.... 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
Consumers really shouldn't believe advertising, said Suzanne Vranica, longtime advertising and marketing reporter for The Wall Street Journal.
She made the comment during an interview this morning on CBS This Morning, talking about news that artisnal chocolate maker Mast admitted it had used melted-down chocolate from other brands in its early days as a high-end chocolatier.
It's possible Suzanne may have intended to say something like you can't always believe everything in ads, or consumers should be careful and try to do their own research into claims made in ads. Live TV can do that -- catch you in a sentence that doesn't come out exactly right.
But if many people -- including one of the leading national journalists who covers the ad industry -- are skeptical of what they see and hear in ads, then maybe marketers need to look at other methods of getting the word out about their products and services. Word-of-mouth often comes up as the most trusted source of information, and it is often fueled by Public Relations.
The idea behind it is PR seeks to get exposure through media, which have an obligation to do their own vetting of claims made by marketers. So if a story in a trusted newspaper, magazine or broadcast or online outlet talks about a product in a positive way, consumers give it more credibility than a straightforward ad. Advertising, with its repetitive nature, creates awareness. Stories in the media via PR, which are tougher to gain, generally have more credibility.
That, in a longer explanation, may be what Suzanne Vranica was trying to say in a quick interview soundbite.
The age-old question of "who sees my ad" continues to plague advertisers.
Digital advertising now allows advertisers to get a better read on who looks at their ads and how long they spend looking, as well as lots of other information about us that we'd probably rather they not have. Ever wonder why, after you go to a site to look for information on travel to, say, Mexico, you all of a sudden start getting pop-ups and emails advertising destinations in Mexico? It's called behavioral tracking.
But as ads appear everywhere, we consumers look for ways to avoid them. It's almost like a game of cat & mouse.
With radio, simply hit the button to go to another station. Now, we have ad-free satellite radio or subscription services online like Pandora.
Back before DVRs or home video recorders, the only recourse we had to avoid ads on TV was either switch the channel (which pre-remote meant getting up to turn the dial) or leave the room to raid the refrigerator or take a quick bathroom break. Now, we simply click and the ads that marketers spent tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to put in front of us quickly zip by.
As our TV viewing habits are changing, advertisers are trying other ways to force us to watch their messages. Video on demand (VOD) from the networks usually disable the fast-forward feature on your clicker, so you have to watch TV the old-fashioned way -- ads included.
But the hot area these days for ads is online. We're close to the point where advertisers will be spending more money for online ads than for ads in traditional media. But even as this is happening, we consumers are finding ways to avoid the ads aimed at us on our computers, tablets and smart phones.
Banner ads have been shown to have limited impact on consumers. They're on our screens, but we tend to ignore them. Advertisers now use pop-ups that dominate the screen and override the content you're trying to view. Those pop-ups often have a box or circle with an "x" which you can click to have the ad go away. But advertisers are making those boxes smaller and harder to click on, especially if you're seeing them on a tablet or phone.
As a story in The New York Times recently said, it's becoming like the wack-a-mole game... trying to find the little "x."
This silly game becomes frustrating for consumers, and it hardly endears them to whatever product or service is being advertised.
One possible solution is to take a cue from pre-roll ads that pop up on some You Tube videos. There's a message, easy to see, that indicates that you can close the ad after 5 or 15 seconds ... and you see the time counting down. The viewer knows there will be an option and that he or she will just have to endure 5, 15, or 30 seconds before getting to the desired content. It's not as annoying as other pop-ups, and if the advertiser has created a compelling ad that catches you in those first 5 or 15 seconds, the consumer may opt to watch the entire ad, which could be 30 or 60 seconds, or even a lot longer.
It takes creativity. You can't simply use a regular TV ad and put it online. But if it works, it's win-win for both the advertisers and the consumer. It's a lot better than playing cat and mouse to try to avoid an ad.
My daughter Jennifer was taking her older son Jack, 10, to school recently and, as he got out of the car, he asked a question that worries many parents at this time of year. His question -- "Is Santa real?"
Jen didn't have a simple answer, so she said it was complicated and she'd tell him when he got home from school. She thought about it and wrote down her thoughts in a beautiful letter that I'm sharing below, with Jen's permission.
An interesting side note... Jen is Jewish and her husband Jon is Christian. The boys, Jack and his brother Gabriel, 6, are being raised with traditions from both faiths. Not necessarily the religious dogma, but traditions like lighting the menorah on Chanukah, having matzoh for Passover and, of course, at this time of year decorating the Christmas tree and waiting for Santa.
I am so proud of my daughter for expressing her thoughts so beautifully and helping keep alive a beautiful tradition that makes this time of year magical for so many people -- especially children. Wouldn't it be nice if in this way we could all retain our inner child?
Here's Jen's note to my grandson Jack...
You asked a really good question earlier and I didn’t have time to answer it then. It is a question I knew was coming sooner than later, and I had a feeling it might come around this Christmas. It is a question that parents all over the word have to face at some time, and it is bittersweet. So I came home and gave it some serious thought and here is my answer to your question, “Is Santa real?”
Yes and no. Your image of Santa, as a big, fat, jolly man in a red suit and a beard, flying all over the world in s sleigh, is not real. You are a smart kid and you probably have questioned for some time how that could be possible. The presents under the tree that are from Santa are in fact from Daddy and I, and we fill the stockings too. After you and your brother go to sleep on Christmas Eve, Daddy and I are hard at work, sneaking quietly to make Christmas magical- just like Grammy and Poppy did for Daddy, and their parents did for them.
And that is where the other part of the answer comes in- Santa may not be real in the way you thought, but the spirit of him is a real part of Christmas. The story of Santa has been around for hundreds of years and the magic his story creates for children is a beautiful thing. And for adults too! I know that Santa is not real in an actual sense, but I still believe in his spirit as a grown up. I still feel the beauty and magic and love on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, even though I know the truth. And I hope you will too.
Santa teaches love and magic, and hope and happiness. He creates the ability to believe that anything is possible, that there are miracles in the world, and that giving to others freely is the surest way to fill your heart- and theirs- with joy.
So while now you may know that Santa himself isn’t sneaking down our chimney at night, I sincerely hope that you can still believe in the magic and beauty of his story. I hope that Christmas still feels special for you and that one day, you will make the Santa story come alive for your own children.
Learning about Santa is a big step in growing up. I have to admit, I shed a tear or two writing this as there is a certain part of childhood you are leaving behind. But here is the neat thing: you now get to be a creator of this magic, a helper, and elf, if you will. It is important to let each child realize the Santa story on their own, or the magic can be ruined. You are now a guardian of Santa- like Daddy and I have been for you. You must keep his story alive for those that still believe, like your brother and your friends. It is a really big responsibility but one that you must take seriously. You can now help spread the love and the belief in miracles and the magic of Santa- you are now on his team, as Daddy and I have been for all the Christmas mornings you can remember. Welcome.
You may have more questions, and I am happy to answer them. Or you may just need to let this sit for a while. Just know that while the Santa you see at the mall surely is not real, the love and generosity and spirt of kindness and giving that he instills in people is very real and very important. Be sure to carry the Santa story with you in your heart forever.
New York City will soon be getting a new area code – 332. That’s on top of 718, 917, 646, 929 and the old standby 212.
212 is, and always has been, the “it” area code. It’s not easy to get a 212 prefix. In fact, you have to wait till current 212 lines are given up. There’s a company here that will purchase existing 212 numbers from their holders and sell them at a premium to people who simply must have a 212 phone number.
Even in these days of multiple area codes for larger cities, people everywhere still know that 212 is the center of New York City – Manhattan, the Big Apple, the hub of business and media and lots more.
What does 718, 917 or 646 represent? The outer boroughs, New York latecomers, cell phones. But not New York City!
When Ma Bell (remember the old phone company?) introduced direct dialing for long distance, we still had rotary phones which made clicks as you turned the dial. So with New York being the biggest market, 212 would be the fastest to dial with a rotary phone. Similarly, Chicago and L.A., as the next biggest population centers, got their 312 And 213 area codes, which were also quick to dial. Smaller markets got higher numbers, which took longer to dial. (Remember, this was before we had touch tone phones, which rely on different audio tones rather than clicks to represent numbers dialed.)
So, back to 212. You knew it was New York.
And thanks to area codes, we got to recognize where callers, or people or businesses we were calling, were located. 617: Boston, for wicked sure. 215: Philly. 214: Dallas, y'all. 415: San Francisco. 305: Si, Miami. Jersey was 201. Now, L.A. could be 818, 323 or 424. Calling across the river to New Jersey could now be 201, or it could be 973, 732, 908, 862 or a whole bunch of other numbers for what used to be just 609 for south Jersey.
And now, with cellphones and the portability of phone numbers, it’s hard to tell where you’re calling. My son lives in Hollywood, but his phone number starts with 914 – Westchester. My nieces live in Manhattan and Brooklyn, but their numbers are 617, from their days growing up outside of Boston.
Of course, many of us don’t need to remember area codes – or phone numbers - anymore. They’re just programmed into our phones. How many times, if asked for a phone number, do we have to look at the address book in our cellphones?
And imagine if E.T. wanted to phone home now. How many area codes would he need to try?
When I last wrote about magazines, back in August, things seemed to be bit brighter for publishers. But new numbers just out paint a different picture, with readership continuing the downward trend.
What's alarming about the numbers now is the downward trend is also being reflected in online readership, long thought to be the saving grace for magazines.
Erik Sass, writing in Publishers Daily, explains that declines in print readership had often been balanced out by increases in digital readership. But generally, he says, digital editions are a very small part of total magazine readership. And in some cases lately, digital audiences have also declined.
Measurement doesn't take into consideration readership picked up from websites, so the numbers may be a little less bleak than they appear.
At the same time, perhaps reflecting this trend, fewer publishers have taken the plunge with new titles. So far this year, 113 new titles have been launched, which is down by 41 percent from last year’s 190 new titles. The most popular categories for the new titles were food and lifestyle, followed by automotive, parenting, home and travel.
In the B-to-B category, 13 new titles launched, down from 47 launches in 2014.
Despite closures of some major titles like Details, Fitness and Lucky, fewer magazines shut down this year versus the year before – 35 in 2015, compared to 99 last year. That’s a 65 percent drop.
Seven B-to-B magazines closed up shop this year, versus 27 in 2014.
Mixed news, but at least it’s not all bad for publishers.