Category Archives: broadcast

6 million TV viewers disappear. Blame the DVR.

Call it Must Not See TV.

The New York Times reports 6 million TV viewers have disappeared in the past year — not abducted by aliens, but simply no longer watching prime time television. This is incredible, representing 13.6% of the 44 million folks who watched prime time TV just one year ago.

The impact on the ad industry will not be pretty. While Nielsen notes that ratings for some shows have gone up — about half the people who watch “The Office” in the Los Angeles market do so with time-shifting on DVR devices, and such habits have actually added eyeballs to a few popular shows — these same viewers are likely skipping commercials. It doesn’t take long to figure out the fast-forward button on a TiVo.

The good news is that viewers are shifting video-viewing habits online. If you are not now testing emerging formats for online video advertising, rethink it. Your target consumers may be there in 2009.

(Photo: Angel R Ravelor)

As TV ratings lie, Kimmel goes live

These new television C3 ratings are BS. Really. Let’s think about this — more people are using DVRs to record TV and skip commercials, and yet the networks have found a way to measure DVR use so the ratings go up.

Here’s the story. Today about 1 in 4 U.S. households has a cool black box called a Digital Video Recorder, such as TiVo, so you can record TV programs in advance and zoom past commercials. This is the second big smack in the face for television advertising, the first being the rapid migration of TV viewers to other media, such as the internet and YouTube, for video viewing.

Fewer viewers + viewers skipping commercials = TV advertising crisis.

Obviously, no one can sell ads on TV unless you can estimate the impact. So a battle formed. Ad agencies sought to get more accurate measurement, by tracking impressions of individual spots within a commercial pod (and not the overall program rating). Television networks tried to get more vague, by measuring live impressions (when the spot actually airs) plus a 7-day window of repeat viewing for all the DVR users who “watch” the commercials in the following week.

This is where the story starts to smell bad.

A great compromise emerged called C3 ratings — “live” ratings of the ad at the time it actually airs plus a 3-day window of later viewing. Networks would still love the “plus 7” window to count a full week of follow-up impressions. Rino Scanzoni, chief investment officer of GroupM, told Media Planner Buyer last fall, If you look at the program ratings for the five broadcast networks this season, you’re seeing 11 percent to 12 percent erosion. When you factor in live plus 7, it’s closer to 2 percent …

Did you catch that? Ratings were down, but now magically they are back up.

Thank goodness Jimmy Kimmel has decided to try live commercial skits to keep viewers tuned in. As the baloney sandwich of new advertising metrics starts to stink, trying something new in the creative may be a good defense. Or if you really want to get crazy, just measure your sales results.

3 reasons why you are now a national news reporter

1. Katie Couric’s ratings are down and she may depart CBS after the elections.
2. CBS is reportedly in talks to outsource news operations to CNN.
3. CNN, in return, said it will cover the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict to the United States by enlisting regular people to post videos and stories at

Which poses the question: If you will soon be covering God, who is watching you?

Brilliant VC idea of the week: TweeVee

Darryl Ohrt at Plaid has a killer concept for a new broadcast medium: TweeVee. Imagine a television broadcast where you can also see a stream of comments running across the bottom of the video, posted by your circle of friends or professional colleagues.

This is no small idea — it actually recognizes how consumers are now using media. ESPN has reported that sports fans watch television while simultaneously using cell phones to pull other scores or text results to friends. A few days ago a brilliant friend of ours spent an evening posting hilarious Twitter comments about the Obama-Clinton debate. Why not pull this multiple media use into one simple screen?

Send VC funding inquiries to Mr. Ohrt here.

Elave’s full frontal path to viral marketing

So the silly Brits at Elave have launched a risqué online video that has, um, full frontal nudity. (Be careful. We warned you.) Elave is a real company, selling ointments to help people with eczema and dermatitis, yet went out on a limb with a spot showing actors who look like medical professionals … who just happen to work in a really, really warm lab. What up?

Despite the hoopla, advertisers simply can’t control viral marketing — it’s very hard to get an idea to spread through the public — but there are two basic approaches. Malcolm Gladwell focuses on the channel; the hyperconnected people who make ideas spread. Seth Godin focuses on the idea itself; how content must be made so catchy that it turns from a “sneeze” into an “ideavirus,” scaling like the flu everywhere.

The Elave spot is an attempt to create just such an ideavirus. This little snippet of flesh (OK, a lot of flesh) would never pass S&P at major cable networks, but that’s the point. Traditional TV is irrelevant, the Elave spot was launched online and it is so crazily different it surely will get passed around.

We see three dangers with this type of aggressive attempt. (1) You may generate attention but not get response, especially if the attention is just young men looking at models. (2) Shock will fade. Eventually, this type of thing will no longer startle. (See: HBO ratings.)

And (3), beware the adverse impact. A large portion of potential customers, say women in their 30s and 40s, may not want to be exposed to this. Perhaps, eventually, online video ads will have to work the old-fashioned way — by offering something meaningful that people want to buy.

Irwin Gotlieb teaches TV to change its spots

So this one guy, Irwin Gotlieb, CEO of media-buying giant GroupM, directs 16% of all the world’s $364 billion in global advertising. When this guy has an idea, you better listen.

Now Gotlieb is pushing a simple but far-reaching concept — what if you could serve different ads to different TV viewers, at the same time on the same channel? This already happens on the web, where behavioral targeted ad networks track your clickstream and then fill a web page with an ad tailored just to you.

Last year Gotlieb led investment in Invidi Technologies, a startup that can customize TV spots. If you’ve got three TVs in your home, the teen gets one message, Mom gets a different one, and Dad gets a third, Gotlieb says. Microsoft filed a similar patent application recently, which would dig through data from a consumer’s offline behavior (credit card transactions, travel location, content viewed in various media) to then serve up personalized ads the next time you touch any Microsoft content network.

The future of advertising is coming, and it’s watching you closely. (Good Fortune profile on Gotlieb here.)

Farrah Fawcett and cream: Why sex in advertising works

Why would any brand with half a brain promote Farrah Fawcett creaming someone? Daniel Pouzzner suggests that evolutionary forces drive humans, especially men, to think about sex almost constantly. First, procreation is difficult. Women are able to conceive for just 24 hours each month, and the actual timing of the window is not visible, so men are more likely to create offspring if they attempt sex more frequently. Second, human sperm has very poor quality compared to other animals, and so numerous sexual encounters are required for humans to reproduce. Sexy ads exist because our cave ancestors were swingers.

Ah, but the money quote is this, where Pouzzner points out that men aggressively respond to stimuli because they are expendable:

Because the loss of a few males – even quite a few – often results in no significant reduction in the number of the next generation, and because for a male the procreative dividend of heroic excellence tends to be immense, on average males exhibit less strategic conservatism than females.

Evolutionarily men can die off in droves and women will do fine without them. So men have no incentive not to take huge risks, whether chasing tigers with spears or potential mates who may reject them. In the deep coding in human genes, there is instinct to forge ahead and not think logically about the outcome.

Which helps explain Old Milwaukee ads like this.

Call now for DRTV. Lap dance not included.

Laugh all you want. Yes, these people look like they’re having sex at their desk. But direct response television is a strong vehicle for certain marketers. DRTV is best known for those Ginsu knives ads that run at 2 a.m. saying call now, but it works for many industries. All you need is a strong web URL (many cable networks don’t require an 800 number) and the ability for consumers to order directly from you.

The rate differential is huge. A traditional :30 second spot on Lifetime M-W 6p-7p costs about $8,096. A similar timeframe with DRTV on Lifetime is about $1,000 less. Marketers willing to spray and pray can buy airtime for as low as $30-$100 per spot on other national networks.

The testing capabilities are phenomenal, and if unique 800 phone numbers are used, nuances in offer can be tracked, sources of originating phone calls can be mapped, and callers can even be matched to streets, addresses, and emails for future outbound campaigns. However, DRTV has pitfalls, noticeably clearance issues (not all spots are guaranteed to run) and difficulty in controlling frequency (it’s harder to set up a schedule where you target specific dayparts).

One wrinkle with DRTV is that every network has different requirements on how to qualify. Some are stringent, demanding you use an 800 number and that consumers can order directly. Others will let your business get direct response rates with only a web site address in the ad. It’s not for everyone. But neither is pelvic grinding at your desk.