Tag Archives: Programming

Tread Upon Our Content? We Won’t Take It! Or, Will We?

Last night, I caught the premiere of NBC’s new game show, TAKE IT ALL, hosted by Howie Mandell and had a little fun with it. While I absolutely enjoy narrative shows – sitcoms and dramas – more than game shows, it seemed that the bells and whistles were more reserved and made more sense with the context of the game show than they do on the other content I watch on broadcast and cable. Those bells and whistles I’m referring to are the incessant promotional graphics that come up in the lower-third, upper-third, corner or even full screen.  They are sadly more invasive than ever – partially due to DVRs, but seemingly more due to the lack of consideration for the content. How much will viewers stand to suffer as content is tread upon by messaging?

Courtesy of NBC

Courtesy of NBC

David Goetzl wrote about the intrusiveness of networks over programming as a response to DVRs in his MediaPost entry this morning.  While focusing on the encroachment of promotional messaging within a network’s shows, he posits that actually selling overlay advertising inventory may be right around the corner. I shutter to think how much that will diminish the actual content that provides the platform advertising relies on.

Back at the turn of the century – remember 2000? – product placement for television was not effectively seen in Primetime. At that point, it consisted of a bottle of Mountain Dew given to the winner of a SURVIVOR challenge. There was a debate between networks and producers while trying to figure out who would make the money from those “promotional considerations.”  Since that point, the integration of products with shows has reached – and perhaps exceeded – the high science of product placement in motion pictures. Back then, it was still reasonable to assume that the network could make their bucks through commercial inventory sales.  But, is that opportunity window closing to the networks with the growing penetration of DVRs?

The line marking who profited (network/producer) from what type of integration has certainly blurred, but profit participation becomes secondary when when weighed against diminished content by distracting overlays.  An argument could be made that promotions are a different beast with the belief that “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” and all shows benefit from the promotion of other shows on a network. But as Goetzl writes, our time-shifting sort of makes that argument moot. Either way, if overlay inventory is actually sold and an item is distractingly pitched over important narrative content, the network might have the short gain of a sale, but the long-term risk to the actual content (and its viewership) being greatly diminished.

Going back to TAKE IT ALL, the ability to DVR proof promotional items within a game show is certainly a solution – but not something everyone can do. We saw how devastating game-show-full schedules can be to viewership in general (check that same turn of the century period) so a solution for narrative programming is required.  Is that solution a widespread jump to running advertisements on top of narrative content?  Absolutely not. That would lead even more viewers to stop watching or switch to the pay-TV programming that has gained ground on Showtime, HBO and Starz or shift to streaming options – definitely not good for broadcast and basic cable networks.

Whatever the winning decision is, my hope is that they don’t tread on the content and destroy the television programs that have been the height of storytelling in the past few years.  Enjoy the show, TAKE IT ALL, but don’t encroach on the content and Take It All away.


Hotels Working Hard To Connect The Dots on Young Loyalty

USA Today filed a report on hotels and their “new” quest to engage teens and pre-teens with programming and other benefits to build early hotel loyalty. The quest is all fine and good, but USAT assumes that the marketing is specific to the teens, when the real recipient is the parent.  When you look at the samples of activities, they didn’t really make sense as marketing tools to kids – but they might make sense to draw their parents to their properties.  The biggest issue is that it seems the hotel operators might not have their finger on the pulse of what their teen and pre-teen prospective consumers would even be drawn to. It’s good to look for ways to build brand loyalty – especially with young consumers – but you can’t build that loyalty with confusion about who you need to connect with.

The article recounts a few of the offerings that have recently been launched by some hotel chains. What the article doesn’t do is cover how these features are marketed. If there is no specific marketing strategy for these offerings, then too much is left to chance – making the offerings less effective. But, let’s just say that the offerings were marketed through specific media or even as part of their CRM or email communications. You still have to question who (and when) the target is for some of these offerings:

  • At select Omni Hotel locations, a “Teen Connection” program has been launched where the teen-aged guests can communicate with a Teen Concierge through Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, or text. Besides the obvious question of “why don’t you just go downstairs and speak face-to-face with someone?”,  I question how much business (or loyalty) will be generated for something so specific. If, as a teen, I had connectivity – which should be paramount – I would be communicating with friends not rushing to communicate with a stranger about things I would need permission from parents in order to actually do it. Since the marketing would be toward parents, would parents want their kids to be asking for reccos through social?  Maybe they would feel more comfortable that it is from a more substantial (i.e. hotel) source, but again, why not go down to the lobby to ask someone? Which leads to the bigger concern about the Teen Concierge idea.  As a parent, do I want an 18 year-old to be a concierge telling my son or daughter to go see a rock show at the Beacon or skateboard through Central Park when I am visiting New York City? David Strebel, the teen concierge at Omni Berkshire in Manhattan gave those examples of what he would offer. While those suggestions are borderline fine options for  teens who know the city well, as a parent, I’m not so happy about the argument that is probably going to happen when I tell my kid they can’t do what the cool guy at Teen Concierge got them to set their mind on.
  • Hyatt has rolled out their “For Kids by Kids” menu and it seems like it makes the parents happy due to its healthier options.  But, the concept of “by” is an interesting one as it seems the menu was only “approved by a group of young taste-testers.” To be upset about the lack of offerings like  “curried shrimp lettuce wraps” on a kids menu could just as easily be appeased by hotels in offering child-sized portions (and costs) of the regular menu items. But, again, there is confusion as teens are not the sweet spot for children’s menus.  Most children’s menus are targeted at 12 (at the high-end) and under with many targeting even younger. Maybe another solution is to rethink some menu options entirely to more strongly relate to their target audience. Maybe the rethinking leads to a couple of items on the menu that are healthy, but are more of a “grazing” type of offering – where young adults can lay around and idly eat healthy foods like crudite, crackers and tuna or chicken salad, etc.
  • Some real head scratchers are Sofitel’s French Language TV station, Tivi5MONDE, for children under 13 and the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes teen massage and facials. What’s the audience size for kids under 13 who want to watch something in French and are teens really that interested in spa treatments as a progenitor or loyalty? The Ritz offering might make perfect sense due to its overall demographic, but the loyalty they have going has very little to do with how kids are treated.  In fact, there are many who stay at such hotels that would prefer there were not pre-teens or teens running around…

We’re not even dealing with Tyson’s Corner Marriott’s belief that American Girl packages with free viewings of American Girl’s McKenna Shoots for the Stars are perfect for pre-teens and teens.  American Girls’ target is considerably younger than that demo.

It could all come down to how the writer, Nancy Trejos, framed the story as attempts to target and draw in those demos. It seems that the examples either over think the target or don’t really address them.  One commenter on the article succinctly stated that “the best way to keep teen guests content – offer free wi-fi.”

Obviously, the best way to provide loyalty is to offer great experiences without being too gimmicky. As the adults are usually (hopefully) the ones making the decisions, the effect the offspring have is based on their content and how much they enjoyed things.  So, there are probably inexpensive ways to convey to parents that there are great offerings for the kids to allow for sampling and, based on good experiences, many happy returns.

The low-hanging fruit is for hotels that are heavily used for business travelers.  By way of CRM programs and booking confirmation emails, they can easily include a little blurb inviting those business travellers to bring their families along. They can work on programs that make travel for children, pre-teens and teens more comfortable.  And, there are things that can provide a sense of security and comfort for the parents.  Maybe its just having a late-afternoon kids and teens “only” reception in a part of the hotel restaurant where healthy choice foods and fun activities are provided at no extra charge.  Maybe its in the form of borrowable MP3 players that have music that conveys the spirit of the city they are visiting.  Obviously, there are so many more options – all with different degrees of difficulty.

The thing is, a lot of what was listed seemed like it was from some ideal story of teens who visit the Waldorf-Astoria and take it over. While it might seem exciting to talk about QR codes and healthy choice education in order to get press coverage, the results are what matter and the ones shown just don’t seem to do the trick.

If you want to target a certain demo, you’ve got to know who they are, what they want and then deliver on that.  But that’s not all… You’ve also got to be clear in how you’re going to communicate it.  You’ve got to make sure you’re communicating clearly to the people who really matter.  In this case, is the kids that the initial communication needs to happen with?  No.  It’s the decision makers – who happen to be the parents. And ultimately, it doesn’t matter how much the parent’s love an idea of something, f the child doesn’t like it, there will be problems.  The challenge is in connecting the dots – or at least leaving the right breadcrumbs to draw target demos to your product and generate loyalty.

Finally, A Summit That Almost Reaches The Top

Yesterday, iMedia presented the newest Entertainment Marketing Summit under the header – For Entertainment Marketers by Entertainment Marketers and the difference was palpable. At many summits or conferences; the subjects often blend into each other, the same buzzwords are said too many times, the presentations seem too much like lectures and not the sharing of ideas or conversations, and there seems to be too much company marketing and no real takeaways from presentations.  Perhaps it was iMedia’s format of having members of the community host the entire day that made the difference – making the whole day seem more familial and interesting. For the most part, the sharpened model worked in bubbling this conference up near the top.

iMedia had done something similar for the Video Content Summit in March during the In-Focus breakout – with AJ Vernet hosting and setting the tone for sharing and growing together – but the presentations seemed more like company demonstrations and not data or best-practices sharing. Also at the Video Summit, Shelly Palmer came across as more adversarial as a host. In this case, Bettina Sherick and Kevin Doohan tag-teamed a warm and engaging set of transitions from one session to the next.

It was probably by accident, but the fact that the Keynote Fireside Chat featured two people who don’t just work together – they grew up as close childhood friends – helped establish the familial feel further.  Those friends were Jake Zim and Elias Plishner of Sony Pictures, and you couldn’t find a more respected person to leaf the chat in Gordon Paddison. Jake and Elias did provide insight into some specifics of how Sony works in ways that other studios might not, their challenges were not unique. They provided a sound basics for anyone who did not know them and because of their comfort with each other, Jake’s straight-shooting style was right at home.  He rightfully stated that “people only need one reason not to go to the movies these days.” While it doesn’t make sense to go through everything here, the retweeted quotes from Jake’s mouth cover a lot:

“Fish stinks from the head”
“We have to provide an experience that’s better than free”
“Two commas or spare me the drama”
“No movie sells itself”

I leave it to you to have fun with trying to assign context to the quote…

Brad Berens did his usual solid job with an engaging presentation of the state of entertainment, and more specifically, where the audience is. Between the way viewership has changed in the last 5 or 6 decades and the forms in which entertainment is now available, there is so much change and we still have room for so much more of it to happen. His bit of prescience at the end was his stated belief that XBOX 360 is going to continue to grow and be an even larger property.

Peter Stouggard Presenting – All Pictures Courtesy of iMedia

Peter Stouggard should be applauded for actually using technology for full effect by building an app to house his presentation. His compelling review of what he sees as the “best of” was refreshing just because of his willingness to not only laud the achievements but also look at some of the “what could have beens” to make those even stronger.  He didn’t present it as a negative for what was already done, but as a celebration (or challenge) relating to what opportunities could be advanced in the future.

This year’s visionary  Marketer Award went to Doug Neil of Universal. it was the first Powerpoint/Keynote acceptance speech that I’ve seen. But other than not being able to play a piece from Les Miserables, it was a successful turn of technology.  Or, it at least embraced the spirit of sharing and community in how he used the forum to discuss what he sees the keys to success are.

Unfortunately, after lunch, the programming fell into the same traps we’ve seen at lesser forums and conferences.  It turned into much more presentations of case studies that felt more like business pitches than sharing of best practices.  I won’t go into specifics here out of respect for the presenters and iMedia, but there was far too much general commenting and ideas with no real metrics that can help us determine which way to move forward (or, at least sell the concepts upwards.) It seems that the biggest hiccup that arises all the time is measurement understanding or strategies. Many of those items are nice, but not truly helpful without placing them in context of some clear metrics.

When the day grew later and started veering far off-schedule, the presentations and panels just seemed to grow longer and without as fine a point as those in the first half of the day. Mark Silva brought up some interesting concepts about the collaboration with startups in Silicon Valley. Yet he even acknowledged that he needed to spend more time in Los Angeles to understand how things work to see if it would make any sense to engage on such partnerships.

The day closed out with Lori H. Schwartz interviewing Dane Boedigheimer of Annoying Orange fame. It was presented almost as if it were the highlight of the day in terms of how complete it was and how long it was, but half the attendees had left by then. I was glad I stuck around for a couple of reasons: First, it was good to see Dane still laugh at the humor of an old episode – often creators don’t seem to enjoy their own product as much in public; Second, Dane was able to provide some bits of insight into a group that is ordinarily quite challenging to reach socially – boys 6-11. He named his engagement at his site in the hours after posting new videos was key in building his base. From that, he was able to leverage the deep base to do other UGC and contest mechanics to more deeply involve them in the brand. After a line-up of seasoned vets, it was truly refreshing to see someone who is talented and, perhaps, has a less jaded view on things.

Bettina Sherick stated that “the playing field keeps changing” during her opening remarks and it certainly seems true that we cannot afford to work alone within our silos.  There’s just too much information and development to afford to do such a thing. In entertainment, we are all in this together and, while we are a competitive bunch, what’s good for one is good for all.  In as much a way as it is impossible to have a film that doesn’t need marketing, it is not possible for one studio or another to beat the odds and have huge successes every year.  A few years ago, it was Fox with AVATAR and this year it’s all about Paramount/Disney/Marvel with THE AVENGERS. As such, it is important for everyone to be familial and friendly – along with the competitive.

Just like anything else, there is constant tweaking and development to be found in forums and conferences. iMedia is doing a solid job of not resting on their laurels and getting stronger with each event.

Conan Brings TechnoMagic To The Second Screen

In what has become this millennium’s version of the arms race, everyone is racing to build their own second screen app.  While most are now using the same audio recognition technology to sync to the program you’re watching, there have been some that are better than others with strong social connectivity but limited content and some are just plain lame.  Even the one that is my favorite (TVplus) is limited by how much supporting content has been created specific to that show.  That’s why I’m impressed with TBS’ Conan O’Brien Show and their spiffy new Team Coco Tablet App. With its promise of content, regular use, time-shifted capabilities and emphasis on marketing the product well, Conan’s people are doing their best to bring Conan’s coined “TechnoMagic” to the Second Screen experience.

The App itself provides exclusive, synced content in real-time as they watch the show – no matter when that is. They are promising up to 25 different pieces of bonus content per show.  Those all-important bits of content will include video clips, photos, slide shows, guest info, polls, quizzes, facts, trivia, memorable quotes and more.  It’s also integrated with Facebook and Twitter so that you can stay connected while watching the show.  As of now, I can’t tell if those Facebook and Twitter comments from your friends are anchored to specific times in the show or if they just flow in real-time – which would not be as cool if you are watching your DVR’d show the next morning.

The key to any second screen app’s success is the array of content available and the regularity in which it is used.  To this point, Conan takes the cake in regard to regularity with his Monday through Thursday airings and, if they do come through with the 25 bits o’ content per show, they will be a phenomenal leader in providing a solid example of what second screen apps should be.

Add to its functionality TBS’ smarts in marketing of the App and its AT&T sponsorship off the bat and the entire second screen community should be salivating as someone is finally promoting and supporting the second screen universe in the right way.

Team Coco is not just relying on the video above that they hope people will come across, they are doing a media campaign specifically for the app with AT&T getting valuable impressions as well.  When anyone goes to the Conan site, they see a push down unit touting the App.

We still don’t know yet how things will play out in practice for this app.  Will they be able to keep up with the content in ways that people will actually care about?  Will the video content be annoying if both audio pieces go at the same time?  Will they come up with phenomenal ways to have exclusive content that makes those with the app feel like real insiders? (A comparison would be when The Late Show first went to HD and wide-screen and Letterman kept moving out of the 4:3 frame so people on standard def could only see part of him…) What the second screen universe really needs is smart and compelling content in an app that will stand as a bellweather of what is possible.  Otherwise, second-screen will continue to be nifty, but nothing more.

Kudos to the entire Team Coco for really stepping out there to throw down the gauntlet and spin their TechnoMagic.

Minding The Fault In Daily Deal Sites – Prepare Yourselves

With the meteoric rise of Groupon since their launch in 2008 and the bevy of competitors that have sprouted up in an incredibly short amount of time, the very companies that can best utilize these forms of social marketing are still scratching their heads about how to use daily deals to their advantage. The thing is, there are so many options in this multi-billion dollar industry that we may have not yet seen the perfect solution – if one even exists.  But be assured, what works for some will not work for all – and it is not entirely the daily deal site’s fault.

When determining whether you want to include daily deals in your marketing mix, you need to set a strategy that works for your company.  Too often, companies utilize daily deals for awareness by providing huge discounts and then question the ROI.  Not to say that you can’t garner a strong ROI with daily deals, but you certainly can’t do so without a clear strategy or game plan.

After determining that your business would be best served by doing a daily deals program, here’s a few little tidbits you should consider:

What are you looking to get from this marketing program?  Your specified end-goal should clearly define what type of program you should execute. Is it awareness, user-base, subscribers, samplers, or profit?  If its profit on the specific program you are looking for, you’re probably out of luck.  We’ll get into some basics of the participation later in the post, but figure that if 25% cannot cover the cost of your services plus a little profit, that end-goal is out of the question. 

If you are looking for awareness, user-base, subscribers or samplers, daily deals could be strong for you, but you need to make sure you can deliver and lead to repeat business.  Too often, the deals drive business for that one instance and, even if the consumer has a good time, there is no repeat visit.  Part of the solution to that is by coming up with a program that induces return visits or pass-along savings.

My wife is in the middle of a Living Social deal she bought with a friend for six classes to a new fitness program.  If she is ecstatic that she is halfway through and only has three classes left, I don’t think that’s what the business was looking for. She hasn’t felt strongly about the offering and, even at the discounted price, she’s wondering if the value is there.

Other deals we’ve bought – whether they are spa treatments or activities have rarely led to repeat visits. Had those experiences been unbelievable, we might have decided to return. So, no matter what the offer, you’ve only achieved part of your goal by getting them in the door.  Make sure the offer showcases what you do best to even have a chance of getting those return visits.

All deal sites are absolutely not created equally.  We’re not just talking about user-bases, we’re talking about type of user, its typical offerings and the general theme of the deal site. Depending on what type of business you are marketing, there might be specific genre sites that make more sense for you.  Even if it means that you’re reaching 1000 users instead of 100,000, that specific interested group could be a much stronger use of your money. Take the time to look at daily deal sites and compare what they offer, who they reach and what they charge. Also, weigh how they deal with maximums.  You don’t want to break your company by losing too much through the succesful sale of too many deals.

I always use the example of the bikini wax on Groupon.  I don’t need it, and even if I did, each company who offers it would hope that my sampling would turn to repeat business.  In addition to relativity of offerings, it leads to another point you should look at when determining which partner site you are going to run a deal on.  If a site runs so many deals like yours, you might end up getting people who just signed up for the latest deal.  Your chances of repeat business are slim because they might just wait for the next wax or massage – where they may be offered from.

Cost participation is another thing to consider. Figure that the general principle is that you’ll offer a service for half of the actual cost.  The site will most likely take half of that, leaving you with only 25% of the value placed on your product.  The model above is Groupon’s standard participation split.  You’ll probably find variances depending on how big, small, established or new a site is.  Ultimately, if your motivation is profit, you’ve got to set up for your offering to bring you a profit at a 75% reduction in cost.

Remember, the buzz site is not always the best return when it comes to your business, you need to be specific and stay in line with the strategy you originally set out.

Perhaps too many businesses look to the deal as being the end all for the program.  If your goal is not just profit on the deal, then you’d better have a mechanic set in place to bring these consumers into your communications (through lists, groups, etc.) or find a way to convert them to subscribers or members.

I’ve redeemed far too many deals where the business never even asked if I wanted to be placed on their list for future news and specials.  That’s the easiest way to leverage the deals and a shocking few even choose to do that.

If you offer something that might be attempted only once, a solution could be to entice users of these deals to bring a friend with them later to receive another future discount.  The discount should be smaller than what the original deal, but think about it – you’re getting a new customer and even if you gave the same discount as the original deal, you’re making more money because there’s no participation.

There’s a number of different ways to leverage that sample or trial use that cost nothing more than the original outlay of the program. It’s up to you to play around to find what works best for your company and its newest clients.

When all is said and done, the product and services are key.  If you don’t have something you’re proud of, work it out BEFORE you do a daily deal.  Many of them provide a great opportunity to generate awareness and sampling, but you only get one chance to make that first impression.  It doesn’t matter how steep the discount, you won’t get them back again and you’ve totally lost.  As of yet, we’ve never seen a case study where a struggling company with sub-par offerings have been able to turn things around by offering a daily deal.

In most studies on daily deals, the business owners are quick to lay fault on the deal sites if their program does not work. Really, the fault is on business that go into this form of social marketing believing that everything they offer is going to provide returns.