Archive for the ‘advertising’ Category

They’ll Be Right Back…But Will You?

Thursday, November 12th, 2015

radioguy_smNext to newspapers there is perhaps no other medium so closely watched, scrutinized and debated as radio.  This, despite the fact that radio remains among the most successful and far-reaching of them all (to the tune of 91% of all adults 18+ every week, according to the Radio Advertising Bureau).  Yet, can this trend continue, many ask, as generational tastes, consumption and alternatives for attention evolve.

Doug Spero, Professor of Mass Communication at Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina, opines on that very topic this week in a guest blog on In particular, he examines the dynamic of the commercial “stop set” where programming stops and a series of ads are run.  How intrusive to the masses are they, he asks, as many “breaks” have steadily grown to anywhere from 9-12 minutes – especially to younger demographics as comfortable with spot-less streaming and MP3s?

I know when I was an on-air rookie back in the day, radio mentors instructed me away from calling attention to a coming commercial break.  Why say, “We’ll be right back?” After all, where was I going? I was still there pushing the buttons. And I certainly didn’t want my listeners to leave.  Similarly, “More after these messages” was nothing more than a signal that ads were forthcoming and, at least temporarily, more music was not.  I also worked very hard at every radio stop to offer value to my listeners, giving them every reason to come to my show and stay.

Everyone has at least some tolerance for airwave interruption – but not a lot.  In Spero’s blog, he details a study of approximately 160 students (ages 18-24) demonstrating 50% of the small sample, unsurprisingly, preferred 1-2 minute breaks; 36% 2-3 minutes.  Interestingly, KNDD-FM, a Seattle alternative station, earlier this year instituted the “2-minute” promise of no more than 120 seconds of commercials per break. Of course, shorter stop sets mean more of them. After all, something has to give in money making enterprise.

When all is said and done, every media outlet seeks to attract and retain a significant audience as consistently and for as long a period of time as possible. To that end, content is king.  You’ll sit through commercials when you know the quality programming you are really there to hear can be found nowhere else and is coming back post haste. That includes, in very large part, the on-air personalities behind the microphone – those that generate the listeners and ratings through which advertisers and their dollars are ultimately attracted.

One Week Fantasy Sports: Ad Blitz Now, PR Issues Later?

Monday, September 21st, 2015

football-moneyIf you even casually watch or follow sports, especially America’s most popular TV sports, football, there is no doubt you have felt saturated by TV commercials, radio host endorsements, web banners and social media ads for two websites competing in a new gaming platform called “one week fantasy sports.”

Fans and journalists alike are taking to social media to voice opinions about being inundated with ads for Fan Duel and Draft Kings. Without the backing of PAC money weeks before an election, it’s hard to imagine more frequency for any other ad barrage.

Some reports estimate the total ad spend in recent weeks at nearly $30 million. But it sure seems like more than that, especially when you factor in the local in-stadium advertising that is new for this football season. There’s no doubt that level of attention has piqued fan curiosity and led to sign-ups and sampling. These two sites and their fledging business models are now part of the consciousness of their target audiences. But at what price?

These two companies must now be prepared to be in the PR crosshairs. They need to be ready for for a flurry negative media attention, as fans inevitably lose money via those sites. They need to be ready to be attacked by politicians, as the companies toe the line between gambling and entertainment. They must be prepared to deal with direct complaints via social media in a timely and professional manner.

There’s no doubt they have their talking points ready to go in their defense. But is there anything they have planned to be proactive? One of them could start poking a little good natured fun at themselves and join the chorus talking about the sheer volume of ads to avoid being cast quickly a “big, bad” image. Or one could follow the lead of casinos, which have largely rid themselves of stigma in the last generation by aggressively positioning themselves as good corporate citizens. Or will one of them start using PR tools to highlight their winners in their local markets?

From a PR standpoint, buying the quantity of advertising is the equivalent of placing a gigantic target on the back of your company in the battle for attention. While their efforts have so far been driven by marketing tactics, PR needs to have the proverbial “seat at the table” in order for these companies to grow successful businesses.

Why The CNBC-Nielsen Divorce Had To Happen

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

UnknownAs much as the media business has changed in recent years, the TV business is still, to a great extent, set up to cater to Ward Cleaver’s lifestyle.

The same network evening weekday schedule, developed in a bygone era, is in place today, as if to cater to early dinnertimes, after dad walks home from his 9-5 job. Local news at 6, network news at 6:30, an hour for local stations at 7, followed by network programming in the evening then a late local newscast, before a late night network show. It’s one of the few media elements that can unite generations.

The same has gone for the way TV has been measured. While technology has evolved, the most important number in the TV ratings game has been the count of “households” watching. That’s because, when the Cleavers and their contemporaries watched TV, it was only at home (and only one TV). All of these decades later, the Nielsen ratings system is still home-based.

But consider CNBC. The network’s live business coverage and conversation is among the rare “DVR-proof” content on TV. That makes it theoretically more valuable to advertisers.But they don’t have the ratings to show for it because, not surprisingly, businesspeople watch daytime TV at work (where there’s a flat screen in virtually every office suite), rather than at home. Since CNBC’s inception, those sought-after viewers have never been counted to determine the channel’s ratings. That’s why CNBC has dumped the Nielsen ratings service, as explained in the Wall Street Journal.

This overdue move could signal an increasing intolerance for the flawed system that has long determined fates and fortunes in the TV business. One advantage Web platform have over broadcast is the precision of audience measurement. For example, we’ll know exactly how many individuals read this post. But, we will never really know exactly how many will see a story that appears on TV. In order for broadcast outlets to maintain their roles as cash cows for their corporate owners, they must be able to sell advertisers on their audiences.

Some company must be able to deliver accurate audience data. It appears if broadcasters just “Leave It To Nielsen,” they will fall behind in the analytics game.

Watching More Than Football On New Year’s Day

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

UnknownWhen the University of Michigan hired Jim Harbaugh to be its Head Football Coach this week, the millions in salary announced along with the hire shocked those who don’t follow the businesses of media and sports closely. But the reason why he and other football coaches outlearn many business CEOs is on display on your your flat screen TV today.

If you’re watching college football today and/or tonight, you’re watching TV differently from how so many will watch TV in 2015 and it’s the fuel for bigger money and bigger stakes in big time college sports. That’s because you’re watching commercials too, rather than fast-forwarding through them on your DVR.

College football is America’s second most popular TV sport, second only to pro football. And it’s just about DVR proof, as virtually all fans prefer to watch games live, whenever possible. That means advertisers are virtually guaranteed the maximum value for their commercials and they will pay a premium for them. That translates into rising rights fees paid from the TV networks to the colleges that are members of the “Power 5″ athletic conferences. That “football money” gives them more to do whatever they feel like they need to do to have a competitive football team that wins games and the prestige that comes along with that. That is the money that makes even assistant coaches millionaires.

It’s a chain that starts with getting you in front of the TV to watch commercials, along with football.

How Do You Respond To A Crazy Email?

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

yellow_guy_crazy_hg_whtA couple of weeks ago on this blog, I detailed how an egomaniac ad agency owner committed the ultimate act of cowardice against a client, who happened to be my wife. After nearly a year of broken promises, long lulls in communication and growing frustration, she told him she was no longer interested in his company’s completion of a new website for her online business, promised due seven months earlier. So, he sued her for breach of contract. It’s all detailed here.

A reasonable businessperson would think that my business relationship with this guy would be history after he dropped multiple nuclear bombs – 1) taking on a project his firm either didn’t have the capabilities to commit or considered “small potatoes” 2) treating a customer (with whom I live) poorly, stringing her along for a year and 3) filing the lawsuit. Now that the case has been settled in binding mediation, a reasonable person would expect that I would be done with him. Instead, last week, I received this email:

“Hi Matt, sorry things didn’t work out the way your wife wanted. We really tried to make her happy. I am sure this entire thing put you in a very odd place. Please understand that I am not angry or think that this was your fault. I recently recommended you for another assignment will continue to do so. Hope to catch up with you soon.”

Really? Really? Yes.

Emotional thoughts raced through my mind. This is crazy. Completely nuts. “Didn’t work out the way your wife wanted.” That’s the understatement of the year. “Tried to make her happy.” Bull****. This could have been my fault? My fault? “Hope to catch up with you soon.” Ya, how about half past never? There’s only one word to describe it and it’s a Yiddish one. This is chutzpah.

Didn’t this guy understand the money he cost my household in legal fees and for an expensive website that was never built? Didn’t he understand the pain he caused by forcing us to talk about this situation every night for a year instead of other more pleasant things? Didn’t he understand how he took time away from my clients to deal with this?

After fuming for a while, I decided to take a deep breath and take the advice I would give a client. Put it aside. Calm down. Detach. Give it a couple of days.

A few days later, I was ready to respond. I realized, in his world, suing people and pocketing cash is just part of the “game” of business. The way he sees it, it seems, he won this round but wants to play some more. But, just like I can’t relate to his world, he probably can’t relate to mine. So, taking the advice I would give a client in this situation, here’s how I responded:

“It is apparent that you are oblivious to my perspective on what happened, so I will keep this simple.

Please do not contact me again.


So far, so good.

If You Don’t Communicate A Difference, You’re Wasting Your Money

Monday, May 12th, 2014

125When you work in the communications business, you can’t consume media like a “normal person.” As case in point, take my most recent experience reading a local business magazine. Yes, I read it for the articles but I also couldn’t help spending time looking at the ads. Many of them, all full-page and in full-color, were placed by professional service firms, a business sector Don and I have both worked with for our entire PR careers.

While advertising is not our core business, paid ads should communicate the same brand core that should be extended over all communications platforms. Ads, particularly business-to-business ads should, in a compelling and succinct way, somehow communicate who you are, what you do and, most importantly, how you’re different. When your company is paying top dollar for space that reaches a target audience, it’s imperative that time and energy be spent in the right ways to take advantage of the communications opportunity. Instead, what I found was a lot of wasted money. Here’s a short take on each of the professional services ads in this issue:

-The ad on the inside front cover prominently features a stock image of a woman (presumably a client?), rather than the people the law firm says are its strength. It uses the we’ve-heard-it-before phrase “from the boardroom to the courtroom” and describes the law firm as “fearless” (as opposed to all of the timid litigators you see out there).

-Two pages later is an ad for a firm that does litigation support “in either the boardroom or the court room” in text on top of courthouse columns, another well-worn cliche.

-A few more pages in is a law firm ad featuring a stock image of four lamps, with one shining toward the reader. I found this on Google images in one click while searching “different.” Even though this is a local ad, the firm couldn’t even spend a few extra dollars to have its designer put Michigan first in the list of states where it has offices.

-A few pages later there is an ad for a law firm that touts its 160 years in business and its “deep bench” (over an image of a baseball team in a dugout). At least those are points of difference amid stock photography. But below, there are three long paragraphs of copy that only a lawyer with a taste for text could love.

-A few pages later runs an ad for “tough” corporate trial lawyers with an image of a coat and tie wearing torso with boxing gloves on each hand. It touts experience and service. Are those real points of difference, especially with the boxing glove image, used by a personal injury attorney in billboards across Detroit? Michigan is listed third in the states where they have offices in this local-only placement.

There are reasons why this can happen with professional service firms. Because they are often run by committee, “groupthink” can prevail with the winning strategy appealing to the room’s lowest common denominator. That helps explain spending thousands of dollars on placement but maybe hundreds on stock, cliched creative work. Also, these firms are often run by professionals whose expertise in their own field creates ego can trump any professional marketing counsel.

Whatever your business, it’s important to remember not to say the same old thing in the same old ways. Dig deep, spend the money, develop your brand and communicate why someone should really choose you over anyone else.

Here’s Why You See The Same Commercials Over and Over (and Over) Again During Sports Playoffs

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Count me among the sports TV viewers who consider themselves annoyed with having to watch the same commercials repeatedly during sports playoff runs. First, it was the Taco Bell spot during the NCAA Tournament with the hipsters driving across the country for a taco. Now, it’s Andre Dawson in the ivy for State Farm and the kid playing “Axel F” on his tuba for some cell phone.

Many have wondered aloud and online why major advertisers will run the same commercial spot so many times to what seems like the same audience. We decided to ask two of our favorite advertising professionals, with whom we collaborate on client projects, to give us some answers.

Here’s some perspective from George Piliouras , who as a big ad agency Executive Creative Director orchestrated the once-ubiquitous “Ford Truck Man” TV commercials. He said, “The rationalization is that in a media cluttered landscape loaded with quick-cuts, playbacks, other commercials- all have the goal of getting our attention. Having the same spot running consistently is a thread of continuity which is a good thing. The fact that it’s remembered,even perceiving it to be an annoyance, proves that repeating the same commercial worked. It got someone’s attention which ultimately is the goal of an advertiser. Cost to produce numerous ads can sometimes be a factor, but usually, it’s a deliberate strategy to have the same one.”

Mark Young, the Chairman of Jekyll & Hyde Advertising , a firm that creates and places much national advertising, explained that it’s really about numbers. “We know that we need 3.7 impressions before a viewer will really “get” the message. We also know that you can deliver up to 15 impressions with continuing good results. Once the viewer has seen it 15 times it ceases to be effective. I am sure that they are calculating that they are under the 15 impressions model. Some viewers will see it more, some less.”

Piliouras added that we, as consumers, now expect to be entertained by advertising. But that isn’t always the best way for a brand to hammer home an impression. “We get conditioned and a bit spoiled for the variety of entertainment in message. Compare that rub with one spot running continually through the clutter and it’s no surprise that some find it boring. Ultimately, the goal of the ad is to engage your targeted audience and make them remember you and your message.”

So hard core baseball fans may be sick of the commercials we’ll see in the World Series. But, two of the ad pros we trust the most say that, fundamentally, the big advertisers know what they’re doing.

Nike Just Does It in London

Saturday, August 11th, 2012

Last time, we talked about the brilliance of Dr. Dre in the product placement of his Beats headphones at this year’s Olympics. Yet, the company that many are pointing to as the gold standard in guerilla or “ambush” marketing at the 2012 summer games is one known for its uncanny ability to stand out in the wide world of sports: Nike.

Throughout its history, the Oregon-based sports product giant has been anything but shy about pushing the envelope. From groundbreaking commercials to high-profile sports sponsorships that place its famous “swoosh” logo on pro sport uniforms the world over, Nike is also known for pushing the boundaries – and London has been no exception

While Adidas and other official sponsors plunked down a cool $155 million each for four years of bragging rights, Nike put its dollars into what some are calling misleading yet bold TV commercials, which portray nameless athletes “competing” amidst a clearly London-esque backdrop.

Most notable, though has been how Nike has been able to actually integrate its brand and products into the games themselves – most notably  with its distinctive, neon-yellow Volt shoes. To be sure, the eye-catching dog envelopers have been hard to miss. According to Nike, an astounding 400 athletes have been wearing Volts – the majority of those in track and field but also in boxing and fencing. Even more amazing: As of Friday, 41 athletes had medaled wearing Volt shoes, including 43 percent of track and field medalists.

And what better athletes to give your shoes to. When all are of world-class status, chances are pretty good that they will ‘perform’ well. Remember the classic “must be the shoes” declaration of Spike Lee in the classic Nike Air Jordan spots of yesteryear? We knew better – or did we?

Dr. Dre Goes For Olympic Gold

Sunday, August 5th, 2012

Despite stepped up rules by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to protect official sponsorships for the 2012 games in London from “ambush marketing”, one product is being seen (if not heard) often by spectators and athletes alike. Beat headphones have been appearing on Olympians from a number of countries, provided free by entrepreneur Dr. Dre. This week, the committee ruled that the product placement did not breach sponsorship guidelines as athletes sporting the high-end audio devises were not endorsing them.

Still, sponsor rules are significantly stricter than ever for 2012 as the IOC looks to protect the investments of the 11 international companies that pay approximately $100 million each for four years of rights to sponsor the Olympics globally. Anything, from words such as “Olympian” and “Games” to visuals, including the Olympic rings and other official logos and symbols, are strictly prohibited with flagrant violations enforced. This includes broadcast advertising, billboards and signage within Olympic event zones and social media – from posts to conversations.

Limits have certainly been pushed in the past, including in 1984 in Los Angeles where Fujifilm’s official sponsorship was usurped by rival Kodak’s sponsoring the TV broadcasts of the U.S. track team. Today, Fuji would be afforded first right of refusal for on-air coverage. Similarly, in 1992 in Barcelona, with Adidas the official Olympic clothing sponsor, Nike underwrote Michael Jordan and the U.S. basketball team. During the medal ceremony, Jordan covered up the Adidas logo with the American flag. This would not fly today.

Thus, it would seem, Dr. Dre is just the latest in a long line of brilliant marketers with moxie who are unafraid to test the waters and toe the line. And, while the IOC is sure to continue to tighten the rules and eliminate loop holes, for now it appears that guerilla advertising approaches are more likely to meet with the thrill of victory than the agony of defeat.

Ouster Of GM Marketing Czar A Stressor For Thousands

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

If you run work at an advertising, marketing (or even PR) agency handling Big Corporate work, there’s a process in place that has become too familiar: A new in-house marketing/communications czar is appointed “from the outside.” He/she has a mandate for change. All agencies get reviewed. New agencies get a look (those with previous experience with the czar are preferred). Most, if not all, agencies are replaced, affecting up to thousands of lives. Millions, even billions of dollars are spent. New campaigns don’t “work” fast enough (or a new CEO is hired or other subjective variables happen). The czar is fired. Repeat.

This is often the “circle of life” in the Big Agency/Big Corporate World. And it’s on display again as General Motors fired its marketing honcho Joel Ewanick last weekend. According to some reports, he didn’t let his bosses know how much he was spending on sponsorship of European soccer.

Starting just before he was elevated into his role at the top, when GM fired its Chevrolet ad agency of more than 90 years, Campbell Ewald, Ewanick ordered huge changes with GM’s agencies, affecting thousands of families and careers. His reign lasted less than two years and now, those who lost business, gained business, moved cities or changed jobs are at work today with a layer of stress about what’s next. Who will replace him? Will it be someone from the outside? What changes are coming? How do we make GM happy? Hey, anyone know of any firms that are hiring?

On the PR side, we have observed new communications chiefs cutting agencies to seize control. When they leave, what happens? Will someone new come in and say “why don’t we have agency help?” and then hire from their own relationships, not even knowing about institutional knowledge and relationships that could date back decades with ties severed only because of a “no agency” edict? Probably.

These are tough times for big firms in all facets of communications. Budgets are down. Expectations are up. And relationships, the lifeblood of business, can be unstable. It’s all the more reason why firms, of all sizes, should diversify client roster as much as possible to hedge against the increasingly inevitable corporate “circle of life.” The rallying cry should be “Remember GM!”