The Advertising Apprentice

August 30, 2009

Overexposure: The Problem with Media Conglomerates

Filed under: Advertising — adamlauzon @ 7:08 PM
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This commercial has been airing nonstop on the many CTV GlobeMedia television stations for probably a month. I don’t know about you, but I’m really sick of seeing this commercial!

This link provides a list of the media (television, radio, print, and other) properties owned by CTV GlobeMedia across Canada. Given the variation in genres of stations owned by this conglomerate it’s virtually impossible to have not seen the above commercial. Now if your television viewing palette favours a variety of tastes in the types of stations you watch, considering the number of times you’ve probably seen this commercial you’re excited that the Degrassi movie finally airs tonight, “at eight, seven central!”

I understand the notion that for the consumer to take action, in this case tune in and watch, it takes between three and seven exposures, but you will inevitably reach a point when people have seen the commercial so many times they not only tune-out the commercial but also reach for their remote to change the channel which decreases the number of viewers for the other commercials in the same “pack”.

An interesting dynamic in play here is the cost, or lack thereof, associated with running these ads. I honestly wouldn’t be able to guess how many times the above commercial has ran not only on the main CTV network but also on its specialty channels, both analog and digital. If this was advertising for a private firm, the cost for a similar campaign given its extreme frequency and reach would have to be in the millions. But other than the minimal cost of production for the commercial, CTV GlobeMedia is incurring a loss in ad revenue due to the space these commercials take up. However it seems like they are dedicated in promoting Paradise City: Degrassi Goes Hollywood like crazy, so it’s probably a case where the loss revenue from all these commercials will be counterbalanced by the cost to air a thirty second spot during the movie tonight.

CTV GlobeMedia must be encouraged to know that when the movie aired in the United States on The N Network on August 14th, the movie drew in just shy of one million viewers making it the most watched, highest rated show in the network’s history.

As much as I may criticize the overrunning of this particular ad, the commercial has succeeded in creating awareness about the general nature of the movie itself and when it airs. Maybe out of curiosity, and/or boredom, I’ll tune in to see what all the hype is about!

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August 25, 2009

Three Websites that are Void of Sincerity and Being Genuine

Filed under: Advertising — adamlauzon @ 3:15 PM
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To lead off have a look at the following McNugget Love commercial that be found on the McDonald’s 365Black website or YouTube:

The inspiration for this week’s entry came courtesy of a friend from Sudbury. Thanks Allan! This afternoon he sent me the following links for three large companies that created websites that were intended to help make them more visible during Black History Month and beyond:

My opinion is that the three websites are all essentially saying the same thing from a corporate standpoint: “African American culture is important to us and it should be hailed and celebrated year round, not just in February.” But I think it’s also these three companies way of differentiating themselves from the marketing efforts of their competition with regards to Black History Month. It’s McDonald’s way of going above and beyond what Harvey’s or Burger King may have done. It’s Anheuser-Busch’s way of going above and beyond what MGD or Coors did throughout the month of February. And it’s Allstate’s way of standing ahead of insurance companies like Geico and State Farm.

From a marketing standpoint I can’t argue with the efforts to be “racially conscious” despite the fact that their motives are purely capitalistic in building a stronger connection with a segment they’ve deemed to be very important. They’ve deemed the African-American segment of their consumer base to be so important that each company has setup a unique website devoted to try and strengthen that connection with this particular subgroup. Let’s also not forget that McDonald’s, Anheuser-Busch, and Allstate are all very large companies, with revenues between $23 and $29 billion from 2008 according to Fortune, that would not have given the green-light for these websites, which are part of an IMC campaign, to go online without first conducting some sort of market research to make ensure that the target group was properly interpreting the message they wanted to get out.

Given the content of these websites and what they represent, I asked a friend who is Jamaican-Canadian to see how they resonate with the audience the websites were created for. Here’s his take on it:

The more I delved deeper into these websites, the more I was disgusted. There’s so much pandering going on it’s painful. For starters, on both the Anheuser-Busch and Allstate websites, there’s a selection of R&B and jazz music playing in the background. Why neither didn’t opt for a more neutral choice in music? Pandering to the lowest common denominator. Sure some Black people may be happy that the companies ‘get us’ but I’ll be damned if I take an insurance website seriously if they choose to play Al B.
I will commend the endowments/scholarships that award academic excellence as school attendance for Black students, especially those living in rougher neighbourhoods is usually lower than the attendance rates for other races.
What does concern me is that these companies’ motives are not solely for the betterment of the Black community and the next generation of Black youth will be so immersed in the brands that they become lifetime users of the product. The last thing Black people need as we’re already more prone to heart disease than other races is to be addicted to McDonalds. But I’m sure all those people will have Allstate life insurance.”

Based on this view it really seems as if these websites lacked a genuine quality about them that would lead people to take them more seriously and see these efforts as more sincere. These websites also seem to be exploiting stereotypes by sponsoring basketball, football, rap/MC, and gospel events.

The notion of marketing directly to racial groups is a function that could be advantageous, but very risky. If you say the wrong thing, mess up the lingo, or just come across as a big poser you can really alienate that segment of the market that you’ve regarded as important enough to target and focus a large campaign on.

August 20, 2009

Attention People of Heathrow’s Terminal 5: You May be Cast in Alain de Botton’s Next Novel

Filed under: Advertising — adamlauzon @ 3:14 PM
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“The overarching objective is to make a passenger’s time at Heathrow the best memory of the trip.” – Dan Glover, Creative Director of Mischief of London which is Heathrow’s PR agency.

This statement was made as part of Mr. Glover’s explanation for why writer Alain de Botton presence in the airport for a week is a good idea. This week de Botton is the airport’s “writer in residence”. He’s staying at a hotel within the airport, he’s interviewing everyone from passengers to baggage handlers to airline executives. His observations from this week-long experience will then be organized and published in a short book entitled “A Week at the Airport: The Heathrow Diary” that is to be published in September.

I see this as a rather bold statement because according to Heathrow’s official website, Heathrow has over 66.9 million passengers per year or 183,300 per day, that pass through its five terminals. Further almost 92% of these passengers are flying internationally to locations such as New York, Paris, and Dubai, so to have the very high ambition that one’s time in Heathrow is their “best memory of the trip” shows a lot of confidence by Mr. Glover in the airport itself. Having never been to Heathrow I can’t objectively comment on the facility. 

Mr. Glover is accurate in further saying “If we funded a brochure that said how wonderful the airport was, people would switch off because they’d think they’re being marketed to.” I can see the appeal to this non-traditional form of marketing the Heathrow airport brand. Buzz will be built by the many, many passengers that will see de Botton setup in the middle of the very busy Terminal 5. Further buzz will be created when 10,000 passengers are given free copies of the book when it is published thus creating word-of-mouth advertising. The New York Times has even posted an article about the project.

Despite the huge risk that the Heathrow administration is taking with this move: everything is fair game and de Botton has creative freedom to write about anything he observes during his stay at the airport; positive, negative, or neutral; I see it as an excellent way to build and promote the desired image. As people become more aware about this promotional stunt they’re likely to pay more attention to Heathrow and may even see it as more than just a means to an ends.

August 12, 2009

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Filed under: Advertising — adamlauzon @ 1:14 PM
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You may not have noticed them, but just as quickly as grade school and high school students were lounging around the house, bored and looking for something to do, the back-to-school commercials started! (When I was younger the sound of  the Staples “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” commercial that was common at the end of July/early August, made me cringe more than the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard! I’m not going back to school in September and I still quickly reach for the remote whenever I see a back-to-school commercial!!)

However with the economy being as hard hit as it has been lately, retailers this year got an early jump on getting the message out for students and parents alike to start thinking about the supplies they’ll need for September. Some of the retailers’ tactics have even been aimed at the students by posting ads and contests on such social networking sites as Facebook and Twitter. They also began showing back-to-school ads in movie theatres. If you market the products properly, and you’d like to think companies with as large marketing budgets as Wal-Mart and Staples have, then you should be able to make back-to-school products “cool” and desirable for students and in turn create a sense of urgency in them to go shopping.

Related to this, Fortune recently released their global Top 500 list. Wal-Mart was third on the list and Staples was 397. Both companies saw an increase in revenue from 2008,Wal-Mart experienced a 6.1% increase and Staples saw revenue rise by 16%, and yet both have started marketing earlier than usual.

An interesting fact that may be lost on some, including myself until I read the following article, which is the basis for today’s entry, is that the back-to-school shopping period is the second busiest for retailers behind the Christmas shopping season. (If you give it some thought it makes sense, especially with the push for people to pick-up a new laptop and accompanying software. Anyone in the advertising industry knows that a MacBook and the Adobe Suite software, if obtained legally, can easily set a person back $2000 – $3000!) This point in mind, and the effect the recession has had on sales numbers, it is easy to understand why retailers would like consumers to start thinking about the supplies they need as soon as possible. 

Do I think these marketing efforts will translate into increased sales? It’s a possibility. But I also think both parents and students will be reluctant to do any back-to-school shopping until mid to late August. The parents will delay in an attempt to find the best deals and the students will want to delay the trip to the mall because they don’t want to face the reality that it’s time to go back to the classroom.

August 6, 2009

Mixed Emotions from Forecast

Filed under: Advertising — adamlauzon @ 7:09 PM
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An article from Monday’s New York Times talks about the results of Veronis Suhler Stevenson’s (VSS), a private-equity firm, Communications Industry Forecast that was released on Tuesday. You can find their forecast for 2009 – 2013 here.

The article states that the communications industry in 2009 will likely see a decrease of 1% in spending. In an industry where a single percentage point could easily represent millions, or even billions, of dollars, that’s a pretty big deal! Even more cause for concern is that this is the first decrease in spending in over 4 decades.

The U.S. has gone through six “official” recessions during this time:

  • December 1969 – November 1970 
  • January 1980 – July 1980 
  • July 1981 – November 1982 
  • July 1990 – March 1991 
  • March 2001 – November 2001 
  • December 2007 – Present

Unfortunately “communications spending” is different from “advertising spending” which VSS predicts will continue to see decreases for 2009 and 2010. Relief will come in 2011 they say, but how great will it be and how long will it take the industry to rebound from the 2.9% loss from 2008, the expected 7.6% loss from 2009 and the expected 1% loss from 2010? Only time will tell.

Another interesting component of this report is the areas of advertising that are facing the biggest losses: print media (newspapers and consumer magazines) and broadcast media (radio and television). This adds fire to the debate for those who say that traditional media are on their way out.

They do have an argument because non-traditional forms of advertising are growing. Such areas such the Internet, mobile advertising, and video games continue to see substantial gains.

Taking everything into account, this advertising apprentice is quite optimistic for the future. I have faith that the traditional media will overcome the challenges ahead and they will adapt. I look forward to becoming more familiar with the media that are becoming more and more effective in reaching increasingly large segments of the population.

Another reason to be optimistic the report suggests that over the next five years the media industry will be the “third-fastest-growing economic sector behind mining and construction”!

August 4, 2009

Visit YouTube.com for News?

Filed under: Advertising — adamlauzon @ 12:39 PM
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The New York Times yesterday published an article about a new YouTube development that threatens to lure away further advertising dollars from traditional media outlets.

This video is an example of the type of content being posted on YouTube as part of the News Near You program. At the time of this point it over a hundred thousand viewers!

As the article cites this project has yet to become “fiscally relevant”, but given that so many of us already rely on the Internet for local and international news, you have to think it’s only a matter of time before News Near You starts generating significant revenue. (Consider this, when was the last time you picked up a local newspaper, or watched the evening news at 6 or 11, or turned on the radio at the top of the hour to find out the day’s top stories? Chances are you don’t it often. If you’re like me, you probably visit the websites of your favourite news outlets like CTV Ottawa, The Ottawa Citizen, or CNN.)

The one element that could really help to launch this into the stratosphere is that as YouTube is owned by Google, Google is now listing relevant YouTube videos alongside the news articles. Having arguably the top search engine in the world promoting this new service is a big advantage that news outlets don’t have a response to. 

In order to increase content for News Near You, YouTube has agreed to revenue splitting with the local news organizations; however, I feel that once viewership increases, and I believe it will happen, that it’s only a matter of time before that agreement is terminated.

It seems to me that this is something that is destined to succeed. News organizations can cooperate and contribute articles, partake in the revenue splitting and maybe even learn something in the process about the online media or they stand pat and do nothing and watch their viewer-, listener-, and reader-ship decrease.

I should point-out though that I don’t think that traditional media is about to become extinct. There will always be loyal followers, but the trend over the last five years or so is for people, especially those in my generation, to go online for immediate news updates. And it’s this immediacy that makes the News Near You so appealing. 

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