Monday, October 27, 2008

Now What Will We Wrap Our Fish In?

According to ABC (Audit Bureau of Circulations), the average weekday circulation of 507 American daily newspapers was only 36.2 million during a six-month period in 2008. This number represents a drop of 4.6% from a year earlier.

On the flip side, the NAA (Newspaper Association of America) reports that usage of newspaper Web sites grew nearly 16% in the third quarter of 2008, compared to the same period last year. And the average number of monthly unique visitors to newspaper sites is? Drum roll please... 68 million.

So, what's the story? Well, to no one's surprise, more and more consumers are migrating to the Internet to get their daily news. This is good for the environment. Good for the trees and good for the sky and good for the birds. And it is good for newspaper publishers; they aren't losing readers, just subscribers. And it's good news for consumers who can read most newspapers for free.

Sure, publishers are hurting right now because print circulation is down and print advertising is down. And they are not pleased that the losses in advertising on the print side are not translating into increased advertising on the Internet. But given enough time, things will balance out.

American's are nothing if not inventive, and that's a good thing too. After all, someone's going to have to figure out what to do with all those curbside newspaper vending machines.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Mac Attack

My dad was the very definition of a troublemaker. He reveled like a child in the business of mischief, smiling from ear to ear as he picked and poked and prodded you into an argument. But to his credit, he always knew when to stop.

"Okay, that's enough," he'd say as tempers began to flare. Then he'd evaluate and assess the action, like a movie critic after a good show. I miss my dad.

So I was talking to my youngest son this afternoon and I asked him if he'd seen the new Mac commercials. "The ones making fun of PC for all the money they are spending on advertising," I gushed.

"Yeah, they're ridiculous," he replied matter of factly.

I must admit I was taken aback... mildly shocked. I knew he was primarily a PC user (he's a scientist after all), but he is also a progressive young man. He's had an iPod since day one and he traded in his old phone for a iPhone earlier this year.

"Wait," I said, "are we talking about the same commercials?"

Then he got that tone... that "I know you're my dad and I respect you, but I am not an idiot" tone.

"It's ridiculous. Apple is paying for TV commercials to make fun of Microsoft for spending money on TV commercials. It's stupid."

Of course, he is right. Somehow in the pleasure of the moment I lost sight of the truth. It's the old "Do as I say, not as I do" endorsement, which is as my son says, ridiculous and stupid.

So, Mac, I would like to share some sage advice from my dear departed dad: "Okay, that's enough."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Recession Marketing Tip: Know Your Audiences.

Just last week I was reading the results of the latest Nielsen Shopper Modality Study.

According to the report, "Consumers approach different categories of consumer packaged goods with different mindsets, and marketers that understand and leverage these can enhance their products' performance."

David Parma, global head of Nielsen Consumer Research warns that CPG (consumer packaged goods) marketers "don't want to get it wrong in the fleeting nan-second of purchase decision. Marketers need to know what buttons to press to influence their shoppers and win on the ultimate marketing battleground - the store aisle."


She came from Greece she had a thirst for knowledge,
she studied sculpture at Saint Martin's College,
that's where I,
caught her eye.
She told me that her Dad was loaded,
I said "In that case I'll have a rum and coca-cola."
She said "Fine."
and in thirty seconds time she said,

"I want to live like common people,
I want to do whatever common people do,
I want to sleep with common people,
I want to sleep with common people, like you."

The thing about consumers is that every time you think you've got them figured out, they surprise you. It would be nice to suppose that you could place all shoppers into five convenient boxes as Nielsen does. Here is how they describe the process:

The Study, combines primary survey data with Nielsen scan data. The method provides an integrated picture of the dynamics of a category with a "holistic deconstruction" of the shopper decision process that includes shopper habits and predispositions, channel choice and in-store behavior.

How cool is that? And the result is the identification of five CPG mindsets that marketers can exploit.

Well what else could I do -
I said "I'll see what I can do."
I took her to a supermarket,
I don't know why but I had to start it somewhere,
so it started there.
I said pretend you've got no money,
she just laughed and said,
"Oh you're so funny."
I said "yeah?
Well I can't see anyone else smiling in here.
Are you sure you want to live like common people,
you want to see whatever common people see,
you want to sleep with common people,
you want to sleep with common people, like me."

Unfortunately, the economic bubble has burst and the world of CPG shoppers has been reduced to only two boxes. It is important to know who your target audience is... and what they are experiencing at any point in time.

But she didn't understand,
she just smiled and held my hand.

Rent a flat above a shop,

cut your hair and get a job.

Smoke some fags and play some pool,

pretend you never went to school.

But still you'll never get it right,

cos when you're laid in bed at night,

watching roaches climb the wall,

if you call your Dad he could stop it all.

Friday, October 17, 2008

eMarketer. The Last Place To Look?

Paul Verna, Senior Analyst, reported in eMarketer yesterday (October 16) that blogging has become mainstream. Here's what he says:

Blogging has become so pervasive and influential that the lines between blogging and the mainstream media have disappeared.

At first glance, this looks really important. The implications are huge... massive. Unfortunately, that is the end of it. Verna credits Technorati and Decipher for this momentous finding. In fact, Technorati CEO Richard Jalichandra is quoted:

“Blogs are now mainstream media. We’ve certainly seen that with the number of professional, semiprofessional and passion/enthusiast bloggers who are creating real media experiences. At the same time, you’re also seeing mainstream media come the other direction to add blog content.”

Okay, so what's your point? I am not aware of anyone, anywhere who has not considered blogging to be a part of the mainstream media since the turn of the millennium. Did you guys just figure this out?

Verna does share some comScore Media Metrix data indicating that blogs had 77 million unique visitors in the US in August 2008. Great, and TV has nearly 290 million unique viewers in the US (BTW, that represents an increase of 1.3% from last year).

What does this mean? I have no idea. I guess it means that we love our toys. We love TV. We love the Internet. We love video games. We love our iPods. We love blogs.

What am I missing here?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Rose-Colored Glasses For Everyone

Like so many others of my generation, I was raised on and greatly influenced by the Wonderful World of Disney. And I willingly embraced the "can do... anything goes... follow your dreams" approach to life. Of course, I also embraced the Looney Tunes "ehh, what's up doc... meep meep... what an ultra maroon" philosophy of life.

So while I am most optimistic (the glass is always half full if not spilling over), I am also somewhat cautious and excessively sarcastic. It works for me.

What's my point? In the midst of all that is going on in the world today – and in the U.S. in particular – I could not have been more pleased to read that Disney has taken this insane moment in time to open a 30,000-square-foot dinosaur-themed restaurant.

Painting the roses red, We're painting the roses red
We dare not stop Or waste a drop
So let the paint be spread
We're painting the roses red, We're painting the roses red

Introducing T-Rex: A Prehistoric Family Adventure, A Place to Eat, Shop, Explore and Discover. Okay, so it doesn't just roll off your tongue like McDonald's or Burger King, but who cares? This is not just some new restaurant. This is a statement. This is Walt Disney Company thumbing its nose at the world and saying: Hakuna Matata!

And I am pretty certain that the company's namesake would be supportive and proud.

Oh, painting the roses, And many a tear we shed
Because we know They'll cease to grow

In fact, they'll soon be dead

And yet we go ahead, Painting the roses red

There's something to be said for an organization that doesn't fold up its tent and go home at the first sign of adversity. Walt Disney, the man, often said that "all our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them."

Or to paraphrase Billy Joel, they (Disney) may be right and we might be crazy, but it might just be a lunatic we're looking for to get us out of this slump we're in.

Nothing's impossible.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Don't Let The Facts Get In The Way.

I just came across a Reuters story with the following headline:

Making math uncool is hurting America, report says

As a huge advocate of education and math, I was intrigued. So I began reading the article. And I was immediately taken aback by the unsubstantiated assumptions of the story and, as such, was compelled to read on.

The entire premise of the story is nothing more than subjective guesswork on behalf of researchers led by a University of Madison-Wisconsin professor who conducted a study that apparently (the researchers never explain the actual purpose of the study) was designed to figure out why "a majority of the top young mathematicians in this country were not born here," according to professor Janet Mertz.

Guess what they concluded? If we didn't tease the girls so much, more of them would be mathematicians. Nanner neener.

Here are some of their assertions:

They found that while girls can be just as talented as boys at mathematics, some are driven from the field because they are teased, ostracized or simply neglected.

"It is deemed uncool within the social context of USA middle and high schools to do mathematics for fun; doing so can lead to social ostracism. Consequently, gifted girls, even more so than boys, usually camouflage their mathematical talent to fit in well with their peers," they wrote.

The study also looked at test scores that show that in elementary school girls do as well or better in math than boys. These begin to lag in the middle school years and the gap widens greatly between girls and boys in high school.

Why? Because they are teased. Wow.

I guess there's no chance that girls like math less than boys? Or maybe boys like math more than girls? Or lacking the availability of any solid data in this story, maybe the gap isn't nearly as big as is implied?

Just one last thought: If girls stay away from math because they are teased, wouldn't logic dictate that only the strongest willed boys and girls (aka, the bullies who are doing the teasing) would all become mathematicians?

That might explain the current economic collapse...

Monday, October 6, 2008

Crisis. Communications.

Richard (Dick) Fuld, ex-CEO of Lehman Brothers would like to blame the ills of the financial industry on a crisis of confidence. Way to spin, Dick.

The fact that you had the Brinks truck backed up to the corporate fleet and were dumping cash into the trunk of your C-level mates' corporate-owned vehicles during the final days before the fall of your empire is simply a bit of detail unworthy of acknowledging.

Money, get away.
Get a good job with good pay and you're okay.

Money, its a gas.
Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash.
New car, caviar, four star daydream,

Think I'll buy me a football team.

Clearly it wasn't your fault, Dick. There was "a storm of fear enveloping the entire investment banking field..." That's what you told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Did you happen to mention that it was your fault?

Oh wait, you did. "I take full responsibility for the decisions that I made and for the actions that I took, based on the information that we had at the time." So I guess we're all squared up then. Have a nice night and sleep well... Dick.

Money, get back.
I'm all right jack keep your hands off of my stack.
Money, its a hit.
Don't give me that do goody good bullshit.
I'm in the high-fidelity first class traveling set
And I think I need a lear jet.

According to your testimony, you wake up every single morning thinking about what you could have done differently. You stated: "This is a pain that will stay with me for the rest of my life, regardless of what comes out of this committee, regardless of what comes out of the record book when it finally gets written."

Really, Dick? Really? Then maybe you'd like to give back everything you've taken since you joined the firm in 1969. Maybe you'd like to prove that you take full responsibility by making restitution.

Or you can just keep shifting blame. Spin, Dick, spin.

Money, its a crime.
Share it fairly but don't take a slice of my pie.

Money, so they say

Is the root of all evil today.

But if you ask for a raise it's no surprise that they're

Giving none away.

Friday, October 3, 2008

I'm A PC!

You know what really kills me (I mean besides a forearm shiver to the bridge of my nose)? When I read about a company (Microsoft, for example) that pays an agency (Crispin Porter, for example) $300 million for a campaign that turns out to be mediocre at best.

Am I jealous? You bet... not about the mediocre campaign, but about the budget. I can't tell you how many times we have outperformed the objectives of a campaign only to be rewarded with a "you've done a great job, but we are going to reel in our marketing spending next year" call from clients. I know, I need to find a better class of clients.

But now I am off topic. Today I want to celebrate the PC, the Pretentious Campaign.

So long ago
Was it in a dream, was it just a dream?
I know, yes I know
Seemed so very real, it seemed so real to me

I have no desire to pick on CP+B; they have done some great stuff. But "I'm a PC" began and will end as a stupid, pretentious exercise in chest pounding. Be honest, you could give a 10-year-old a digital camera and write anything for Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates and millions of people would have watched it - on TV, on YouTube, on Microsoft's web site... anywhere.

The evolution of dance (which is an amazingly funny video) has been viewed by more than 100 million! "Star Wars according to a 3 year old" has been viewed by more than eight million! Who the heck isn't going to tune in to find out what the odd couple pairing of Jerry and Bill are doing?

But what and where is the payoff? Shift your drawers, Bill. Do the robot, Bill. Give me all your money, Bill. We're creating a purely pretentious campaign, Bill. No one will get it, Bill. It's all make believe, Bill. You're eyes are getting heavy, Bill. You're asleep, Bill. It's all a dream, Bill.

Took a walk down the street
Thru the heat whispered trees
I thought I could hear (hear, hear, hear)
Somebody call out my name as it started to rain

According to Ad Age, "Microsoft sparked a dialogue in the Seinfeld ad that isn't there in the PC ads." Yeah, here is the typical dialogue it sparked:

"Dude, did you see the new Microsoft ads with Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates?"
"No; what were they about?"
"Dude, I have no idea, but they are hilarious. Freaking Seinfeld and Bill Gates. Check it out, I'm sure they're on YouTube."

Then comes the deadly drone ads: I'm a PC. I'm a PC. I'm a nerd and I'm a PC. I'm a scuba diver and I'm a PC. I'm not even curious.

I have always believed that if you throw enough money at something - regardless of how bad the strategy and/or creative are - you can still achieve a result. God only knows what the result will be, and whatever it is, I am pretty sure that all the kids over at Apple are rolling around on the floor laughing about it. If that's what Microsoft and CP+B were going for with their $300 million, then congratulations.

Dream, dream away
Magic in the air, was magic in the air?
I believe, yes I believe
More I cannot say, what more can I say?

Ah! böwakawa poussé, poussé
Ah! böwakawa poussé, poussé
Ah! böwakawa poussé, poussé

[Editorial Note: John Lennon sings the strange phrase "Ah! böwakawa poussé, poussé" in his song "#9 Dream." According to John, it doesn't mean anything... it is just a phrase that came to him in a dream and he decided to base a song around it.]

Maybe it means "I'm a PC."

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Other Other White Meat

In the midst of all our economic woes and political wrangling, I almost lost sight of global warming.

But the other night I saw a very entertaining news story about how cow farts are a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Apparently they are far worse than cars and factories.

Who knew?

Well, apparently our neighbors in the Outback knew. In fact, a major report to the Aussie government on global warming has recommended that kangaroos replace cattle and sheep on the daily menu.

"It's low in fat, it's got high protein levels, it's very clean in the sense that basically it's the ultimate free range animal," says Peter Ampt of the University of New South Wales's Institute of Environmental Studies.

And there's a bonus: kangaroos fart less than cows and sheep.

So, there you have it.