Category Archives: Broadcast TV

What Drives Word of Mouth? Interesting Content

Compelling content will drive word of mouth for your brand, even if that content is irreverant and in the form of *gasp* a 30-second spot on broadcast TV. Exhibit A: McDonald’s talking fish. 

YouTube views of most popular posting of the spot: 246,757 <warning: this tune will stick in your head like spackling paste>

Google blog search results for “McDonald’s talking fish”: 29,921

Members of McDonald’s Filet O Fish Commercial fan club on Facebook: 289 

The spot’s been running for two weeks.

Article: The New Reality of TV Advertising

I have the cover story in the latest issue of The Advertiser magazine. The topic is interactive TV, specifically how a bunch of different players are hoping to make TV a lot more “web-like” in both functionality and measurability. The nut graf(s):

After years of fits and starts trying to turn the concept of interactive TV into a broadly based reality, a collection of service providers, technology companies, agencies, and marketers finally seems to be making some legitimate headway in transforming TV into a more addressable, more targetable, and more measurable advertising medium.

Sure, we’ve seen this dance before. For years, we’ve been hearing promises of two-way engagement, better buying and measurement systems, and addressable ads for TV viewers. But real milestones have been elusive in an industry known more for inertia than innovation.

Something feels different now, however.

Execs from Google, Unilever, Lenovo, Canoe Ventures and others weighed in on the topic.

Election Day Media Coverage Diary

How did election day play out in the media and one particular swing state? One citizen’s personal diary:

1:28 pm: WBZ Radio Boston – Secretary of State Bill Galvin predicts record turnouts in Massachusetts, possibly topping 3 million voters

1:53 pm: I stop to vote at the high school in Londonderry, NH. As I walk into the gym, I pass candidates and supporters caged behind two temporary 8-foot-high chain link fence enclosures. The town moderator had caused a stir a few weeks back when she said electioneers would have to stand on the corner at the main entrance to the high school – a good 300 yards from the gym entrance – where they wouldn’t pose “safety risks.” A compromise was reached to provide two small holding pens – Republicans on the right, Democrats on the left. The people caged inside with their signs looked grim.

2:46 pm: My 17-year-old daughter takes a call from an unidentified man asking if my wife has voted yet and offering to give her a ride to the polls. Hmmm.

2:47 pm: Lead headline on “‘Excited’ voters find long lines” <not in Londonderry – I was in and out in five minutes.>

3:28 pm: Lead headline on “Voting Machines Elect One of Their Own as President”

5:48 pm: website (run by a stat geek named Nate Silver) is projecting that Obama will win with 348.6 (??) electoral votes and 52.3% of the popular vote (which would make Obama the first president-elect to win more than 51% of the popular vote since 1988).

6 pm: Talk to my older brother Patrick in Maine, who says he will be watching the results on TV with his laptop to get up-to-the-minute results and projections. The excitement in his voice is palpable – he’s a big Obama supporter.

6:38 pm: Lead headline on “EXIT POLLS 2008 … READ WITH CAUTION”

6:40 pm: First results coming in from Indiana and Kentucky … web browser slowing to a crawl … Keith Olbermann has an erection …

6:50 pm: Lead headline on “Hard Fought to the End” (overlaid on a photo of John and Cindy McCain at their last rally in Colorado)

8:10 pm: The livebloggers are starting to weigh in. ZZZZZ.

8:11 pm: A boys choir is singing at the McCain HQ in Phoenix. ZZZZZ.

8:30 pm: CNN and others call New Hampshire for Obama. 70% of postgraduate-educated voters went with Obama. 60% of Independents voted for Obama – a big disappointment for McCain. Dems are sweeping NH – governor, Senate, House.

9:04 pm: I filled out the CNN Electoral Map Calculator and have Obama winning 360 electoral votes.

9:15 pm: Notable videos:

9:36 pm: As Ohio is projected for Obama, CBS’ Bob Schieffer says it’s “virtually impossible” for McCain to win.

9:49 pm: Just spaced on a Katie Couric interview while I surfed the web. She makes me sleepy

9:50 pm: Hope they declare a winner soon – it’s almost my bedtime. I will DVR the acceptance/concession speeches.

11:00 pm – Obama projected as President-Elect. Wow.

Election Day

So here we are, finally. Being from a swing state (NH), oh how I will miss the robo-calls (as opposed to the calls to Rob O), the overflow of laughably lame direct mail in my snail-mailbox and the attack ads on TV, none of whch gave me any useful information about the candidates sending them. There was no shortage of outdated, ineffective marketing techniques brought to bear by both parties during this campaign season, especially at the local level.

Even on the Web, useful (objective) information was difficult to find. Any fence-sitters on election eve in NH would have been hard-pressed to Google their way to a decision regarding the hotly contested congressional races between Shaheen/Sununu (Senate) or Bradley/Shea-Porter (House of Reps). The media accounts were mostly of how the candidates “sparred” during debates; the candidates’ own websites were unconvincing at best, misleading at worst. And why do they post the same mind-numbing TV ads they’ve been subjecting us to over the local airwaves since January! Are you kidding me?

From a media standpoint, tonight will be one of those throwback nights, where families and friends gather for an increasingly rare (excepting major sporting events) shared experience around their TVs. The pundits will pundit and the network news teams will try to convince themselves that they still really matter – and for one night at least, they will have our rapt attention. (I will miss Tim Russert.) For anyone looking for an alternative (and more participatory) experience, CurrentTV is partnering with Digg, Twitte and – a “celebration of democracy” according to Current’s CEO.

No excuses – get out and vote!

Tim Russert, RIP

Some consider “broadcast journalism” an oxymoron, but Tim Russert defied that derisive view. He was the ultimate newsman. In these days of stream-of-conscsiousness blogging masquerading as news, Russert stood out as a relentlessly prepared and fearless journalist, an objective reporter who had no other agenda than to get the truth out of politicians and other Washington power brokers. But as colleagues and friends noted in the many tributes pouring in since his sudden and unexpected death yesterday at age 58, he didn’t have a mean bone in his body.

As someone who always believed in the ideals of journalism, the art of interviewing, and the thrill of pursuing a hot story, I loved watching Russert perform his craft. He was a true master, and both journalism and politics will be much worse off without him.


The Decline and (Rapidly Approaching) Fall of the TV Empire

A new study from a research firm called Grunwald Associates indicates a significant shift in the media habits of children:

Sixty-four percent of kids go online while watching television, and nearly half of U.S. teens (49 percent) report that they do so frequently — anywhere from three times a week to several times a day. … The study reveals that 73 percent of TV-online multitasking kids are engaged in “active multitasking,” defined by Grunwald Associates as content in one medium influencing concurrent behavior in another. This trend represents a 33 percent increase in active multitasking since 2002. While kids are using more media, their attention primarily and overwhelmingly is focused on their online activities.

I don’t need stats to tell me about the decline of traditional TV among tomorrow’s generation; I see it daily in my own house, as my 17-year-old watches downloaded episodes of Degrassi on her iPod, as my 12-year-old focuses far more time IM’ing or fast-forwarding through DVR’d Celtic games than watching live TV, and as my 9-year-old runs around the house making videos and begging me to let him post something on YouTube, or as he surfs for PS2 cheats online, half-listening as Jimmy Neutron drones in the background.   

Sure, there are a few seminal TV events that the family feels obligated to watch live, like the Super Bowl or, to a lesser extent, American Idol. But today’s kids are edging – no, rushing – away from the passive TV experience. I do not envy network execs.

Shouldn’t They Know This Already?

At client meetings today in Milwaukee, where – surprise! – it’s snowing. For such a supposedly hardy area of the country, the local news sure makes the populace seem weather-wimpy. The ABC affiliate extended their morning news by a half-hour to cover what amounted to a traffic jam on I-94 and generally slippery roads. Among the list of safe-driving tips they offered:

  • Clear snow from vehicle before you drive
  • Drive slowly
  • Avoid skids

And the anchor added, with the tone and furrowed brow of someone who’s acutely aware of the seriousness of the situation: “Drive slowly out there.”

This probably speaks more to the state of local media than the fine state of Wisconsin.

Buzz, Babies and Genies that Should Go Back in the Bottle

Still recovering from the shock and awe of Super Bowl XLII. Shock, as in I can’t believe the Patriots lost, and awe, as in the Giants – my boyhood team of choice in the ’70s before I transitioned/bandwagoned to the Pats in the ’80s and ’90s – not just beating New England, but beating them up in the process. I’ve been out of sorts all day, still trying to make sense of it.

So I’m way behind (as usual) on the usual post-Super Bowl blather over the ads that ran during the game. Far better pundits have already weighed in. You have USA Today’s Ad Meter results [puking e-trade baby only ranks 15th – are you kidding me?], and BusinessWeek’s picks and pans (nice graphic treatment with the embedded ads), and the curious critiques of AdAge Ad Critic Bob Garfield (Bridgestone homophobia? screams that frighten children?), and countless other post-mortems that show just how focused we all are on unimportant things.

Spare me the debate over whether these ads actually provide any return on investment. Buzz trackers are off the charts for this event, and the YouTube effect no doubt makes these spots justifiable. The only one I’m truly perplexed by is – a completely inane three-pack (3 spots!!!) from a dot-com that sells call and mailing lists. Double ick. Adweek provides an important piece of insight on these spots:  

Vin Gupta, chairman of Salesgenie … said that, like the previous spot, he conceptualized and wrote copy for the new ads himself.

So there you have it. Gupta claims that last year’s spot sent 25,000 folks scurrying to the website. He doesn’t say if they bought any sales leads once they got there. But why sweat the details? This is the Super Bowl, baby.  

Update: Churbuck concurs.

Ad Fatigue

Whew! I nestled in for a long winter’s nap and the next thing I know it’s Jan. 2.

Why do some advertisers – particularly sponsors of sporting events – put their TV ads in such heavy rotation? I’m talking about the six-times-per-broadcast spots, the ones from which my kids are now reciting complete lines of dialog. And no, brand owners, that’s not really a good thing. Oversaturation is BAD, even for clever ads.  After seeing the same spot a half-dozen times during a single football game, amusement leads to fatigue, followed by annoyance. What started as a positive consumer experience (Hey, funny ad) turns painfully negative (Not this again!).  

 Here are the worst offenders:

  • Chevrolet. “This Is Our Truck – This Is Our Country.” This tired John Mellencamp campaign is our Grand Prize Winner for a jingle that has jumped the shark.
  • Cialis. An uncomfortable subject made worse by endless overexposure during “family viewing” time. Really now, my 9-year-old son has enough phobias without having to fret about a future of erectile dysfunction. And this from my 16-year-old daughter: “ED is gross.”
  • Nissan. First with the Rogue, now with the Altima, these ads are creatively cool yet annoying in their omnipresence. Worst sin: They made me sick of The Clash!
  • AT&T Wireless. The wireless carrier gets some credit for at least offering a series of different spots in its “Seamless World” campaign, which features mash-ups of city names like Philawarepragicago to demonstrate, I dunno, how mobile we are. But the punch lines wear off quickly. And for this they’re anointed Marketer of the Year?

I’m sure there are others, but I’ve purged the evil brands from my consciousness (and use my DVR whenever possible to avoid them). Take that!

Nielsen’s Top Trends of 2007

If it’s December, that can mean only one thing: an endless stream of Top 10 lists. Some interesting tidbits from Nielsen’s look at what it considers the year’s top media, consumer and advertising trends:

  • Top TV Program “Buzzed” About Online: My Name Is Earl (No. 10 on the list: Battlestar Gallactica. Battlestar Gallactica???)
  • Top US Market for Adults Who Have Read/Contributed to a Blog within the Past Month: Austin
  • Top 3 Consumer Packaged Good Sold in US Retail Stores: Carbonated soft drinks ($17.6 billion), Milk ($12.8 billion), Cigarettes ($7.8 billion)
  • Top US Advertiser (by US Spending on Traditional Media): Procter & Gamble ($2.6 billion). Question: Why measure just traditional media?

The full list is downloadable here.