Category Archives: Video

The Snuggie Phenomenon

In this age of the enlightened and empowered consumer, let us never underestimate the power of pure kitsch as a marketing tool. Witness the Snuggie, the goofy blanket/robe hybrid with the goofier direct-response TV ads, which has been flying off the shelves. From Ad Age:

The quirky little blanket with sleeves has become the raiment of the zeitgeist, with more than 4 million units sold in just over three months and more than 200 parody videos on YouTube. Fox News honed in on a woman wearing a Snuggie as she braved the cold attending Barack Obama’s inauguration on Jan. 20, five days after Ellen DeGeneres donned one on her daytime talk show.

4 million units! In case you’ve somehow missed the ad:

Time for CMOs to Walk the Walk

I’ve been to two CMO conferences this month, and here’s what I don’t get: Marketing execs love to stand on stage and talk about innovation and the changing marketing model and the influence of digital media and yada yada yada. Inevitably, however, when it comes time to wow the audience with some multimedia, what do they offer as a shining example of this innovative thinking? A 30-second spot. Oh, sometimes they put a YouTube wrapper around it, but it is what it is – a 30-second spot. Yes, it’s great to pull the heartstrings of conference attendees with an emotional spot on incontinence. But that’s missing the point. If 30-second videos are the primary vehicle that CMOs (or their speechwriters) choose to demonstrate marketing and advertising prowess, well, they may be talking the talk, but they’re not walking the walk. Any capable agency can do good creative; show me something I haven’t seen a thousand times before.

 

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.
 

Upfront and Outdated

Honestly, I don’t understand the ongoing existence of the annual mating dance between the TV networks and advertisers known as the upfront. As far as I can figure, the upfront is a great excuse for TV execs and media buyers to throw lavish parties as they broker advertising to fund their upcoming fall TV lineups. There’s big money involved – around $9 billion was spent during last year’s upfront – but the process is anachronistic on so many levels.

In the old days, the ritual probably made sense: TV was the dominant advertising medium, the big three networks controlled the airwaves, and prime time shows followed an orderly schedule: premieres in the fall, reruns in the summer. Advertisers locked up the prime spots on the best shows in advance, paying premiums for the most-watched shows. It wasn’t ideal, but everyone grudgingly accepted the process. And the networks raked in big bucks.

Then cable came along, and the Internet, and TiVo, forever altering the universe around broadcast TV. Broadcast viewership continues to shrink. New shows debut on cable channels throughout the year, not just in the fall. DVRs have thrown ratings systems designed for live viewership for a loop. Internet video – and the ad model around it – is catching fire.

The changes have led to much discussion about the composition and even the relevance of the upfront. Why pay in May for shows that may last for a month in September? How does time-shifting and delayed viewing figure into the ratings (and the cost of the advertising spots)? What role does online play in the upfront? I’ve never bought or sold a TV spot, so I surely don’t have the answers to any of these questions. But as an outside observer, the upfront certainly strikes me as a concept that has outlived its usefulness. There has to be a better way.

How To Kill Video on Demand, Chapter 1

Stupid media tricks: MediaPost reports that ABC and ESPN have struck a deal with Cox in which the cable provider will disable the fast-forward feature for some of the on-demand content it offers from the two Disney properties.  That means Cox cable subscribers won’t be able to skip commercials and zoom through the programs they watch via Cox’s VOD (video on demand) service. (The agreement does not apply to programs that subscribers record on their own using Cox’s DVR box.)

This a classic horse-has-left-the-barn overreaction to the media companies’ ad-skipping angst. There are two main benefits of VOD: convenience (you can watch anytime you want) and control (you can pause, skip and rewind). Removing one of those elements will absolutely kill VOD. Disabling features that customers have already embraced is a surefire way to make them hate you.

The Genius of ‘American Idol’

Has anyone captured the essence of integrated marketing as well as the producers and sponsors of “American Idol”? I highly doubt it.

[Full disclosure: I, like bazillions of others, watch Idol every week. It’s the rarest of contemporary TV viewing: a show that my wife and I can watch with our 16-, 11- and 9-year-olds without cringing over inappropriate content (with the exception of the occasional poorly placed ad that grosses out my oldest daughter and makes my son cover his face).]

The show was one of the first to integrate new media into its broadcast with the text-message and online voting system viewers use each week to decide the fate of the contestants. Talk about engagement – last week’s show garnered more than 80 70 million votes. Idol’s producers have perfected product integration as well, with Coke cups prominently placed on the judges’ table each week, the Cingular/AT&T texting sponsorship, and contestants appearing in Ford commercials shot as music videos and shown during the broadcast. The viral component of Idol is off the charts. It’s the ultimate water cooler event. A Google blog search on “American Idol” returned 569,124 results.

Last week’s “Idol Gives Back” charity event raised more than $60 million through phone and online donations. Viewers could purchase and download videos from the show via iTunes, with proceeds going to the Charity Projects Entertainment Fund. They have even perfected the art (science?) of bringing dead celebs back to life, as evidenced by the Celine Dion-Elvis duet that left me wondering if The King was, in fact, still roaming the streets of Vegas.

The success of the show and all of its extensions will be a case study one day of how to blend mass-market and one-to-one media and marketing to provide an all-encompassing experience for consumers.

Six Minutes of TV Heaven: ’70s/’80s Classics on the Web

angels.jpgThe broadcast networks and production studios get beat up a lot over their sluggish reaction to the Internet video phenomenon, but occasionally they hit on a bright idea. The New York Times reports today about Sony’s plans to launch the Minisode Network, comprising a selection of TV classics such as Charlie’s Angels and T.J. Hooker edited down into digestible, YouTube-worthy Web chunks. From the Times article:

The network will consist of a lineup of tightly edited versions of shows lifted off the shelves of Sony’s television library. These are not clips of the shows, but actual episodes with beginnings, middles and ends, all told in under six minutes.

As Steve Mosko, the president of Sony Television, described it, “So in ‘Charlie Angels,’ they have a meeting, Charlie’s on the intercom telling them what the assignment is, there’s a couple of fights, and then a chase, and they catch the bad guy. Then they’re back home wrapping it up.”

These minisodes will be a runaway hit. I hope Sony owns the rights to The Fall Guy and The A-Team.

a-team.jpg

From MediaPost: News From Another Place

Compelling column by Mike Bloxham on MediaPost, juxtaposing the unhealthy skewing of our broadcast and cable news heavily toward sensationalist (Duke rape case) and celebrity (Imus, Anna Nichole Smith) issues with the raw footage found on Hometown Baghdad, a recently launched site featuring video vignettes of a handful of young Iraqis living in a war zone. From Bloxham’s column:

Live since March 19, Hometown Baghdad is an example of a kind of news content that gets closer to the reality of the issues, skirting around the pre-packaged, sterilized and trivia-obsessed formats we see across much of our TV news options.  Does news really need an anchor or a celebrity journalist to front it? 

I couldn’t agree more. The Web is changing the way we consume news. Hopefully it will change the way the broadcast and cable networks package it as well.

The Digital Shift

The new advertising campaign that Microsoft launched this week for its Office 2007 software suite is tilted heavily toward digital media. Rachel Bondi, senior advertising and brand director for Microsoft’s information worker product marketing group, said 60% of the campaign spend is being invested in the digital space – nearly double the slice devoted to digital for the Office 2003 launch campaign three and a half years ago. “Print and out-of-home advertising are still important for driving awareness [of the new release],” Bondi told me (I interviewed her for an upcoming article in 1to1 Magazine). Digital, on the other hand, is being used to drive the user experience – in other words, getting prospects to visit the new Office 2007 website to view demos or download a trial version of the software. A series of short films on the site form the beginning of a viral campaign that Bondi said will feature shorter, 15-second clips on YouTube and other video portals.

The Future of Web Video

Nice juxtaposition yesterday: Viacom sues GooTube for a cool $1 billion the day after Michael Eisner launches his new online studio, called Vuguru, and unveils its first programming, an 80-webisode series called Prom Queen. Other than its name, which sounds like something I used to mutter around last call, Vuguru may be the best example yet of the future of Web video.

On the surface at least, the Prom Queen site offers provides a nice blend of high-end production quality and modern Web packaging. The target audience (the YouTube generation), the format (90-second episodes), the viral enablers (“embed,” “send” and “download” buttons at the end of the teaser video), a handful of sponsors (including Ellegirl.com and Fiji Water),  and the backing of a Hollywood heavyweight like Eisner all bode well for the venture. Of course, the content could suck, which would make the buzz moot (“Snakes on a Plane” syndrome). But this could be a milestone in the evolution of broadband video.