Archive for October, 2012

Hit Music Motivates Hitters, Pitchers, Fans Alike

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

While there is no denying how great it is to have the Tigers in the World Series, their tenure there, after three games, has been nothing short of frustrating.  With every Detroit baseball fan in need of levity, I thought I’d piggyback off an article published yesterday in the Detroit Free Press by pop music writer Brian McCollum (and an extensive conversation I had during the ALCS with Matt) on baseball walk-up songs.

You know the ones – a batter walks from the dugout to the plate while a tune of their choosing blares from the loudspeakers. As McCollum reports, Alex Avila revels in “I Got Mine” by the Black Keys, while Miguel Cabrera gets revved up to Kanye West’s “Mercy”, Jose Valverde, ironically enough, to “The End of the Line” by Metallica (in better times, at least).

And it’s a phenomenon, of course, not limited to batters, in fact, the tradition started, many argue, with pitcher entrances from the bullpen to the mound. Some point to former Philadelphia Phillies closer Mitch Williams as being among the first as he was greeted by the Trogg’s “Wild Thing” (his nickname) as he entered games (mimicked by Charlie Sheen in the movie, “Major League”) – although the music was not of Williams’ choosing.  The Yankee’s Mariano Rivera, in fact, has said he never cared for the use of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” as he came in to close a game.

And while the song choices are now typically dictated directly by the players, they typically change year to year, game to game or even moment to moment. League-wide, rap leads player preferences (45%), followed by rock music (25%) and Latin (10%). Topping the “MLB charts” is Jay-Z, followed by Kayne West and Rick Ross, while Switchfoot rocks the most stadiums in baseball.

The next time you are at a game, keep your ears open and Shazam app at ready to catalogue your favorites.  It’s another way to keep score of all the “hits” at the ballpark.

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 to Armstrong: No You Didn’t (Do It)

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

The Tanner Friedman blog is wonderful outlet for Matt and I to express our opinions and we are forever grateful to anyone that takes the time to read and, quite often, share their thoughts. This forum is also ideal for showcasing timely stories by top journalists working in our industry, including a new piece by Mae Anderson of the Associated Press on celebrity endorsers and Nike becoming the first company to drop Lance Armstrong in the wake of his doping controversy.

After all, why drop Armstrong while standing behind others, including Tiger Woods, for various transgressions? The answer, posits Anderson who spoke with numerous marketers for her piece, would seem to be the fact that the cyclist’s alleged actions related directly to his sport and performance therein, perhaps over a period of time as long as two decades.

In all fairness to Nike, they have dropped athletes in the past for behavior or remarks that must have constituted contractual morals clauses. Michael Vick is perhaps the most prominent in this group although he was resigned by Nike last year. For other companies, transition after transgression has not always gone as smoothly. Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall is currently suing apparel and underwear company Hanesbrands after he was ‘cut’ for making controversial comments regarding the death of Osama Bin Laden and 911. Mendenhall is suing for $1 million and breach of contract/wrongful termination.

As for Nike and Armstrong, another marketer, Atlanta-based consultant Laura Reis puts it very well in the AP piece: “Nike is about ‘just doing it’ and that doesn’t mean drugs. It means hard work and ethics – and this flew in the face of it.” In the realm of adversity management, we typically recommend one of two approaches: If you did it, admit it; explain yourself, show remorse and reassure it won’t happen again (Vick, Woods). If, on the other hand, you didn’t, then fight it and work toward vindication (Roger Clemens). In this case, Armstrong says he didn’t do it but, apparently, has chosen to accept the ramifications. It simply doesn’t add up.

The American League (PR) Chump-ionship Game

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Tonight, at Comerica Park in Detroit, instead of seeing Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, more than 40,000 baseball fans saw a display of Public Relations by Major League Baseball that can only be described, in baseball terms, as “bush league.”

I was among the fans that shared qualities no business should want its customers to have – confused, uninformed and frustrated. Just before 8pm, not long before the scheduled first pitch, the PA announcer read a message at it appeared on the scoreboard. The game was being delayed because of “inclement weather in the area.” At the ballpark, there was no rain, most fans were not wearing jackets and it felt like the proverbial “beautiful night for baseball.”

For the ensuing 80 minutes, fans wandered the stands and concourses in search of a working cell phone signal to check social media, to look at radar, to call home, to find any information about why there was a delay and when the game might be played. Mysteriously, it was a rain delay without a tarp on the field and without a drop of rain being felt.

At no time did Major League Baseball update the paying customers in the stadium or the national TV audience that could have numbered in the millions with any level of transparency. Comerica Park boasts one-of-a-kind internal communications assets, such as a $10 million video scoreboard, audio throughout the concourses (including in the restrooms) and video screens at every concession stand. Certainly, a spokesperson could have provided updates on the considerations being made about imminent weather, trying to get the entire game played at once and anything else that may have factored into the decision to issue and continue the delay. It could have been interview style with one of the idled announcers. On television, TBS ran Seinfeld reruns with no update from Major League Baseball. A similar plan for the TV audience could have been followed, along with a national radio audience on hundreds of ESPN Radio stations.

Imagine the frustration of being on a delayed flight with 100 passengers, where nobody on board seems to know what’s going on and then multiply that by about 4,000. What do you want in that situation? You want to be treated well as a customer and you want information shared as to what the problem is, what’s being done about it and when the next update is coming.

Game 4 was cancelled before any raindrops feel and is now scheduled for Thursday afternoon. Never mind those saved up, took off work and made other plans to be at a night game who now have to rearrange their lives or sell their tickets. Customers understand that businesses can’t control the weather. But businesses can control how they deal with the weather and how they communicate changes to customers. In this case, Major League Baseball chose silence. In PR, that is always the wrong choice.

Multimedia Daredevil Coverage Out of This World

Monday, October 15th, 2012

Has there been more compelling, live reality television than what took place Sunday as Felix Baumgartner, a former Austrian paratrooper, made history with a free fall from 24 miles above planet Earth? One might have to harken back to the actual lunar landing for more incredible images, suspense and mastery of science and aeronautical engineering.

Broadcast live on the Discovery Channel and streamed with a one-minute delay on YouTube, the space age daredevil rode a capsule tethered to a helium balloon to 128,000 feet before stepping out onto a platform, framed by the outline of the Earth, and then jumping. Over the next several minutes, Baumgartner would reach a maximum velocity of over 830 mph, or Mach 1.24, becoming the first human to break the sound barrier under his own power, before opening his parachute. The camera angles and images they brought to us were both heart stopping and  breathtaking.

I just happen to be reading a recently released biography on 70s motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel and couldn’t help but be struck by how times have changed – in so many different ways. Of course, Knievel was far more ‘grounded’ in his exploits – yet was among the first to take to the air to jump rows of cars and trucks, along with a later attempt at the Snake River Canyon. Back then, however, TV coverage was always delayed, sometimes weeks, while film was edited and eventually shown during programming such as ABC’s “Wide World of Sports”. That was nothing of course to seeing the exploits of 1950s stunt pilots, flying experimental aircraft, typically shown many weeks if not many months to audiences via movie house newsreels.

The point is, modern technology and a consumer expectation to view things live (“right here, right now”) are bringing us unprecedented media experiences. Thankfully, they have been positive and successful – including Sunday and this past summer’s crossing of Niagara Falls by high-wire expert Nik Wallenda. Let us hope that a thirst for ratings and the dramatic does not portend the airing of more dangerous undertakings by those less trained, vetted and experienced. No one needs that kind of reality in our “TruTV”.

A Debate Without Media Is A Debate Without The Public

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

In this Season of Debates, it would seem obvious that, for the two campaigns whose candidates meet in a debate, as well as the organizations that bring them together, a bigger audience would be better. Wouldn’t you think that you’d want as many people as possible to see, hear and read about the debate? Apparently not in one state.

Earlier this week, the two candidates for Governor of West Virginia met in a debate that, remarkably, included limited media access. Held in a 200-seat auditorium, the debate was televised by organizers (the AARP and, ironically, the West Virginia Association of Broadcasters) did not create space for journalists to cover the debate in-person. That led the Associated Press, which feeds content to member news organizations across that and every other state, to choose not to cover the event.

It seems, in planning the event, the campaigns and the organizers forgot that the media is a conduit to their audience and influencing and exposing the audience to messages is the entire purpose for the event. Too many political PR types lose perspective on traditional media’s ability to tell their candidates’ stories and deliver their messages.

It’s easy to contrast this with the only debate between Michigan’s candidates for Governor in 2010. Organized by the non-partisan Center For Michigan, it was hosted at our client, Detroit Public Television. Our team handled media relations for the event. From the beginning of planning, media access was a top priority for all involved, including both campaigns. We even sought media input from our first meeting, to make sure the needs of journalists would be considered throughout all of the planning.

The actual debate was held inside a small TV studio, which created challenges that were easily overcome by consistent and abundant access. Any news organization could access the debate’s satellite video and Internet stream feeds and broadcast or webcast it, at no cost. Media of all types from across the state were accommodated and sat in the same room with the same access as debate sponsors. After the debate, they had Q&A access to both candidates.

There’s a reason why elected officials are considered to hold “public office.” The events that put them there should also be public, in every possible way.

Kindle Loss Lamented

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

I miss my Kindle. I never ever thought I would say that but I do. I lost mine on a plane west last weekend and, after numerous calls and an actual visit to the United Airways “Lost and Found” in Phoenix on my return trip from San Diego, either it is still in the seat back of 15B or it is warming the hands of a slippery member of the airline cleaning crew.

Response to my loss from others has been mixed. Between expressions of sympathy I hear, just as often, “Never owned one…I like the feel of a real book in my hands” or, “I like to physically turn the pages.” Understandable thoughts, many once shared. Yet, from one longtime book lover to another, the old adage, ‘Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it’ definitely applies.

Just as I initially fought music downloading in favor of CDs, so too did I eschew reading electronics for the bound ink on paper tried and true. Yet, just as the availability of a wide range of music continued to shrink with the exit of the music stores, so too did the selection of written works as Borders put the corner books stores out of business before succumbing itself to market conditions and consumer preferences.

Today, I’m sold. Juggling 2-3 books at a time is now a breeze, especially when traveling. Download prices are more affordable and while the selection is far from ideal, it is growing every day. Inside its leather case, the Kindle is the same as holding a smaller book and, perhaps best of all, the Kindle store is always open. Want a new book on the Civil War at 2am? No problem.

Ala the iPod and video On Demand, the Kindle, and its friends the Nook and iPad, allows us to enjoy exactly the type of entertainment we want, when we want it, then archiving it in one convenient, portable location. I find myself reading more and learning more and while my office library may appear to be stagnating, my brain power is, in fact, doing just the opposite.

TV Anchor’s Response To Viewer Begs Question About TV

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Even on the day of a Presidential Debate, one of the most talked about stories in America is about a local TV news anchor in Lacrosse, Wisconsin (market #128) who responded to a viewer email about her weight. This video is being replayed on other local newscasts, on national broadcasts and being shared on social media.

In 24 hours, her on-air commentary has generated conversation on bullying, obesity and, within the TV business, about the comments that anchors and reporters receive from viewers. I know from talking to TV people almost every day that they routinely hear receive emails and Facebook messages that make talk radio calls and online story comments seem articulate, rational and respectful. Rarely, if ever, is news time given to address any of these comments on the air. This piece by the Poynter Institute takes a look at the decision to devote the news time to the email and response, including insight from the station’s news director.

This story has me asking a question I have been quietly asking for years – why don’t we see more “overweight” anchors and reporters on TV? We live in the most overweight country in the world. So it is just pure hypocrisy that makes our culture demand that only thin people should deliver us news and information? Why do we, as a culture, insist on other forms of diversity, such as race and gender, so our TV journalists “look like the community,” but, in this regard, it’s a negative?

I began to first consider this when a TV sports reporter, who distinguished himself through his journalism and storytelling, didn’t have his contract renewed. The “word on the street” was that management didn’t want “a fat guy” on TV. So, they didn’t want a reporter talking to their audience who looks like their audience? Had they been to a game in their market? Same goes for ESPN. How many anchors or reporters or even analysts are on TV there who are “overweight.” Except for a few ex-football players, there aren’t any. So talented people are supposed to work “someplace else” because of their weight?

Stereotypes about “overweight” people are as bad as those about any other stereotypes. Not all are unhealthy. Not all are addicted to junk food or their sofas. Some gain weight because their metabolism changed as they got older. Others because of side effects of medications. Some have endocrine issues. Should those things prevent them from delivering you news and information on TV?

I have had TV friends over the years who have literally feared for their jobs if they gained a few pounds. They worry about looking older, while growing older, and how that could affect their employment. As a viewer, is that what you want keeping them up at night?

The anchor in Wisconsin, based on this one clip, seems like a solid communicator. She has built an audience over ten years. Perhaps most importantly, she has the support of her station’s management. And maybe now, she’ll help make a difference in her own industry.

West Branch Bullies Beaten By Bravery

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Has there been a recent story as heartwarming and inspiring as that of Whitney Kropp, the 16-year old sophomore at West Branch, Michigan’s Ogemaw High School? She, you’ll recall, is the young student who was nominated to the school’s homecoming court as a ‘joke’. Amid national attention for the cruel bullying measure by some fellow students, Kropp attended Friday’s night’s event, demonstrating incredible fortitude, understanding and courage.

When I first heard the story, I felt outrage. Upon learning of her plans to participate in homecoming, I was nearly moved to tears. You’ll recall, from a past blog for the movie, “Bully”, I experienced months of bullying when changing schools in junior high. It was an experience I would never wish on anyone and one I would never trade for the world as it made me a better, stronger, more understanding person. The cruelty was something I have long forgiven but also something I will never forget.

In high school I was accepted by all levels of social strata – from jocks to gear heads. I had actually become friends with many that had initially bullied me. My senior year, though, I was asked to take part in homecoming court. Some on that committee had not only treated me with disrespect at one time, but had continued that m.o. with others. I politely refused, citing other plans. It was my form of silent protest, my final nudge back.

Whitney Kropp opted for the higher road with behavior each and every one of us should emulate. And despite the fact that she is the one in school, her approach to this situation and those who perpetuated it is one we can all learn from. “I’m just as happy as I can be,” she told reporters Friday night. Just as it should be, when we treat each other the right way.