.... my 2 cents ....
musings on marketing, media, public relations....and life,
by David Reich
Reich Communications, Inc.
Reich Communications, Inc. is a boutique public relations agency in New York City offering full service in a variety of areas, with specializations in business-to-business; advertising, marketing and media firms; transportation safety; non-profits, and select consumer products and services.
For more info, call us at (212) 573-6000, email to david@reichcommunications or text to 914-325-9997.
We are located at 228 East 45th Street, Suite 11-South, New York City 10017
Product placement on TV is nothing new, although it's been getting a lot of attention lately as advertisers try to deal with rising ad costs, increased clutter, declining network viewership and the growth of homes with TiVo and DVRs that enable viewers to skip past those costly ads.
It's been taken to excess,in my opinion, in some of the reality shows, where the line between content and advertising is becoming more difficult to see. Recent episodes of "The Biggest Loser," for example, had annoying paid segments within the program where the show's characters talked about some low-cal food products which, moments later, were featured in the ad pod. Watching it, I felt as if I had been duped into investing 60 seconds of my time to watch a sneaky version of an ad.
NBC's "30 Rock," on the other hand, handles product placement in a clever
way that's not annoying. The show's characters poke fun at the practice by being blatantly over-the-top as they do it. And the American Express ads with Tina Fey blend seamlessly into the show so you actually don't mind watching them. That's good advertising and smart placement.
Viewers have the choice, of course, to zip past annoying product placement or, if it gets totally out of control as it did on "The Apprentice" over the past few seasons, they can simply opt out of watching at all.
Now the FCC is looking into rules on product placement. According to Advertising Age, the ad and marketing industries, through the 4As, the American Advertising Federation and the Association of National Advertisers, are trying to head off any FCC action, saying there is little evidence that product placement is harmful or misleading.
I can imagine situations where product placement could be misleading. "The Biggest Loser" example could be a case in point, where viewers might be misled into thinking the product that paid to be included within the show is better for a healthy diet than other products that did not pay to be mentioned. In advertising, that's fair play. But maybe not, when the message is disguised as part of a program.
Perhaps a reasonable solution would be to have a small disclaimer on the screen indicating what you're seeing has been paid for, similar to the way newspapers and magazines identify "advertorials" within their pages.
Product placement of sorts abounds in newscasts and talk shows. I do lots of it myself for clients. It's called publicity. But in these cases, there's a vetting process by reporters, producers and assignment editors who determine if the story I'm pitching them is newsworthy and of interest to their viewers. It if gets on the air, it's there because it's of interest and not because someone's been paid to use it.
It might make sense for the broadcasters and the ad industry to police themselves, by identifying paid product placement as such. If it gets too out of hand, the FCC might eventually intervene and impose restrictions that would make product placement impossible or impractical.
Update Feb. 8: The FCC has approved a plan to rewrite disclosure rules for product placement on TV. Wayne Friedman, who covers TV for MediaPost, has a great piece with his take on how far disclosure ought to go. Check it out.
Update: The Dec. 31 edition of Media Daily News has a wrap-up on product placement activity on TV and cable. Check it out at here.
Earlier this year, 101 of us participated in an experiment led by Drew McLellan and Gavin Heaton. It was called The Age of Conversation, and bloggers from throughout North America and worldwide collaborated on a book, offering our own takes on conversation.
It wasn't about getting more links or meeting new people online, although those were some fringe benefits. A goal of the project was to do something to hep others. Variety, the International Children's Charity, was selected to be the recipient of funds raised through book sales and other donations.
Lifeline's sole mission is providing medical assistance to children with treatable and survivable heart conditions in countries where the appropriate medical facilities, expertise or resources do not exist. Its primary focus continues to be pediatric cardiac surgeries, but is also involved in pediatric neurosurgeries, cranial-facial procedures, tuberculosis, neo-natal clinics, pediatric rehabilitative medicine and plastic surgeries for children all over the world.
Through our humble gift to Variety, we've received an awesome gift in return -- learning that our efforts have already saved many young lives around the world.
At right: A child helped by Lifeline
The gift of life. What better gift can there be, except possibly Peace.
I met Lewis Green for the first time last May, when a few bloggers got together for a Saturday afternoon in New York. I'd known Lewis for a few months before that, since he was one of the most welcoming and encouraging people as I began blogging.
Several weeks ago, Lewis asked if I'd like a copy of his new book, Lead With Your Heart. Of course, I said. The book came by mail promptly, and then it sat on my night table, unread, for weeks as I got jammed with business (thankfully) and holiday family stuff.
I took it with me the other day on the Metroliner to D.C. and I found it a good read with some simple, but essential, lessons for business and for life beyond the office. A lot of it comes down to doing the right thing or treating others -- customers, employees, vendors, friends -- the way you'd like to be treated. (Sounds familiar, doesn't it? But how often is that Golden Rule applied in business?)
The title, Lead With Your Heart, really does catch the essence of the book. Maintaining happiness and value in all you do can be a key ingredient for success.
Lewis talks about the importance of building trust, keeping promises, and striving to make your customers, your employees and yourself happy. And "happy" is not only about making money, he adds.
The book takes the reader through several aspects of building and maintaining a business, with the perspective of injecting happiness and goodness into each in a real way. Make money, obviously, but do it in a way that places value on everyone involved in the process. Provide not only a product or service, Lewis says, but one that is delivered with value and pride.
Lewis closes the book by thanking the reader for taking the time to read it. A nice heartfelt touch that fits perfectly with the idea behind Lead With Your Heart.
A non-blogger friend passed along a story that ran on BBC News earlier this week. The story says December 17th was the 10th anniversary of blogs.
The BBC goes on to say an American who had been a programmer of computer games and educational software first used the term "weblog" to describe what he was doing ten years ago when he posted short essays and links on his web page, which he called "Robot Wisdom." As I was Googling that first blogger by name, I learned that, unfortunately, some of his writings over the years have been strongly anti-Semitic, so I won't glorify him by using his name in this space.
The BBC says that in late 1998 the blogosphere consisted of 23 sites. I guess it was easy to be an A-lister back then.
Once easy-to-use tools came on the scene in 1999, the numbers started to grow. Technorati now tracks more than 70 million blogs, with an estimated 120,000 new blogs coming online every day. New posts are added at the rate of one every 17 seconds, totaling 1.5 million new posts daily, Technorati reports.
That's a lot of words, a lot of thinking and, with comments added, an awful lot of conversation. It's also pretty humbling for someone like me who's been at it for less than a year.
So, Happy 10th Anniversary to us. Anyone want to hazard a guess as to what the blogosphere will look like when we celebrate our 20th anniversary?
As bloggers, we've learned to appreciate the convenience and value of links in what we read and write online. It's one of the beauties of the web. You read something and want to know more or view the original source material for yourself? Simply click and it's there for you. No more running to the library, searching the Readers Guide and waiting for the librarian to find what you want in "the stacks."
Web publishers, understandably, sell ad space in a variety of forms. But some are now starting to sell those precious links to the highest bidder. In-text
ads, as they are called, are being accepted increasingly by online publishers. Business Week recently reported the number of publishers selling in-text ads has nearly doubled in the past year, reaching a potential 110 million web users monthly via almost 3,000 sites. Many of those sites are online editions of newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Indianpolis Star and the Arizona Republic, as well as online versions of many magazines, TV and cable channels like FOX News and MSNBC.
Many journalists have been protesting this practice, saying it blurs the line between editorialand advertising, possibly creating an ad-driven incentive to include certain ad-linked words in stories or to even initiate stories that open opportunities for use of ad-linked words.
When Forbes.com tried this two years ago, the editorial staff screamed so loudly that the publisher dropped in-text advertising on the site.
I certainly understand and support publishers' interest in monetizing their sites. Advertising, after all, is the key source of revenue that supports the news and editorial operations.But there's got to be a way to maintain the integrity of the news content. Possibly, links should be considered "sacred ground" where in-text ads are just not permitted. Maybe they could be included in feature material as opposed to hard news, but I think it should be made clear that what you're clicking on is a paid link and not one that a reporter or editor deemed relevant or supportive of the story it's in.
It's a fine line and publishers and the ad community will need to be careful as they read between the lines. This story will, no doubt, continue to unfold.
Today's Wall Street Journal has a story on the front page of its Marketplace section touting "the latest luxury" -- the store concierge. The story talks about Barney's, Nordstrom, Saks and others offering special services to their affluent clientele. They use extra, personalized service as a way to lure customers.
Funny, but I remember personalized service as the norm years ago. My parents had a children's clothing store and they offered all kinds of personalized service for free -- to all their customers, and not only the well-heeled. I remember going with my father after dinner to deliver purchases to customers' homes. Gift wrapping -- beautifully done, I must say -- was done happily and at no charge. My parents even extended credit to some customers they knew -- with no interest charged. Before the summer camp season, my mother would, as a free courtesy, sew name tags into camp clothes bought at the store.
Then, in the mid-60's, people flocked to the discount stores and department stores opening up in shopping centers and strip malls. Mom & pop stores like my parents' disappeared... along with all that free personalized service.
So now some retailers are using it as a lure. Big deal! Personalized customer service used to be there for all of us, not just the wealthy. We took it for granted and, by not supporting the places that offered it, we blew it. It was gone.
I got an email alert from Forbes.com, with the headline "America's Most Lustful Cities." So, naturally, I pushed aside my pressing calls and reports and pitches to click onto this story.
Sure enough, Forbes -- not Playboy or Penthouse -- is reporting on a Nielsen study of per-capita over-the-counter contraceptives purchases over the past 52 weeks in major U.S. markets.
Like me, I'm sure most of you would guess Las Vegas, New York and L.A. would top the list, but no... none of them even came close to making the top 10 list. Those three self-proclaimed sin cities actually scored an average or below-average index.
The top 10, in order are:
1. Denver --- I guess they don't need to fly to be members of the mile-high club.
2. San Antonio (tie)
4. Seattle --- It rains a lot in Portland and Seattle, so I guess people look for indoor activies.
5. Salt Lake City / Boise --- I haven't the faintest.
6. Washington DC --- All those politicians down there are looking to f*ck the public, so it's no surprise they're doing it to each other as well.
7. Cincinnati (tie)
Columbus --- Same comment as Salt Lake City.
9. Baltimore --- I guess it's the proximity to D.C.
10. Buffalo/Rochester --- Got to do something when you're snowed in for days.
The article admits that condom and contraceptive sales are an imperfect way to gauge sexual activity, since married and monogamous couples don't use protection as much.
I don't know what all of this has to do with media, advertising or public relations.
I wonder how these cities stack up in terms of blogging activity. Any of you live in these top 10 lustful places? Let us know if the survey looks anything like the town you know.
I've been meaning to write about this for several days, and Ck's post Wednesday about PETA's attack on the Olsen twins' clothing line finally pushed me to do it.
Marketers continue to hitch their star (or their product's or brand's star) to celebrities. Yes, using a celeb can get you more attention. It can help your ad stand out from the clutter. It may win some new customers who want to emulate the celeb you use to pitch your product.
But at what risk?
Look at some of the recent celebrity disasters that may have wreaked havoc on the brands associated with them. In the sports world, I pity any marketers who aligned themselves to the likes of Michael Vick, Barry Bonds, the entire European cycling program (T-Mobile)... and on and on.
Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohanare disasters in a class of their own. But how many seemingly wholesome show business personalities have stumbled? There's a new list, it seems, every day on Page Six. Even squeaky-clean Jell-o endorsing Bill Cosby got caught up in a scandal a few years ago, when a "surprise" daughter surfaced. How would top gun Tom Cruise's couch jumping impact your product's sales if he were your pitch man? And former box office superstar Mel Gibson sure ain't gonna get a job endorsing Hebrew National or Israel Tourism these days.
Even thorough background checks can't guarantee against future bad behavior. Or plain stupidity, either. Desperate housewife Terri Hatcher scored a $2.4 million endorsement contract to promote Volumizing Lip Serum, yet she was caught promoting CityLips, from a competing cosmetics company.
In politics, we're seeing one of the most stellar endorsements ever, as Oprah stumps for Obama. It put Obama into the media spotlight for the moment, but a poll reported in The New York Times Tuesday showed 80 percent said Oprah's involvement would have absolutely no impact on their decision. (She can move books, though.)
To me. the bottom line is marketers should let products sell themselves. Focus on what your product or service offers. Think about what matters to customers. How many of us really care what TV star drives a Chevy or which pop star drinks Pepsi (or was it Coke?) Do I care if Denzel wears Dockers, Levi's or Joseph Aboud? Wearing them will never make me look even half as sharp as him.
Celebrity endorsements are risky business -- these days more than ever.
Advertising Age writes about a new form of OOH advertising that actually gets into your head. Instead of having a billboard with sound via a speaker, this system from Holosonics uses a narrowly focused electronic beam that somehow creates sound inside your head.
The billboard people are saying how wonderful this is, since it doesn't add to noise pollution and disturb everyone within earshot on the street.
But how would you feel if you're walking down the street, listening to your iPod or talking on your cellphone and then, all of a sudden, you hear voices or music -- an ad, damnit -- interfering? What if you're on an important call or retrieving a callback number from voicemail, but instead you're distracted by hearing an ad. Even covering your ears won't stop the intruding sound.
Talk about intrusive! If I ever get hit by one of these ads, I'll make a point not to purchase whatever it is they're selling.
Update Dec. 13 --I see Ad Age is doing a poll to see what marketers think about this type of advertising. See below and add your voice.
Be a Part of the News: VOTE IN THE 'AD AGE' WEEKLY ONLINE POLL BACKGROUND: In order to promote its show "Paranormal State," A&E erected a billboard in Manhattan that uses technology to project voices at passers-by. The billboard uses technology manufactured by Holosonic that transmits an "audio spotlight" from a rooftop speaker so that the sound seems to be contained within your cranium. Some, however, have raised concerns about legal and privacy issues.
THIS WEEK'S POLL QUESTION: Is it a good idea for A&E to use technology that "sounds" a voice in consumers' heads as they pass a billboard for "Paranormal State"?