Saturday, October 31, 2009

What it costs to reach a TV audience

Advertising Age recently reported costs for 30-second network television commercials (see chart). As consumers of advertising we rarely think about what it costs to advertise. This TV season, Sunday Night Football leads the way at almost $400 thousand per thirty-second spot. And, as we have learned, you can’t just run a commercial one time; it has to be shown a minimum of three times in order for it to register with the consumer. The figures displayed above are based on audience size, after all media exists to sell an audience to an advertiser. A program like American Idol, that may have an audience of 30 million viewers (their numbers have been going down in the past couple of years from a peak of around 34 million viewers), can charge upwards of $700 thousand per 30-second spot. And, don’t get me started on Super Bowl advertising, which is likely to come in this year around $2.3 million per 30-second spot. We’re talking about the cost of time alone, not production costs. Production costs for a network spot would be in the area of $350,000. When you add the cost of production with the cost of the television time to run the advertisement and multiple the per spot cost by at least three, you can perhaps see why advertisers seek alternative ways in which to reach consumers. This high costs associated with network advertising have to be considered within an audience that is distracted, often multitasking perhaps even with multiple media as we shift from the TV screen to the computer screen.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Men at Work

I have written before about the negative depictions of men in television advertising. Indeed it has been a central topic of my research over the past five or so years. My perspective comes out of several research studies that I have conducted on the depiction of men as wolves and lower animals, men as cavemen, and men caught in public literally with their pants down. For the latter study, I collected twenty-seven examples of television commercials depicting men caught with their pants down. One of the better-known commercials featured comedian Dave Chappelle, in an ad for Pepsi, who has his pants sucked off by an over-active vacuum cleaner. While watching TV last evening, I noticed a new commercial for a company, Identity Guard. You can see the commercial above. Notice that the guy in the commercial is, well, depicted in public wearing only his underwear. While on the surface, I agree, this is humorous, and from a creative perspective, the image deviates from the norm and therefore is likely to garner attention.  From a cultural perspective, however, I think more is at work. To be “caught with your pants down” is a humiliating experience associated with public embarrassment. The fact that the individual in the ad is oblivious to his situation drives home the point. If it’s okay to be stripped of your manhood, then there’s nothing left to loose. Considering the loss that many men have experienced during this current recession, there is consolation in the fact that there is, well, nothing left to lose. Maybe we can use such depictions to measure the state of the economy: if there’s nothing left to lose, then maybe the economy is at bottom and will begin to turn around. I have no idea if there really is a correlation; in fact, I doubt it. But when the economy does turn around many of those men who lost their jobs will not be getting them back. I wonder how will advertising treat them when times are good?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dreaming of Oprah

I had a dream last night that I want to recount to you. It took place in Chicago, a city where I have never been, but with which I am familiar because of its depiction on TV and in movies. In the dream I lived in a high-rise apartment, but I had moved from the side of the building that featured a view of the city to the other side of the building where there was no view. I was walking down a boulevard with one of my colleagues who I invited to my home to work on a research project. I was trying to write down my phone number for her so she could contact me, but the color of the ink in the pen and the color of the paper on which I was trying to write were similar, so it was difficult to see what I was writing. Additionally, I had difficulty remembering my phone number. Walking along the boulevard (I think I was on the median strip) who did I spot in her green Porsche convertible? It was Oprah Winfrey who was on her way home from work. It was about six o’clock when I spotted her; that’s how I knew she was on her way home after work. I recall that the Porsche was not a new one. It was a 911 and about 9 years olds. It was a warm sunny day, which might explain the convertible top being down, making Oprah so easy to spot. Oprah – that’s interesting, I think. I have to admit over the years I have had successive dreams of Oprah, some of which I have recorded. I recall when my book was about to be published that I dreamed Oprah and I met at Sara Beth’s a restaurant on the Upper East Side of New York to discuss my appearance on an upcoming show. It was kind of a pre-interview. I don’t know why Oprah Winfrey repeatedly shows up in my dreams. I’m not a fan, although I admire her greatly. I’ve seen her television program, but I don’t watch it regularly. In fact I probably haven’t seen it in a year. I know enough about dreams to realize that Oprah is a metaphor; she’s standing in for something or someone else. I won’t go into a deep analysis of my dream, although over the years that I have been doing dream research, I’ve learned much about dream analysis and can usually apply it to my own dreams with some success. It’s important to point out that even though Oprah appeared in my dream, she appeared as an expedient substitute for someone or something else. Like all media figures that appear in our dreams, she is convenient. And, that is one of the roles that media figures play in our dreams, as a replacement for something or someone else that is perhaps more meaningful. I also want to point out that when celebrities appear in our dreams, according my research, they invariably are our friends. In other words, while we recognize them as celebrities, they lose their celebrity status in our dreams. Oprah. A green 911 Porsche. A well-known NYC restaurant. These are the things from our everyday lives—what Freud called day residue—that show up in our nocturnal world.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Brands as Immersive Environments

This past weekend I participated in the Nike Human 10K Race – a virtual race for runners from all over the world. As we have been discussing ways in which consumers engage with brands through immersive environments like, I thought it might be beneficial to attempt to recount my experience to you. From the outset, I want to emphasize just how strange it was to run a race (I use the term loosely) all by myself: no one to run with; and, no one to cheer me on. When I passed other runners in my neighborhood, I wondered whether they were doing the same thing I was. But all I could do was nod in acknowledgment. It was a rather strange feeling, I must say. I could have joined a “community” online, but that would have been a virtual experience, not a real community of runners to actually run with. I guess I could have attempted to locate local runners who were participating in the Nike Human 10K and run with them, but that seemed kind of like a weird thing to do. So, I ran a race alone. What place did I come in? 5,421. Doesn’t sound so good, does it? Five thousandth place. But then again there were tens of thousands of runners. So, it was only when I uploaded my run to the NikePlus web site that I was able to get a feeling of some satisfaction. I could locate my place at the finish, and I could compare my time to people from all over the world.  I walked away (metaphorically speaking) from the event with a pretty good feeling about the whole thing. But I can’t say I felt connected, socially networked. It wasn’t a bad experience, and since I use this website on a regular basis, running in a virtual race—in the end—was just an extension of what I already had been doing in this immersive brand environment.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

There's an app for that?

Pepsi seems to be catching some flak for an Apple iPhone app for its Amp Energy drink. The app is aimed at guys who want to pick up girls. A story was reported in the 10/14 issue of The Wall Street Journal that raised the criticism of the app because it is, well, tasteless. There was critical buzz on Twitter, and blogs like regarding how the app objectifies women. Is Pepsi going to pull the plug on the app? Maybe and maybe not. At this time, it isn’t clear as I think they are measuring whether or not such product positioning and the accompanying critique actually helps the brand or whether public pressure will force them to withdraw the app. All of this--the app and the criticism--speaks to the issue of engagement. Multiple channels are at work here: there is the app, then there's the Twitter feed, then there's the blog response. Creating controversy is a means to activate consumers, and serves the role of making advertising more interesting, and by that I mean engaging.

Monday, October 5, 2009

So, you want to be a buzz agent?

You might want to think twice if you are considering blogging on behalf of a brand and receive some kind of payment or freebie. As new media become mainstream, it is incumbent upon the regulators, like the FTC, to revise their guidelines governing such changes in arenas where media and marketing converge. In fact, this is the first time since 1980 that the Federal Trade Commission has revised those guidelines on endorsements and testimonials; they guidelines will now cover bloggers who get paid to promote products and services. I think it’s good to see government regulators moving on this issue as consumers become more complicit in the marketing of products and services. Not only are word of mouth marketers like Buzz Agent involved in this newer form of communicating, but so are sponsors who are taking advantage of Twitter, compensating some consumers for plugging their products for a fee. The October 15 issue of Time magazine, includes an article on paid tweeting, which is controversial, as consumers don’t know if the endorsement is authentic or paid. When the advantage goes this far against the consumer, it’s incumbent upon the government to step in and do something to level the playing field. In this case, the FTC has updating its guidelines. I think it’s odd, however, that consumers themselves are participating in this new practice. Maybe this is just the ugly side of participatory advertising.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Some new buzz in Ad biz...

I came upon some new and interesting forms of participatory advertising that I thought might be of interest. The first comes from the people that brought you the Got Milk? Campaign. This is an update of their White Gold campaign of last year aimed at the youth market. This updated version has a website that launches October 5, 2009. According to Shootonline, for the current campaign, “White Gold goes beyond music videos to star in his own 20-minute online rock opera, Battle for Milkquarious…White Gold is billed as the star, writer and producer for the rock opera which chronicles his quest to save his hometown of Milkquarious from a devastating milk shortage. The villain Nasterious steals the town's milk and kidnaps White Gold's love interest, Strawberry Summers. White Gold travels across the galaxy to rescue her and return the stolen milk to the townspeople.”

The next campaign was written about in Online Media Daily. This new campaign is for Coca-Cola, which has “signed on as the first sponsor of "Sounds of Buzz," an online community launched by pop-culture blog publisher BuzzMedia offering live concert coverage from top bands, photos, video, news and show reviews.” The article reports that “Coke is partnering on the effort with BuzzMedia's music-focused blogs Buzznet, Stereogum and Absolute Punk. The site, which will be up through Oct. 31, features ample Coke branding throughout. As part of the broader campaign, Coke and BuzzMedia sponsored Katy Perry's recent show at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles. The full concert is now available at the Sounds of Buzz site.” Check out the Katy Perry concert – pretty cool, if you’re a fan.

Finally, there’s the buzz created around Arby’s, which was recently rated by J.D. Power and Associates as the most talked-about quick-service restaurant online among "early careerists" (those between the ages of 22-29). This was at least in part due to this summer's Wednesday Freebies promotion. The J.D. Power and Associates report was based on several hundred thousand conversations on social networking sites. This is a good example of how marketers are utilizing “engagement” as the new measure of campaign success.