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February 2007
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March 2007

Buick and the Boomers

Buick announced that they are continuing to use Tiger Woods as their spokesperson in their effort to convince everyone over age 50 (50?, try 70), that they are the car for this generation of consumers.  According to Karl Greenberg in MediaPost, Buick is positioned for people that want a "quiet, comfortable ride.  In other words " for "consumers who are grown-up."  To make sure they meet this market need Steve Shannon from Buick launched a new line of Buick's called Super (I'm too young to remember that this is a resurrection of an old brand).

I'm impressed.  Instead of pretending that their cars appeal to the young, Buick actually has locked in on their target....people that have bought Buick's their entire life and want to drive while sitting on a couch with wheels that can fit four golf bags in the trunk. My only issue is that the people they are talking about are 70, not 50. My dad loves Buick's for just these reasons.  The only problem that Buick will have is that the next generation of retirees do not want a "quiet, comfortable ride."  They want to blast off in a car that is symbiotic with their body.  They want to drive fast.   For Buick, I think the target choice is great.  Tiger Woods, good spokesperson for a brand that moves your golf clubs around.  Cars that promote having a quiet, comfortable ride that are for grown ups...shoot me when I'm attracted to that sales pitch.   

Who Will Be the Next DoTube Of Online Video

Fred Wilson in his blog A VC calls YouTube DoTube.  I think he is right.  YouTube is setting the standard for "generation free."  The ability to post, move, edit and whatever else you want to do with Video.  Other media companies that are trying to gate their content are just alienating the very generation they want to monetize.  Of course monetizing "generation free" is a challenge in and of itself.

Online video promises to set the new consumer benchmark for how video is viewed.  If someone is doing something cool on the net and your site or video doesn't have the same pacing and feel, you'll look old.  To see old, rent a movie from the 70's and see how slowly paced it is.  Others to watch with varying degrees of innovation are, SuperDeluxe and 

What's All This Twitter About

It seems like any service that has something to do with blogging and the Internet quickly becomes the talk of Silicon Valley.  The latest entry is Twitter which is described in today's Financial Times in a story by Richard Watters and Chris Nuttall called "Mini blog is the talk of Silicon Valley." 

For those that haven't twittered, the idea is to create a forum for short bursts of ideas and thoughts.  You set up a Twitter home page like a MySpace page and then others subscribe to your Twitters.  You can Twitter from any device and since a Twitter tends to be short, it is ideal for text messages from mobile devices.

Now before you say who would possibly want to Twitter, there are some obvious uses.  John Edwards, the Presidential candidate twitters all day from the campaign trail.  You can subscribe to market update Twitters from Marketwatch..  You get the idea.  And yes, there is no business model, but as stated by Fred Wilson on his blog, so what. 

The Internet is about building and monetizing audiences.  Twitter is growing 20% a week and has over 60,000 users.  I'm sure with thousands of imaginative users and no barriers to use, Twitter is going to be an interesting phenomena to watch.

I just Twittered about the annoying man in front of me on the Long Island Railroad talking loudly on the phone.  I'm now Twittering his entire conversation.  Revenge at last.  I think I'm going to like this Twitter thing.

You can join me at Jeff Grill's Twitter Page.

Losing Viewers is as simple as ABC

ABC has announced at the OMMA conference that they will be integrating TV commercials directly into programming.  A simple example as described in today's MediaPost by Wayne Friedman is having a commercial that is playing on the TV in a living room set on a popular show like "According to Jim" suddenly expand to play on the full screen.   While this is a dream come true for media planners and Mike Shaw, the president of sales and marketing for ABC that want more exposure and advertising revenue, it is a viewers worst  nightmare.  Stephen McPherson from ABC Entertainment also endorsed the idea while ignoring the fact that they are ABC Entertainment.  The agency community, the champion of the consumer (not), also endorsed the idea with Shari Anne Brill, a SVP from media buying mega-firm Carat, voicing the hope that producers will play along vs. standing up for the viewers that would like to wretch at any moment.

If ABC wants to destroy advertising supported television, this is the path.  By making advertising more intrusive, more annoying and less appealing than the programming in which they appear the broadcast networks will inspire many viewers to flee to programming that they control.  My view is that if ABC wants to intertwine advertising and programming then really do it.  Find common themes between the broadcast and the advertiser. Promote programming that attracts individuals that want to explore those themes and be up front in the process regarding who is paying the bill.  The ABC approach is half baked.  It will result in a loss of viewers commercial free channels such as HBO, Disney and Showtime.  Commercial free is significantly more appealing to "Generation Free." (my name for the next generation of consumers).

Generation Free Turns MySpace into EmptySpace

Today's Internet generation wants everything to be free which is why I call them "Generation Free."  They want the freedom to explore the Internet without constraint.  They want content to be free and if it isn't free, it should be almost free.  No, they want everything completely free.

If the brand called the Internet stands for freedom, then any service that restricts freedom is destroying brand value.    Brad Stone has a story in the New York Times describing how "MySpace Restrictions Upset Some Users."  The issue is that MySpace = The Internet.  Restrictions on the types of widgets the MySpace community can use is a major violation of the consumer pact and desire for freedom.  I understand that MySpace needs to live up to the $900 million dollars Fox paid for it, but restricting the community will have the opposite effect.  If they continue on this path, MySpace will quickly become EmptySpace.

Note: MySpace owenership corrected - Owned by Fox.

Advertising Suicide

I read Stuart Elliott's column in the New York Times every morning.  Stuart does a great job of staying on top of advertising trends and I highly recommend that you get a free subscription to his columns. 

Stuart has run two recent columns that I wanted to comment on.  The first, Critics to Marketers: Suicide is No Joke points out the recent trend to use suicidal people (Washington Mutual Bankers who can't compete) and robots (General Motors robot that dropped a screw) as a way of illustrating competitive superiority.  My take on this is that there is never an excuse to use something like suicide in a commercial.  There is an endless number of possibilities when choosing a messaging approach.  Suicide shouldn't be one of them.  It isn't good for the advertising industry, the brand that paid for the commercial or the agency that recommended it.  When I was running business development for an advertising agency, I would call advertisers that ran this type of commercial because I knew they would be changing agencies within the next 6 months due to the firing of the Chief Marketing Officer or the agency that had no better idea than suicide.  Ironic given the theme.

Today's column  by Stuart Elliott called "And Now a Commercial Break That Doesn't Seem Like One" describes how ABC is going to introduce advertising units that encourage the viewer to watch instead of skipping commercials with their TIVO or DVR.  I applaud the effort by ABC to give advertisers options that promises to attract the attention of viewers.  The article quotes a friend of mine from my AT&T advertising days, Perianne Grignon, Vice President for Media Services at Sears/KMART who welcomes anything that grabs viewer attention. I applaud ABC but think they should go even further.  Brands are the ultimate metaphors for certain life themes.  Television programs  play the same role.  It would be interesting to craft a television show where the two coincide vs. imposing a brand into a program.  It can't be good for the brand and it can cause resentment in the mind of the viewer.

Beyond Google, Three Sites to Watch

I just came across three search engines that are finding the innovative edge of search engine technology.  Thank you to David Berkowitz from MediaPost's search insider:

Goshme - aggregates hundreds of search engines and recommends the best for your search.

Like - Beyond cool and one of the most interesting ideas I've seen in a long time.  The site does visual search for shoppers.  See a watch on the hand of your favorite celebrity, search for it and others like it on the web.  Want to change the color or looking for a specific price, no problem.  Easy to use, very powerful.

Indeed - Metasearch engine dedicated to job hunters.  Easy to use, great results.

Pass Me A Bag of Doritos

I've blogged in the past about how every advertiser exercises their creativity by copying the success of other advertisers.  It's hard to tell who is a brainless copier and who actually understands the underlying strategy of the brand and is the innovator.

I'm starting to believe that Jason McDonell, the director of marketing for the Frito-Lay's Doritos brand is the innovator.  For those not tracking the ins and outs of salty snack advertising, Doritos is the brand that asked their customers to product their own TV commercials and then enter them into a contest where customers can vote who makes it into the Super Bowl (there were 5,000 entries, not a bad response).  At the time I thought it was an effective promotional tactic since it dominated most of the Super Bowl related advertising coverage.  My concern with tactics is that they are just that.  Non-repeatable points in time that temporarily boost brand share without any long term contribution.

Tobi Elkin writes in today's Online Media Daily from Media Post about Doritos in Doritos Brand Chief Plus Authenticity, Reveals Next Online Play.  In the article, McDonell while speaking to a set of acronyms (OMMA Hollywood) indicated how the young Dorito's audience looks to do a bunch of marketing speak (embrace self-expression, independence, and something called "belongingness" - the desire to belong to something.)  Hmmm, so young people want to belong to Doritos...interesting.  The article goes on to quote McDonell stating that a brand needs to be a magnet for consumers rather than a mirror.  The Doritos magnet.  I was wondering why all those kids were stuck to Doritos bags the last time I was in the supermarket.

In  a follow-up move Doritos is asking consumers to select it's next product and name it at its new web-site Snack Strong Productions where visitors can "snack strong."

I actually like what Doritos is trying to do.  They are engaging their customers in a two way conversation.  The first step in the conversation, the "Crash the Super Bowl" promotional tactic generated millions of target audience impressions and got many people to notice a brand that one doesn't just bring up in everyday conversation as in "hey, how did those Doritos taste last night."  They followed up this tactic with another level of engagement, pick and name the product.

Brands are co-created.  They are an on-going interaction between the customer and the brand.  If this is where Doritos is heading, I think they doing all the right things.  We'll watch closely to see if this is a string of tactical maneuvers or a  breakout brand strategy.  Now pass the Doritos so I have something to talk about tomorrow.

March Madness

Once in while I come across some interesting marketing statistics from the Center For Media Research.  Since March Madness is dominating sports, I was surprised to learn that according according to TNS Media Intelligence the post-season NCAA Tournament games bring in more television ad revenue than the post-season games in professional football, basketball and baseball.

According to TNS only the Super Bowl commands a higher advertising rate than the NCAA Men's Basketball championship game. College hoops has higher ad pricing than the major college football bowl games, the NBA championship, and the MLB World Series."

Network TV Ad Rates For Major 2006 Sporting Events

Avg. :30 Rate ($000)

NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament (2006)

Championship Game


Semi-final Games


National Football League (2006)

Super Bowl XL


AFC & NFC Championship Games


Divisional Playoff Games


Other Events (2006)

College Football - BCS Bowl Games


NBA Championship Series


MLB World Series


Source: TNS Media Intelligence

The Future of Broadcast is BlogTalkRadio

One of the things I love about the Internet and technology is the ability to equalize the playing field between the haves and the have nots with talent being a more important differentiator (I never underestimate the power of Dad's connections or good old fashioned personal networking).  In the 70's if you wanted to be in advertising the amount of infrastructure you needed to enter the market was a significant barrier.  Today, a well equipped Mac gets you in the game.

The latest game changing innovation is BlogTalkRadio.   My son aspires to be a broadcaster.  IUnfortnately for him, his Dad isn't Summer Redstone.  He takes it seriously with a morning and afternoon show on his high school radio station (one of the few in the country).  If you happen to be traveling through the center of Long Island and have your antenna pointed in the right direction, you might be able to hear it.

Then along comes blogtalkradio.  In minutes he sets up a blogcast show called  Hockey Night Long Island  with a scheduled time, Hockey Night Long Island Home Page, an over the Internet broadcast capability, a dedicated dial in phone number, on-line call queue and instant message capability.  Since the show is focused on the NY Islanders, through posts on related message boards and emails to sports writers that cover the Islanders my son and his friend went from a small local radio show to one with national potential.  They have an audience that is growing everyday.  Since Blogtalkradio lets him distribute the pod-cast over iTunes, he is picking up subscribers everyday. 

My son the aspiring broadcaster doesn't have to convince some network executive that he is worthy of airtime.  Barriers removed.  A new pair of broadcasters are born.