February 27, 2008

The Media Age Has Moved

The Media Age blog has moved to a new location. Please click here to go to The Media Age's latest posts.

February 22, 2008

NBC Adopts "Endless Season" We Predicted Last Week

Bill Carter and Stuart Elliott writing in the NY Times wrote on Wednesday that "It soon may be time to retire the phrase "fall television season" in reporting that NBC had announced the day before "that it would move to a year-round schedule of staggered program introductions."

Take a look at our post from the week before headed "The Endless Season".

I don't know if Jeff Zucker or Mike Pilot read our blog but they and their competitors at the other networks should.

Do them all a favor and forward us to them.

February 12, 2008

Writers Strike addendum

In today's New York Times, Stuart Elliott discusses the implications of the Writers' Strike settlement on television programming and possible longer term effects on network ad sales practices. This is an interesting supplement to yesterday's post.

February 11, 2008

The Endless Season: How the Writers’ Strike May Forever Change the Face of the TV Business

Introducing new shows one at a time throughout the year will be seen to be a much better strategy for programming, promotional and profit success.

1. The Pilot ‘Season’ Will Become an Ongoing Year-Round Development Process

A compressed pilot season has jacked up the competition and prices for writers during a few months. Commissioning dozens of pilots simultaneously simply drives up the prices writers can charge. In addition, programming decisions are made quickly and sometimes badly.

Nevertheless, the networks will now undoubtedly engage in a panic of last minute development to try to salvage the season and set a proper stage for an upfront.

However, looking beyond this year, I think it is highly likely that the strike has convinced network managers that year-round pilot development would result in lower costs, better programs and improved ratings and profit.

2. Introduce New Programs throughout the Year

In rethinking ‘pilot season’, the networks will also want to reconsider the whole idea of a ‘broadcast year’.

The mid-September to mid-September ‘Broadcast Year’ originated with the desire of automobile companies to have primetime showcases for their new model introductions in the Fall.

This was never in the networks’ interests (and probably not that great for the auto companies) because all of the simultaneous and competing introductions of dozens of TV shows could only confuse viewers, reduce sampling of new shows and result in a high mortality rate for the new programs.

From an advertiser’s point of view, the broadcast calendar coincides with no one’s marketing plan or fiscal budget.

From a network perspective, it cannot make sense to stage an annual face-off in which their most expensive and fragile products are burned off in one big electronic bonfire.

3. The Endless Season

So let’s look forward to an ‘endless season’ in which new TV programs are developed, introduced and promoted one at a time throughout the year. Will it work? Ask HBO.

February 7, 2008

Hello Macy's! All Sales are Local

In today’s WSJ, Vanessa O'Connel writes about Macy’s CEO’s admission that its national strategy was flawed.

With January same store sales down over 7% that would seem to be an understatement.

Management’s response: fire 2,500 people and consolidate back office operations. No mention of reductions in management compensation…

It is axiomatic in retail marketing that “all sales are local”. Ignoring that fundamental precept of retailing, Macy’s CEO Terry Lundren cut back on local ads and poured tens of millions of dollars into “splashy national TV ads.”

Brick and mortar retailing requires

· Weekly sales circulars to bring the regular customer in more frequently,

· Regular sales promotions in newspapers and on local radio.

· TV can work on top of this base but given TV production costs is often not cost effective for local features.

If affordable after funding priority local efforts such as these, a relatively small continuity base in cheap daytime cable television could support a branding effort. I’d prefer local outdoor around each store location: billboards, mall posters, etc.

Note: Please credit clairegeordio for the photo above.

February 6, 2008

Anecdotes/David Ogilvy on Getting New Business

At Ogilvy & Mather, David Ogilvy himself would sometimes come into the agency cafeteria and sit down with anyone he chose and open a spirited conversation with the surprised employee.

One day I was privileged to have this charming fellow join me over my tuna sandwich.

It was I think in 1971 when I had been with the agency for five years, having risen from media planner to assistant media director and tripled my salary in the process.

The agency had grown during that period from about $60 million in billings in I think only one office in 1966 to nearly $500 million in 1971 with an expanding global base of business.
It was a great career ‘ride’ so I was delighted to have a chance to meet the great man one on one.

He asked me about myself, what I did, etc. Then he asked me whether I had any questions about the agency itself?

I told him that I was amazed and delighted by the rapidity of the agency’s new business growth and asked him what his ‘secret’ formula was?

He told me something that has always proven useful to me. He said that when he did everything he could think of to market the agency--- public relations, white papers, advertising*, building relations with top media owners and managers, original research**--- to name just a few things that I recall, he got ‘lucky’ with new business but he couldn’t pinpoint one tactic that drove the process. On the other hand, he said that when he didn’t do everything more or less constantly and consistently, the new business flow seemed to dry up.

And that’s how it worked out for me when I sought to create and build DeWitt Media, Inc., in the 1980’s and 1990’s. I kept a post-it list of everything I could possibly do to attract positive attention to the agency stuck to my pc monitor and tried to at least work on every item every day. What was on the list? Newsletters, PR, mailings, even cold calls worked. During that latter period when agency search consultants entered the business, it became critical to build awareness and relationships with these folks. What are the elements of an effective new business program today?

Everything you can think of. And try to move each peanut along every day. That’s how to get lucky with new business!

*D.O. wrote a series of amazing ads for the agency that ran in Ad Age and that listed his famous ‘rules’ for advertising, targeted to specific business categories in which he wanted clients; e.g., ten rules for food advertising, six rules for travel marketers, etc.

**Ogilvy had been a researcher for the Gallup organization early in his career and he believed that bringing prospective clients new information about their businesses was a critical way to get meetings and assignments.

"MOG": On Managing DeWitt Media, Inc.

On Management

MOG = Management Operations Group

The Management Operations Group at DeWitt Media met every Monday morning at 830AM.

All department and client account group heads attended along with our CFO and me, about 12 people out of our total staff of about 95.

Each MOG member presented a single page recap of the status of all work in progress in their area of responsibility---e.g., media planning, media buying, client service---followed by questions and feedback from all other attendees.

In this way, no project could go very far off base since every assignment was flagged weekly.

MOG meetings were a great way for me and my management team to be kept apprised of every job in the house.

They also alerted client account managers to possible problems with direction, due dates and other issues that could be corrected before they got too far off track.

By scheduling meetings first thing Mondays (our normal hours were 9-5) we made certain that our senior managers

  • Started the week with a bit of momentum;
  • Ended each week reviewing past progress and planning for the week ahead; and
  • Were engaged with and could contribute their ideas and input to every thing that was being done in the company.

There was also a social aspect to MOG as everyone came to feel responsible for and proud of the work of everyone else.

The Wikipedia definition of collegiality is I think a concise way to summarize why and how this all worked so well for us:

“Colleagues are those explicitly united in a common purpose and respecting each other's abilities to work toward that purpose.”

January 18, 2008

Mass Marketing Still Alive & Important

An article in the current issue of Fast Company is cited in today's Wall Street Journal's The Informed Reader blog. It seems to me that creating mass marketing platforms in today's fragmenting media world is perhaps more important for certain business categories that need to influence millions of customers daily (e.g., beer, fast food, soft drinks, politicians) than trying to assemble slivers of audience in the even more fragmented web world. After all, there are not many Super Bowl, Academy Award or Olympic level broadly based media vehicles left. And there still is no more powerful marketing communications medium than television.

Ten Things Reality TV Won't Tell You

Writing at SmartMoney.com, Kedon Willis provides a number of interesting observations about the fundamental unreality of what is called reality television. Of particular interest to advertisers is the finding that program producers often do not do thorough background checks on program participants, which has resulted in a number of violent acts and resulting financial settlements. Although the studios use iron-clad releases to avoid legal liability for such missteps, the negative public relations potential for a sponsor is immense. My suggestion: advertisers need to pay special attention to program participant background checks and insist that producers do the same. Other highlights of this very well done piece include the facts that:
  • Reality TV today accounts for 20% of primetime programming on network television
  • Actors are often hired to play the role of real people
  • Celebrities are increasingly replacing 'real people' in these shows
  • One hour of Reality TV costs as little as $1 million per hour vs. $3 million for each episode of a dramatic series
  • Because these programs can draw audiences as higher or higher than dramas, they are very profitable for the networks and have thereby earned an enduring place in future programming schedules

January 11, 2008

They Call It Blogging

They call it ‘blogging’ a word that is redolent of kindergarten or adolescence or of geeky twentysomethings engaged in some sort of mutual electronic ego massage. What if it were called electronic publishing or even better since today everyone likes acronyms and initials EP? Would we---my peers, ‘adults’, tightlipped agers---think better of the practice? We could see EP as harmless diary-keeping, a new form of diary that opens the authors’ words, and thoughts and experiences literally to the world. Some aimless mindless jottings of a child in Dubuque available to read by an septuagenarian in Kirkiztan.

It is clear from what little I’ve seen ‘on the web’, that a million monkeys typing on a million keyboards are not likely, in spite of the old saw, to generate the King James Bible or the works of Shakespeare. On the other hand, isn’t it possible that over time this thing, this blogging, will result, is resulting, in a new form of self expression? Certainly it is liberating to think that one, I, can write something that does not rise to the level of literature but that can be shared with others without the intervening scrutiny of an editor and publishing house, without the expense (or waste) of paper, printing, distribution, remaindering and recycling. As best as I can tell there are no rejection slips in blogging other than the occasionally sharp comments of fellow EP’ers, candid comeuppances intended sometimes to hurt but more often to encourage even the lamest expression of experience, thought, feeling.

What’s the point? I’m not sure yet. But I think that this blogging thing represents something new in human experience, the chance to throw one’s thoughts to the wind and to see in whose branches they are caught even for a moment, to be shared by others briefly until they drift to the end, turn brittle and disappear like the leaves they are.