Tag Archives: TV

If All Screens Are TVs, What Then?

TVolution Last week, the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences announced that they would be awarding prestigious Emmy Awards in an expansion of the short-form series category. The deeper explanation of categories and requirements is:

The Emmys has expanded the short-form series awards to four categories: comedy or drama; variety; reality/non-fiction; and animation. Series must have a minimum of six episodes with an average length of 15 minutes or less, and be shown on traditional TV or via the Internet. Awards have also been added for short-form actor and actress as well.

What struck me is the inclusion of something that was not traditionally television within a “traditional” television environment. While not completely out of line with what the academy has done in the past – they have a membership group that focuses on digital content and they already expanded the meaning of Primetime when they included cable shows that could effectively be consumed at any time (a la HBO, Showtime, BBC) nearly two decades ago, before even DVRs and time shifting came around – it certainly seemed a bit of a land grab for an organization to stay relevant in the shifting of landscapes to an unknown future.

Then, there’s a lot of noise about Facebook making a play for the streaming rights to NFL games over the past day or so that really brings to question:

What do we consider a TV moving forward?
If all screens are TVs, how are people going to interact with them and content?
When will we start gaining from data insights in making it a better experience?

Just looking at Facebook and their want for live sports content, they’ve already driven video views on the platform to 100MM per day. The opportunity to completely do away with second screen environments – where your friend’s comments appear adjacent to the video, effectively making it a huge virtual sofa – is an evolutionary game changer. And, the predictive opportunity for delivering content based specifically on what you’ve been interested in that day or even that hour is mind-numbing.

One challenge in all of this is how closely tied to the past TV – of any form -remains. Though the rising interactivity allows for lean forward video consumption, there are far more viewers sticking to the lean back model. They still might make a selection off their DVR, VOD, or even that time-worn event of choosing a channel, but why can’t we start moving toward content delivered in linear fashion based on what you would probably be interested in right now?

Why do we see a huge amount of content highlighted based on what we watched in the middle of the night on Netflix when I’m logging in with my kids mid-day on a weekend? How come I do an incredible amount of searching on Google, yet their owned YouTube only prompts videos that I’ve already showed my kids on my computer a month prior? When will Facebook come forward with a “You’ll Also Like” product based on what video I’ve consumed and not what my friends post? (To give Facebook credit, they’ve done something like this, but it comes across as being more advertising than value-add.)

I do see a time when we will be able to turn on a stream of content – both short and long-form – and predictive technologies will line up the content and you can choose to watch or skip. The reality is that there is so much data there, it’s sort of silly not to use it. Whether it is Google or Facebook that have people exploring on a daily basis – and they also deliver content – or Cable/Satellite providers who might have relationships with data providers, there should be an ability to curate in real-time what the viewer might want right now. The use of data right now is usually only good for showing me what I was interested in then. Imagine the possibilities if we could have what is top-of-mind now delivered to us.

Perhaps this thinking isn’t even breaking enough from the TV norms as we know them. As much of content is evolutionary, perhaps this will just be a step to opening our minds and experiences to enable an content distribution/consumption cycle we can’t even yet conceive of.

For those reasons, I’m excited about the question of “What Then?”

JELL-O Takes Their Best Shot At 12.21.12

As it has become simpler (and quicker) to produce commercials and place them, we have begun to see many campaigns that are launching to coincide with specific events.  What might have once been considered a waste of money are now considered the norm – whether they are a waste of money or not.  With the ability to launch these micro-campaigns quickly and effectively, we’re seeing that it happens more in this “I want it now” society.  Add in to the mix that today might be the end of the world, and you’ve got a recipe for some fun.  That is, if the creative and placement is done right – as JELL-O seems to have done with their latest TV Spot.  Perhaps its the best JELL-O shot at saving us from the apocalypse?

The 60s spot is a fun one that offers up JELL-O brand pudding to the gods in order to save us from the end of the world. It seems that they did spend a bit of money – or at least found a solid vendor who could produce it on a tight budget. I saw it on ESPN last night and I guess you could say that the audience is ripe for chocolate pudding – if even in a nostalgic way.

While they did a funny commercial that has a short shelf life – much much shorter than the shelf life of the product they are selling – seems as though their press release went out on the 17th – they might not have prepared to leverage whatever media was bought.  They announced in the release that there will be a contest and that people should use the hash-tag #funpocalypse and they also announced the url, http://www.funpocalypse.org but that just goes through to the Facebook page.

I would have liked to see more integration into their main site or even just placement of #funpocalypse on the commercial.  There were a couple of people who searched for @unclejimsays – which was clearly shown within the spot. Unfortunately, it was not really managed by the company.


It is great to see these compelling bits of content coming out in support of products, but there is an acute risk of leaving value on the table by not extracting the most value from any campaign element. I look forward to seeing more of these fun, time-specific offerings, but hope that any campaign elements are dealt with holistically to make sure there is the best ROI possible.  Because, if you’re reading this on the 22nd of December or later, JELL-O was successful in keeping the apocalypse at bay – and businesses will have to continue turning a profit.


Marketing Of Prescription Drugs Going to The Dogs

We have now become used to television commercials for prescription meds with their sadly humorous speed-reading of warnings and side-effects.  I guess that’s why the ad for Trifexis caught my eye. The spot ran just as any other prescription drug spot would run with that very same disclaimer blog – both in voice-over and text. But it left me confused because the formula they used for the ad was exactly what we see for humans all the time – not what we see for dogs. You see, Trifexis is a prescription med for canines. As I looked deeper, it pointed to something quite scary – the further societal consideration of dogs as equal to humans.  Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs and even sort of understand how some families really do treat their dogs as if they were biological children. As I took a look at some of drug maker, Elanco’s marketing for Trifexis, I was just amazed how pets are the next frontier for prescription meds.

The spot I saw on TV was innocuous enough, with a happy family on a beautiful day.  The only problem the family faces is that the dog is being treated like the “Boy in the Plastic Bubble” (like that 1976 John Travolta TV Movie).  Through the course of the commercial, you can’t tell if the protection is for the dog or the family.  Not until the second half, when all of the legal mumbo jumbo comes in do you really get what it is.

I give them credit for not only doing something so striking in its imagery and closeness to the accepted norm for human prescriptions, but for also being consistent across all channels. Their messaging has slight changes between formats – with digital outlets being the clearest from the beginning about what it is.  The digital media creative starts off with the “in the bubble” image and “Protect Your Dog From Parasites” line of copy.

The print ad I found in Parade Magazine was a little confusing because, again, you didn’t know immediately whether the drug is for humans or dogs. The image is of a boy snuggling his dog with big gloves through the plexiglass and the tagline below reading, “Don’t let parasite protection come between you and your dog.” The campaign then goes on to follow the same format as other human drug ads with a bunch of legal on the main page and the next, a mail-in rebate offer and a little bit of marketing specific to what it actually does.

Perhaps I don’t view enough programming to have seen ads of this nature for pets before.  I know I’ve seen ads for Frontline, Advantix and other flea and tick controllers, but they just aren’t prescription meds and did not devolve into legal disclaimers. Funnily, Advantix is owned by Bayer – who knows a thing or two about marketing drugs to humans…

Is this a sign of things to come?  With prescription meds being a huge business vertical, do pet meds expand the market exponentially? Is it a way for companies that are not usually prescription drug providers to jump into the fray for a different customer? Whichever way you slice it – except for a few creative flourishes, there is bound to be many products and campaigns on their way to market that will cause us to scratch our heads in wonder.  Oh, and don’t forget, there is probably a drug for that!

Fear Forces Social Television To Grow Up

TV Guide just released a survey about Social TV and the Mass Market and while I don’t know how many people were included in the survey, one thing that stood out was the top reason for people to share what they are watching.  When asked “Why do you share what you’re watching,” the leading response was not “To tell my friends which shows I watch.” Leading the way with 76% was the reasoning that they do it to help keep their favorite shows on the air.  That’s a huge component – and not a new topic on the list (it was second last year) – that points to the growing maturity (and perhaps cynicism) of the audience. When fans are using social media to try to manipulate the business behind their favorite shows, it’s a sign of growing up that evokes the sense of nostalgia or loss a parent might have when their child starts realizing that Santa, the tooth fairy and leprechauns don’t exist. If the numbers are true, it’s too bad that social media surrounding television has grown up with a bit more fear than innocent discovery.

There has been social outreach that has led to shows being saved in the past (Friday Night Lights and Roswell come quickly to mind.)  A few months ago, Daisy Whitney wrote about the correlation between social buzz and ratings – with the report from Nielsen that, for the 18-34 age group, a 9% increase in social relates to a 1% increase in ratings. But, neither of these directly relates to the fan’s somewhat bizarre use of social to trigger business decisions.  much like parents would not want their children to engage in the family finances, should the providers of television content want the viewers to feel that they have to do anything but love (and interact with) the show to keep it on the air?

With the viewer’s time investment in shows that have no assuredness they will actually remain on the air, perhaps the social action is something they can do to feel that they are affecting the eventual outcomes. And sadly, it seems they feel  that they have to do such a thing as somewhat of a defensive tactic.

There are so many opportunities for social buzz as it relates to celebrating – and even extending the narrative – for beloved shows. With the growing periods of time between seasons for a number of series, there is a need for more social programming to keep the audiences engaged.  Three Showtime series (SHAMELESS, HOUSE OF LIES and CALIFORNICATION) had season finales this past weekend and will not return with new episodes until winter of 2013 – that’s a long time to keep interest up.  Maintaining a flow of social content could help keep interest there. With an even shorter hiatus of nine months, the season 2 premiere the series, THE KILLING on AMC only brought in 1.8 million total viewers. While those numbers are still decent in this fragmented world, its a half million less than the amount who watched the season finale on June 19, 2011. Again, leveraging social to keep viewers engaged rather than letting them fend for themselves could have helped to generate more awareness.

I’ve always felt that social could be a better tool for exploration rather than maintenance. The thing is, there’s often a responsibility tied to the narrative of the show and the question of who “owns” that progression.  In most cases, the show runners or owners would not want to give that control to the users.  Without opening up the opportunities for conversation beyond the latest episode or a show’s “Who Shot J.R.?” question, there’s not really a lot users can dig into during the hiatus.

It then comes down to economics.  Networks have the model of promoting a show when it is actually on the air. The owners of the shows are in the best position to activate campaigns that bridge the gap because they control the show narratives, but they usually don’t have the budgets set up to handle any such campaign. There are many reasons this should change – beyond just retaining fans through long breaks – that we’ll dig into in a later post. I guess it comes down to who needs those viewers more, the show or the network. The answer is probably shared right down the middle to some extent.

So, at some point, the kids caught on to how the adults were doing things and innocence was lost. Some would argue that its hardest to foster true creativity and connection from fear. It would be better for all involved if the fear of a show being cancelled was not the top reason, by a large margin, for people to be involved in a show’s social activity. Time and again, it has been proven that people relate and connect to things that have a narrative or emotional hook more than those with just mechanical activities. The “saving the world” narrative might work for some shows’ fans – probably for limited periods of time – but to truly maintain and build a fan base, there needs to be a shift from fear to celebration/engagement in terms of social media and television.

A Case Where Media Spend Is Not All About The Numbers

Flurry, a mobile advertising and analytics firm, just came out with a report exploring the disparities between the amount of time being spent on ad platforms and the amount of money spent on them. They noted that the largest disparity between the two was in Mobile – where 23% of users’ time was spent there with only 1% of U.S. ad dollars.  Comparing that to Print media, where 29% of ad dollars meet only 6% of time is spent, then it would seem that things are off-kilter.  While there could stand to be some shifting upward in Mobile spend percentages, looking to align the percentages of time spent with dollars spent on numbers alone in your media planning could leave you dangling in the wind.

Flurry’s VP of Marketing, Peter Farago stated in the company’s blog post that they “believe the main reason for this disparity (in Mobile) is that the mobile app platform has emerged so rapidly over such a short period of time. …Madison Avenue and brands have yet to adjust to an unprecedented adoption of apps by consumers.” That may be part of the issue, but it misses a number of other key factors:

  • The way in which people interact with the different media platforms is as much a piece of the puzzle as the time they spend using them. We all know that viewers expect a certain form of advertising when they are engaging with TV, Print and even Radio.  When looking at the Web, it seems that there is still not yet full stability in advertising engagements and Mobile is considered to most media planners to still be the Wild West.
  • With the above, some media platforms have standards that are easy to understand and convey to both upper management and clients.
  • While TV has gone through some changes with the advent of DVRs and the ability to skip ads, there is still structure there and the historical arguments come into play.  In the case of Radio and Print, the numbers are dwindling, but advertisers still have a clear idea of the context in which they will be viewed.  And most importantly, they know that there will be a decent opportunity for the ads to be seen or heard by those who are consuming those types of media. in all three of these, there is a higher percentage of ad spend than time spent.
  • Ad spend on Web is closer to alignment of time spent (22%) to ad spend (16%) and that is likely due to time in the marketplace as well as normalization of not only contextual placements but reporting.  That will continue to evolve and shift (e.g. current trend from standard ads to video) and we will most likely see the spend percentages rise above the time percentages in the next year or two.
  • Ultimately, the costs for these media placements are not normalized and cannot be compared as apples to apples. Therefore, the numbers may be “illogically” skewed for some time to come.

Taking the above into consideration, there is still a major consideration for Mobile.  When you figure that most use of mobile is done on Apps and mobile websites that do not offer Mobile-specific advertising options, there would definitely be a disparity in the numbers.  Additionally, as mobile advertising is still relatively new, the media program costs are often heavily discounted to either get in the advertiser’s door or provide proof of concept.  With those offerings, there needs to be strong analytical follow-up to derive stronger (and more costly) programs.  As of now, we’re still too early to be able to do that – even if there was enough real advertising inventory to relate directly to the time spent meter.

The report did point to other interesting facts that could lead to a strong future in mobile media with the strongest one being that Upper Middle Class consumers aged 25 – 34 are the most likely to interact with mobile ads.

There is definitely a future in mobile advertising and the chasm between time spent and ad dollars spent will surely come more closely aligned. The smart bet is on more than just the numbers, but the context. The strongest contextual applications will play out in the coming years and the best option is to be ready to pounce when it arrives to generate the best return on any Mobile media spend investment.

How Do You Force Viewers To See?

While watching an NFL game on DVR, my 3 year-old daughter yelled for me to stop speeding through the commercials.  I can only dream that she actually cared enough about football to be ensconced in what was on the television.  And, any marketer or media planner would be dreaming to think that this was a sign of the future – where people will be demanding that commercials not be forwarded through.  To be fair, Scrat (of ICE AGE fame) would have to be included in all TV spots to garner this much attention from a child on a regular basis.  The furry prehistoric rodent chasing an acorn was what forced my daughter to make me stop and go back to view the spot in real-time.  This phenomenon and other research within the last 6 months – and even released this week – point toward a dynamic, nuanced future of A/V media challenges and opportunities.


Back when DVRs came out, there was such a concern about viewers not watching commercials.  People were lamenting the end of commercials and the required changes to in-content product placement.  That execution of product placement has seen varying degrees of success, but the commercials still remain key.  Back in May, IPG Media Lab and YuMe released a report that showed these results regarding TV viewing:

When participants did use the DVR to fast forward TV ads, nearly half of them paid full attention to the screen during that process. Fast-forwarded ads had 12% more attention levels than non-fast-forwarded ads. Despite the advantage of eyes on screen, fast-forwarded ads had much lower recall than non-fast-forwarded ads.

Ultimately, we don’t know what the ads used were, but from my own experience, I usually DVR the same shows each week and the ads are pretty consistent from week-to-week.  Does the repetition factor of the same commercials being fast-forwarded through create a collective impression and conveyance of its message?  For years, research has proven that people need to see something numerous times for it to sink in – it shouldn’t be any different here. Again, from my own experience (and, I guess, my daughter’s) those ads with something engaging – whether through content or imagery – attract attention and cause me to check it out.

The key with DVRs is that you still have to look at the screen – even if just to see when the commercials end and the program begins. The IPG MediaLab/YuMe report also focused on online viewing of shows that force you to watch 30 second spots – causing a higher recall rate.  But the kicker (or relative ad destroyer) was the distraction of smartphones – causing a 60% distraction rate for TV and 46% distraction rate for online video.

The addition of smartphones to the mix is the focus of a recent Razorfish Outlook Report by Jeremy Lockhorn.  The report’s focus is on the multi-screen future – with its own set of challenges. Realizing that 80% of the respondents multitask on their mobile phone while watching television, further details are striking:

70 percent of respondents who multitask do so at least once a week, with nearly half (49 percent) reporting everyday multitasking. Furthermore, during the course of a TV program, more than 60 percent check their phones at least “once or twice,” and 15 percent stay on the mobile Web for the full duration of the show.

Now, the question becomes “How many people are actually paying full attention to the screen while my commercials are running?”  One response to this is, perhaps, that DVRs aren’t quite so bad.  At least we know there’s eyeballs on the images if people are fast-forwarding.  They aren’t having the time to disengage like they would with mobile or laptop communication. And, with the way we are learning to absorb information at faster rates than ever before, we can’t write off that fast viewing.  If my daughter can catch something of interest at 3X speed, then current and future adults should be able to do the same – if not better.

Perhaps the winner here for “traditional” media is online video – where people are forced to watch spots at commercial breaks – even if it is just one commercial at 30 seconds instead of four of them equalling two minutes on air. When watching video on your mobile, tablet or even laptop, it is more challenging to whip out that second screen to interact.

The future does provide more opportunities.  We are seeing the unleashing of many second-screen applications for synchronized content – from HBO GO, to the ABC products, to numerous others – including the FoxPop App that I developed for 10 home entertainment properties only to be killed too soon because it assisted platforms other than Blu-ray.  If those second-screen iterations are done correctly, they can provide the opportunity to remain connected to their social networks, the web and the content on the screen (with all its advertisers represented fully.)

But, again,the future holds more opportunities that we do not yet see. What we see as the pariah solution now could end up being the best solution for the future. As shown above, the DVR is not necessarily the ad killer we once were worried it would become.  If the right frequency of rotation is booked and the spots are clear enough, even the fast-forwarded commercials can make an impression. Through proper evaluation and strategy, the concerns or challenges of today will bring the solutions for tomorrow without having to force consumer’s eyes against their will.

Connected TVs Still Not Ready For Primetime

A new study shows that 62% of consumers do not yet have internet connected TVs with most of them not interested in doing so.  Wayne Friedman wrote about the study, but neither he nor the study really go into all of the forms of available content.  They focus on TV shows and films that might be streamed.  Of those who are connected, 10% of 13-64 year-olds watch TV programs; 11% watch movies (at least monthly) using a streaming service through a TV set. This increases to 17% to 18% among young viewers 13-31.  Internet features like Facebook and Search are most frequently used, but the numbers are not mentioned.

The surfing and true internet activity is most-likely happening on computers, tablets and smartphones where some research shows that 75% of US viewers regularly surf the net while watching television.

What is really missing here is the type of interactive content that can only really be consumed effectively on the big screen.  Those content items would be things like BD-Live and the apps that are now coming standard on TVs like Panasonic’s Vieracast.  Sadly, the offerings are just not strong enough to drive interest in converting consumers.

Even those who are interested run into challenges.  My own example is probably closer to the norm. 18 months ago, I had Cat 6 cabling throughout the house and connected all my devices – TVs, Blu-ray, Consoles, etc.  Everything was set until I wanted to show BD-Live to someone.  I popped in the disc, went to the menu and triumphantly pressed BD-Live only to find that I was not connected – even though the Blu-ray player was plugged in.

Its hard enough to market the BD-Live features to people – I’ve done more than enough of my fair share – but to have all the hardware challenges with no real excitement about the offered content, it’s a losing proposition.  It is a chicken or the egg story as having more people interact with BD-Live would probably add to its interactivity and marketability, but many are waiting for that special sauce to make them convert.

So, we are still talking about the buzz-words with nothing really to back it up.