They also require high-speed internet connections, relatively new televisions, relatively new computers, and the know-how to set them up.
Pulling Out the Crystal Ball: Is Streaming the Way of the Future? (1 of 2)
There are a lot of lingering questions following the writer's strike. Will TV audiences return? How will networks recoup the lost revenue of the last three months? Will TV meet the same fate as newspapers and see advertisers move to greener new media pastures? Could NBC's reaction be the beginning of the end for the fall premiere season and the up fronts?
These are all interesting questions, but one sentence in this Washington Post article caught my attention Sunday afternoon, referring to the contentious and complicated issue of writers' payment for streaming content online: "[t]he guild, in turn, held fast, arguing that writers had to share in the profits of what may become the preeminent way to view filmed entertainment."
I think this leads to the most interesting question of all. Will streaming episodes online become the primary way that people view television content? And, perhaps equally as important, will that be a viable way for networks and producers to monetize content? I would argue that the shift is is not, as some suggest, a foregone conclusion.
Watching for the Ads: Consumer Culture, Engagement and the Super Bowl (2 of 2)
In my previous post on advertising and the Super Bowl, I observed that household share has been flat for this major American cultural event since the late 1990s, but the actual number of viewers has increased almost every year. I wanted to share some more insight with you regarding the data from Super Bowls throughout history.
CPMs for Super Bowl Ads have been climbing, especially since the late 1990s.
More people are watching the Super Bowl, but CPMs (the cost of reaching one thousand viewers) have been growing, in nominal and real terms, quite rapidly since the late 1970s (before cable and the Internet) and took off in the late 1990s.
Watching for the Ads: Consumer Culture, Engagement and the Super Bowl (1 of 2)
Perhaps because I didn't grow up in the U.S., and definitely because I am interested in television and advertising, I am absolutely fascinated by the Super Bowl.
It's a major sporting and cultural event in this country, complete with the urban legend, social elements (plans almost take on the importance of NYE in some circles), and consumerism that marks any holiday.
Consumer culture is alive and well in the Super Bowl. Americans spent an estimated $9.5 billion on related expenses this year, acquiring about 2.4 million HDTVs, according to a report in Cynopsis Digital.
After my daily intake of As the World Turns yesterday afternoon, I saw a curious ad, one that prompted me to write this morning.
First of all, I'm one of those timeshifters who doesn't watch the ads...It takes my hour of soap a day down to 30-some minutes, and it gives my wife and I something routine to watch on the DVR while we're having dinner. Generally, as the show ends, and we get a couple of preview teasers from the next episode, I hit stop and delete.
We got a new "all-in-one" remote over the weekend, so it look me a little longer than usual to stop and delete the episode, and I heard a commercial that sounded vaguely familiar. "Six weeks ago, Bob slipped into a coma. Ooh! Now, he's fine, and Chris is the one with a headache." At first, and only half-listening, I thought it was a bizarre start to the commercial, but then I realized that they were talking about Dr. Bob Hughes and his son, Dr. Chris Hughes, characters on ATWT.
The tagline? In that same amount of time, you could have lowered your cholesterol by 4 percent by eating Cheerios.
The theory is that Friday Night Lights just hasn't grown a bigger audience because most people have never watched it. More than most shows, it does seem that I don't find people peripherally familiar with it; the people I talk to who have seen it absolutely love it, and everyone else says they have never watched. The show feels real in a way that few primetime shows have, and there's one element in particular that FNL does better than any other show on television: product placement and integration.
The Applebee's integration into FNL is the best use of product integration I've ever seen. The restaurant is a prominent part of the story at many points, as one of the key characters works as a waitress there and it's the de facto place to stop in town for a nicer meal, if players or their parents aren't going to the local burger shop or the "Alamo Freeze." Actually, the "Alamo Freeze" is a Dairy Queen, and you can easily tell that's the case, complete with partial shots of the Dairy Queen sign and Blizzards on the menu. My understanding is that it is even filmed at a Dairy Queen in Austin, Texas, but that they've chosen to make it a localized restaurant instead.
Even as television and other media forms struggle to quantitatively understand audiences as anything other than a mass of passive eyeballs, there is an increasing awareness among marketers that connecting with a brand is an active process not just for advertisers but for consumers as well. One of the ways this approach manifests itself is the movement away from traditional commercials and sponsorships and the movement toward a much different approach: branded services.
It's a concept that perhaps sounds novel and yet not all that surprising at all. Built off the backs of various goodwill and public relations initiatives that have long been a part of marketing brands, these newest moves are to offer services and experiences to potential consumers that in some way help promote the overarching brand.
TV Sponsorship Model Becoming Increasingly Prevalent
Earlier today, I wrote about the new Live with Regis and Kelly promotion with Walgreens for a 3D episode on Halloween. In that case, Walgreens was not planned to circumvent the usual advertising for the show but rather to help promote and provide the glasses for 3D viewing for that special event. In many other cases, though, a sponsorship model increasingly means limited advertising for a show.
The latest to get some attention for moving toward a sponsorship model is Mad Men, the AMC series actually focusing on the advertising industry. The season finale of the critical hit show will be commercial-free branded as being brought to us by DirecTV.
As high-definitiion becomes increasingly ubiquitous, the new frontier of experimentation continues to be 3D TV. Whle sports organizations and networks have been the predominant experimenters with 3D technology and television content, the latest tinkerer looking to add a dimension to his show is one that American daytime audiences might know well: the shy TV producer at the sidelines, Michael Gelman.
Gelman is the not-so-behind-the-scenes executive producer of Live with Regis and Kelly, the daytime talk show featuring longtime TV personality Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa, a daytime TV star in multiple genres. The 3D experiment will be featured as a stunt for Halloween. As longtime viewers of Live will know, Halloween has long been a featured episode on the show, stretching back to the days that it was Kathy Lee Gifford instead of Kelly Ripa.
This is more than just an experiment with 3D technology, though: it is also an experiment in sponsorship, as the special 3D Halloween episode will be brought to viewers by Walgreens pharmacy. As soon as the episode was planned, Disney-ABC went forward to find a sponsor willing to take part in playing 3D to the home viewing audience.
VOD's Business Model: Need for Advertiser Leadership?
Recently, I was reading a piece from MediaPost by Lydia Loizides, a friend of the Consortium's. Lydia was talking about video-on-demand and some of the problems inherent with the current deployment of VOD, particularly the myriad ways in which VOD advertising has been capitalized on so little.
She points out all the ways in which VOD needs to be revolutionized as a business and calls on the advertisers to be the one to make this happen, since they will drive the VOD business model as it matures. Lydia, who is VP of the new media division at Paradigm, writes, "I have been following VoD technology for close to ten years now, and I can honestly say that while the advances we have made in deployment should be applauded, the lack of technological enhancements that have been developed and adopted in order to grow this into a true revenue-generating business should be admonished."
You know we are in a phase of experimental marketing when audiences start debating whether or not something was meant to be an advertisement, or whether it was just an error.
The debate, of course, can be good or bad: when an ad runs consecutively, back-to-back, I've often found that it annoys consumers, at least from anecdotal evidence of hearing others talk when it happens, or conversations I've seen take place online. But I saw a new one a little while back.
I was reminded of it when I was going back to watch parts of a wrestling show from the end of August. It was Friday Night Smackdown, World Wrestling Entertainment's show on the CW Network, for Aug. 31. When the show first came on, I noticed something peculiar every time there was a black screen: a Wendy's watermark.
Discovery/Starcom Study Finds HD Ads Sigificantly More Successful
A new study that's been making its rounds finds that high-definition advertising content, at this stage, is a much more successful way to reach audiences.
The study, which was conducted in correlation with the upfront deal struck between the Discovery HD Theater channel and Starcom USA, found a lot of interesting points: that recall of brands was three times higher for HD users as compared to those watching commercials in standard-definition; that advertising was considered more enjoyable in HD; and that the "intent-to-purchase" was 55 percent higher comparing high-definition ads to standard-definition ads. The study looked at SD and HD viewers of Discovery programming and their ad recall rates.
The latest news coming out about an online series ties into writing we've been doing here at the Convergence Culture Consortium about online video, branded entertainment, and soap operas. Procter & Gamble's Tide brand will be the sponsor of a new broadband series through GoTV Networks, a 10-parter called Crescent Heights.
The series, written by Mike Martineau of Rescue Me fame (see this post relating to Jason Mittell's writing about the FX series and how he feels it serves as a hypermasculine soap opera), will be available not just through Tide's Web site but also through mobile providers as well.
An interesting piece of self-reflection from The New York Times yesterday. For those of you who are interested in the newspaper business, or just interested readers of The Times, you may have already seen that the site has decided to release most of its archives from behind the pay wall.
I'm intrigued anytime a newspaper decides to report on itself, but this piece, by journalist Richard Perez-Pena, is particularly open about the business rationale behind the decision. Rather than try to hide behind the facade of a good-hearted wish to make the archive open to the masses of students, researchers, and interested citizens, the article highlights the real reason: making the archives available openly is simply more profitable for the Times than keeping them as gated content in a pay-per-view model.
SIGGART: Trying to Emphasize the Importance of Nimble UGC Campaigns
Last month, we got an e-mail from The Gold Group about an interesting project they had completed on behalf of SIGG Switzerland, which is an aluminum bottle manufacturer with its US offices based in Stamford, Conn., who are concerned about building their brand as being eco-conscious. The company solicited user-generated ideas, "crowdsourcing" a new design for their bottles. Based on the study, Gold wants to emphasize that the "wisdom of crowds" can generate interesting results, no matter which buzzword you use. The winning bottle design was produced and sold by the company.
A report that Jeff Greene, Executive Director of Client Services for the Gold Group, wrote, focused on the question, "Do social media outreach effects really produce word of mouth engagement? And, if they do, what are the most effective components of social media that should be incorporated into a campaign?"
Yesterday, I was walking into the lobby of Five Cambridge Center, where the Convergence Culture Consortium offices are located, when a newspaper on the front desk caught my eye. Now, the subscription to this Wall Street Journal was for one of my neighbors on another floor of the center, so I could only glance at the headline, but it involved two things of interest to me: our partner, MTV, and deodorant.
Of course, I guess deodorant is of the interest of many of the C3 readers, but I am particularly interested because of my fascination with the history of product placement, and particularly with the history of soaps and everyday items as product placement. Considering my interest in soap operas, I often emphasize the fact that this was a whole genre (or format, depending on your perspective) which was set up under the notion of product integration or branded entertainment, two phrases that have become quite the buzzwords for the industry.
Catching Up: Net Neutrality, Online Video Ads, and Nielsen
In my efforts to play a little catchup tonight with a week that has largely gotten away from me, I wanted to catch up on a few developments on stories the Consortium has followed quite regularly here on the blog.
First, there is network neutrality. The latest comes from the Justice Department, which has written to the Federal Communications Commission with official comments opposing net neutrality. While, at the time Ira Teinowitz wrote her piece for TelevisionWeek, the FCC had received almost 28,000 comments on the issue, most of which supported net neutrality being upheld, the Justice Department said that neutrality "could in fact prevent, rather than promote, optimal investment and innovation in the Internet." The comments have sparked some controversy, and it's not yet clear whether the pressure from the Justice Department will have a significant effect on the FCC's decision-making process.
YouTube Creates New Ad Models as Viacom Woes Move Forward
A little bit of interesting wrap-up on the YouTube front as well, based on some unfolding stories throughout the month. I was interested in the continuing fallout from the Viacom/Google lawsuit based around YouTube, as I've blogged about several times.
When I first wrote about the topic, I was concerned with the ways in which the community of YouTube was getting lost in the corporate structure for the business model as the lawsuit moved on, with no distinguishing between YouTube the group of users and YouTube the business. I wrote, "What's missing is the fact that YouTube is not the entity posting this content--it's the fans, fans who see quoting from these shows and sharing their favorite moments with each other as part of expressing their love for these programs." See more here, here, and here.
Geoffrey Long sent me a link not too long ago to a really interesting post from Jeffrey Zeldman, a designer and writer. The point? What he calls "externally located" content.
Really, much of what C3 writes about is "externally located content." We are interested in the ways in which technology has allowed for and new conceptions of the audience have acknowledged that viewers can make quite deep connections for and with their content, that the linking among cultural content provides much of its value.
Of course, the blogosphere is the best illustration os this viewpoint, in which value is gained simply by being able to call easy reference to a wealth of prior material. And this leads to a wide variety of content which is purposefully culturally located, fixing to particular ideas and sensibility of the time.
In trying to push forward with some much-needed updates to the blog this week, something else caught my eye: Kimberly D. Williams' in-depth article from Advertising Age on the season finale of Lonelygirl. The article is not openly available from Ad Age, but TelevisionWeek has the story available here.
Don't click on the article, though, if you don't want to read spoilers, because they give away a pretty big chunk of information on the online video series. Guess they aren't quite as sensitive to the spoiler issues we've been discussing here recently. If you missed it, see our posting from last month on the Harry Potter book spoiler controversy here and here.
Checking Out Their Alibis: Do Viewers Remember What They've Seen?
Sometimes, you have news you just really don't want to report. That's probably how Nielsen feels about its engagement panel. In short, Nielsen was interviewing folks who formerly participated as Nielsen households about their television viewing. When news started circulating about the Nielsen engagement panel earlier this month, the result was that a great number of the 918 people they had interviewed so far not only couldn't name advertising they had seen while serving as a Nielsen household but television programs as well.
According to a story from MediaPost's MediaDailyNews by Joe Mandese, only a third of those interviewed could recall a television commercial, and 21 percent of viewers could not "correctly recall" at least one TV show they had viewed. The reason it is titled "correctly" is that the interviews were then compared to their viewer data, as some of those who named a show they had watched had not--in fact--watched it, or at least not in their home on a television being monitored by Nielsen. They are going to be comparing those who claim they could remember a commercial with the commercials they actually watched from the Nielsen tracking data.
MTVN, Second-by-Second Measurement, and Accountability
A few interesting stories have came out in the past couple of weeks relating to shifting advertising structures. First, for those who love the idea of quantifying things down to the nth degree, you might be interested in the story that circulated earlier this month about MTVN's decision to break viewership down to "second-by-second" measurement.
As you all know, MTV Networks is a partner in the Convergence Culture Consortium, so we like to think that might be evidence that they are interested in reconceptualizing the way the industry works, since much of the work we do is about understanding new ways of organizing the system, new ways to tell stories, and new ways to understand, interact with, and respect viewers. Second-by-second measurements are intended to create really deep ways of understanding viewership patterns, partiuclarly during advertising breaks.
Tomorrow, Eleanor Baird will be providing an in-depth look at NBC's current repositioning of its online content, through its launch of the New Site venture in particular. I wanted to preface that earlier today by pointing toward what we've written about previously regarding New Site, as well as pointing out another new venture launched by NBC that has been getting some press lately.
That new venture is an online channel made up entirely of advertising, where the ads are not just something to support the content, but content themselves. Our partners over at Turner Broadcasting were trendsetters in this regard, with their channel focuses particularly on humorous commercials called Very Funny Ads.
As many of you know, we have been doing a significant amount of research here at the consortium recently in regard to social networking. While some of this has ben for a white paper shared internally in the consortium, our musing on social networks has appeared multiple times here on the blog in the past several months (see here, for instance).
Tied into those comments on social networking, though, are questions regarding social marketing, especially as we think about how brands co-exist in these online spaces. There are always a variety of opinions on what this means for users, what the correct balance between marketing and a lack of commercialism is, and...on the business side...what constitutes a worthwhile investment and what does not.
The Battle of the Business Models - Subscription versus Ad-Supported
Yesterday Veronis Suhler Stevenson and PQ Media released a report that predicts that internet or "alternative" ad spending will become the "leading ad medium", surpassing newspapers by 2011. There were a number of interesting findings and projections in this report, such as huge expected growth in blog, podcast and RSS advertising; growth in advertising on so-called "pure-play" sites; record communications spending in 2006 and beyond; and a slight decline in time spent with media and the consumption patterns of audiences.
However, because I am primarily interested in television networks, one finding in particular peaked my interest. The report was that audiences are "migrating away" from ad-supported media, spent less 6.8% less time with this type of product (ie. networks, newspapers) in 2006 than they did in 2001, and more 19.8% more time with products they support directly (video games, and (I presume) subscription based Internet service), while overall media usage declined in the period by about half a percent in that period.
For those who are interested in the mixing of brand planning and content distribution, brand exemplar Harley-Davidson shows once again how to make open content a meaningful part of the brand experience and to engage proselytism in the process.
It all hinges around the big bike rally in Sturgis, which--despite my uber-masculine lifestyle--I had forgotten was even coming up until a storyline on As the World Turns saw a kidnapping plot move toward Sturgis, as the kidnappers might be headed to the big bike rally.
Of course I should have remembered that this time of year equalled Sturgis from those terrible Road Wild pay-per-view wrestling events that WCW used to put on, held live from Sturgis and featuring a crowd full of bikers who both didn't pay to be there and didn't really have any product knowledge...Oh, and the 1998 Road Wild was one of the worst PPV events I've ever seen, especially with Jay Leno in the main event.
But that's a tangent. My point is that, while WCW didn't seem to get anything about Sturgis culture at all, Harley-Davidson has found another way to tap into that American cultural milestone in a way that meaningfully extends its brand.
Harley created a gadget that can be incorporated onto anyone's Web site that both featured a live feed from Sturgis, with the window branded by Harley-Davidson, as well as a variety of packaged videos from the motorcycle rally as well.
Gender and Fan Studies, Facebook, and The Death of Marketing
Over the weekend, I thought it might be helpful to point the way to a few recent posts from the blogs of some C3 Consulting Researchers and corporate partners.
First, the ninth round of Henry Jenkins' continuing Gender and Fan Studies series posted late this past week. This round features Cynthia Walker and Derek Kompare. It can be found here and here.
I continue to do a lot of thinking about virtual networks and how they are transforming social and professional relationships, as I've written about several times here on the C3 blog. For instance, see my post from back in June on personal questions on maintaining personal relationships raised by social networks.
That takes me to this interesting post from the Idea City blog from our partners over at GSD&M. This focuses on how Facebook is being heralded as the next big breakout star of online networks, based particularly on its surge of popularity since going public and away from high school and college registration.
Marketing movies was never much of a "long term" activity for movie studios, and most historically have used broadcast to quickly hype an upcoming release. It's just how things typically worked, particularly when the financial success of a film is all about the opening weekend. As the years have passed though, this approach hasn't yielded the kind of box office receipts that a studio craves. With their young, key audience harder to reach, it's interesting to see how these marketers are getting much more inventive.
This "inventiveness", in keeping with Henry's observations of fan culture, was arguably first tinkered with when Hollywood took a mediocre, kitschy movie like Snakes on a Plane and decided to work slowly on building a fan base before the movie's release. Not all agree that this movie was truly a success and it's doubtful that it will become a cult classic. But this type of fan marketing hasn't been jettisoned, and recent activity to promote The Dark Knight demonstrates what appears to be a great case study of how to apply fan marketing to the film business.
Of course it's easier with a property as perfect as this, particularly with its enormous cult following. But kudos to Warner Brothers as they incorporate unique fan marketing, and engaging alternate reality gaming techniques into its promotional mix.
Reverse Product Placement, The Simpsons, and the Value of the 7-Eleven Brand
Over the past few days, there have been a couple of interesting ideas batted around by C3 consulting researchers and alumni on a couple of issues that I thought might be of direct interest to the wider C3 readership. With all that is happening in the fan fallout from Harry Potter, the repercussions and new business deals stemming from the upfronts, and all the issues we've been covering more regularly, I thought that pointing the way toward a couple of those pieces might be beneficial.
One is an issue that I've been following from afar. I've never been an avid Simpsons viewer, although I appreciate its place in popular culture. It's not even that I have any aversion to The Simpsons, but I've just never become a regular viewer. Nevertheless, I've been paying attention to the promotion of The Simpsons Movie, both in the transformation of 7-Eleven Stores to Kwik-E Marts and in the competition for deciding which Springfield is the home of the Simpson family.
How Much Have Industry Developments Changed in the Past Year?
While thinking today about how this issue between the Writer's Guild of America and television producers seems to have been stretching on for quite a while now, I began to realize that a lot of the issues I've been covering for the Consortium since we started our blog a little under two years ago, and especially since I've been the primary contributor to the blog since last summer have not changed that much.
So, while people talk sometimes about how fast change happens, it is important to realize that the falsity that nothing is ever going to change is often countered by an equally tall tale, that things are changing extremely quickly. The truth is that industry practices, corporate infrastructure, technological lagtime, and an endless variety of factors causes everything to move slowly.
I was told by an industry executive not too long ago that the upfronts this year didn't feel that much different, as if this person were somehow disappointed. I think that's how we all feel when we realize that the new environment feels only slightly removed from yesterday's...and that's because we as human beings can only move in steps. The first cars really did resemble horseless carriages, and the first mobile phones looked quite like landline phones. Change necessarily comes one step at a time.
That being the case, I thought it might be interesting to revisit the stories that were posted here on the blog during this same week last year. You'll see a few stories that have fallen by the wayside but a few more that could quite possibly be easily plugged into this week's headlines and still seem right at home.
Cadillac/Damages Latest Example of FX Single-Sponsor Model
FX continues their interesting model of single-sponsored shows, the latest of which will be for the premiere of their newest series starring Glenn Close, Damages.
Close, coming off a heralded performance in season four of The Shield as Captain Monica Rawling, will star in a show about lawyers.
This time, the sponsor will be Cadillac, who will not only be the sole sponsor of the show and provide a commercial-free season premiere, but whose cars will also be integrated through the series.
This combination of product placement/integration with single-sponsor content is yet another hybrid of a model that seems to be fairly consist for FX season and series premieres. It seems to be a model that works well enough to continue returning to it as special events for important episodes, but we have not seen it port over to whole season deals for any FX shows of yet.
Another problem is how advertising engagement was measured. Using copy test results doesn't measure engagement, but how much people liked an ad, which is not the same thing. I've liked plenty of ads for products I don't need, don't really like, and don't buy. I have also seen a number of studies that have suggested that people may like an ad - and the copy test results may therefore be good - but that doesn't mean they will remember what the product being advertised actually was, or necessarily buy it because of their engagement in the ad.
This brings us to the sales data, which is vitally important in demonstrating that causal link. Ideally, one would track the buying patterns of the people in the study to establish a causal link between those patterns and engagement with the ad. Some qualitative data from the group would also be helpful. However, I'm not sure what sales data was used. General sales data would be extremely problematic in a model, because it would not reflect the control group from whom the original data was collected, and therefore not demonstrate a clear link between engagement and behavior.
How precisely to quantify and place a value on viewer engagement, is still, at best, an inexact science. Advertisers, networks, investors and content producers would all very much like to know what an engaged viewer is worth to them. It's a question I've personally pondered in some of my own research, at school and at work.
My usual Monday morning haze cleared when I found "What's the Value of an Engaged Viewer?" in my daily scan of Advertising Age online. I read it with eager anticipation, but walked away with more questions than answers.
The article describes the results of some new research by Omnicom Group's OMD that was presented to an Advertising Research Federation forum in June. According to the article, the research concluded "[o]ne engaged viewer is worth eight regular viewers", as "engagement with media and advertising drive sales, but it could also drive sales more than media spending levels". The study also found that factoring engagement into advertising analysis for the 3 financial services companies involved in the study increases ROI between 15-20% over models that rely on ratings. To come to these conclusions, they used a "proprietary engagement measure" to assess engagement with media and copy-test results to measure engagement with advertising.
A Look at Recent Writing from Affiliated C3 Thinkers
I wanted to point the way to some interesting posts from various Consulting Researchers with the Convergence Culture Consortium. A variety of our affiliated thinkers maintain regular blogs regarding their opinion of the latest developments in the media industries, and a wide variety of other subjects.
Henry Jenkins posted a piece on his blog last week emphasizing his own interest and respect with NBC's Heroes and his reading of a recent interview with Heroes executive producer Jesse Alexander, in which he brought up reading Jenkins' book Convergence Culture. Henry links his look at fan communities with Rob Kozinets' recent writing on wiki-media.
Jason Mittellwrites about the contest among the different cities of Springfield across the country to claim The Simpsons and to host the premiere for the upcoming Simpsons Movie. The state Mittell calls home, Vermont, won the contest.
New Industry Deals Demonstrate Shifting Media Landscape
I wanted to mention a few news stories that passed my eye over the past few days that I thought would be of particular interest to C3 researchers and readers, especially taking into account links between online initiatives and traditional television and print properties.
The news includes a new deal between TV Guide and Maven Networks for powering broadband video content for TV Guide's Web site, a cosmetic change for the brand of Court TV to the new truTV, Joost's deal with VH1 to show a sneak peek of the premiere of I Hate My 30s online first, and Bravo's deal struck to do its advertising deals minute-by-minute with Starcom USA.
TV Guide and Maven Networks.TV Guide's choice to hire the technology provider to power its broadband video on its Web site indicates an increased effort to make TV Guide a brand based on more than the print product it is most closely identified with, especially as paper guides have become all but obsolete. Find more at The Boston Business Journal.
Nielsen/NetRatings Replaces a Simplistic Model with...Another One
Nielsen is not just making changes to its television program ratings and commercial ratings systems. As I have already written about this month, Nielsen recently purchased mobile research firm Telephia, as the company looks to bolster its Nielsen Wireless Initiative for mobile content audience measurement. See more on that purchase here.
Now, Nielsen has announced that it will be changing the way in which it measures the popularity of Web sites. We here at C3 are gearing up for a year of talking about the stickiness model in terms of Web traffic and how it is, in many ways, still fixed in prior ways of thinking. Nielsen does not agree, or else it sees value in keeping a system as close to the current one as it can find.
Their shift is going from measuring the popularity of a Web site from total number of page views to one that measures instead time spent. The change has particularly been attributed to the rising popularity of online video, which might keep a viewer on a particular page for quite a while instead of clicking through an increasing number of links.
The measure will be of "total sessions" and "total minutes," for the new Nielsen/NetRatings.
Prom Queen and LonelyGirl15: Spinoffs and Product Integration
A couple of interesting news notes surrounding Web-only series that I thought I would pass along this weekend. Two of the most talked-about online Webisode series is the grassroots popularity of LonelyGirl15 and the promotion-driven Prom Queen.
The two series have both made interesting new moves in the past week, both worth highlighting.
For Prom Queen, the Michael Eisner-produced show will soon be launching into a spinofff series entitled Prom Queen: Summer Heat, which will start in August and run for three weeks in a series of 15 two-minute episodes. The idea will be to pick up the story following the prom night culmination of the narrative by following the lead characters to Mexico during their summer.
One news item from this past week which I neglected to note yet here on the C3 site was the latest news on Nielsen commercial ratings, which revealed that some shows' commercial ratings, when adding in DVR viewers for three days after, actually rated higher than the initial live rating for the show itself.
Case in point was The Office. In the last week of April, the NBC sitcom obtained a live rating of 3.11. The commercial rating for live plus three days on DVR was 3.36. Obviously, the Office rating for live plus three days was substantially higher for the programming, but the spin this data takes on it makes a pretty blunt point: people still watch the commercials on DVR for a variety of reasons, and networks are now going to try and make new arguments for the inclusion of this DVR data.
The other day, I was driving down the road here in Cambridge, when an advertisement came on touting a car dealership. It caught my ear because it was one of those negative campaigns I've written about before.
As I wrote back in March, these are "anti-yourself" campaigns or "reverse psychology marketing," one of the most famous of which is "I Hate Steven Singer."
Visible World's Partnership with Tremor Expands Ad Content into Online Platforms
An interesting new deal was signed this week that could have some continued effects on the ways in which online advertising is created.
Visible World, a company known for working with major cable systems to be able to insert targeted advertisements that can be changed more easily. In other words, advertisements can be modified for temporality or a particular audience in ways not possible through traditional means of buying ad time.
The company wants to expand its reach more firming into the online space, and it hopes to do so by forming a partnership with Tremor Media, an online advertising group. The plan is to bring their targeted ad technology to the Internet by creating advertisements that can target specific groups. Les Luchter with OnlineMediaDaily touts that targeted advertising will "expand online and down to the sub-household, individual browser level."
CW and MediaVest Plan for Series with No Traditional Ad Content
One of the most interesting stories stemming from the upfronts in TelevisionWeek was Jon Lafayette's piece on The CW selling a show with no traditional advertising in it.
First, for those who haven't heard, the CW Network will be launching a show on Sunday nights called CW Now which will cover new trends in popular culture and consumer culture. The show will not include any traditional 30-second spots. Instead, giant media agency MediaVest has purchased complete sponsorship of the series and will air integrated branded content rather than traditional commercials.
Understanding Celebrity Endorsements and Meaning Transfer
Perusing through April's edition of The Journal of Popular Culture, I found a particularly interesting piece by UT-Austin Assistant Professor of Advertising Sejung Marina Choi and Michigan State University advertising professor Nora J. Rifton focusing on the celebrity in American television advertising.
Their work is based on the definition of the celebrity spokesperson set forth in C3 Affiliated Faculty Grant McCracken's 1989 Journal of Consumer Research piece "Who Is the Celebrity Endorser? Cultural Foundations of the Endorsement Process," in which he he writes that a celebrity spokesperson is "any individual who enjoys public recognition and who uses this recognition on behalf of a consumer good by appearing with it in an advertisement" (p. 310).
This essay's premise is that, while work has already done on the effectiveness of these celebrity endorsements, there are still questions about "what constitutes those images and how the deconstructed elements influence advertising effects (p. 305). By focusing on Grant's work about how meaning can transfer from the celebrity to the product in the endorsement process, the study's raison d'etre is to create a quantifiable scale to measure the image of the celebrity and to understand how the image affects credibility.
Several of the researchers in C3 have just finished or are in the process of finishing their Master's thesis projects, which means many of us now have the prospect of graduation staring us in the face. Here at C3, we have had the great opportunity to not only work academically as researchers while graduate students but also to interact with the media industry and work with folks at our corporate partners on a variety of initiatives, meaning that a majority of the people coming out of C3 are interested in maintaining a relationship to both academia and the media industry moving forward.
But, as job hunts loom on the horizons and as colleagues start to land jobs elsewhere, we all have to consider what it means, in both the industry and academia, to come away with expertise in issues such as understanding fan communities, transmedia storytelling, new advertising models, and the variety of other focuses that C3 research has taken.
AOL/Third Screen, Microsoft/aQuantive, and Nielsen Commercial Ratings
Some interesting news has arisen from various sectors of the media industry this week regarding measurement systems and advertising models, including AOL's purchase of Third Screen Media, the Microsoft purchase of aQuantivem and changes in the commercial ratings system from Nielsen.
As AOL moves forward in expanding its presence as an online video provider, with a variety of channels and content, the company has also looked toward the mobile market for expanding its reach. Via Daisy Whitney at TelevisionWeek, I read that AOL purchased Third Screen Media on Tuesday.
Third Screen Media is a company which acts as the intermediary for placing ads on mobile platforms, working in the space in the middle of content providers, service providers, and advertisers, in a booming mobile market.
"If you grab them young, you get their business for life." This is the truism of the ad agency that was recently cited in Lorne Manly's review of the current plight of TV Land. In the process he brings up an issue that I am facing on a regular basis as I research soaps.
I have written many times about how the power of soap operas lie in their transgenerational attraction, yet these shows have become undervalued and, what's worse, mismanaged because of an industry insistence on focusing only on 18-49 females. I've written before about how a cross-generational appeal could revitalize soaps (look here and here), and this is a foundation of the Master's thesis research I've done at MIT over the past two years. By the way, that thesis is now finished, and I am interested in distributing it throughout the fan community. If anyone is interested in a copy, please e-mail me at email@example.com.
The issue TV Land faces is that it draws more people than its fellow MTVN network MTV at night, yet its average viewer is over the age of 50, and the network is purposefully targeting the baby boomers who are now outside the 18-49 bracket that TV focuses on. The network is hoping to turn the industry on its ear because, as a more-than-10-year veteran of cable by now, it is going to focus on selling a demographic that television currently does not cater toward.
Viral Marketing and the Blogosphere: Perspectives from The Convergence Newsletter
The Convergence Newsletter out of the Newsplex at the University of South Carolina almost always has some interesting food for thought about some aspect of convergence in newsrooms, participatory journalism, or a shifting media landscape. The most current issue, which just came out a few days ago, focuses on a variety of presentations from the 2007 Broadcast Education Association Convention in Las Vegas, which took place in mid-April.
In particular, I was interested in the work of three gentlemen from Florida State University, Steven McClung, Patrick O'Donnell, and Mike Tomaszeski, who were looking at the rise of the blogosphere and the importance of viral marketing and niche target audiences on the Web. They are looking particularly at how blogs promote themselves and various types of content in a sphere of literally millions of online sites, many of which receive very small readership and are aimed for a small circle of friends...or, in some cases, just written so someone can read their own writing. (Sometimes, we all feel that way...)
I haven't read a particular history of the term viral marketing, but my understanding is that viral marketing refers to word-of-mouth campaigns and the spreading of media among users or consumers closely akin to the proselytizing behaviors we so often write about here in the Convergence Culture Consortium.
NBC Rejects Easy Money for Short Online Video Content to Create Sustainable Business Model
Yesterday, I wrote about the new deal between ABC and Cox Communications to create new content for the VOD platform with advertising and the lack of ability to fast-forward on the viewer's part. Along with that, NBC-Universal has released new plans for advertising for online video content. In short the plan is to eliminate the practice of running longer advertising before short clips.
According to a story by Daisy Whitney with TelevisionWeek, NBCU has announced plans to air ads in front of video content for online digital video, starting in July. For full-length episodes or long excerpts, 30-second ads may run before the content begins. For short clips, advertising will be no more than 15 seconds. The idea is to try and find new business models to monetize online video without angering consumers to the point that they would rather seek the clips elsewhere...or not watch them at all.
Advertising Age's Abbey Klaassen writes that NBCU's senior VP of digital media sales Peter Naylor said, "We all intuitive know when we accept these 30s, we're aiding and abetting in the delay of the evolution."
Whitney writes, "The decision comes amidst an ongoing debate on pre-roll 15-second and 3--second spots online. Most consumers disdain such ads, especially because they can't skip over them. As a result, media companies have been exploring new forms of online video advertising."
Multiple New Advertising Models, Measurement Techniques Announced for Upfronts
According to recent news, coming out of the late-April Ad:Tech conference that took place in San Francisco, NBC is interested in creating a new measurement that it is calling "total audience measurement, or "TAM." I first read about it in Daisy Whitney's TelevisionWeek article, where she summarizes that "TAM measures the aggregate viewing of a show across live, same-day and online viewing."
She includes a variety of other plans in her article as well, including Visible World's technology that allows customized advertising based on the time and date of a program's airing and YuMe Networks' deal to sell ads across mobile TV content.
I wrote earlier today about the recent press regarding the gains shows get from counting DVR viewership, according to Nielsen's numbers.
Smallville Legends: Justice and Doom: Integrating Content and Advertising Across Multiple Media Platforms
News came out about a week-and-a-half ago as to an interesting new marketing and transmedia storytelling plan that will be launched across Warner Brothers and through the CW Network with Toyota.
John Consoli with MediaWeek reports on a marketing initiative for CW drama series Smallville which will last for five weeks across several platforms.
This marketing and storytelling initiative across platforms began with the CW episode of Smallville that aired on April 18 and will last through the show's season finale, which will air on May 17.
This cross-platform initiative is being called Smallville Legends: Justice and Doom.
The marketing part of this initiative is called a "content wrap," a model launched by CW this semester which Consoli explains is "advertiser-aligned content that takes the place of typical 30-second TV commercials during programming, targeted to appeal to specific demographic audiences." In other words, the story on the main show is supplemented by original advertiser-based content that airs during what would conventionally be commercial breaks.
However, this Toyota campaign is the first time this wrap has launched around a single advertiser across multiple media forms, driven by the online game, which relates to the final five episodes of the show this season.
CBS Forms New Division to Create Advertising Connections Among Its Platforms
Sometimes, creating an environment that helps foster a better form of storytelling and distribution is just all about the infrastructure. It's always hard to know when a corporation releases a press release about restructuring or creating a new division whether it will actually mean anything when it comes to creating new content or new business models, but it always seems reassuring nonetheless.
CBS has done a significant amount of restructuring in the past year to better position the network to operate within a "convergence culture." Take the latest announcement, for instance, from earlier this week. The network is creating CBS Connections, which will deal with sales and marketing across media platforms.
According to TelevisionWeek's Jon Lafayette, "The new unit will offer advertising opportunities combining CBS Entertainment, CBS News, CBS Interactive, CBS Sports, CBS Paramount Television, CBS Television Distribution, CSTV, Showtime, CBS Radio and CBS Outdoor."
Late last year, CBS created a new division called CBS Interactive, bringing in Quincy Smith to head the operation. Again, the idea was to create a change in infrastructure that more meaningfully acknowledged and allowed for increased digital efforts, among other intiatives. I wrote, "Smith's job will be to oversee CBS innertube, the online platform for redistribution of CBS shows and original Internet-only programming, as well as the various CBS Web sites. His job will also be to oversee the general trajectory of CBS' digital efforts and to forge partnerships for the network in expanding this area."
Commercial Ratings, Measurement Accuracy, and Engagement
Yesterday, I wrote about a discussion from the 2007 TV Upfront Summit in New York this past week, sponsored by Advertising Age and TelevisionWeek.
Today, I wanted to elaborate on another interesting round of discussions that came from that conference, specifically centering on a conversation of audience engagement, commercial ratings, and the Nielsens.
Measurement has been the major question on people's minds over the past few years, both in how accurate current measurements are and the accuracy of what is being measured. WIth the Nielsen ratings sample being considered by many as an inevitably flawed number, yet a number the industry remains reliant upon for the whole economic structure of both broadcast and cable television, questions have swirled around both ways Nielsen can better measure viewership and also around potential alternatives.
Further, others are questioning the use of measuring whether someone has their television set on or not in the first place and whether there are better ways to measure engagement that take a more qualitative look at valuing the kinds of programs that keep people more involved, favoring serialized television in its various formats, among other programming types.
Creating a System of Monetization for Digital Video
Even when viewer interest proves a new media format is driving changes in audience behaviors, the question remains how the advertising model that we have created to support video production will catch up to those consumer behaviors. Such was the case with the discussion at the 2007 TV Upfront Summit, in which professionals in the television advertising world got together to debate the future of advertising in relation to online video.
According to a story by Abbey Klaassen with Advertising Age, Merrill Lynch has estimated that about 5 percent of the television upfronts this year will be spent on digital video, a rise from 2 or 3 percent last year.
The networks, of course, emphasize that YouTube is not the answer but that there is a way to find strong models for ad-supported video on the Web. They are searching for a space which can easily port the existing advertising structure into a new media form.
Klaassen writes, "There's the question of where that money goes. While projects such as MTV Networks' Virtual Hills sounds intriguing, the jury's still out on how monetizable--at least through advertising--things such as virtual worlds are."
Xerox Touts Viral Marketing Drive with New Campaign, Leaving Some to Question What Viral Marketing Is
Viral marketing often comes with a nudge. Of course, that sometimes leaves one to question whether it's really viral marketing or not, but I digress. Representatives from Xerox sent word of an interesting ad campaign the company has been working on as of late.
There are several interesting advertising campaigns being launched these days, ones that don't just hawk a product but rather try to entertain an audience into wanting to spread the word. Now, they just have to hawk the ad campaign.
Xerox has gotten some attention for its video Extreme Offices, which focuses on an office in which something has been put in the water cooler to make the employees work at optimal speed, which leads to chaos rather than efficiency. The tag line is that there are better ways to achieve greater productivity, such as using Xerox multifunction devices which are reported to be "three times more productive than competing products on the market," according to a Xerox press release.
Follow that up with Frugal Color, a campaign which promises to "put the fun back into fundamental fiscal responsibility." Again, the key message is that Xerox's options are unbelievably cost-effective.
Google has made a major step forward in moving its adverting system into the television industry this week, through a partnership with Echostar.
Daisy Whitney with TelevisionWeek reported Monday that the company unveiled "its first foray into TV advertising via a partnership to broker ads for satellite provider Echostar that will effectively bring online measurability and accountability to TV ads for the first time."
The purported claim from Google is that their advertising services are meant to coexist with traditional forms of advertising buying but wanted to move that process more toward efficiency. According to the TVWeek story, "The advertiser pays Google and Google shares the revenue with the operator. The advertiser will only pay for impressions delivered." The spots are auctioned off, with the highest bidder winning and paying one penny more than the second highest bidder. Google will then use Echostar's ability to measure commercial viewing second-by-second to show exactly how that commercial fared, focusing on the individual commercial rather than the rating for the show it airs in conjunction with.
The Google announcement emphasizes that the new process will give viewers ads more relevant to what they want to see, make advertising more accountable for its dollars, bring more advertisers to television, and create a more efficient model overall. "With Google TV ads, the entire process is automated--from planning the campaign to uploading and serving the ad to reporting on its effectiveness."
While more accountable television advertising and real second-by-second measurement certainly sounds like an improvement on the predominant system we currently have in place, there have been a lot of valid concerns raised, including from Joe at Techdirt, who writes, "While Google may be able to give good statistics on how many people have viewed an ad, unlike with its online ad sales, it won't be in a position to give advertisers a good idea of how well their ads are turning into sales, the true measure of an ad's performance."
MTV Launching New Sponsorship Model with Integration into Content
Another interesting approach to integrating content and commercials into a new type of package is going to be offered by MTV this week, launching on Thursday. This will be an eight-week experiment in which a two-hour block, hosted by the famed Three 6 Mafia, in which short-form content will air alongside sponsor content which will be more entertainment itself than traditional 30-second spots.
According to Beth Duggan with TelevisionWeek, the content will include "digital shorts, exclusive series content, recaps, previews and unique sponsor content," fully integrating sponsorship and show.
A single sponsor will be focused on each week, with Universal Pictures sponsoring the first week by focusing on its Knocked Up film.
Yahoo! Launches into Mobile with MobiTV Deal, Increasing Cross-Platform Advertising Reach
Yahoo! is expanding its advertising reach further, thanks to a big deal announced this week with MobiTV, the mobile television service provider. Yahoo! will sell advertising for the mobile platform's video advertising sales and will include not only video ads in the deal but also text advertisements and banner ads.
The deal comes along with Yahoo!'s announcement of new mobile publisher services which will allow publishers "to increase the discovery, distribution and monetization of their content on mobile phones," as Blake Robinson with Mobile Crunch writes. Robinson provides a detailed account of each component of the suite of services, concluding that "this is a vital movement in the charge toward the independence of information. Before the Mobile Web has even really cleared the gate, Yahoo! has developed a mechanism for users to conveniently distribute and monetize their content."
The Stress Monster and Executing Creative Meaning Management in Advertising
Convergence Culture Consortium Affiliated Faculty Dr. Grant McCracken, over on his blog This Blog Sits at the, wrote a great examination of the recent Gatorade Propel 30-second spot.
For those who have not seen the ad, myself included, the commercial begins with a giant monster running through San Francisco's streets. However, the monster is a composite of a variety of objects from everyday life, including a loud television set, a screaming baby, jackhammers, taxi cabs, and a variety of other aspects of city life. The amalgamated beast eventually begins to fall apart, with various objects falling away, until it is revealed to just be a man exercising, who stops and takes a drink of his Propel water.
As Grant points out in his post, the ad draws on the idea that exercise helps one release from the stresses of everyday life, and then links Gatorade's Propel water with that stress.
Grant writes, "Meaning management sometimes goes like this. The idea is not to find a new meaning for the brand. The idea is to go after an existing meaning with new vigor and skill. In the language of marketing, the idea is to 'own' an idea that is already out there."
Grant's piece, and the Propel commercial (by the agency Elementy 79 Partners), raise two issues about the current status of the 30-second spot and about playing with existing meanings.
Ad Sale Increases Driven by Rise in Internet Sales, Top 100 Spot Sales, While Product Placement Numbers Drop
The verdict on 2006 is final, at least according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus, and it looks like the Internet and spot television in Top 100 markets were the major drivers.
The report was that advertising spending on the Internet increased 35 percent, while Internet ads in the Top 100 spot TV markets rose 9.1 percent, followed by Spanish-language television and outdoor programming, both at 8.1 percent.
According to the official press release, "Growth in a number of media remained flat or slightly down" with a list including business-to-business magazines, coupons, smaller spot TV markets, network radio, and local newspapers.
According to the study, dramas overtook situation comedies for the most appearances of "brand integrations," largely due to the growing number of dramas as compared to sitcoms on the air. According to the press release, "American Idol featured 4,086 product placements, with more occurrences than any other program, a 17% increase over 2005."
The Cereal Serial, Part IV: Visual Icons--The Kellogg Characters
The following is the fourth in a four-part serial on the world of breakfast cereals. This concluding piece in the series looks at the Kellogg's icons themselves and how they appeal to children. The first part of this series focused on the history of marketing breakfast cereals and the trickster motif among breakfast cereal icons, based on the recent article by Thomas Green, while the second part focused on the actual presentation of Kellogg's products in the grocery store. The third part presented an analysis of the various Web sites associated with Kellogg's cereal brands, including packaging which directs users to the Web site.
Since the Kellogg's company seems to try, for the most part, to avoid over-gendering any of its products, an examination of the visual icons associated with the Kellogg's products is especially illuminating. The most well known and marketed Kellogg's icons--Snap, Crackle, and Pop of Rice Krispies, Tony the Tiger of Frosted Flakes, Sunny of Raisin Bran, Toucan Sam of Fruit Loops, Dig 'Em of Sugar Smacks, Cornelius, or Corny, the rooster of Corn Flakes, Cocoa the monkey of Cocoa Krispies, and CinnaMon and Bad Apple of Apple Jacks appear to share one common characteristic--they are all male. Therefore, it appears that the accepted non-gendering of products in Kellogg's is, by default, male.
This likely reflects the lack of new Kellogg's icons. Of the products listed, only CinnaMon and Bad Apple are more recent products, while, according to the corporate Web site, Snap, Crackle, and Pop were created in 1933, Tony the Tiger in 1952, Cornelius in 1958, Toucan Sam in 1963, Sunny in 1966, and Dig 'Em in 1972. In the Kellogg's tie-in products, the majority are still male characters--Chicken Little, Batman, Scooby Doo, and Nemo--although Lilo is female, and Kellogg's markets one particular fruit snack--Princess Jewels--very explicitly gendered, with various Disney heroines from throughout its animated history on the cover of the product.
The following is the third in a four-part serial on the world of breakfast cereals. This presents an analysis of the various Web sites associated with Kellogg's cereal brands, including packaging which directs users to the Web site. The first part of this series focused on the history of marketing breakfast cereals and the trickster motif among breakfast cereal icons, based on the recent article by Thomas Green, while the second part focused on the actual presentation of Kellogg's products in the grocery store.
An attention to the "healthiness" of its products appears to be the primary way that products are marketed to parents. Many of the children's cereals include a "Breakfast Nook" section which outlines some of the healthy aspects of its various cereal lines. This content becomes a major feature, though, when we move to the online version of the Kellogg's brands. This includes a link to Kidnetic.com, an independent Web site that focuses on conveying to children from 9-14 to incorporate a healthy diet into their lifestyle. Although this is out of the age range of our study, parents may look at the site themselves or help their children navigate some of its features. Kellogg's also features several simple online games that espouse the products' nutritional features and provides all the nutritional facts and guides for parents online. The company appears very well aware that the concerns of increasingly astute parents--the consumers who still control the funding for this age group--must be addressed for the product to be successful, much as video games marketed to this age group must be. For more on this aspect of marketing video games to parents, see Carolyn Handler Miller's piece "Tackling Products for Children," part of her 2004 book Digital Storytelling: A Creator's Guide to Interactive Entertainment, available here.
The following is the second in a four-part serial on the world of breakfast cereals. This is the presentation of analysis from an afternoon spent in the Stop & Shop next to my apartment a little over a year ago, back in Fall 2005. My class with Henry Jenkins on the media industries was looking particularly at products offered to young boys, and I was interested in how Kellogg's has survived with a collection of long-term brands aimed at this demographic. The first part of this series focuses on the history of marketing breakfast cereals and the trickster motif among breakfast cereal icons, based on the recent article by Thomas Green.
Kellogg's, founded in 1906 by W.K. Kellogg, has been a staple in marketing to all age groups through developing brand identification. The Kellogg's corporation is proud of their company's history of branding, and corporate rhetoric about the early years of struggle culminate in pride with Kellogg's rising above competitors by increasing advertising budgets and creating icons for their various cereal brands. The company owns various product lines, including the Keebler brand name and all of the products under that umbrella, Pop Tarts, as well as Eggo waffles and various products affiliated with the Eggo line, including syrups and other frozen breakfast foods. The company aggressively markets its products through its in-store packaging and display, its Web site, and its use of television and print advertising, primarily through brand iconography.
I began my study of Kellogg's by acting as a consumer at my local Stop and Shop grocery store here in Boston. The cereal aisle is divided into sections vertically by brand. Then, each section is divided horizontally by a layer of generally five shelves. The top shelf is reserved for cereals one would likely only seek out to buy, the cereals that market themselves completely on being "healthy": Product 19, Kellogg's Complete Wheat Bran Flakes, All-Bran, Fruit Harvest, and Cracklin' Oat Bran, among others. The second aisle features slightly more mainstream variations of the healthy strand of cereal, such as Special K and Smart Start, and also starts to get into the cross-generational cereal brands, marketed on appeal to the whole family, such as Rice Krispies, Frosted Mini-Wheats, Raisin Bran, and the pinnacle of Kellogg's brand, Corn Flakes.
The Cereal Serial, Part I: The History of Breakfast Cereal and the Trickster Icon
This is the first in a four-part serial post on cereal. This piece stems from the research presented by Thomas Green in the February 2007 edition of The Journal of Popular Culture. Green's article, entitled "Tricksters and the Marketing of Breakfast Cereals", provides a fascinating primer on the history of cereal brands in America and how they were developed based on the philosophies of Sylvester Graham and the work of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and their Battle Creek Sanitarium.
In short, moral reformers believed that the American diet needed to be changed. Problems from sexual aggression and masturbation to whiskey consumption were linked to a diet high in American meats, and the pork-heavy breakfast rituals of Americans was one of the targets. Enter Graham (whose legacy stays with us through the cracker which bears his name) and later Sister Ellen G. White with the church, whose call for a dietary reform led to the work of John Harvey Kellogg and C.W. Post, whose names persist as two of the most well known cereal companies (Kellogg's brother Will is actually the founder of Kellogg's). This really interesting history that Green summarizes quickly helps set the stage for his essay, which focuses on the history of the trickster character in marketing campaigns and how that legacy coincides and conflicts with the earlier, spiritual health-based campaigns around cereal.
Green looks at the origins and various types of trickster tales and then applies them to the icons of breakfast cereals, from the Trix Rabbit to Barney Rubble's relationship with Fred in the commercials to Lucky of Lucky Charms fame. He writes, "Cereal tricksters always either compete for the cereal, or bestow it on the consumer. Motifs of disguise, transformation, defiance of authority, taboo violation, and uncontrolled hunger/enthusiasm are common" (61). Green finds that the main ways in which the modern trickster tales of cereal icons are linked to the Battle Creek marketing backgrounds is through "the manic enthusiasm for the mysticized qualities of the specific brand in question" (61).
Two Interesting Ad Campaigns: Ink Is It and I Hate Steven Singer
I wanted to write briefly this morning about two ad campaigns that have been brought to my attention that I thought were both very creative in their own way. Both operate through storytelling, display quite a bit of creativity, and, while I don't know enough about either campaign and its reception to declare them a success, I certainly think they SOUND headed in the right direction, Kodak's InkIsIt and a longstanding example, the jewelry store campaign "I Hate Steven Singer."
First is the Kodak "Ink Is It" campaign, from the same guys who brought us Mr. McMahon's Ass (not the actual body part, but the cartoon), Animax Entertainment. Actually, I didn't really hear of this new ad campaign virally, as Animax contacted C3 to let us know about the new project based on our interest in their bizarre transmedia cartoon work for the WWE.
In this case, the campaign focuses on the KODAK EASYSHARE, for which black ink cartridges are only $9.99 and 5-ink color is only $14.99.
Not Just "Merely Entertained": Information Gathering and Ad Recall for The Weather Channel
Some interesting news this week comes from The Weather Channel, who are claiming that they have higher advertising recall than other networks, based on a study that found higher ad recall for the network, when compared to Home and Garden Television and the USA Network.
Jon Lafayette with TelevisionWeek summarizes the take of the Weather Channel's VP of national ad sales, Liz Janneman, as being that "they're also paying attention because they've tuned in to get specific information, rather than be merely entertained."
Interesting point about push versus pull, in that people often go to the Weather Channel to specifically watch for a set period of time in trying to gather specific information. This says something about the activeness of the viewer (although it does discount all of those people I know who leave their TV set on the Weather Channel for no apparent reason, like my dad).
According to the study, by ASI through a commission from media buyer OMD, ads on the Weather Channel had a 19 percent recall, compared to 14 percent for both USA and HGTV.
Part of that has also been attributed to the fact that Weather Channel has more commercial breaks in the hour that are much shorter in duration, meaning it is not as easy to skip the ads.
Telephia/Third Screen Media Deal to Expand Mobile Marketing Research
According to news announced at the beginning of the week, the mobile research group Telephia will be partnering with Third Screen Media, a mobile phone advertising firm, with plans to provide information for potential marketers for the mobile platform.
Telephia will apply its research questions of user preferences and interests and make that information available to Third Screen's clients, putting together information for advertisers to better plan mobile media ad campaigns or transmedia/cross-platform campaigns that include a mobile component.
Cartoon Network/Boston Fiasco and the Connotations of Labeling It a "Hoax"
What is there to say about the nuttiness that has been happening around Boston and Cambridge in regard to the Turner Broadcasting marketing ploy through marketing firm Interference that was misinterpreted as a series of terrorist bombs?
The promotional stunt bombed all right, especially due to the perhaps disproportionate response to what was basically a lights show around the area. As Joe at Techdirt says, "It's safe to say that this isn't what they hoped to see happen." But, bottom line: while I think it was an ill-conceived concept not to have alerted someone that the devices would be placed there and perhaps this response should have been considered, this was an unfortunate misunderstanding and the reaction from the Massachusetts government and the news media made the situation much worse in fear-mongering and now in trying to turn this into an intentional hoax rather than a misunderstanding.
Immediately, I want to clarify, for the people who have e-mailed. Yes, Turner Broadcasting is one of the partners of the Convergence Culture Consortium. And, no, we had nothing to do with advising, planning, or anything else with the situation yesterday. I know...surprising, since MIT has long been home to the hoax. But I haven't even talked with anyone from Turner about the situation at this point, although I would like to publicly extend my sympathies for how this has all fallen out through the news media and our government's response.
The other thing to point out is just how insular the college campus would be. People started e-mailing me comments about the bomb scare during the day, and I had no clue what they were talking about. Family members called, concerned for our safety at the terror that was being described to them on the news networks. I didn't feel in any danger, since I didn't even know what was going on until about 9 or 10 that night. Guess we college folks really are removed from Boston life.
But the fact that Storrow Drive was shut down and the news stations basically interrupted all their programming to cover this great terrorist event proves both that Turner and the marketing folks probably should have thought more about the potential political ramifications of their plan and cleared it with the proper authorities beforehand to make sure this happened and also that our country has perhaps gone a little overboard in the name of homeland security and fear, "in a post-9/11 world," as the mayor said. The fact that "post-9/11 world" has become a regular phrase demonstrates the ways in which, more than five years after the attack on the World Trade Center, we have let the goals of that attack to disrupt the freedoms of American culture succeed. Find more information on what happened here.
I'm particularly interested in the response across the blogosphere to this example of marketing gone wrong. I'd say that it at least proves that ubiquity of advertising in public spaces may not be the best route for political and infrastruture realities such as these.
Choking the Golden Goose: In Advertising, Ubiquity Is the New Exclusivity?
For anyone who didn't have the chance to see last Monday's New York Times piece on the spread of advertising into every public space imaginable, it's worth checking out. The gist of the article, by Louise Story, is that advertisers are flooding public spaces with all kinds of new sales messages in an attempt to overcome the advertising clutter and to reach people in a mass number--in transit--as media platforms becoming increasingly niche.
The quote in the title came from Linda Kaplan Thaler from her ad agency, the Kaplan Thaler Group. But it seems indicative of the ignorance of the advertising industry to the idea that intrusiveness is the anti-ad. Their arguments hold up in the short-term--that even as ads annoy people, they will put the name in people's mind. And that may be true, but it doesn't do much for building long-term goodwill.
Story's article identifies both the good and unique ways advertisers are reaching people that displays innovative thinking that also doesn't get in people's way but also the immediate oversaturation by advertisers who don't seem to have any sense to quit while they are ahead. Beaming advertisements onto city sidewalks, putting advertising on barf bags, trying to brand the George Washington Bridge--I mean, really, is the industry that stupid? I have met some awfully bright minds from the ad industry, and we even have what I would consider a phenomenal group of people from GSD&M as one of our partners here at C3. None of the people I've talked to there are out to pay people to name their babies after insurance companies or brand their clients' logos on the backsides of strippers (I'm being a little cheeky here, by the way, as these are not examples that appeared in the Story...story, thankfully).
New Statistics and Initiatives Meant to Revitalize Syndicated Programming's Relationship with Affiliates, Advertisers
Syndicated content may have a stronger connection with its audience, a new piece of advocacy research finds, while syndicators are striving to find new ways to reach a majority of Americans, including using broadband video to help hook new viewers.
The week has certainly been full of news for syndicated program producers, particularly with the release of a new study from the Syndicated Network Television Association that finds that the stars of syndicated shows have a more developed connection with their viewers than stars on corresponding network television series. The survey found reports of viewers claiming a higher degree of "trust" in the stars of syndicated programming and also found that those with digital video recorders were less likely to skip commercials while watching syndicated programing and also that the shows have higher same-day viewership on DVR than network viewers, with 95 percent of adults watching a show the same day it aired, while it takes up to four days after airing for 95 percent of DVR audiences to watch network shows. The statistics were for viewers 18-49.
Replacing Viewing Fees with Advertising Leads to Huge Growth in Web, Mobile Big Brother Views in UK
Are ad-supported models becoming the definite winner in terms of mobile content? Endemol UK has reported increasing its audience for mobile video clips of Big Brother in the United Kingdom when it started making the clips advertising supported instead of pay-per-download.
If last year's generated 100,000 paid downloads, my math skills inform me that it means the show has reached the million mark for the current season with free ad-supported video clips instead.
The discussion was part of the "Mobile ++ Conference" from the NATPE in Las Vegas. Daisy Whitney with TelevisionWeek reports that the show also received a significant boost in broadband downloads, jumping to 24 million downloads of ad-supported content, as opposed to 5,000 to 10,000 downloads of clips online in 2005.
I recently wrote a newsletter piece on 'implied interactivity', i.e. decentralized forms of strategies involving the encouragement and indirect pre-structuring of user-generated content through structural properties of the media artifacts themselves.
Dirt/Pontiac Further FX Model of Sponsors for Premiere Episodes
I mentioned yesterday that I had another thought about the Dirt season premiere to mention today.
FX has yet again relied on the sponsorship model that we have discussed previously with Nip/Tuck on Dirt Tuesday night. The new weekly drama, starring Courtney Cox and focusing on the life of the editor for two popular L.A.-based tabloids, was presented commercial free with only a short message at the beginning of the end about the sponsor of the show, Pontiac, who was providing this episode without commercial interruption.
I first focused on this model for FX in September 2005, when the season premiere of Nip/Tuck was 30 minutes longer and sponsored by Sony Pictures, with the only commercial interruptions being a few previews during the show for trailers for upcoming Sony releases.
Our interest in the many changes in the media industry surrounding "convergence culture" stretches far beyond new technologies but also encompassing the shifting ways in which international popular culture content takes hold. Globalization is perhaps such an overused term that it loses some of its meaning. Further, I've had a class throughout the semester at Harvard that has examined the challenging ways that globalization is examined from an anthropological perspective, as to whether popular culture can be studied and understood by academics and also whether globalization means the homogenization of international culture, presumably at the hands of Western imperialists who are practicing that new, and perhaps even more dangerous in the long run, form of imperialism--cultural imperialism, that eventually destroys indigenous cultures at the hands of the almighty dollar.
Verizon Takes Cautious Step into Mobile Advertising
Today's New York Times features an article by Matt Richtel about the decision by Verizon Wireless to enter the mobile advertising space--albeit cautiously.
The company plans to launch mobile advertising in the new year, through banner advertisements for its mobile Internet content.
Richtel writes, "The development is a substantive and symbolic advance toward the widespread appearance of marketing messages on the smallest of screens. Advertisers have been increasing the amount they spent on mobile marketing, despite lingering questions about the effectiveness of ads on portable phones."
FTC Cracks Down on Corporate Attempts to Emulate Viral Marketing without Disclosure
On Monday, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it would be creating new regulations that any company engaging in viral marketing can no longer try to pass that interaction off as a form of grassroots--a type of action that has been called "astroturf" marketing--without making the official relationship with the company transparent.
There had not been a previous ruling from the FTC on this issue, although it has sparked a growing amount of controversy from online users after a series of situations in which companies were found to be behind a variety of what appeared to be advocacy sites promoting brands from independent fans.
According to Anny Shin with the Washington Post, "Word-of-mouth marketing can take any form of peer-to-peer communication, such as a post on a Web log, a MySpace.com page for a movie character, or the comments of a stranger on a bus."
Advertising Space in Second Life: How Brands Are Flooding to Virtual Worlds
A great piece from Laura Petrecca in last Wednesday's USA Today about Second Life and how the success of the virtual economy there is starting to drive significant business interest. We've written before about the Reuters Bureau in Second Life, as well as the Ninja Tune music channel. But this article highlights a variety of interesting ventures businesses have made into the online world.
About 5% of Second Life's total "world" now is occupied by big brand names, she says. The creeping commercialism shouldn't offend anyone, she says. Players can easily move from area to area, "so they don't have to see anything they don't want to see."
Also motivating advertisers: Second Life has attracted a tech-savvy user base with an average age of 32. That's an audience increasingly hard to reach through traditional media such as TV.
Many of you may have already ran across Louise Story's article in Monday's New York Times about the ways in which Times Square has become an important icon in viral marketing. The ads that appear in the famous Manhattan area are seen by millions of tourists but have their reach expanded even more now that publishing photos through blogs and sites like Flickr has become a more prominent activity.
The article attempts to give some cursory information about how prominent that reach can be and how far your message can travel across geographic boundaries just by making an appearance in Times Square.
Story writes that, as opposed to the ad campaigns that involve billboards, marketers are increasingly interested in "low cost, face-to-face marketing campaigns" which are more easily photographed and spread by passersby.
Ad Sale Increases Continue to be Strongest For Spanish-Language Programming, Web-Based Ads
No surprise that the continued growth in ad spending is led by continued dramatic gains in Internet revenue, as well as Spanish-language programming.
The latest figures released by Nielsen for the first three quarters of the year now list a 49.2 percent increase for now from a year ago, while Spanish-language ads are up 16.6 percent from a year ago. this is compared with a rise of 4.1 percent in ad spending for network television, while spot TV in smaller markets grew only 0.6 percent, compared to an increase of 7.4 percent in ads for the Top 100 American television markets.
Jason Mittell asks the C3 partners how we view Fair Use in our business models.
As an advertising agency, the copyright issue is pretty cut and dried for us: it's our client's copyrights; we follow their lead. We don't create much media on our own, with the exceptions of some books published by GSD&M LP, such as recently published The Amazing Faiths of Texas.
To be honest, there is surprisingly little discussion of copyright outside the realm of "Who owns it; how much do they want for it?" Few at the agency are interested in Lawrence Lessig's books. So, I think it's clear where a typical ad agency stands.
However, there are cracks, specifically around audience participation, because once you entertain the thought of having others incorporate your work into theirs, you have to figure out how to give them permission to do so. Where people tend to net out, though, is shy of a Creative Commons License. They tend to make the acceptable use an exception of "All Rights Reserved," which outlines specifically what other people can do with their content, as opposed to "Some Rights Reserved", which typically does not.
Why? I think primarily for three reasons: 1) defaulting to stringent copyright interpretation is easy, indeed; there's no questioning of your own assumptions involved; 2) doing so lessens your time with the lawyers, and 3) revolutionaries are not rewarded, so there's little incentive to do something different. This, despite that fact that audiences are changing.
Also, for copyright holders, the default answer of "No!" to reuse is easy. It doesn't take thought, and it doesn't take record keeping. Therefore, I think participatory culture will thrive in a parallel universe of Creative Commons licensed content.
Let me try answering one of Mittell's questions directly.
"Why would the industry want to restrict educational practices that primarily teach students how to consume and create the very products that they wish to sell?"
Nielsen Meeting Solidifies Plans About Commercial Ratings; Consensus on DVR Viewers?
News came out on Thursday that the battle between the networks and advertisers and their buyers over commercial ratings has seen a little headway. Nielsen announced, with more than 100 clients present at a meeting that day, that it will "make available all the data necessary for the media agencies and TV networks to create their own minute-by-minute ratings for all dayparts, including DVR playback data, for intervals of up to seven days," according to John Consoli and Anthony Crupi of MediaWeek. The data will be available on April 24, but raw data will be available for networks to analyze themselves, in the coming weeks.
Michele Greppi with TelevisionWeek points out that, while raw data will be available soon for the broadcast networks, data on cable commercials will not be made available at all until late April, and syndicated shows will not be available until late May.
The idea is to find a way to let commercial ratings be available, but such a late date allows only three weeks before the first upfront presentations, at which time networks traditionally announced their programming for the coming fall and commercial buying deals commence. Will the late release of this raw commercial ratings data not allow them to be a major factor in the haggling over next fall's commercial upfronts?
The Viral Marketing That Doesn't Build Goodwill: Spam
People are always talking about the value of viral marketing, spreading word throughout the Internet. But one thing they aren't referring to is spam. It's the lowest common denominator, advertising gone wrong, the thing that gives proponents of viral marketing a bad name..an abuse of power. But what about the free speech rights of the spammer?
We all have to deal with spam messages. Spam filters for our e-mail help. They help a lot, actually. But they also sometimes catch legitimate correspondence as well that I have to dig out of all the rest of the lint. And then there's all those people I've e-mailed over the years who have never gotten in touch with me, that I'm sure didn't respond because my e-mail got stuck in a filter as well...(Please don't ruin this dreamworld I've built for myself.)
For anyone who runs a blog, though, it's even more frustrating, perhaps. I've learned all I could ever want to know about Tramadol....If you haven't heard, his/her "life's been pretty dull recently," "mind is like a void," and he/she believes "today was a complete loss." I wish someone would give me some Tramadol for having to deal with all their spam.
Lewis Wallace with the Furthermore blog over at Wired followed up on the New York Times story from Brad Stone, who writes that "worldwide spam volumes have doubled from last year, according to Ironport, a spam filtering firm, and unsolicited junk mail now accounts for more than 9 of every 10 e-mail messages sent over the Internet."
People Might Not Hate All Advertising...Just Bad Advertising
Over at Techdirt, Mike has written an interesting short commentary about advertising that he posted in the wee hours of the morning, at least Eastern Standard Time.
The theory? "People Don't Hate Advertising; They Hate Bad, Intrusive And Annoying Advertising." He points out that Forrester Research has recently released a study that has the press surrounding it claiming that consumers hate ads because more than 50 percent of households use some kind of advertising blocker.
Mike doesn't buy into the theory that the fact that people who block ads are necessarily "anti-advertising," though, but that they are certainly against certain kind of ads that are pervasively rude. He points instead to the variety of ads that people seek out, viral marketing and Superbowl ads and the like.
Two Recent Examples of Interactive Advertising in Germany
It is not surprising to see that the excitement about participatory media usage has been spilling into advertising.
Two recent examples of brands utilizing this strategy are Hugo Boss, encouraging its (German) customers to pick a 'theme song' for their campaign from the portfolio of the British Indierock band 'The Subways', and Beck's, a German brewery, encouraging customers to design a bottle label using a simple Flash web interface.
The 'deconstructed' elements of the Becks label generator were also used in print ads where they represent an uncommon, yet familiar aesthetics for people routinely exposed to interactive media.
It is a peculiar effect that the deconstruction of the label's 'syntax', e.g. the apparent distinction between 'obligatory' and 'peripheral' elements which ensures the recognizability of the label despite all artistic 'freedom' provided by the interface, does not produce a critical stance towards the ad/label itself but, on the contrary, creates immersion because it ties in with established media practices.
It would be interesting to see some data on the 'success' of the campaign according to the criterion of interactive media exposure.
At the same time, inherently 'critical forms' of media usage potentially revolving around the campaign, e.g. a semi-public blog discussion concerning this matter, are discouraged by avoiding traditionally static, top-down strategies. This latter type of advertising, which McLuhan catchily described as „dunking entire populations in new imagery" („electric persuasion") in his „Understanding Media" in 1964 - interestingly in the chapter about weapons as media - appears to have been 'demonized' in current popular discourse.
Advertising as a 'media toy' in this respect offer a totally different, probably far more effective 'rhetoric'.
Lincoln Charter Advertiser for Gospel Music Channel's VOD Services
The Gospel Music Channel is working toward expanding its reach in cross-platform distribution, and they've found a corporate partner to help them expand into video-on-demand space: Lincoln.
The Ford Motor Company that produces all the Towncars I used to see parked in the lots surrounding Baptist churches all around Kentucky may be a good fit for gospel programming, and they are now the "charter advertiser" for the new service, as was the phrasing from Jon Lafayette with TelevisionWeek. They will be advertising for on-demand views of the Hometown Gospel series. Hometown Gospel segments will be offered on-demand, with 30-second Lincoln spots on the front and back end of each segment.
The Hometown Gospel specials are scheduled to air quarterly, with the first one debuting on the actual channel's lineup on Dec. 9. The VOD version will be made available next February.
Burger King has taken another step into the online gaming space by releasing a free Gamer Pic package which allows gamers to promote Burger King through their online userpic. To quote Joystiq:
Some may view this as a win-win situation (users get free pics, BK gets free advertising), but the BK Picture Pack also highlights a growing disappointment: there aren't enough freebie gamer pics to download. If we had our way, playing a game would unlock at least a pair of pics (additional content could still be sold); plus, achievement images (already cropped to gamer pic size) could be inserted into one's gamer card. Instead, users are eagerly downloading Burger King ads because they deviate from the pay-for-content norm.
It's worth noting that individualizing one's userpic is a common desire on Livejournal, to the point that one of the major incentives to paying for an account is being able to store 100 userpics rather than the 6 that users with free accounts are restricted to. While Burger King's move into providing gamer pics is definitely filling a void, it seems like Microsoft and its developers are missing out by not encouraging a culture of customization on Xbox Live. A limited pool of free icons and an increased cultural emphasis on having an interesting userpic could well lead to an increased demand for gamer pics, driving both purchases of icons in Live Marketplace and downloads of sponsored pic packs like that released by Burger King.
Yahoo! Leads Consortium of More Than 150 Newspapers to Bridge Print/Online Advertising
According to an Associated Press report on Yahoo! about Yahoo!, the company announced on Monday that it had reached a deal with more than 150 newspapers to sell advertisements through the company's classified online service.
Yahoo! has launched aggressively into providing services that bridge the divide between online advertising and the "traditional" advertising markets, such as television and radio and print. Coming after Google's deal to sell ads through its Web site for 50 top newspapers, the massive group of newspapers who have signed on for Yahoo!'s services is impressive and gives it a strong market lead--and significant press--about its insertion into the newspaper/online advertising market for classified ads.
The deal includes many of the top newspaper chains in the country and branches across 38 states, with the partnership beginning in December with the HotJobs service for job listings in classified ads. "Yahoo also plans on working with the consortium to provide search, content and local applications across the participating newspapers' Web sites," according to the AP story. The idea is to make it simple to generate national advertising revenue by creating a consortium through Yahoo!, rather than advertisers having to deal individually with newspapers or companies. The online career sections on each paper's site will be powered by HotJobs and co-branded by Yahoo! and each newspaper.
Steve Higgins with The Oakland Press, one of the newspapers using the service, writes, "While the initial focus of the consortium will be on employment ads, the partners plan to explore a wide variety of other Internet applications, from Web search tools to local maps and local news content."
Global Magna Not Thankful for Nielsen Commercial Ratings Compromise
One thing has been proven over the past few weeks--the tensions over the viability of the 30-second spot are being fueled into the continuing debate about commercial ratings. The industry has been at war for a while as to whether the DVR is going to be the technology that finally proves that a lot of people don't watch 30-second spots. We started writing about all this around this time last year. That was when the networks came together and claimed that the paradigm the industry has lived under for decades is as vibrant as ever.
The latest news is that Magna Global has announced that it does not support adding a new stream for average commercial minute ratings to the Nielsen data. According to Jon Lafayette's summary with TelevisionWeek, "Magna Global said it wouldn't support a compromise at live plus two days or live plus three days, which some networks and ad buyers are advocating." The tension is over whether the average commercial minute ratings would count DVR viewings after the show initially airs. The networks believe they would be greatly hurt by a plan that didn't count DVR viewing at all and felt that same-day viewing was also too narrow, while measuring viewing for seven days after was quite useless for any timely ads.
Plans for the commercial ratings were delayed in October and then again in November. This is a big battle, and neither side wants to show defeat. More importantly than that, both sides don't want to admit to the increasing lack of confidence in the whole traditional system television advertising is based around. So they're taking it out on these Nielsen ratings, in a case of deflected anger and frustration. Watching these arguments as a steam valve for the industry provides a fascinating indication as to what is going on under the surface in the current media environment.
Google Branching Traditional and Innovative Approaches to Advertising
An article by Louise Story in yesterday's New York Times provides an interesting account of Google's plans to launch further into traditional advertising to secure its footing in the advertising world.
The following is the C3 team's note from Henry Jenkins' introduction to the C3 Futures of Entertainment conference. For the conference's details, look toward its main page.
To open the conference, Henry Jenkins, the director of the Convergence Culture Consortium, gave some background information on what is being described as "convergence culture," to borrow the term from his book, that sets the stage for the various panels taking place here at Futures of Entertainment over the next two days. Also, see Steve Garfield's links over on Off on a Tangent.
Nielsen Plans to Release VOD Measurement for National Programming
Niesen's commercial ratings may be spinning its wheels, but the company is hoping to have some degree of success with the new VOD measurement service it will be rolling out mid-December. On Dec. 11, the company will begin measuring information from VOD viewing based on the same system it uses to measure national viewing from traditional broadcasting and cable networks.
Cynthia Brumfield with IP Democracy is a little dubious about how accurate VOD measurement will be, especially in these beginning phases. She writes, "The ratings service (which I can imagine will be beset by glitches galore given the vast numbers of on-demand choices) will be limited to on-demand content produced by national broadcast and cable networks." The distinction is made because there is no mechanism in place for Nielsen to measure offerings from individual cable companies or cable systems and is only measuring those nationally organized offerings that are easy to trace.
The comments on Lost Remote emphasize how much work needs to be done in the VOD measurement area, considering projections from Rentrak that more than 2 billion VOD programs will be viewed by the end of 2006.
These plans were presaged by an announcement back in August that Nielsen would begin measuring VOD for Insight Communications as part of its launching of the Nielsen On-Demand Reporting and Analytics service (NORA). At the time, I wrote:
Many still question the measurement abilities of the Nielsen ratings for regular television, but the company has been developing various initaitives to both improve their traditional ratings system and to also provide further measurement of new delivery forms.
In the meantime, with the devleopment of a Nielsen standard for on-demand content coming, it may help encourage advertisers and content providers alike to pour more content into the expanding platform, with not only the movies-on-demand products already established but also products like WWE 24/7, the on-demand wrestling subscription service offered on many major cable networks.
This is one of many new initiatives by Nielsen, driven largely by its June announcement of the shift to an A2/M2 measurement system that would better measure how much content people consume anytime, anywhere.
Will the numbers for VOD curtail the sour taste some people have in their mouths over this commercial ratings debate? I hope it will at least further drive innovation in the VOD market, where viewers are increasingly interested and where new and innovative business models may be developed. We'll see what difference the Nielsen measurements make in this platform in the coming months.
Friends with Benefit from One Tree Hill a Great Example of Transmedia Product Used for a Fundraiser
A little over a year ago, I wrote about the public service announcement for As the World Turns that was woven into the dialogue of a show. While programming was becoming more adept with making sure that viewers didn't skip ads with DVRs by working product placements into the show, this did the same with the PSA, as longtime characters Dr. Bob Hughes and his wife, Kim, had a discussion about AIDS in Africa and the need to do something about it while at the hospital, in a way that would have made it hard to skip through.
I haven't seen shows develop more of those in-dialogue PSAs in quite the same way, but One Tree Hill took it a step further earlier this year. Just as All My Children sold perfume from the show in stores and Katie Peretti's book Oakdale Confidential made it onto real bookstore shelves, a soundtrack that was organized and put together online was released in the consumer's world. And, what's better, the album--a benefit for breast cancer on the show--is an actual benefit for breast cancer as well, with a portion of the proceeds for this, the show's second soundtrack, going to breast cancer research and awareness.
The soundtrack was a joint venture for One Tree Hill and The WB Network (now merged into the CW Network), the National Breast Cancer Foundation, and sponsor Sunkist. The goal of the project, according to a press release from the National Breast Cancer Foundation, "is part of an ongoing project for awareness and early detection" to help promote breast cancer awareness to fans.
Erin McMaster with Blogcritics Magazine writes that "those who watch the show will definitely enjoy it, as the album is put together by artists who are heard, and sometimes appear as guest stars, on One Tree Hill. And unlike so many TV soundtracks out there, every track reflects the emotions and feel of One Tree Hill in such a way that it truly is a successful soundtrack."
She also points out that one of the character's clothing lines on the show, Clothes Over Bros, was really selling pink T-shirts with the Friends with Benefit logo on it as well. The promotion also included a tour of major cities.
Turner Super Deluxe a Promising Upcoming Venture for a Variety of Comedy Material
One interesting online development worth noting is a new venture by one of our partners here in the Convergence Culture Consortium, Turner Broadcasting. In the past two weeks, Turner has made headlines with its plans for a new broadband channel launched for comedy content, Super Deluxe. The project will be cross-platform, with plans to launch the content from the online broadband channel onto video-on-demand, mobile platforms (phones and portable players) and video game consoles. There are also plans to cross content from Super Deluxe into video sharing sites like MySpace and YouTube, although Turner promises to strictly monitor user-generated content on its site for potential copyright infringements.
Considering that this is one of the most ambitious broadband channel projects yet launched by a traditional cable company, I'm sure all eyes will be on Super Deluxe when it launches in January. It will join CNN Pipeline and GameTap, two other Turner broadband ventures.
Wal-Mart's Third Strike? Christmas Campaign Drawing the Ire of Parents, Anti-Wal-Mart Activists
Like a lot of people who have been blogging about issues of viral marketing, branding, and online social networking, the Wal-Mart Supercenter has provided a place for continual discussion this summer. Their latest move is being heralded as the third in a stupid line of decisions. Wal-Mart has a new initiative in which kids can look through toys on the Web, and then two Wal-Mart online characters promise to help mediate between the kids and the parents to help convince the parents to purchase the items for Christmas.
But this isn't even a chance for kids to think up their favorite toys and then have Wal-Mart bug their parents about them. No...instead, it presents kids with a series of toys and then asks them if they would like to have it or not. Every one that they say yes to becomes fodder for spamming the parents, telling them that they should buy these toys for their children.
The site features the Christmas elves Wally and Marty (clever, huh?), and parents get e-mail spam about purchasing the gifts online. As the folks at Techdirt write, this comes straight "from the still-figuring-out-this-online-stuff dept." The comments in this particular post run the gamut of popular sentiment about Wal-Mart, including the supporters and the haters. But I don't think their plan was to establish yet another source of contention about their intelligence as a marketing department. As commenter Johnny writes, when he exclaims "Wal-Mart is Teh Suck" (sic), "I'm surprised that they thought this was a good idea. But then Wal-Mart and poorly thought out marketing schemes are becoming legendary. They so very desperately want to be cool and hip when they are anything but."
The problem is that this will do nothing to inspire brand loyalty but could serve to annoy parents and certainly gives more fodder to the anti-Wal-Mart folks. Take these comments from the Daddy Daughter Duo blog from Chris Maier, who says this can be "abbeted showing corporations like wal mart that there wholesale disavowal of any ethical decency in the name of a banner Christmas sales season is revolting and could backfire" (sic).
And MySpace user "A.J. Creations" points out another major problem with the initiative, that the elves applaud every toy chosen and complain that they will be out of a job when a toy is not chosen. Not exactly the message many people feel comfortable sending children, that they have to buy EVERYTHING or these cute little characters will be sent to the unemployment line. At least they didn't insert images of Wally and Marty at the soup kitchen or panhandling after a series of "NO" votes from kids.
The difference between this type of wish list and those on Amazon or others is that this is a passive campaign where the user does not seek out the toys they want to buy but rather have everything thrown at them...far from the cute letters to Santa they run in my hometown paper every year and a campaign that I think deserves harsh criticism.
For anyone who wants to send their parents a wish list, be sure to go to Wal-Mart Toyland. You can determine what toys are "listworthy." "If you show us what you want on your wishlist, we'll send it straight off to your parents." On a rocket fueled by their e-mail address.
This may not be considered as universally offensive as the recent "Our Country, Our Truck" ad campaign that I wrote about recently, but it's a reminder of the warning I made a few weeks ago--that I am much more convinced by arguments that pick out particularly despicable advertising campaigns rather than just categorically criticizing advertising as a whole.
In full disclosure, Wal-Mart has worked with one of our partners, GSD&M, for many years, but that partnership recently ended. I have had no conversations with anyone at GSD&M about any of these P.R. and viral marketing campaigns from Wal-Mart.
After All the Debate, Commercial Ratings Once Again Delayed
Who knows when Nielsen will release its commercial ratings, with its latest announcement of another indefinite delay.
A couple of weeks ago, Nielsen anounced that it was delaying the release of its commercial ratings until Dec. 11, amidst controversy around a variety of issues, including how commercial minutes in a program would be counted and the status of VCR and DVR users.
Nielsen told its clients yesterday that it would be delaying the commercial ratings indefinitely, with no new release date currently planned. One of the continued problems, in addition to squabbling over how to count minutes that include both commercials and program time and DVR/VCR viewers, has been how to handle syndicated programming and some issues with commercial ratings for cable.
According to the news that broke yesterday, Nielsen had sent out a fresh analysis of DVR playback to clients at the beginning of the week, causing a fresh round of debate. A meeting will be held later in November for clients to further debate the issue.
Chris Thilk with AdJab points out in his sarcastic 7-step list that the chief problem is that "Nielsen says that it can measure who's watching what commercials," but "it can't." The debate remains about the three streams of viewer information Nielsen gets: those who watch shows live, those who watch them within one day of their airing, and those which watch them within seven days. Claire Atkinson with Advertising Age points out that "the data seems to suggest that most people, around 90%, have watched the ads within three days of recording a show while only 1% are watching at the seven day point. That is leading agencies to call for a fourth stream of data, maybe 'live plus three days.' Nielsen has agreed in the short term to add a fourth stream, but will only provide three when the data moves out of its test phase."
I've written before about how skeptical I am at academics and other critics who bash advertisers in a completely uncritical manner. I think it's unfortunate to lump advertisements, meant to sell goods, all into one large dishonest category. That being said, when I was interviewing a local politician back in Kentucky for the upcoming general election last week, he said of the local fiscal court that one bad apple can ruin a whole bucket, and I think the same can happen with the reputations of advertisers.
Advertising can be heavy-handed, but General Motors' newest ad campaign--"This is our country. This is our truck"--demonstrates how this can be taken to disgusting extremes. The ad invokes some of the most harrowing experiences in the history of our country, both natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and periods of social strife over issues such as civil rights, and ties them to the ups and downs of General Motors. Oh, and they call on Sept. 11, of course. At least that's the way The New York Times' David Carr and a lot of his sources from the advertising industry see it.
Carr begins his piece by writing, "The message seems to be that, even though America has been in the ditch several times during its history, it has always managed to pull itself out. And what is true for the country must be true for General Motors. It could be pointed out that Detroit and General Motors are in a ditch mostly because they drove there, ignoring global competition and consumer needs in pursuit of quarterly profits. But the back story of the disaster is obscured by the universal need to rebound."
NBC/Universal Pulls Out of Commercial Ratings from Nielsen
NBC/Universal has put another roadblock in the way of the Nielsen commercial ratings, a ratings system that they initial requested along with the other big four networks over the summer.
Just a few days ago, when it was announced that the commercial ratings were going to be delayed until December. At the time, I wrote, "I've been waiting until the November date to see how this affects discussions of advertising on American television, etc., but it looks like I'm going to have to wait a little longer, as well the television industry. Will Nielsen's commercial ratings change anything about the current television system? Will networks trust the commercial ratings? Will advertisers? The controversies that this discussion has raised so far shows the tensions currently in the industry regarding advertising and the continued vitality of the 30-second spot. I am betting that these commercial ratings will continue to be a major battlefront in this argument."
This is a battle that started back in June among the advertisers and networks, with Nielsen trying to strike common ground but ultimately dissatisfying both groups in a reach to compromise. I first wrote about commercial ratings on June 21, saying that, "If Nielsen continues with their push for active/passive viewer measurement as well, I wonder if we will eventually be able to also have attempts to measure the level of engagement people have during certain ads. We might find that particularly creative ads catch people's attention and ads placed right before a show comes back from commercial break, etc. But, even though I still question the validity of many Nielsen numbers, I think this will provide some basis for discussion." David Poltrack with CBS voiced some initial complaints about the numbers, particularly questioning the validity of DVR numbers regarding whether people skip commercials.
The US Army is currently one of the most successful brands tapping the potential of interactive media for advertising purposes. Other military formations like the Australian Airforce pursue relatively conventional strategies of game-based advertising, following the principles of viral marketing and offering free, redistributable Adobe Flash games; the British Royal Airforce followed suit, cooperating with a successful online marketing company which produced a 'remake' of the game classic Choplifter around the RAF brand.
A preliminary list of brands featured prominently in popular video games contains mostly lifestyle brands like mobile phones and soft drinks; thus, by entering in-game advertising at this stage, the US Army has the added benefit of positioning itself among mostly desirable household brands, stabilizing its intended 'image' as an integral part of society.
However, my main argument holds that in-game advertising and military simulation games not only share converging interests but also technologies.
Recently, DICE and EA were severely criticized for their modular piece of advertising software implemented into the upcoming Battlefield 2142, which allegedly was consistent with the definition of spyware. Most of the allegations, focusing on the game supposedly analyzing its users' online behavior, were apparently exaggerated although the software does use the player's IP address for providing regionally specific ads only.
Actually, the whole debate blanked out a really important aspect, namely the fact that the (proprietary?) in-game advertising code is also able to track the average duration of a player looking at a specific billboard texture. (link) Most game engines even provide built-in object-oriented functions allowing for each object or even vertex to check autonomously whether the center of its bounding box is currently being rendered in a given camera view.
According to the 'reverse engineering' of a player of the game SWAT4 using a packet dumper, this game even secretly transmits a session and gamer ID to Massive Inc., thus allowing for adequate view measuring even in multiplayer sessions.
Current military software like America's Army uses similar techniques to track player positions, e.g. in coordinated attack missions, which can e.g. be displayed as graphical patterns overlayed on the level map. These patterns can, for instance, automatically be tested for compliance with standard procedures from military textbooks. The same functionality, usually termed 'after-action review' (AAR), was ex-post implemented into the commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) game Operation Flashpoint which was then relabeled and used for training as Virtual Battlesystem 1 by the US Army. (link)
This type of convergence is enable first and foremost through increasingly compatible game engines used in military and commercial games. Massive Inc., for instance, provides a modular software package for developers to integrate into their engine that automatizes the dynamic updating of textures with the latest promotional material in the appropriate format etc.
Read against the aforementioned 'secret' functionality of its software, the tech documentation on the Massive homepage suggests a 'behind the scenes' look but in fact seems to take attention away from the really sensitive questions.
Inducing from these instances of convergence, it appears plausible to assume a symbiotic relationship between in-game advertising and military software technologies. For instance, taking up the movement tracking approach from the America's Army example, the Massive Inc. tools could be feasibly upgraded not only to preselect the type of product information shown on a billboard but also, for instance, to determine the optimal distribution of in-game billboards, branded vending machines, scattered advertising leaflets etc. according to an analysis of player movement in a given game environment.
Nielsen Commercial Ratings Delayed Among Continued Controversy
Who could blame them for wanting to delay the controversy?
The Nielsen commercial ratings are staying in the news. For those who have been following the development of commercial ratings throughout the summer, in June, the company agreed to start measuring commercial ratings to provide a more reliable indicator of how many people who watch shows also watch the commercial breaks.
It didn't take long for Nielsen measurements to be criticized, as Magna Global raised objections including the fact that the ratings system will include a full minute for any minute that had any commercial advertising in it, even if the majority of that minute was filled with program content, as well as issues with DVR and VCR viewings. Magna called for a second-by-second approach.
The Weather Channel, on the other hand, subscribed to a real minute-by-minute approach that didn't average commercial minutes per show but rather provided real data for every minute of the programming, particularly because The Weather Channel isn't as regularly divided from one show to the next as a lot of other networks are.
In the wake of this controversy, Nielsen has now decided to delay releasing this data from the planned Nov. 18 date until Dec. 11. The information will be made available free during the current season to anyone who subscribes to Nielsen data.
Jon Lafayette with TelevisionWeek writes, "The broadcast networks and one media-buying agency ordered the new ratings in June but disputes arose over how the ratings would be calculated. The accuracy of preliminary data coming from some cable networks and syndicators generated major complaints."
Nielsen has decided, however, that minutes that include at least one second of national commercial time will be counted as a commercial minutes but will be weighted by the number of commercial seconds in that minute. The ratings for the rest of this season is considered experimental, and Nielsen is requesting that they not be used directly for leveraging in ad buying situations at this point.
For those interested in the development of high-definition television, a potentially significant event happened this past week at the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau conference in New York City.
Manning Field, the senior vice-president for Chase Bank, made a compelling speech asking for even more high-definition adoption on television because his company is starting to develop all of their advertisements in high-definition.
TelevisionWeek's James Hibberd writes a compelling piece about the struggle between advertisers and content producers/networks regarding the high-definition argument. As Hibberd writes, "Mr. Field's stance is a twist on a common theme among television executives." Chase is relatively rare in its decision to produce all of its advertisements in high-definition, since almost all ads are still shot in standard definition. According to Hibberd, a summer AdWeek report says that 99 percent of ads are still shot in standard.
Hibberd admits his own confusion as to why there has not been significant advertising interest in switching to high-definition, since the format in which most ads were shot and the short duration of ads mean that it would not be a significant cost increase to film in high-def.
And, since the majority of primetime series are now shot in high definition, Hibberd points out that, "when the program goes to a break, the TV image shrinks due to pillar boxes appearing on the sides o the screen and the picture quality becomes significantly grainy compared with the primary programming. In the age of the digital video recorder, the dramatic change practically begs viewers to fast-forward until the HD content returns."
Hibberd quotes Field as saying that the problem is that a lot of consumers have "drunk the HD Kool-Aid," no offense to Fred Raley (sorry for the inside joke), but that a lot of people making decisions as advertisers may not have HD at home and may not personally realize how un-sexy these standard-definition commercials are when watching them on a high-definition program.
The article is worth a read, and Hibberd's focus on the weekly developments of high-definition are a great resource for those interested in the adoption of HD and the various cultural struggles currently involved with adoption of the technology--yet another aspect of convergence culture and the confusing that is raised anytime change comes about in the media industry.
Some of the methods are surprising. A multi-variable technique started by QualPro found that, when working with auto salesmen, full-page ads didn't get attention any better than half-page ads and, in many cases, adding color didn't increase attention to the ad, either. However, some combination of factors seemed to. Newspapers probably don't particularly like this approach, especially since color and full-page ads are particular cash cows for many print publications. But it goes to show you that many aspects of human behavior are counter-intuitive.
Some of the initiatives just seem helpful. Office supply store OfficeMax has hired Envirosell, a New York market research company, to come into its stores and apply anthropological approaches to understanding how consumers interact with the building. Among their findings were that most consumers paid no attention to products in the front of the store when they first walk in, a time that they call "decompression" in which the customer is still trying to adjust from being outside to being in a large store with a lot of people and merchandise. They also found that consumers tend to turn right when they first walk in and that, if they are in a situation where they can barely get through aisles without bumping into another person, they are likely to leave.
The store is combining that knowledge with close measurements of what people buy to understand how to better serve customers. By looking at what people often buy in tandem, OfficeMax is attempting to pair those items together to make the experience better for consumers and also increase their profits, since helpful products will be located in close proximity.
Other initiatives seem a little scary. FKF Applied Research are doing something straight out of John Carpenter's The Live, fine-tuning the message behind television advertisements so that they will generate the correct brain activity in viewers and make advertisements more effective. Consume. Procreate. Buy an automobile.
I don't mean to sound reactionary or to claim that there's something wrong with FKF's methods, since the purpose of ads are to get people to buy and it isn't as if they can fine tune the process so that we all go out and buy a car every time a Mazda ad airs, but it does demonstrate just how scientific some initiatives are becoming. According to the story, the consulting firm "sticks people in magnetic resonance imaging machines and shows them television commercials, studying how much brain reaction commercials generate.
For anyone interested in advertising and marketing, be sure to check this article out.
Thanks to William Uricchio for passing this along.
Reebok Interactive Commercials--Buy Products Through the Remote
Back in February, I wrote about news from wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer that the WWE was planning to "showcase a new digital prototype technology that may prove to strongly increase business, and when copied, strengthen the value of television advertising greatly." The idea was to release a system that "would allow people watching a TV commercial, whether it be for a PPV, DVD, or other house show, to click to an icon on the screen to make an immediate purchase" and that would also give them exclusive footage free for using the technology." This was being considered for testing on WWE On Demand content.
However, I haven't heard anything more about it for several months. Nevertheless, a new experiment from Reebok and the Dish Network attempts to test the popularity of a similar theories, in which viewers will have a chance to directly buy apparel using the remote control.
These interactive commercials offer the chance to buy jerseys and such merchandise both before and then during ESPN's airing of Monday Night Surround. While, right now, viewers can play trivia games and view ancillary content during the game with their remote, including videos profiling players, the ultimate plan is to allow for the entering of credit card information with their remote to make purchases while watching an event.
According to their press release, this is the first time that a satellite provider and marketer have worked together to make goods directly available from commercials.
One definite benefit is that it provides a direct measurement as to whether the advertisement leads to a sale, although there is still the option of people seeing the ad and, while not participating in the interactive option, still go out and buy the product in a store later on.
It does prove, however, that there are plenty of companies willing to look at something that goes beyond the traditional 30-second spot, and this interactive advertising option provides yet another option for advertisers and television networks to move beyond the lie that the network tells itself, the validity of purely quantitative sample measurements.
Sponsorship Model Succeeds; Sony Uses It Once Again
Sony Pictures made the news at this time last year by trying something that was only experimented with on occasion on cable television networks, sponsoring last year's network premiere of the FX show Nip/Tuck by only annoucning itself as the sponsor and showing a handful of upcoming film previews during the 1.5-hour season three debut.
Last year I wrote that, considering my affinity for films, "I had almost as much interest watching the commercial breaks as I did watching the show. Also, with a show that has quite a bit of critical buzz and high production values, being supported by in-depth film trailers was not a bad move." Further, I said that "it was a great way in trying to market the advertising a little more directly so that fans who had the opportunity to fast forward through the commercials, as I did, chose not to and willingly watched them."
Considering how successful this type of sponsorship has been in the few isolated experiments, I'm surprised that this hasn't been attempted more often. Even if Nip/Tuck only attempts this once a year, I am assuming that both FX and Sony Pictures see this as a smart cross-marketing opportunity, especially by carefully crafting what upcoming films they preview during a show like Nip/Tuck.
I can envision other film comapnies signing on to sponsor shows targeted to their audience, whether it be Lions Gate sponsoring shows on the CW Network or documentary distributors sponsoring shows on A&E. But I think the repeat experiment between Sony Pictures and Nip/Tuck proves that there are continued opportunities for a sponsorship model of advertising that is agreeable to viewers, advertisers, and networks.
ITN Purchase Indicative of New Adveritising Approaches
As Stuart Elliott pointed out in an article in Tuesday's New York Times, much of the attention on new ways to generate adveritisng still revolves around television and television properties because TV advertising remains the largest medium for advertising, so that both network executives and ad agencies alike have a strong interest in the future of the medium and in how both should react to new technologies and new viewer patterns.
The article examines the new deal taking place with ITN Networks. According to Elliott, the New York-based media sales company is known for assumbling "customized national TV networks for advertisers from teh commercial time it buys from local broadcast stations," working with such major advertisers as Johnson & Johnson, Burger King, and Capital One, among many others.
A media group consisting of Sony Pictures Television, Veronis Suhler Stevenson, and the Zelnick Media Corporation, is buying the majority of ITN, with plans to invest up to $250 million. The plan is to spread ITN's reach into cable and satellite television, as well as growing advertising platforms such as video games and the Internet. Elliott provides a helpful breakdown of what each of the partners involved in the purchase are involved in and known for as well.
With capital from extant players in the media industry being fueled into new and innovative groups like ITN, the industry is proving that, even as it is trying to maintain consistency in the current plan, there are myriad contingencies being accounted for and alternatives being prepared for when the traditional overall impressions and 30-second spot ship starts sinking even more. The one thing that has always been true in a capitalist society and in advertising in parciular is that the only fact that stays the same is that everything changes.
The article also covers the CBS/TiVo deal I wrote about here earlier this week, in which several previews and/or shows are made available to TiVo viewers before the general viewing public, in hopes that these lead users will become advocates for the program and spread the word of their quality before their widespread broadcast debut.
Thanks to William Uricchio for sending this along.
Spanish-language and Internet-based Ads Driving 2006 Increases
The rate of growth of advertising spending may have flattened in the second quarter of 2006, but that growth continues to be fueled by dramatic increase in Spanish-language advertising and in Internet advertising, according to a release from TNS Media Intelligence this week.
Advertising spending in the second quarter of 2006 jumped 2.9 percent, after a 5.3 percent gain the first quarter of 2006. According to experts, the first quarter was an anomaly, with traditional television advertising being boosted by the Winter Olympics and the World Cup, among other events, that skewed numbers, leaving the second quarter of 2006 being viewed as the more stable and important number to compare to for the future, although political advertising will also be skewing numbers in the future.
Spanish-language advertising in the first half of 2006 raised by more than a fifth, jumping 20.5 percent in the second quarter to a total of $2.4 billion, while Internet display advertising rose 18.9 percent, to a total of $4.69 billion.
While network television advertising's revenue is much greater, at $12.3 billion, the growth rate has remained flat, and TNS said that, excluding the month that the Olympics were broadcast, the ad growth for 2006 for network TV would only be 1.2 percent.
Back in July, I wrote about the same two sectors of advertising driving the growth rate for the first quarter, and it seems that driving into Spanish-language content and online distribution continues to gain in profit, while the numbers for traditional advertising in traditional media are leveling off.
YouTube is continuing its innovative output in both providing interesting video content on the Web while also experimenting with interesting new partnerships and advertising formats. The newest is the idea of placing video spots on the site that are marked as paid advertising while providing some of the same participatory content of other YouTube video content.
The first example was the Paris Hilton advertisements posted on the site. A video pormoting the new album, entitled Paris, was featured on the site beginning today, complementing the album's release. The video clip will be sponsored by FOX's Prison Break, featuring an original introduction from Hilton and one of the album's songs.
The video is part of a new advertising partnership between FOX, Warner Brothers Records, and the Weinstein Company film studio concerning YouTube content. And, according to YouTube management, the intiative is the first of many new forms of advertising the site plans to experiment with, trying to find new profit sources that remains true to YouTube's participatory nature.
According to Daisy Whitney with TelevisionWeek, the almost 4,000 fans who had rated the video at this point gave it a "nothing special" vote, two stars out of five possible. Does such participatory ads work against a company? Not if the product is good. And, in Hilton's case, the producers may have just wanted to prove the album was passable, since the main objective is to sell it based on her celebrity.
My wife, for reasons I've not yet to figure out, has followed Hilton's career closely and has already purchased the album, so my prediction is that, in this case, the two-star rating won't serve to discourage any potential buyers and is probably about two stars more than the anti-Hiltons would expect. In this case, "nothing special" may be a good promotion for the album and is certainly an innovative attempt at online advertising by YouTube and the other parties involved.
The VCR Still Causing Controversy, Two Decades Later
The continued arguments surrounding the Nielsen ratings raged on into this week, with the new focus being on whether VCR recordings should count in viewer measurements for the new commercial ratings that will be released for the upcoming fall season.
While last week's debate centered on the company's announcement of partnering with Insight Communications to measure Video-on-Demand viewership patterns, the commercial ratings have returned this week, as companies argue over the measurement system that will help further set advertising rates.
Advertising agencies are claiming that programming recorded onto a VHS tape should not count in commercial ratings averages for the coming season since VCR viewing is not measured, only recording. And, since many people never watch programming recorded on a VCR or often record three or four shows they do not intend on watching in order to also record a show they DO want to watch, the numbers do not reflect viewership. And, of those viewers who do watch the material they record, it doesn't take a social scientist to guest the viewer behavior here--those commercials are going to be fast-forwarded through.
The ad agencies have continued concerns about the way the measurement system will work and have even called for the monitoring system used to help compile the commercial ratings data to be accredited from the Media Research Council. For instance, a few weeks ago, I wrote about Magna Global calling for significant changes in the ratings, including working toward a second-by-second ratings system, calling for more detailed measurements of DVR viewers, and asking for changes in the way commercial minutes are measured, since the ratings will count any minute that has commercial content in it as a commercial minute, even if the majority of that minute contains programming instead of a commercial. According to the statistics used by Magna Global, a third of programs recorded on a VCR are never watched, while as many as two-thirds of the viewers who do watch what they recorded fast-forward through the commercials.
These issues surrounding the VCR aren't a new point of contention from advertising agencies, but it has an even more immediate impact on these commercial ratings, which may have a significant future impact on how advertising rates are negotiated and purchased. However, the networks maintain that, since playback cannot be measured, the number of recordings should be measured because including the data is more accurate than excluding it.
While it isn't the second-by-second data, networks could avoid some of the controversy by adopting The Weather Channel's plan for true minute-by-minute ratings, as I wrote about last month, instead of averaging all the commercial minutes together for a particular program. It wouldn't be the second-by-second ratings that some are calling for, but it might help satisfy some of the critics. Then again, network executives are afraid of what they might find, since everyone knows that most people don't watch television for the commercials.
Then, of course, there's the larger problem: if the Nielsen measurement system is inherently flawed, you can continue drawing as many new data streams from that same sample as you want, but they are still not going to be as accurate of a measurement as one would need.
One of my colleagues here at the Times-News office, Dustin Bratcher, pointed me toward a pretty innovative form of marketing for the upcoming release of Snakes on a Plane that shows how just including a limited amount of user control can drastically affect a product.
The site asks both your name and the name of the person you are sending the message to, the numbers of both, and the occupation, hobby, looks, and mode of transportation of the person receiving the message. When you complete the information, the site calls the person in question with a message from Samuel L. Jackson, addressing them by name and telling them to leave their job and hobby behind, pick up the person who made the call and take them to see Snakes on a Plane.
Already, I've sent my wife one of those calls. I've sent messages to my friends from their spouses' phone numbers so they won't know who the messages really came from. And one friend received the message in question from his ex-girlfriend claiming to be his life partner. If you were to visit our office today, you can see the fun this simple calling program has been able to generate.
The site knows most names and can generate these calls. It only has limited choices for occupations, hobbies, and physical attributes, but each one leads to some pretty entertaining Samuel L. Jackson diatribes. And you can preview your message before its sent.
What will this translate to on opening day? Will allowing fans to become such active proselytizers and merely providing them with the tools to do so lead to more fervent response than the movie would have gotten through traditional methods? My insticts say yes, but one of the women here in the office with her desk close to me could be right in that people may enjoy the promotion but still have no interest in seeing the film.
I'd bet against it, but we'll be finding out soon. And, either way, I still have a long list of relatives and friends who can expect a call from their bro Sam Jackson.
The group will be measuring consumer engagement with product placement and other advertising initiatives, in attempt to give more concrete numbers to justify the spending of advertising dollars in the television medium.
The company measures response to both advertising and product placement, as well as programs themselves, as they air every evening on television, according to Jon Lafayette with Television Week.
The move shows a continued growth in awareness that traditional models of measurement and advertising are not working, despite what people may say in press releases. With companies beginning to measure engagement in a variety of ways (see OMD's proposal for a "standard engagement currency" across platforms or Google's proposal for minute-by-minute fan reactions through interactive television), and with Nielsen beginning to measure commercial minutes separately and offering minute-by-minute reports of viewer numbers from their sample, as well as the implementation of new measurement systems through the A2/M2 system over the next several years, we're likely to see some significant changes in the way television operates and is viewed by both producers and advertisers, on the one hand, and people themselves, as we as a culture are redefining the staple American media form in today's convergence environment.
Last week, news broke...pardon the pun...that CBS would be marketing its upcoming fall lineup in a rather unexpected way--on the shells of eggs. Certainly far from your typical campaign, but CBS believes that its eclectic approach may be of service in helping them as they scramble to line-up viewers for the fall 2006 war of the season launch.
Joachimin stated that approximately 35 million eggs will appear in grocery stores sporting the CBS eye trademark and a variety of egg-related slogans. (The ones mentioned in the article was a "Crack the Case on CBS" slogan for CSI, "Scramble to Win" for The Amazing Race, "Hardboiled Drama" for Shark, "Shelling Out Laughs" for the comedy line-up, as well as "Funny Side Up" and "Leave the Yolks to Us."
To use a phrase related to a different type of food, the campaign seems a little corny, but even the most hardboiled of critics can't help but crack a smile at the "eggvertising," as the network is calling it. While traditional ad spaces seem so crowded, the plain white space on egg shells are a fruitful place to reach audiences, the network believes.
And, for those who are rallying to keep advertising out of the little crevices of our lives, the campaigns to protect the eggs on our grocers' shelves has probably already begun. There are probably plenty of anti-commercial advocates who believe that this eggvertising is purely deviled. CBS likes the approach for its intrusiveness, using a company called EggFusion to put the messages on the eggs. That intrusiveness is, my intuition tells me, the very reason a lot of people are going to be offended by the campaign, although its cleverness and rarity may help offset some of the negative energy that could be directed toward it.
And, interestingly, the actual purpose for the messages are to assure customers that eggs are not out-of-date by putting the expiration directly on the egg and to give a way to track the egg's origin information, and advertising was the impetus that helped make that possible, since egg producers were willing to allow the expiration dates on for extra profit.
In the meantime, CBS executives are going to be walking on eggshells, hoping they don't get...egg on their face. And one has to wonder if fans, when they get ahold of the CBS-adorned eggs, might try to generate a little user-created content on the eggs' surface as well, altering some of the CBS messages creatively or decorating the CBS eyes. Will the network be thrilled with such textual poaching?
Blame Lynn Liccardo for both alerting me to this story and starting me down the trail of bad puns. But is this approach just the type of new advertising that will generate press and attention and reward the network for its originality? Eggvertising likely isn't going to make a major long-term investment akin to more substantial advertising sites, but it is a unique strategy that should generate even more creative campaigns if it is deemed a success this fall.
Internet, Spanish-Language Ad Sales Drive First Quarter
News from Nielsen on Monday indicated that, in the first quarter, the Internet had the largest gain in advertising revenue, jumping 46.4 percent over last year's Internet ads. In contrast, network television ad spending rose 11.1 percent, and cable television rose by only .2 percent, compared to last year. According to Jon Lafayette with Television Week, the best television performance was among Spanish-language televisions stations, which saw a 14.3 percent ad increase.
The overall increase in ad spending in the first quarter was a 5.6 percent increase in last year. A little over a month ago, I wrote about projections of ad sales for the year being down from original projections, with the year projected to see a 4.9 percent increase rather than the 5.4 percent originally projected, according to TNS Media Intelligence. The prediction is a 13 percent increase in Internet sales for the year.
At the time I wrote:
But wait...didn't all the major networks get together several months ago and tell us all that the 30-second spot is more alive than ever? Of course, we can't predict any immediate doom...However, this does weaken the stance that the 30-second spot cannot be toppled.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it...That's what the industry has said. But, maybe it's just a little bit more broke than anyone wants to admit. And there has to come that point where doing something about it becomes a necessity instead of innovative thinking. The increases in product placement, show sponsorships, and various other forms of deviation from the 30-second spot is already showing some alternate routes, even as networks claim the 30-second spot is gaining power instead of losing it.
With numbers coming in to confirm that ad increases are being driven both by Internet content and Spanish-language content, the imminent changes are on the horizon. Over the past year or two, the penetration of Spanish-language channels have quietly indicated big changes on the horizon. With the percentage of Spanish-speaking Americans continuously expanding, the market will have to continue to make appropriate shifts to acknowledge these markets. For now, that may include having the same advertisement available in both languages, but one would think that there are plenty of sophisticated alternatives in reaching these non-English speaking audiences still waiting to be capitalized on.
Yesterday in Louisville's The Courier-Journal, I was quoted on the transformation of the image of Col. Sanders for Kentucky Fried Chicken. The fast food chain is making moves to create a more youthful Colonel, including adding some color to his image which adorns all of their cups, advertisements, etc. The changing of the Col. Sanders picture was the focus of this article, but the company has also been utilizing a cartoon version of the colonel in its television advertisements as well. It's not yet clear if the old image of the Colonel will be replaced with the new one, but the paperwork has been filed.
I was quoted in The Courier-Journal as saying that the image of the colonel has evolved because a younger generation only knows the icon and not the actual human being. In old ads, an actual photo of the Colonel or actual footage of the Colonel might have been used, but consumers in their 20s or younger would not remember the actual Col. Sanders but only his image for the KFC brand. According to the story, by David Goetz, the move is "part of a strategy to reconnect with the baby boomers, who still have fond memories of the original Col. Sanders, while appealing to younger fast-food users who may not know who the old dude is but like his picture." Indeed, part of the interest in this new youthful image and the cartoon icon in the television commercials may be to redefine KFC as a multi-generational brand instead of relying on nostalgic images for older consumers. Putting more emphasis on Col. Sanders instead of Harland Sanders still respects his legacy while distancing the company from the man.
For those who don't know the backstory (as a Kentuckian, it's my duty to know about one of our favorite culinary sons), Col. Sanders owned a small restaurant that became famous for its fried chicken, which he then successfully franchised throughout the region before eventually being bought out by future Kentucky governor John Y. Brown Jr. Now owned by Yum! Foods, KFC is an internationally known franchise, with Col. Sanders retained as its creator.
The Col. Sanders icon has changed through the years as the company distances itself from Harlan Sanders but continues to celebrate his legacy through the Col. Sanders character (Sanders was actually a Kentucky Colonel, an honorary title here in The Bluegrass State).
When Sanders died, KFC no longer had the actual Sanders as spokesperson but instead a representation of him and, now, in their television commercials, a cartoon version. Through this evolution, you can trace Sanders' development from a human spokesperson, Harland Sanders, to a mythic figure, Col. Sanders. The new cartoon version of Sanders still references the immense history of the KFC brand through Sanders the character while creating a new version of the Colonel to further distance itself from the person.
While Col. Sanders' image is still used on every aspect of KFC merchandising, Wendy's has distanced itself from using founder Dave Thomas in commercials. Why? Maybe it's becuase, in order for KFC to remain Kentucky Fried Chicken, it needs to retain the authenticity of the creator of the food, who was actually from The Bluegrass State and whose food became popular through word-of-mouth. In other words, can it really be "Kentucky" Fried Chicken if the company moves from emphasizing its Kentucky roots?
Even though KFC doesn't include the creator's name in its title, like popcorn brand Orville Redenbacher, much of the company's legacy and brand still depends on Col. Sanders, if not Harland himself. While the company may be distancing itself from the actual creator as time goes by, they are as dependant as ever on the Colonel.
Last year, fellow C3 analyst Ilya Vedrashko blogged about this issue on the site that was a precursor to this blog, citing the company's interest in giving the Colonel a facelift to attract younger audiences.
Oh, and contrary to the CJ's story, my name is not Bond...Sam Bond. It's still Sam Ford, although I guess I could start branding myself as the 007 of convergence culture.
The Madison and Vine piece looks at the trend of advertising to follow this trail, with major reallocations of traditional television ad funds now going to new or integrated media. While it isn't surprising that this growth in consumption leads to an influx of advertising revenue supporting online sites with video content, the article highlighted or alluded to a few important implications that greatly affect recent discussions we've had here on this blog:
1.) Transmedia content--With digital streaming poised to become increasingly profitable, those companies who integrate online video content as part of their entertainment package are at a particular advantage. If companies have bonus content available for download or streaming online, they can easily package ad sales that include advertising or sponsorship of both the traditional content and digital content that may become increasingly attractive to advertisers, who would benefit from having a strong association with dedicated fans who follow the product across multiple platforms;
2.) Product placement--As the Madison and Vine article points out, those companies who are paying for product placement now have added incentives, since more and more television shows are becoming available for digital download or streaming. While traditional ads or the ads that run on television are not present in a lot of these digital presentations, all product placements are--indicating that placing products on a show is the smarter investment long-term.
3.) Promotional films--Creating branded video content subtly promoting a product, such as the famed BMW Films campaign, is proving itself to be an attractive option for reaching customers turned off by push advertising. Increased video streaming gives advertisers more of an impetus for creating compelling content that viewers want to stream or download and gives creative independent talents a chance to shine...It's smart marketing and less offensive to commercial-sensitive viewers.
It's hard to find much fault with Madison & Vine's final call--for marketers to "take heed" and take advantage of an audience "hungry for programming." For advertisers and for media content producers, digital video not only provides a chance for revenues and a chance to provide consumers what they want but also makes possible an environment that better enables transmedia content and new forms of storytelling.
Thanks to fellow C3 media analyst Geoffrey Long for directing me to this article.
What's Next for Advertising, and What Should "The Media" Do About It?
According to Scott Karp at Publishing 2.0, advertising's link to the mass media could be showing signs of major strains, as grassroots marketing initiatives become more and more viable.
In other words, when advertisers begin marketing campaigns that are so creative that fans are willing to forward it to their family and friends for free, then the traditional media has been completely side-stepped. Ad firms still get their piece of the pie, for helping develop the creative ad that everyone is forwarding around, but the distribution system becomes voluntary on behalf of the people instead of through an ad-supported media model.
Karp predicts that this is the way of advertising in the future, ads that seep into personal relationships and begin getting forwarded on a regular basis for their creativity, their novelty, or their appeal to a niche audience. And where does that leave ad placements and traditional ad services? More importantly, what does this do to the traditional system of the media?
Pretty good question...Karp's suggestion is that now, before it's too late, media companies should get their creative services involved in helping craft compelling video ads. In addition to providing content for television, these companies could use their creative services to create skits, commercials, and entertainment of various sorts meant to market a particular brand. In that way, these companies wouldn't miss out by trying to hang on to taditional ad profits while the future of advertising is controlled by more forward-thinking companies.
What does Karp predict for media producrs who don't take on this new role as advertising creator? "Those businesses will likely survive, but most won't grow very much, some will shrink, and some media brands may not survive at all."
Does this mean that, in his opinion, all television programming would have to go the way of HBO?
The major flaw in Karp's argument, at least as I see it here, is that it completely sidesteps issues of alternatives to the traditional 30-second advertisements placed in commercial breaks on shows but still within the traditional system. For instance, natural product placement within the fictive world of a show is an aspect of television advertising that's always been present and is currently growing that would not overturn the traditional media system, other than diminishing the role of the "commercial break." He also doesn't have any discussion of products sponsoring particular shows, another longheld television advertising staple that has been making quite a comeback as people lose faith in the 30-second spot.
With Nielsen planning to release viewer numbers on commercials come this fall, what does this mean for Karp's argument? I think he has noticed two very important trends--the importance of viral marketing and the slow death of the 30-second spot--but his prediction is a little extreme. I think it may very well be possible that media companies could directly involved in this advisory function for creative services in viral marketing, but I don't think Karp gives enough credit to other movements in the traditional media that will transform from traditional commercial breaks into other sources for commercial revenue. That's not to say that Karp has not though of these issues but just that they aren't present in this piece.
Two new examples of "Convergence Culture" surfaced today (doesn't this seem to be the trend almost every day?) in two corporate partnerships that blend new media companies and concepts with traditional content providers or advertisers.
The first was a deal announced by EchoStar (Dish Network), an interactive advertising campaign for the Ford Motor Company through the company's satellite service. These ads will run for the next month, featuring the Ford Mustang on several TV screens, on which the viewer can use their remote control to view photos, for instance.
However, the project branches into transmedia, since you can download a ringtone specifically for the Mustang. And the interaction is taken to a direct consumer level, considering that the ad will allow you to find a local Ford dealer or receive more information on the product.
With our constant discussion of the slow death of the traditional advertisement, these more active and targeted advertising opportunities are coming more and more frequently.
In a different realm, longtime children's entertainment supplier DIC Entertainment has found a new partnership to launch a CBS Saturday morning programming block for kids: AOL. This new fall lineup will be called the Saturday Morning Secret Slumber Party and will have transmedia tie-ins with KOL, the AOL online site for kids. And a KOL online personality will have his own reality series on Saturday mornings.
I've yet to be convinced that the partnership will take advantage of the opportunities this type of coalition allows initially, but this could be another step in the right direction. Transmedia opportunities seem particularly vibrant here in children's programming, where convergence seems more second-hand and moving from one media platform to another is second-nature.
But both products are two examples that I found today through TelevisionWeek of new interactive and transmedia movements. Fall 2006 is shaping up to be a period of intense experimentation. Some of these concepts will probably miss their mark, and others have probably come along a little too early...but I'm interested in seeing what will become of these two intiatives in terms of viewer response.
On the heels of Nielsen announcing the move away from paper and into completely digital media consumption measurements, including counts of media consumption away from the home, over the next few years comes the news of ratings for commercials.
By this fall, the media research company will be providing ratings for braodcast networks showing the average ratings of their commercials playing nationwide. The data will provide not only live viewers but those who watch the programs on digital recorders within a week.
In a story on Nielsen's announcement yesterday, Jon Lafayette of TelevisionWeek quoted David Poltrack, chief research officer for CBS, as saying that the ratings would play a part in price negotiations for the next season but would not affect this year's deals. Poltrack warned that commercial avoidance will definitely be noticeable in the numbers but that the number has remained steady for years and that new techologies have not increased commercial avoidance. Instead, he "questioned the sincerity" of ad buyers for why they wanted the information and figured that it might be a negotiation ploy to lower the cost of national ads.
Whatever the case, accountability for commercials, in as accurate as Nielsen data is going to be, is a positive thing for measuring where the 30-second spot is at. David Poltrack came to MIT this past semester and spoke about changes in the media industry. As you can imagine, he was well-versed and very forward-thinking about CBS' role, but it is still a company invested in the 30-second spot system. There must have been some pretty heavy pressure from advertisers to succeed in getting a push like this, for Nielsen numbers for their ads.
If Nielsen continues with their push for active/passive viewer measurement as well, I wonder if we will eventually be able to also have attempts to measure the level of engagement people have during certain ads. We might find that particularly creative ads catch people's attention and ads placed right before a show comes back from commercial break, etc. But, even though I still question the validity of many Nielsen numbers, I think this will provide some basis for discussion.
Several posts in the last couple of months on our blog have been dedicated to product placement and product integration in television programming, but the news that received some play last week of a Cover Girl novel crossover reminds us once again at how well books can cover product placement as well.
Cover Girl, along with parent company Procter & Gamble, will be working with Running Press, part of Perseus, to promote Cover Girl throughout several references in a new novel called Cathy's Book, written by Jordan Weisman and Sean Stewart. The book will be inspired by the principles of alternate reality games (ARGs), and the authors previously worked on "The Beast" and "I Love Bees."
The novel will include references to Cover Girl lipsticks and eyeliners, among other things, and Cover Girl will promote the release of the novel. According to a post by Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing, the novel included references to makeup brands but were only changed after a deal was put in place with Cover Girl.
But, it didn't take long to get the non-profits after them. Commercial Alert, a non-profit organization dedicated to "protecting communities against commercialism," have contacted book reviewers across the country, requesting that they boycott the novel because of its product placement.
Apparently, these organizations have particular problems with this book, as it is being marketed to teens. The problem here is probably not as much that the products are being used but that the company is receiving extra money for that placement. While the company has made the distinction that the book clearly called for a product there and that the deal came organically from that, Commercial Alert is not quite so excited.
The publishers, Perseus, quickly came to the book's and the authors' defense, with CEO David Steinberger saying that "calling for a review boycott is a form of censorship." In this case, I have to agree with the authors. While I understand Commercial Alert's sensitivity to commercialism and have seen plenty of great works ruined by product placement, this is a little different. If the product placement is organic, I don't think it's a problem, especially since we live in a branded world. And the book seems to have much more of a point than simply advertising Cover Girl. Steinberger says that the authors have a right to include these placements, "incorporating real-world elements consistent with their vision."
Further, I agree that the worst approach of all is attaching reviewers instead of engaging in public debate about product placement. What Commercial Alert is trying to do is end the debate before it starts, to eliminate the other side completely and not allow the book to get reviewed. And that's more dangerous to our rights as Americans as the commercialism of Perseus Publishing could ever be.
Oxygen has once again launched an on-demand preview for an original movie it will be airing on its main channel this week, marking the third time the channel has used on-demand to hype both the airing of a new movie and the channel itself.
The movie, called Banshee, has been previewed since last Thursday and will continue to be until Wednesday. The linear debut of Banshee will be next Saturday at 8 p.m. EST.
The on-demand option seems to be a good way both to experiment with shifts in distribution and also to catch those flipping through on-demand options with a strong piece of programming tied to Oxygen. This way, those who might consider Oxygen programming as inferior or who may never even give the channel a shot can get a taste of sample programming.
Since Oxygen has tried this tactic twice before and continues to do so, it is an indication that the network does not consider making the movie available before its release to have substantial damage to its initial rating as a network premiere. In fact, it's likely--if the product is good--that allowing previews and making the launch date clear on the previews will cause word-of-mouth to increase the number for the network debut.
And, as a marketing tool, a strong product available on-demand may create new viewers for Oxygen.
Involvement with most of these brands included on-air presence and product integration infused throughout the show, as well as an online presence.
Considering the natural way that many of these products fit with the show, this makes sense. Further, there seems to be less of a backlash against reality shows having product placement as fictional programs, where it seems that some sort of creative aesthetic is damaged by heavy product integration.
On the other hand, reality shows already lack a sense of suspension of disbelief that fictional programs do, so that they draw attention to the fact that it is a show. This is the way that they've avoided the backlash I've blogged about before with the WGA. As I mentioned then, shows like Project Runway are not badly hurt by extensive use of sponsor names because it doesn't seem as absurd and because contestants are already in contrived situations so that, even if giving away a Saturn vehicle to the winner seems pretty overt, it works within the "game" aspect of the reality show.
And the reality genre's ability to do product integration without continued backlash is another reason why it may be such preferable program to many executives (even though many of these programs probably won't fare as well in their long tail future).
Last night, I set my DVR (gasp!) to record The Colbert Report to my hard drive. I watched it a few hours ago and was surprised when his popular "The Word" segment featured a current Congressional debate that was the topic of one of my posts here last week: the push to raise indecency fines for television broadcasters by adding a zero to the end.
For those who haven't seen Colbert's "The Word" segment, he goes through a verbal diatribe while a graphic beside him displays one-liners that either contradict or further illustrates points that he's making. On this particular episode, he was discussing the current drive by conservative Christian "family" groups like the Parents Television Council to define what's indecent on television.
Colbert mocked how the group's encouragement of free speech and citizen voice was really nothing more than ventriloquism, as a recent drive to protest the show Without a Trace containing a scene simulating an orgy resulted in a massive numbers of form letters computer-generated by members of a group like this through their Web site.
Colbert's main complaint with this proposal is both that this type of encouragement of censorship is outside the purview of what our government should be doing in the first place, which I wholeheartedly agree with, but also that raising the fees will cause networks to become more and more gun shy of airing any new or potentially controversial types of programming, lest the PTC have its sensibilities offended. That's the point that I made in my blog post last week, that these initiatives could greatly hinder the autonomy of show creators and writers to create meaningful, interesting, artistic, and challenging content. In other words, censorship is hardly ever a good thing.
On Colbert's "snippet" preview of his show on The Daily Show, he spoofed product placement by bringing us his pre-show, sponsored by Coca-Cola, in which he did nothing but drink a Coke and then advertise his post-show, sponsored by Budweiser, with a huge Budweiser graphic. This coincides with the drive we've had since this blog's beginning toward understanding the difference between product placement and product integration, which I posted about a couple of weeks ago.
But, could these be coincidences? Maybe Mr. Colbert is reading this blog every night after his show airs. If so, Stephen Colbert deserves a "tip of the hat."
(By the way, if you're interested in watching this particular episode of The Colbert Report, it's available on iTunes).
Traditional Advertising Revenue Down from Earlier Projections
A report from TNS Media Intelligence released yesterday states that ad spending is not doing as well as originally projected, with ad sales increasing 4.9 percent this year instead of the 5.4 percent in the initial predictions.
On the other hand, the prediction for Internet advertising revenues made in January had severely underrated the power of all the new content being available online to pull in ad revenue, as the prediction was a 9.1 percent increase in Internet ad revenue which has now been revised to 13 percent.
But wait...didn't all the major networks get together several months ago and tell us all that the 30-second spot is more alive than ever? Of course, we can't predict any immediate doom...There's still a pretty sharp price increase, and the biggest loser in ad revenue appears to be ABC, with their attempted move to include DVR viewers, which I posted about last week.
However, this does weaken the stance that the 30-second spot cannot be toppled. WIth the increases in Internet advertising comes decreases in television advertising. Shouldn't come as a surprise, as viewers seem more willing to watch the few ads on most ad-supported video content Internet sites, instead of the many commercial interruptions that have driven so many people to
TiVo, DVRs, and other forms of time-shifting and channel surfing.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it...That's what the industry has said. But, maybe it's just a little bit more broke than anyone wants to admit. And there has to come that point where doing something about it becomes a necessity instead of innovative thinking. The increases in product placement, show sponsorships, and various other forms of deviation from the 30-second spot is already showing some alternate routes, even as networks claim the 30-second spot is gaining power instead of losing it.
However, it wasn't clear to me whether the report included any numbers for non-traditional ads like show sponsorships or product placement. Anyone know?
We'll see how this trend in ad spending continues, but it may be even further indications that a change is coming, even if it's coming slowly.
According to Jon Lafayette of TelevisionWeek, CBS is taking over the lead in advertising deals with significant increases, moving past main competitor ABC, with CBS ranging a 2 percent to 4 percent price increase.
This comes on the heels of Lafayette's story yesterday detailing ABC's decision to back off of counting DVR viewers in overall numbers for advertisers and instead concentrate only on live ratings. The network originally claimed it would only do deals that counted viewing on digital video recorders, but advertisers had strong concerns that those recording on DVRs would be very unlikely to watch commercial breaks.
ABC's statement issued about rescinding the demand for inclusion of DVR numbers included the following comment: "While the majority of the advertising community has reached a consensus on the Nielsen DVR ratings issue, and has concluded that that commercials seen during a DVR-recorded programming have no value, the ABC Television Network continues to believe strongly in the worth of the 'Live Plus' viewer, and will continue its efforts to include this audience." Lafayette's story today indicated his belief that this drive for DVR inclusion is what caused ABC to drop from its perch, while every other network continued conducting business based only on live viewers.
What amazes me about the whole discussion is how vehemently everyone is holding to the traditional 30-second spot, when more and more people are moving to DVRs. It may not be that shocking to see the crowd around a "technology" school like MIT raving about DVRs, but more and more of them are cropping up around Kentucky, where I'm staying this summer.
I'll be interested in seeing how long people will hold to the non-DVR numbers. Hopefully, we won't get to the point where the nation's ad rate will be determined by a few households somewhere in the hills of North Dakota.
In the meantime, ABC's failed system doesn't seem to address the problem. Skeptics were right in that people are likely not watching commercials on their DVR. It's instead an indication that we need to have a major reconceptualization of how the industry obtains its profits, maybe even something along the lines of Erick Schonfeld's recommendations for Time-Warner.
As Schonfeld says, media companies are "groping for ways to fix their businesses before all content goes digital and their financial assumptions go out the window." Maybe Schonfeld's recommendations--such as an emphasis on content and fans instead of distribution and products--are a propos for the major networks as well.
Meanwhile, most of the experimentation continues to happen in the cable industry, such as WE's decision to let John Frieda's Luminous Color Glaze and the film The Devil Wears Prada to sponsor its hit show Bridezillas. Moving to these types of arrangements seem to cause fewer problems in the long-run than all the continued haggling to hang on to the vestiges of the 30-second spot.
Not that long ago, I had a discussion with a seasoned veteran of television writing who was not happy with orders from above of blatant product integration in the show that person was writing for.
It's been a common and growing complaint, so much so that the Writers Guild of America East recently released a statement calling for regluations of integration and inclusion of actors and writers both on the process of deciding appropriate uses of product integration and also to be included in the benefits.
According to a story by Jon Lafayette for TelevisionWeek, the writers called for a distinction to be made between "product placement" and "product integration." In this case, they are arguing against the use of blatant product placement versus natural product placement, an issue that has been close to our reserach over the past year, particularly through the research of my C3 colleague Alec Austin.
Some television programs allow for product integration, using the WGA distinction, more than others. Particularly, it seems that reality television shows or sporting events are not as badly hurt by the extensive use of sponsor names because it doesn't seem as absurd. Both are already controlled environments and in fact gain their narrative drive from that contrived situation, whether it be a game or a reality competition.
However, in fictional dramatic or comedy series, product integration can easily destroy the viewer's suspension of disbelief in a way that detracts from viewer involvement and the perceived aristry of a show.
Yet, episodes of Seinfeld and Sex and the City prove that episodes can have a particular brand name or product involved deeply in an episode without detracting from the power of the show, if it is not something imposed on the writers but instead something the creative team is a part of from the conception.
So, I don't see the WGA's call for inclusion as a threat but rather a great benefit to the future of effective product placement. When creative teams are saying that they see the economic reality of product placement but only object to it being done poorly, it seems they've found a mantra that the entire industry should get behind.
TV Commercials, print ads, billboards, Google Ad words, RSS ads--all kinds of advertisements--are ways for brands to reach customers. Each media has particular attributes, pros, and cons for their use as an advertising medium. The variety of places to advertise is overwhelming.
The people in an ad agency who make the decision on what ads to place where are media planners. They decide the best mix of media, how much of each, and the proper rotation to meet each client's particular objectives. Media planning is a discipline based upon objectives, budgets, reach, frequency, and meetings/lunches with media reps trying to convince the planners to use their media.
The end result is a schedule of all media that will be purchased for a campaign with the resulting audience delivered. Hopefully, the audience actually buys something from the company so that the investment in media dollars ends up making good business sense.
But of all the media choices, how do planners and clients know that the final media plan will actually deliver the best results for the dollars spent? Planners will tell you that's what their expertise does for their clients.
Surowiecki's thesis is that given the proper conditions, crowds can make excellent decisions. Examples of prediction markets include the Iowa Electronic Markets, which have predicted the outcomes of US presidential elections more accurately than polling since 1988; the Hollywood Stock Exchange, which correctly predicted 35 of 2005's 40 big-category Oscar nominees and 7 out of 8 top category winners--and sells their data to movie studios; and newcomer Hedge Street, which seeks to predict future economic events.
In these markets, anyone can buy and sell shares of actors, directors, movies, and film-related options, in the case of the Hollywood Stock Exchange, and presidential nominees, in the case of the Iowa Electronic Markets. The idea is that a diverse crowd of people can make better decisions than one or two experts.
According to Surowiecki, there are three conditions needed to harness the Wisdom of Crowds:
1) The audience is diverse.
2) Everyone makes decisions independently of each other. In other words, there's no peeking.
3) There's a mechanism for aggregating everyone's decision.
Violate any of these conditions and the Wisdom of Crowds turns into the Madness of Crowds. Crowds that are homogenous tend to make similar decisions; crowds that can see what decisions other people are making tend to act like a herd of sheep, following the leader; and crowds that can not communicate their decision do not end up making one.
So, why can't we harness the Wisdom of Crowds in media planning?
The idea would be to develop a predictions market for media plans. Say, medium sized brand like Bianchi Bicycles, for example, needs a media plan. They post their requirements on the Media Planning Prediction Market (MPPM) website. Then, anyone can create a plan that they feel would meet their objectives and anyone can vote on everyone's plans. To maximize the quality of plans submitted, planners pay a modest amount for each plan they submit; a pay to play fee. Votes cost a modest sum, too. This provides incentive to choose wisely.
At the end of a predetermined amount of time, the plan with the most votes wins and Bianchi pays the planner for the plan. Winners receive a cut as well.
Note that anyone can create a plan and anyone can vote on a plan. To work best, the market need not be limited to people in the media industry, which satisfies Surowiecki's rule #1.
How will the media planning industry react? I predict most will think the idea won't fly. It minimizes individual's expertise in favor of a crowd. They'll concentrate on the Madness of Crowds, rather than the Wisdom of Crowds, ignoring Surowiecki's criteria for wisdom. But a few brave, smaller brands will take the plunge. Maybe they'll be Web 2.0 companies, who understand this Wisdom of Crowds thing in their bones. Maybe it's smaller brands that feel they have nothing to lose; maybe it's a band, or other entertainment property, that sees the PR value in being the first. I don't think it'll be a traditional business. But aside from the newness of the experience, I think the biggest objection will be from companies not wanting to put their objectives on the web for all to see. But doing so will be critical if they are to benefit from media plans that actually meet their objectives.
After a few successes, I believe the Media Planning Prediction Market will make room for itself in the marketplace and become a viable business. It won't take over the industry, but it may be a nice alternative, especially for smaller brands. The media planning industry is ripe for a prediction market; planning has many variables because of all the advertising choices, so complexity is part of its DNA. A Media Planning Prediction Market would roll up all the complexity into the decision of which is the best media plan out of the choices available. Crowds would help make the best decision.
Market research company Greenfield Online is preparing a plan for Burger King to sell promotional Xbox 360 games in their stores. The games would apparently riff off 'the most popular game types,' adding the super-creepy Burger King character to an action, fighting, and racing game; customers would have the option of purchasing one for $4 with any Value Meal.
Now, given that the only thing that has intrigued me about the XBOX 360 thus far is the presence of the Burger King in the photo-realistic Fight Night: Round 3, this is an interesting tactic.
On top of which, given the price of XBOX 360 games, who's really going to pass up games -- even ones that are almost pure advertising -- at $4 a pop?
Volvo has launched a new television spot parodying a broadcast news report about how the population is expanding and people are living longer. What's to blame? Volvo, of course, becuase of the safety features of their cars.
I first saw the ad while watching a rerun episode of Saturday Night Live and thought it was an SNL-produced commercial for a little while until I realized that it was from Volvo.
I personally found it pretty engaging and creative, a great way to catch the viewer with an entertaining commercial clearly linked the product, so as to avoid the problem that shows like this often run into by having a creative commercial that people remember without the product itself being an essential part of the message.
On the downside--I've always considered Volvo a car whose price isn't accessible to everyone, so the idea that people are living longer becuase Volvo is protecting the life of the population does undermine one message that Volvo has often sent--that of being a car to aspire to, a car that not everyone can own. Maybe they are trying to change their image in that regard, to be considered a more mainstream car than before.
But, overall, an effective campaign. Anyone else have any thoughts on it?
"Both groups are pushing for regulations, or a 'code of conduct' on product placement in television and movies. At the very least, they want more money for not only being storytellers but also advertising copywriters.
While Pepsi cans and Fed Ex trucks in the background are all strategically placed, the writers and actors have a problem when the powers-that-be require them to work products into a story or even write an entire story around a product."
A Hollywood union is stepping up its campaign against the embedding of brands and products in entertainment and, as they say in the movies, this time it's personal.
The Writers Guild of America, West, is making fun of the interweaving of sponsors' wares into films and TV shows with a so-called viral video that is scheduled to appear this week on a union-sponsored Web site (productinvasion.com). The video mocks Tyra Banks, the host of the popular reality series America's Next Top Model, which features in its episodes the Cover Girl brand of cosmetics sold by the Procter & Gamble Company.
Ever wish you could follow a "this is not a buzz campaign" buzz campaign instead of reading about it afterwards? The Microsoft Origami Project is a great buzz example happening right now, Monday, 2/27/06. Engadget wrote about it last Friday, linking to Scoble who talked about it as well.
A video has been making the rounds showing a new digital convergence device being used by the digitally hip. (Hat tip to Amy, a woman with whom I work.) But there's no identification on the video, which appears on a small production company's website. The only clue that it's for Microsoft is the file name "mso.swf". Is the posting a mistake, or a buzz campaign?
According to the Origami Project Website, details will be forthcoming on March 2nd. It also has three choices in the interface: "Week 1", "Week 2", and "Week 3", but only "Week 1" is active, meaning the website will be relevant through the second week of March, which brings us too what? The Game Developer's Conference?
So, not only is the device interesting because of how the convergence lifestyle is depicted in the recently released movie, the buzz campaign is a nice buzz petri dish to observe and learn from, brought to you by a leader in buzz marketing.
Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC)'s advertising agency Foote Cone & Belding tries to circumvent ad-skipping technology not by resorting to legal measures or technology but by utilizing 'interactivity' in its latest TV commercial. The idea is very simple and, in terms of film history, age-old - a secret message is planted in a few frames of the commercial and is supposed to be 'decoded' by recording and re-playing the commercial frame-by-frame.
Interestingly enough, the technique was originally 'invented' by and used in horror films like 'The Excorcist', which insert single frames of grotesque faces or other disturbing imagery which, however, is often at least noticeable because it contrasts with the background in color, contrast or shape.
'Decoding' the secret message earns you a coupon for a 99c new KFC sandwich which should create just enough appeal for people to actually play along - except for the fact that the 'secret' message will probably soon appear on websites all over the net (which again is probably an intended side-effect for KFC).
In a way, the commercial seems to pursue the same strategy like the online banner ads where you have to 'hit a monkey', 'throw a dart' or perform all other kinds of minimalist one-button or mouse+button tasks (and basically click on that ad!), i.e. the urge to interact which still appears to be a powerful tool to override the built-in ad-sensitivity modern media users acquired over time. It probably also fits with the 'collective intelligence' paradigm of contemporary media usage. IMO, the original frame narrative of the technique in horror films, the conspiracy topos of the cold war time, does not hold any longer and does not provide enough incentive for individual viewers to actually record and 'decipher' the commercial. As a general, rather 'soft' strategy of countering the DVR threat, however, it appear to be a step in the right direction.
At the time, everyone who posted on the thread agreed that product placement would be more effective, more natural, and possibly the only way for soap operas to survive, longterm, and people began to debate particular issues about how product placement should be handled.
Fast-forward a few months, and the same board has had a small mini-discussion with a few close watchers of ATWT regarding a particular case of product placement this past week.
One of the characters, Margo Hughes, came in with a bag of groceries, filled with Procter & Gamble merchandise. Only a few astute viewers even picked up on the fact that the majority of the items in her grocery bag were P&G items, which is the company that produces ATWT. In this case, the script called for her to be unloading her groceries in particular, and the types of items inside were completely plausible for a trip to the grocery. The items were never referenced directly, but it just felt natural--especially compared to the "Brand X" products used too often in daytime television.
These characters in the Hughes family live in the same branded world we do, and that's the type of realism that product placement done correctly can bring.
Of course, a few fans chimed in who were almost completely anti-P&G products being in the show, saying they were sickened by it, etc., but this seems to be more anti-commercialism rhetoric than anything. The majority of the viewers indicated that they found it natural, noticed but didn't pay close attention and some felt it actually added to the show to have those real products used. And most of them, the loyal and active viewers who post on message boards, also saw supporting product placement as a way to support the show and its sponsors.
Alec's the product placement expert around here, though, so I would love to have him weigh in as well...
I was watching my recorded version of As the World Turns the other day when I stopped briefly on a commercial from Post's Grape-Nuts cereal for their new cereal brand, Grape-Nuts Trail Mix Crunch Cereal. The tag line for this new food offering was "Tastes So Good, You Won't Believe Its Grape-Nuts!" Hmmmm...
I had a double-take, hit the rewind button and listened to it again. I didn't hear it wrong. Immediately, my wife and I started discussing the strategy here. On the one hand, maybe Grape-Nuts has a reputation as not being tasty and just being good for you, so they are showing that they are light-hearted and willing to perform a little self-deprecation. But when it comes to attacking the taste of your staple product, and taste is one of the most important features of food (even health food), I don't know if self-deprecation is the right method.
What were the people at Grape-Nuts thinking?!? No disrespect to the cereal--I even have some sitting in my cabinet right now--but the last thing you need to do is create a new product that mocks the taste of the main product of the brand. It directly contrasts with the main page for Grape-Nuts, which calls the cereal "great tasting." Is this type of contradiction bad? Or am I wrong?
Just seems to me that, if they believe the Grape-Nuts brand is worthless enough that the own company needs to start putting down its taste prominently in advertisements, shouldn't they just drop the Grape-Nuts brand and move on? When does a brand identity become of little use?
Other people have different takes on it--I found that Tom Peters had blogged on the ad as well, and many of the people commenting there found the ad refreshing and/or brilliant. So maybe I'm just not seeing it. Anyone out there who could enlighten me? Maybe even someone from the Post division of Kraft Foods is lurking out there who could make this clear to me.
New Advertising Technology Allows Ordering Products Directly from TV Commercial
Dave Meltzer, who single-handedly writes the Wrestling Observer newsletter every week, had an interesting blurb in the 13 February 2006 issue. I waited a few days to post about it so that the Observer would have had plenty of time to circulate, but I haven't read about this anywhere else. According to Dave, World Wrestling Entertainment is preparing to "showcase a new digital prototype technology that may prove to strongly increase business, and when copied, strengthen the value of television advertising greatly."
This new technology will be tested in WWE On Demand content such as WWE 24/7 and special events PPVs. According to Meltzer, "it would allow people watching a TV commercial, whether it be for a PPV, DVD, or other house show, to click to an icon on the screen to make an immediate purchase" and will also give them exclusive footage free for using the technology.
This is exactly the kind of model that maximizes advertising impact and makes advertising cease to feel like an intrusive hindrance to the programming but instead a focused and useful tool brought to the viewer. If done correctly, if used sparingly enough, it could be a milestone in the media industry. It's exactly the kind of thing you can do online, but digital cable provides every opportunity to do the same.
Has anyone else heard of similar technology being implemented on digital cable or satellite or in any other media form? For those of you who follow the advertising industry more closely, how long do you think it would take a trend like this to catch on?
As a wrestling fan, I see this having maximum benefit for wrestling-related merchandise and also for new movie releases. If it would be possible to view a movie trailer and immediately be able to click an options to see local showtimes and buy tickets online through Fandango or a similar service, I think it could be an extremely useful tool. The same goes for selling books, movies, and TV shows on DVD.
Of course, there are plenty of advertisers that this technology wouldn't effect, especially those that provide goods more along the lines of commodities, but those are the types of products that can be utilized in product placement, so the combination of this type of technology with an increase in effective product placement could move advertising toward a model much more reflective of the needs and wants of the consumer, again where everyone could potentially win.
It seems that this is the perfect fusion of commercialism and content, where independent directors are given a chance to produce content that is distributed by the company to help the director develop a name and film fans to get to see the work of unknowns, while also directly promoting the company. It's hardly an act of goodwill but is one step closer to a model of direct sponsorship. At this point, it seems to be a win-win situation.
Check out the Pop Secret page, and tell me what you think...
Has anyone witnessed the new advertising campaign by Chrysler, whose Chrysler 300C is used in Harrison Ford's upcoming thriller Firewall (Richard Loncraine, Warner Brothers)? The company has a Web site dedicated to the film and has taken full-page ads in entertainment magazines telling viewers to "See the Crysler 300C in Firewall, in theaters now. Go for the ride of your life with the Chrysler 300C."
Is this a good example of getting the most bang for your advertising buck by building on product placements with advertising for that product placement, or is this bordering on going too far?
If a good indicator of a successful ad is activity in brain areas concerned with reward and empathy, two winners seem to be the 'I am going to Disney' ad and the Bud 'office' ad. In contrast, two big floppers seem to be the Bud 'secret fridge' ad and the Aleve ad. What is quite surprising, is the strong disconnect that can be seen between what people say and what their brain activity seem to suggest. In some cases, people singled out ads that elicited very little brain responses in emotional, reward-related, and empathy-related areas.
It should be noted that Iacoboni's maps of brain activity, while suggestive, aren't definitive proof of anything yet. That said, the tests Iacoboni and his colleagues ran seem to support studies that suggest the effects of repeated exposure to ads fall off very quickly:
[I]n some fMRI runs we presented the same ad twice, just to test for habituation. We saw strong habituation effects, such that the second time around the commercial induces much weaker responses.
In the wake of Penny Arcade drawing attention to the issue through a comic and two front-pageposts, concerns about "manchurian fans" shilling for companies in exchange for money or products have begun to draw wide attention in the electronic gaming community.
The case that's drawn most of the attention is that of Nvidia, though recent evidence suggests that what at one point appeared to be fans shilling in exchange for hardware was actually something less sinister. Quoth Joystiq:
Stephanie Schopp, an employee of Nvidia's marketing buddies at AEG, [assured] us that "the program... is far less nefarious than your rather damaging article/blog above claims it to be." She continues, "These members were not 'paid in hardware' as your article states, but sent hardware to give us (NVIDIA through AEG) feedback, positive or negative, regarding their experience with it. They were never told what to say, nor did they sign any document forbidding them to discuss their relationship with NVIDIA or AEG. They are not actors: they were real, informed, hardware enthusiasts that could help us further understand what it was the community wanted from hardware vendors." She then directs us to two posts regarding the issue.
Even if Nvidia's wasn't trying to persuade gamers to act as company plants, however, the case highlights the fact that other companies almost certainly are. The updates to a post at Boingboing suggest that the practice (known as either Astrotufing or Ashleeturfing) is far from uncommon. In addition to being grossly unethical, it's a strategy that's guaranteed to backfire when discovered. In fan communities which privilege accurate information (such as reality-show spoilers and and those dependent on accurate reviews), there's no one more hated than a liar or a shill.
Update: Penny Arcade's posted another comic on the topic. In addition to being funny, it suggests that this issue isn't going fade from public consciousness any time soon.
This week's EW featured two powerful and interesting ads, I thought, from various perspectives.
The first comes at the beginning of the magazine and is a two-page spread advertising all of the various Law & Order shows on NBC. They have all the characters from all three L&O franchises stretched across the page, appearing as if they are in the middle of an investigation. Behind them is a facsimile of Times Square, with several media properties particularly noticable--a Virgin sign, Loews Theatres, Planet Hollywood, Marriott, Kodak, and Novotel, with two huge ads in the background for the iPod and Universal's King Kong.
The ad is a success in two ways--both as not just showing transmedia but as showing crossover within the various television shows of a particular media property, L&O, with all of the characters appearing in one scene, despite being on their various shows. Further, it has product placement within an advertisement, something that is more and more possible but has only been utilized occasionally. I don't know if it has ever been done quite so well as in this ad.
Similarly, I thought the idea from L'Oreal Paris was interesting. They provide a pullout ballot for the Golden Globe Awards, with four L'Oreal ads appearing on the backs of the ads featuring Beyonce Knowles and two models. I've already torn the ad out and plan to use it for the Globes, so it was at least somewhat of a success. This may feel a little more gimmicky; I don't know. But it's an effective way to make it feel as if the ballot is "brought to you by L'Oreal."
Oldie television ads continue to prove how powerful retroactive advertising and appealing to fans along the lines of history can be.
The use of vintage footage featuring Orville Redenbacher in advertisements is the focus of Brian Steinberg's article in last Friday's Wall Street Journal entitled "Why Oldie TV Ads Make Comeback."
Sure, part of this is a drive on the part of advertisers, but the more important question is whether this is advertisers trying to create a trend or something that fans desire, and it seems to me that retro advertising and reviving old advertising lines remains very much in style and in demand from fans of brand communities.
What is the appeal of retro branding? There have been some great minds, including one of our partners Rob Kozinets and others, who have examined some of these very issues...It seems that honoring history is an important part of many fan communities and that such ads both reward longterm fans who have a memory of the brand at the point retro commercials initially aired and that newer members of brand community might feel rewarded with understanding the brand more by seeing its roots, so to speak...where it came from.
Gamasutra just published an article I wrote on enhancing the effectiveness of in-game advertising. It is basically a simple application of certain consumer behavior theories to the topic. If you're curious, here's the link.
As the year comes to a close, and families gather with relatives and friends for their holidays of choice, we here at the Convergence Culture Consortium would like to take a moment to extend our warmest wishes to you and yours.
In the spirit of the season, it seems appropriate to honor the Coca-Cola Company for their effective work in colonizing Christmas: from their enduring depiction of Santa Claus to their furry friends in the Arctic, Coke has (for better or worse, depending on your stance) played a vital role in developing the modern Yuletide iconography.
If posts are a bit more sparse than usual over the next week or two, it's because we're taking a breather from our brand-monitoring posts to spend time with our respective families and friends. We hope you're doing the same!
Warmest Holiday Greetings, from all of us to all of you!
Everyone who posted on the thread were in agreement that product placement would be more effective, more natural, and possibly the only way for soap operas to survive, longterm. The majority of the argument singled not on if but on how product placement should be done...As several of the posters pointed out, product placement in soaps, where most of the scenes take place in people's homes or in public spaces, would be easy to incorporate into the show. The local coffee place could become a Starbucks or some similar chain. And kitchens could be filled with actual food products.
When this is a serious discussion in the fan communities and seems to be widely accepted, one has to wonder why CBS and P&G have not embraced these opportunities. I'm going to look into this very issue much further in my research over the next couple of years, but what do you all think? Is product placement the logical next step for soaps regarding advertising?
You would think a company like P&G would be better at naturalistic product placement than they are. Thanks to MaryHatch for starting this discussion, by the way.
We can sympathize with Dunn as he sarcastically makes a pitch for Trojan to launch the "Kongdom" or for Survivor: Skull Island because product tie-ins and crossovers shouldn't work along the lines of thinking the more, the better.
There is an emotional backlash that the audience feels when they start to realize that King Kong's face is stuck on products everywhere they go. Instead of clever tie-in or creative synergy, it starts to feel like...well...overbearing corporate propaganda that viewers can't get away from. That's not to criticize Universal in particular, but it seems to me that quality is much more valued than quantity when it comes to product tie-ins like this and that too much of a good thing can even make ardent supporters cringe at the sight of your brand on yet another box.
In Steve Daly's "Lexikong" in this week's Entertainment Weekly, though, he reveals that Peter Jackson wanted to recreate Times Square as accurately as possible for 1933, including a Columbia Pictures sign. However, Sony Pictures refused to allow the Columbia logo in the film without getting paid for it, so Universal just replaced it with their own logo.
So, imagine this...The producers of King Kong, a film getting massive amounts of hype and guaranteed to be seen by a huge audience, want to put a big sign for Columbia Pictures in their film, despite being competiton, but Sony refuses this prominent product placement because they want to get paid?
Fans can enter the contest via the film's website WelcomeToSilentHill.com where they will be able to download creative elements from the film (photography stills, title treatment and billing block) to create their own Silent Hill poster design. Deadline for entries is January 3, 2006 and all valid entries will be posted to WelcomeToSilentHill.com on January 4th for online and WAP site voting to begin.
On January 17th, 2006, TriStar Pictures will review the 50 posters with the most votes for a selection of five finalists. The finalists will be posted on January 20th and fans will cast their votes for the winner. TriStar will unveil the winning poster on February 22, which will then be displayed in theaters across the country prior to the release of the film.
It'll be interesting to see what kind of results they get out of this, both in terms of the poster and generating pre-release anticipation for the film.
From the article: "As originally adopted, the FCC's new children's advertising rule would have forced broadcasters to start counting program promotions in shows aimed at children under 13 against commercial limits of 12 minutes per hour on weekdays and 10.5 minutes per hour on weekends, essentially reducing available ad time. In addition, media companies would have been banned from showing Web addresses linking to pages in which program characters sold products. Finally, the rule would have limited broadcasters' ability to pre-empt children's programming. Broadcasters are required to provide three hours of children's programming a week."
The new agreement introduces some key exceptions, among which are:
Broadcasters can run program promotions in children's shows without counting against commercial time - if the promotions are for other children's shows
Program characters can sell products on websites as long as those individual pages are not mentioned during the television show
A major move made by Golf magazine is leading to a somewhat unusual arrangement to try to bring in advertisers after a fairly significant slump in ad revenue for the Time-Warner mag.
Next May, the magazine will have two one-hour episodes on CBS television, immediately before a golf tournament, airing a golf challenge among everyday players for a grand prize of $250,000 for making difficult shots.
The move isn't being made for purposes of cross-media synergy, though. Instead, it was specifically to offer an ad package to provide an advertising block that includes time during the program, product placements, magazine ads, and Web site ads. Already, Johnson & Johnson's St. Joseph aspirin has signed onto be the title sponsor, according to a Monday Wall Street Journal story by Brian Steinberg.
Is this a smart move for a magazine struggling to retain advertisers, or is this just beating consumers over the head with brand names to the point that it will turn them off?
However, new research suggests that consumers are purchasing DVR devices because of their ability to time-shift and their ability to skip commercials. The president of the group that performed the study states "...the consumers want to control not just what they watch and when they watch, but also the ability to avoid commercial placements."
Twenty-three percent of all consumers polled said that they planned to buy a DVR in the next six months. So the networks may be right: the audience for network programming is increasing...but the audience for network advertising isn't.
"Last year, the use of products in filmed entertainment increased 44 percent and generated revenues in excess of $1 billion. In television alone, product-related revenues skyrocketed a whopping 84 percent."
The proposed Code of Conduct would include rules about disclosure of product integration deals and restrictions on product placement in children's media; but also at issue is compensation for writers and actors. Guild members believe that incorporating products into their stories is beyond their job description: "...along with being asked to create memorable stories and characters, our writers are being told to perform the function of ad copywriter." The whitepaper available with the press release calls for negotiation between producers and writers about additional compensation.
If their demands are not met, the Writer's Guild threatens to involve the FCC because broadcasters are bound by law to make sponsors public.
Niall Kennedy spots a blog post in its most literal sense. "Someone had posted two of their latest blog posts at a busy street corner in San Francisco. The top post introduces weblogs and the topics they cover, encouraging people to read more weblogs for the latest news about their community and the topics they care about. The bottom post talks about comments by radio host Rush Limbaugh against homosexuals."
Interesting... Joystiq reports that three separate (and fairly low-tech) websites have sprung up literally overnight, showcasing 'evidence' that gigantic creatures once walked the earth. The remains of colossal creatures bear a suspicious resemblance to designs from Sony's Shadow of the Colossus.
A page with underwater 'photos' of the second creature is here.
And a palentologist's account of discovering the third creature is here.
What's interesting is how recent events (the Tsunami and an earthquake in Iran) are incorporated into the first and third accounts, and the very understated nature of the marketing element. While most viewers would probably be skeptical of the websites' veracity, the connection to Shadow of the Colossus is likely to be made only by people who are already aware of the game. One suspects that blogs commenting on the campaign are more likely to get the message out than the websites themselves. Whether that makes the campaign's designers very crafty or otherwise remains to be seen.
When large agencies use "targeted" agencies as "boycott repellent," the article states, but don't allow them to propose new ideas or changes to the campaign because of fear of going off-message, the result is ethnic campaigns that are stereotypical and even offensive. The reason?
"Synergy, kids. Synergy. The images of ethnic folks presented by the targeted agency must be consistent with the preconceived notions of said ethnic folks held by the client/AOR/General Market consumer base. Otherwise, it's liable to make all involved think a little too hard about things other than the USP."
Adrants offers a solution: trust. If the large agencies can trust that a smaller, focused agency can contribute something valuable - if they can trust that campaigns can and should be changed so to appeal to different groups - both advertisers and consumers will benefit.
Sounds like Burger King may be positioning itself as an early champion in the convergence of brand culture and fan culture: they're apparently getting a decent response to their new campaign, which encourages fans to create their own BK ads for Apple's video iPod.
Although less than a month old, the video iPod is fast becoming a new advertising vehicle. Burger King is dipping its toes in the water by partnering with Heavy.com to offer consumer-generated videos extolling its brand icon, 'The King.'
Burger King interactive shop WPP Group's VML in New York created the campaign in concert with Heavy.com, a youth-focused broadband video site that features a heavy dose of user-created content. Heavy.com sent out about 25 Burger King masks, created for Halloween by Crispin Porter + Bogusky of Miami, to the site's frequent contributors. It got back a dozen videos of The King in action, including one featuring him driving through a McDonald's drive-through wearing the mask and asking for Burger King menu items...
"It's more about giving people something they'll find value in, tying it back to 'have it your way,'" said Jessica Brown, media manager at VML.
Lifestyle Gaming + Sports Gaming = Marc Ecko's Getting Up.
To take my previous post in a different direction with a real world example, MTV Films just announced plans for the movie version of fashion designer Marc Ecko's Getting Up. From the official press release at eckounltd.com:
Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure adaptation as a feature project promises to be an homage to graffiti's rich culture. Told through an alternate reality in a futuristic universe, the game represents the culmination of seven years of story and character development by fashion pioneer Marc Ecko, the visionary behind several of today's most respected youth lifestyle brands. Mr. Ecko will serve as producer on the project with MTV Films' Gregg Goldin, who brought the project to the company. Jason Weiss and David Gale will be developing on behalf of MTV Films. "Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure" will be distributed by Paramount Pictures.
"When I first began working on 'Getting Up' seven years ago, I wanted to create a storyline that provided a rare look inside of one of the most influential, yet often overlooked, artistic movements in recent history. Today, graffiti is a global cultural phenomenon and few understand its impact better than MTV, pioneers in its use as a motion graphics tool nearly two decades ago. I am delighted to have the ability to bring the depth of our story to life on film and look forward to working with the great team MTV has assembled," added Marc Ecko. "Getting Up" drops in Feb. 2006 for PS2, XBOX, and PC.
We won't get into the reasons why fashion designer Marc Ecko has a videogame with his name on it in the first place, why anyone would make a movie based on a game that hasn't even come out yet, and why anyone would want to see said movie. Branding has become such a singular and overwhelming force in videogames and movies that it alone can get both made (even though some don't make any money). Expect plenty of finger pointing and scapegoating once this movie comes out. Expect people to say the game's (potentially) piss-poor story is responsible for the movie's equivalent lack of narrative. But we'll know better.
For my money, while there's no mention of in-game ordering or other advanced advergaming implementation, I'm still quite interested to see where this goes. The mobile version already won Best Wireless Game at the Spike TV Video Game Awards, and the game's voice talent lineup alone is enough to make the scene sit up and take notice: Sean "Diddy" Combs, George Hamilton, Giovanni Ribisi, Adam West, Andy Dick, RZA, Charlie Murphy, and Talib Kweli. Wow.
Last week Dr. Jenkins' Creative Industries class was visited by Jon Cropper, a friend of the C3 and the man in charge of marketing Sean "Diddy" Coombs' media empire. In his lecture, Jon presented two huge photomontages evoking the 'mood' of a brand, including locations, objects and people that all fit this brand style. Looking at them, it was almost impossible not to start imagining connections between the images and quickly forming some type of brand narrative.
C3's research keeps returning over and over again to the use of storytelling as a marketing and entertainment device. We grapple with the functions that these stories serve in ads, the function that product placement for ads serve in stories, and how video gaming is developing as a narrative form. Aristotle argued that drama was all about the plot characters are nice to have, but you can still have a story with a rousing plot and no characters. Video games, on the other hand, seem to be primarily about the setting, granting the player agency to run around in an authored world.
So why not take this one step further and let gamers slip into the world that these brands attempt to personify in their advertisements? We have racks and racks of lifestyle magazines, so why not lifestyle gaming?
Imagine a MMORPG for the Vanity Fair set that lets you be the heir or heiress to some massive business empire, providing you with nearly inexhaustible resources. In the game, you can then assemble the materialistic life of your dreams, obtaining houses and vacation homes and planes and cars or whatever, taking this life out for a spin. You can connect with your friends online and show off the newest toys that you've found, with the option of actually purchasing one in real life with real money in-game. It would be similar to a James Bond game, but playing up the shaken-not-stirred aspect instead of the Walther PPK. How would such a project succeed or fail?
On the one hand, there's something intensely sexy about the concept of a Ralph Lauren videogame, distributed via free DVD-ROM in every issue of Vanity Fair, or even an Eddie Bauer or Timberland game. Pop in the game, and you're suddenly running around a lodge in Crested Butte wearing the latest fashions, sipping Godiva cocoa, cuddling with ski bunnies and taking your Land Rover out for a spin. On the other, there's the simple solve-all-my-problems psychology trap of big ticket purchases. People tend to buy brands because they believe that their lives will radically change when they obtain that $500 Gucci bag, but their friends stay the same, their waistline stays the same, their house stays the same... Very few big-ticket purchases would offer the same kind of massive life overhaul that such a game could offer unless each game also offered a Buy This Life button that instantly sucked $20M out of your credit account, filed divorce papers, sold your house, and booked you plane tickets.
Regardless, I think there is some interesting and potentially lucrative territory to be mined here. What do you think?
Nielsen Entertainment and Massive Inc. announced a partnership Wednesday under which Nielsen Interactive Entertainment will provide third-party accountability and measurement for in-game advertising on the Massive Network...
Massive operates the Massive Video Game Advertising Network, a system that enables advertisers to fine-tune customizable placement according to consumer demography, game genre, behavioral data, daypart and other factors, and all aspects of the campaign can be changed across the network instantly as well as being accurately trackable (HR 10/18).
The Online Journalism Review has an article about blog collectives and their advantages for advertisers and the bloggers themselves. For the writer, a blog collective like Blogads makes his or her site visible to advertisers and works on his or her behalf to negotiate contracts and payment. Advertisers can rely on Blogads to recommend appropriate blogs for a particular campaign. "By joining together in loose or more rigid groups," the article states, "bloggers are beginning to appear on the radar of big business and advertising companies and present themselves in terms that big firms can finally understand."
As I noted in the comments of Sam's post, below, AmericaBlog has been all over Ford Motors for caving to the demands of the American Family Association. Obviously, this is an area where brand cultures overlap with politics, as a look at the history of the AFA's attempts to influence Ford shows:
Some AMERICAblog readers uncovered an action alert the American Family Association (AFA) used to try to influence Ford to become anti-gay three years ago.
In that alert, the AFA uses the science of one Paul Cameron, the head of the Family Research Institute, an organization labeled a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), and whose "research" the SPLC says "echoes Nazi Germany."
...Specifically, the AFA is using Paul Cameron's fake "study" in which he determines that gay men die by the age of 40. I'm serious. (Cameron simply read the obituaries of gay men in gay publications in 1993, then averaged the age of death - really.) The AFA literally cited the results of this study in their action alert - I've been following Cameron's "research" and the religious right's use of him for the past 13 years.
In light of the tactics used by the AFA (as well as the PR implications of being associated with them) it's illuminating to contrast Ford's reaction to that of Kraft, which reacted quite differently to pressure from the AFA. An excerpt from Kraft's press release follows:
In recent days, the company has received many e-mails, the majority of them generated through the America Family Association, which objects to our sponsorship [of the 2006 Gay Games]. We also have received calls and e-mails - - not as many, but equally passionate - - thanking us for supporting this event.
...It can be difficult when we are criticized. It's easy to say you support a concept or a principle when nobody objects. The real test of commitment is how one reacts when there are those who disagree. I hope you share my view that our company has taken the right stand on diversity, including its contribution to the 2006 Gay Games in Chicago.
This is one case where I'm actually pleased that 'fan' pressure failed to achieve its desired goal.
Hot on the heels of the recent reports about the efficacy of in-game advertising, Massive Inc. has announced that they will start integrating "dynamic 10-second ads" into video games in more fluid and logical contexts:
Longano said a traditional 30-second spot would interrupt game play too much, but he is optimistic that gamers readily will watch the shorter commercials. "Advertising makes the gaming experience more realistic ... people accept it and actually like it" as long as it doesn't interfere or distract too much from the game itself, he said.
He explained that players would get to see the short animated videos in "natural" situations, such as when moving their game characters by a TV set that is turned on.
Massive will start using the spots in about two weeks and will charge higher rates than for its static ad displays within games, according to Longano.
Julia Angwin and Kevin J. Delaney examine, in detail, the potential advertising partnership between AOL and Microsoft in an article on the front page of Wednesday's Wall Street Journal.
AOL's advertising partnership is currently with Google, and Google and Time-Warner are continuing their talks, despite rumors that AOL might switch to using Microsoft's search engine and partnering to provide ads to thousands more online customers, even though the services would remain under the authority of both of their owners.
The question as to what impact this could have to online advertising and search ads remains up in the air, as AOL hangs in the balance, enjoying this bidding war against three of the most key actors in the current electronic media landscape.
According to Angwin and Delaney, "by joining their two systems, Microsoft and AOL could sell ads that would reach as many as 140 million Americans each month--or about 80% of all Internet users." The number is almost 20 million more users a month than Yahoo and over 50 million more users a month than Google.
What could this mean for the future of online advertising?
Starbucks: Pitching to Unsuspecting Good Samaritans
Thomas Hawk recounts an interesting experience where Starbucks tried to get his attention by making him express concern for a fellow citizen. He thinks it's clever -- I think it's an uncomfortable trick to pull on your potential customers.
There is sometimes a dark side to brand communities.
We have often advocated the importance of making products appeal to more than one niche market simultaneously or making appeals to multiple demographics or audiences through various channels at the same time.
Ford Motors has positioned itself as, among other things, an American family brand.
It is precisely an extreme section of this fan base that is reacting against the company's ads in gay publications specifically targeted that audience.
Conservative religious group American Family Association has successfully pressured Ford to pull ads for its Jaguar and Land Rover brands in magazines after the group called for a boycott against Ford for "supporting the homosexual agenda."
With a market of many audiences, the concern with keeping them all happy has to be a constant one for marketing. And, marketing to conservative Christians can be a particular double-edged sword, as they are a group with an incredible word-of-mouth network, which can both spread good will and just as quickly call for a boycott.
Banana Republic has released a line of Asian-inspired clothes to help promote the upcoming film.
Sony has also entered into tie-ins "with cosmetics company Fresh, luxury candle brand D.L. & Co., and the Republic of Tea, among others," according to Missy Schwartz, author of "Asia Miner," the EW article.
This marketing ploy, coupled with the traditional media spots to air versions of the trailer or print ads, brings to question what the value of these loose tie-ins might be, as the measuring system for such things still remains largely speculative.
Product placement often seems to be most easily integrated into comedy, and the WWE often finds a way to put product placement in its programming very blatantly but in a way that makes fans laugh instead of gag.
WWE Owner Vince McMahon acted as judge and was biased against Bischoff, his long-time enemy. For instance, when one witness for Bischoff finished talking, McMahon admitted he hadn't heard any of it.
Instead, he revealed he'd been listening to his new iPod, which he showed to the audience, and then said that Ashlee Simpson music really sucks.
Later, "prosecutor" Mick Foley opened his old-school Batman lunchbox during a recess and pulled out an RC Cola and a Moon Pie, an homage to the stereotype of the south but embraced by the fan favorite in a way that got a chuckle out of the fans.
When product placement ends up being part of the most entertaining parts of a show, you know a company has found a potential landmine in profit while still retaining a show's integrity for its loyal fan base.
Since I study the soap opera industry regularly, I thought I would post something about the partnership between Tyson Foods and As the World Turns, the soap that I "study" (am an avid fan of).
Barbara Ryan, who has been a regular character on the show played by Colleen Zenk Pinter since 1978, is one of the most recognizable stars on the show. In the past couple of years, her character--who has long been the neurotic head designer of fashion company BRO (Barbara Ryan Originals)--has gone of the deep end and has become a soap villain of sorts.
Tyson, a regular advertiser on the CBS daytime lineup, somehow borkered a deal with the producers of ATWT and shot the following commercial:
Barbara walks into the kitchen of her aunt and uncle's home (Bob and Kim Hughes, the core family of the show), on her cell phone and says the following:
"What did I do today? Well, I took the kids to school, foiled a kidnapping attempt, took my son to his psychiatrist's, picked up the drycleaning, divorced my eighth husband, went to lunch and played bridge, recovered from the explosion, went to the grocery store, and sabotaged a fashion show. You?"
At the bottom of the screen, Tyson's logo appears, along with its new catch-phrase "Powered by Tyson." These were a great departure from the more conventional "families powered by Tyson" commercials, but the fans of As the World Turns began talking about the commercial regularly.
Later, Tyson featured Barbara Ryan's character in a second commercial with similar results, as she walks into the same kitchen and says:
"What have I been up to lately? Well, I flew out of a second-story courtroom window, confessed to a murder that I didn't commit, foiled an attempt to brainwash my son, sent my enemies to a Swiss spa and aged them 40 years, and crashed my car into a mental institution? And you?" Again with the Tyson information appearing.
As opposed to blatant product placement within the show, the fans have accepted this spot as brilliant and regularly bring it up on message boards, etc. I think this is one way that producers could market their products along with entertainment in intriguing ways. The spot cost nil to produce, as it was filmed on the show's set with one of their regular actors, and yet it created a much stronger link between the fans of the show--As the World Turns--and the product. Now, Tyson seems to be a "hip" product in-line with what soap opera is really like, rather than a frozen food and chicken company trying to hock its products at the stereotypical housewife.
When it rains bad press, it certainly pours for once golden, now seemingly forever-despised Sony. After the disasterous press they got a couple of weeks ago for their music CDs that infected customers' computers with devastating spyware, their PSP graffiti art campaign is getting totally dissed on the internet as an inauthentic grab for street-art cred. Check out these articles:
Showing them the money...innovative e-tailing this season
Interesting BusinessWeek article - one of many flooding the newslines right now - of how innovative online retailers are using the power of networking, blogs, and even GPS - to increase their revenues this shopping season. Covers initiatives such as Yahoo's Shoposphere, Yub.com, DailyCandy.com, Cairo.com, GP Shopper, and of course, the big daddy of the season - Google Base.
Check it out here.
Fortune.com has a fantastic write-up detailing how the anime industry has thrived by treating file-sharing and P2P piracy as free advertising, rather than theft and isolence.
"The hard-core fan base is very rabid," says Ledford. "They will get behind you as a company. You don't have to spend a dollar in marketing; you just have to be friends with them." (With the understanding that any true friendship needs limits--and visiting hours.)
There must be a few studio heads out there who would accept 2 a.m. chats with customers in exchange for a rosier state of business.
Not that it comes as a surprise to anyone, but now that there's a video iPod, there's an obvious market for free video content... and what better freebies than promotional clips and entertainment advertising?
A recent New York Times story on innovative advertising talks of the current mind change of big corporations as they look towards blogs and other non traditional advertising mechanisms for breaking through the mainstream media clutter.
The campaigns from Hasbro and Budget are a sign of the increasing appeal of nontraditional media to once-conservative mainstay marketers as they seek to reach bombarded consumers. The growing willingness to consider alternatives to television commercials, billboards and print ads is one of the most significant changes in marketing in decades.
An interesting shift in attitudes is revealed in a story on Google ads in The New York Times. Remember pop-under ads from way back in 2001?
In a survey in mid-2001, X10's company Web site was the fourth-most visited in the online universe, though the statistics did not distinguish between voluntary and inadvertent visits. Its apparent success led some in the advertising industry to publicly endorse the loathsome pop-under. Brian McAndrews, the chief executive of the online ad agency Avenue A, was quoted in Advertising Age in 2001 as saying, "Just because something is intrusive doesn't mean it's bad."
This is the same man, four years later:
Mr. McAndrews, the onetime defender of intrusive pop-unders, has taken note. He is now the head of aQuantive, the parent of Avenue A/Razorfish. When reminded last week of his past statement that intrusive-doesn't-mean-bad, Mr. McAndrews said, "I've evolved my thinking. The key is no longer intrusiveness; today the mantra is relevance." No ad is more relevant to a user than that linked to a Web search, he said.
Of course, the key never was intrusiveness, and while I'm sure X10 got some business out of spamming the known universe and making it nigh-impossible to close a web browser, I can't imagine that the proportion of people who inadvertently went to their site and then actually bought something was particuarly high. There's a lesson to be found in the success of Google ads, if one cares to look.
Cinematical reports that IFC Films is collaborating with the iTunes Music Store to make the first 10 minutes of Lars Von Trier's upcoming film Mandalay available for free download. I'd expect to see a lot more of this in the near future, but I'm glad that IFC was the first one to make this move.
With cellular subscriber base touching 2 million in October, the highest-ever mark, service providers are gearing up with attractive offers to further enhance their market shares.
Reliance Infocomm recently introduced the full money-back offer, under which a subscriber gets an LG 2340 handset free with a new connection. While the connection cost is Rs 2,500, it offers full talk-time of the equivalent amount.
The offer is open for both prepaid as well as postpaid customers across the country on new connections.
According to S P Shukla, wireless products and services president, Reliance Infocomm, "We found that a significant number of mobile phone users, who make high amount of outgoing calls, do not mind paying upfront for the benefit they derive. This offer marks the continuation of festive celebrations."
However, on loading people with new handsets with every new connections, he said, "Mobile penetration is increasing by the day and people who have other connections should sell off their old handsets and avail of the new lucrative offer."
Airtel pioneered the bundling offers as early as 1995 when mobile telephony took its roots in India. At present, Airtel has two schemes - recharge 599, which offers talk time of Rs 300 with a validity of six months, and recharge 995, which offers talk time of Rs 400 with 12 months validity.
Jayant Khosla, chief executive officer, mobility, Mumbai circle, Bharti Tele-Ventures told DNA, "We analysed the requirement of our customers and realised that there was a need for longer validity products. Thus, while the customer intends to restrict the recurring airtime spend to pre-decided limits, he also wants hassle free and longer validity time."
Airtel is also planning to further cash in on its success of hello tunes, by offering a slew of innovative personalised ringtone services. "In Maharashtra & Goa circle, Airtel has launched a new product called the 'Airtel Hum-It' ringtone that caters to customers growing demand for personalised ringtones," said Christopher Tobit, COO, Bharti Tele-Ventures Ltd, Maharashtra & Goa circle.
The new service allows the user to simply hum or sing a song and use it as a personalised ringtone. Cellnext, India's wireless application and solutions provider, is providing this service to Airtel users. Airtel has also introduced a 'free flight' offer recently, wherein postpaid customers can avail of a free Indian Airlines return ticket.
The offer is valid for all existing post-paid customers who opt for the new monthly rental plan of Rs 349 and above. "To be a part of the Airtel offer, all new customers will have to pay Rs 599 as one-time activation fee, and Rs 500 as security deposit. The free flight offer is India's first by a telecom company and this is in line with the company's marketing strategy to offer innovative opportunities to customers," he added.
However, unlike Reliance and Airtel, BSNL and Hutch have not come up with matching offers though both companies stressed on competitive call rates and better connectivity.
"Being a state-owned company BSNL cannot bundle or give free handsets as we offer attractive call rates. BSNL provides lowest call charges in roaming and offers the state-of-the art connectivity and reception in remotest areas across the country where no other private operators have reached yet," said B L Bordia, general manager - marketing, BSNL (Maharashtra).
According to Hutch spokesperson, "Hutch caters to a different segment compared to Reliance Infocomm. Hutch is more focused on better connectivity and services rather than giving free handsets to lure customers."
According to Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) figures, the cumulative GSM subscriber base grew 4.15% to 52.98 million last month from 50.87 million recorded in the previous month. While Bharti saw an increase of 6.7 lakh subscribers, BSNL reported a rise of 6 lakh users. Similarly, Hutch saw an increase of more than 4 lakh while Idea saw an increase of 1lakh subscribers.
The number of subscribers in the metros touched 13.06 million in October, up from 12.62 million in the previous month. Delhi and Mumbai continued to dominate in terms of volume and market share. Delhi continues to be the leading cellular market with 4.84-million subscribers accounting for 9.13% of the total market, followed closely by Mumbai with 4.71-million subscribers.
Since I don't know anyone who watches NBC's Medium, I hadn't noticed that the November 14th episode featured a plot point revolving around Sony's upcoming theatrical release Memoirs of a Geisha:
"In the episode, Arquette's character, Allison, finally got a much-needed night on the town with her husband, and the two decided to attend a special advance screening of "Geisha." When they arrived at the theater, not only was the film's title bannered on the marquee, but the couple also ran into two friends who had just seen the movie and loved it. And just to reinforce the film's title, throughout the episode Allison's daughter Bridgette kept asking for the definition of a geisha."
The logic behind the deal, which will surprise absolutely no one, stands in stark contrast to the multi-network press conference earlier today insisting that DVRs and TiVos are not eroding commercial audiences. Apparently Geoff Ammer, Sony's President of Worldwide marketing, disagrees.
CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, UPN and the WB hold a rare joint press conference to inform advertisers that the DVR isn't death incarnate for conventional TV commercials. One of the tenuous linchpins of their argument: DVR users pay more attention to what's flashing on-screen, even if it's a commercial that's being fast-forwarded at 10 times normal speed, so if something catches their eye, they'll rewind back to see it.
Does anyone who's not drinking the networks' kool-aid believe this?
Let me be blunt: The conventional TV commercial is going the way of the dinosaur. We don't know what will replace it yet, but it's an open secret that even as the price of prime-time advertising goes up, its impact is dropping like a stone. Although there are only an estimated 8 million DVRs in homes and playback viewing is less than 5% of the total viewing audience (numbers via adweek), it's indisputable that DVR viewing is on the rise (to say nothing of other recent ad-free trends, like people BitTorrenting TV shows to watch on their computers and ABC's recent partnership with Apple).
The major networks appear to be in complete denial about the impending demise of the TV commercial. That's the first of the 5 stages of grief. Personally, I can't wait until we hit anger and bargaining.
Update: Ilya takes issue with some of my conclusions in comments. Come join the fun.
Last year, Slate featured an article about Burger King's revival of the King mascot that remarked on the mocking tone of the recent advertisements. In the article, Burger King's advertising agency describes the advertisements as trying to appeal to the elusive 18-to-35-year-old male market - the "most cynical consumers out there" - by evoking "the cool uncle - the uncle who tells you how things really are, and lets you get away with a little more than your mom and dad do."
Today, MediaPost reports that Burger King, partnering with video download site Heavy.com, is sponsoring a series of free videos that can be downloaded and played on a video iPod. MediaPost calls the move "Madison Avenue's highest profile foray into the new medium yet."
In an interesting move by Burger King, some of the videos are user-generated, created by Heavy.com members who were sent Subservient Chicken and "the King" masks to use in their videos. The first result? A short video that shows a young man (wearing a King mask and robe) repeatedly requesting a Whopper at a McDonald's drive-through, giggling all the while. I'm sure the "cool uncle" approves.
In the latest edition of BrandWeek, Sonia Reyes writes about recent developments in the cereal industry to expand the brand. Since researching Kellogg's was a project of mine for a recent class, I was particularly interested to see what information the article had for the development of the cereal company. According to Reyes, profits have risen steadily since 2002 and are higher than ever in January through October 2005.
This is led by a development into healthy cereal lines, as Kellogg has put $15 million into a new Yogurt Bites product that will be marketed heavily, along with a Special K Fruit & Yogurt creeal. This is a big jump in health food cereals, which appears to be the big new market with all of the health (and weight) conscious Americans.
While this marketing strategy differs from their line for children, it does show how clearly products are marketed to different groups, despite all of it being cereal given to customers in boxes. The marketing and branding of these boxes, however, reflect the pervasiveness of cereal companies to produce products that reach almost every demogaphic.
Advertising agencies are already starting to gather forces for new wings of agencies to cover the mobile technology front, and advertising through text messaging may triple to $760 million by 2009 if current trends continue.
The market seems to show the biggest potential for growth in the United States.
The question is whether traditional advertising agencies can handle these new campaigns or will the development of new agencies better handle these campaigns?
This potential for new marketing models echoes some of our prior reading, particularly at the intersection of Madison and Vine. With entertainment companies infiltrating marketing content as well, what might be the potential tie-ins in our future?
According to Morrissey, "Entertainment companies, which already have ready-made content, like music ringtones, have been the most active wireless marketers, but other brands are pushing their own content." What will be the intersection of these brands and mobile technologies in the future?
At "The Next Big Idea" conference last week at New York City that I attended with Henry and Ivan, one company executive who specialized in product placement discussed a new automatic tape measure from Black and Decker that was sent to all of the sitcom producers for this season and was encouraged to have it used during products.
According to the product placement executive, the product has already appeared in two shows and will actually play a role in a storyline in a third.
I was just wondering how aware the class was of these attempts at product placement and the prevalence that these agencies have. Based on the models I've seen through Steven Johnson's < a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1573223077/103-2067775-3390264?v=glance&n=283155">Everything Bad Is Good for You, and J.D. Lasica's Darknet, etc., the traditional commercial may be on its way out and product placement here to stay. Do these firms stand to gain an early great footing in what may be the major emerging market of the future in advertising?
This post may be evidence that my demented mindscape is expanding in strange and contradictory ways, considering my previous posts deal with pro wrestling and soap opera, but a thought struck me a couple of days ago while I was looking around Boston's Saks Fifth Avenue over at the Prudential Center.
No, it wasn't dismay at all of the goats around the store, tugging on the cashmere scarves of the mannequins, although I do admit it was a bit disorienting, but it was the prices, which were even more disorienting.
I was shopping for my wife's birthday, and I realize that, even if I wanted to channel all my funds into one particularly great gift, the prices were rising to the point it would be impossible. From Manolos to Puccis, the prices seemed to be up across the board.
But I think I gained a little insight while reading this month's Vogue (again, don't ask). The article, by Robert Sullivan, traced the path of a various buyers for trendy stores as they go to Europe to purchase outfits for the upcoming fall season, which has turned out to be one of the most expensive fashion seasons in many years.
One buyer, Jeffrey of Jeffrey's in New York and Atlanta, named not only a diminished "trendiness" of the dollar in Europe but also a rising desire to buy for their customer base fewer items but with higher quality, or, as he put it, a higher "passion factor."
"I had to really look for a passion factor," he explains. "I had to put myself in my customers' stilettos and ask, Would I pay $4,500 for those shoes, $1,800 for that boot? If I felt the passion factor was there, then I bought it."
This argument relates closely to the theory of the Experience Economy espoused by B. Joseph Pine and James Gilmore. Pine and Gilmore examine the need for companies to shift from selling goods to selling experiences in order to keep their product less like a commodity and more like a lifestyle. The clothing labels are understanding this and capitalizing on this more and more, it seems, and buyers are purchasing outfits with the experience in mind.
"I think price is an issue only when it's a basic replacement item, like a gabardine suit," another buyer, Penne Weidig of Tootsies in Texas, said. "If that was $1,500 before and now it's $2,000, there may be some slight rumblings. But if it's something that is fabulous and over-the-top and they have an immediate emotional response, then price is not going to be an issue."
Of course, this is a line of thinking that clothing brands have probably come to realize much sooner than most other companies. But the current patterns will likely continue. As Grant McCracken argues in Culture and Consmption II, pricing is a major way that companies can manage meaning, and a higher price simply means that the product is more valuable in the eyes of the consumer. While this line of thinking apparently won't work for such "commonplace" items as a gaberdine suit (I've always heard that men who wear them are spies), it apparently will work for those products that provide an emotinal response. And the companies that can manage to focus on that experience factor while adjusting pricing to manage their meaning, they will allow that "passion factor" to kick in, a frame of mind where customers will apparently "sell the ranch" to buy their daughters a wedding dress, as Weidig puts it.
I found the idea to be a strong one because, with a film buff like me, I had almost as much interest watching the commercial breaks as I did watching the show. Also, with a show that has quite a bit of critical buzz and high production values, being supported by in-depth film trailers was not a bad move. I don't have any figures as to what Sony paid for the spots, but I thought it was a great way in trying to market the advertising a little more directly so that fans who had the opportunity to fast forward through the commercials, as I did, chose not to and willingly watched them.
Do you think this is the trend that programs could go to in providing fewer commercials but longer spots that reach a very specific audience?
MediaBuyerPlanner links to a MediaPost article about Geico's new website that asks consumers to submit short movies about the Geico gecko for a chance to win prizes. The article states that it "may be the first marketer generated effort to create a large-scale consumer generated media campaign promoting a brand." Geico's website can be found at http://goldengecko.com.
The article later mentions Adcandy.com, a website that features user-submitted ads and ad concepts. Wired has a story about the Adcandy website, calling it "open source advertising." Companies can subscribe to Adcandy and tap into what Adcandy calls the "collective unconscious of the public."
I'm wondering what motivates the people who submit entries. Geico and the companies who subscribe to Adcandy probably hope that the user-created ads they see are the result of customer evangelism - customers who love a product and want to spread the word. But does offering prizes or other incentives also encourage submissions by people who simply desire to win, and don't feel strongly about a particular product? Would those kinds of submissions still be helpful?