.... 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
Television is still, by far, the dominant mass medium in the U.S. But it's light years away from what it was 30 – 40 years ago, before cable took hold and before everyone was hooked up online.
It’s a different world, for sure. With literally hundreds of channels to choose from, plus on-demand and streaming programming, there's a dizzying array of program content. Some programming on cable and, lately, streaming services like Netflix and Amazon rivals feature films in terms on content quality and production value. In response, the broadcast networks have finally stepped up their game with some quality shows. Yes, broadcast still has plenty of lowest-common-denominator drivel led by mindless comedies and "reality" shows, but many are now calling this the new Golden Age for TV, based on content quality.
Nielsen says the hard-to-reach Millennials (18-34), highly coveted by advertisers, are spending 17 percent less time watching TV than a year ago, but it still averages nearly 22 hours a week. Across all age groups, adults spend an average of 36 hours a week in front of the tube. Boomers (ages 50+) watch much more TV -- 47 and a half hours weekly.
Probably the biggest change – and the biggest challenge for advertisers -- is how we watch TV. Even Boomers are now frequent DVR users, watching programs at their own convenience. But Millennials in particular are getting their TV across a spectrum of platforms, and traditional TV is quickly losing out as the primary way they watch TV. Increasingly, they watch TV on laptops, tablets and smartphones, usually with an absolute minimum of ads.
Radio, which doesn't get much attention in media circles, comes in a strong second. Across all age groups, we spend just under 13 hours a week listening to radio. Millennials listen less at 11 hours.
Smartphones account for 7-1/4 hours a week across all age groups. Millennials use their smartphones a lot more -- nearly 10 hours/week. Tablets account for 3-1/2 hours across all age groups and 3-3/4 hours for Millennials.
Yet another challenge for advertisers, of course, is how much their ads, regardless of the medium, are actually viewed.
We keep hearing how Print in dying. Newspapers are struggling, that's for sure. And many magazines are not having an easy time.
But tell that to the publishers of 60 new magazines that launched during the first half of 2015, as reported by MediaFinder. That number is down about a third from the 93 new titles during the same period last year, but people are still trying to make a go of new titles.
Of the new launches, five were business-to-business magazines, down from 15 new B2B books a year ago.
The number of magazines that shut down during the first half of the year was 23, which is ten less than a year ago. So there's been a net gain of 37 new magazines so far this year.
Why do people keep trying with new magazines in print? They're costly to print and distribute -- much more so than digital publications with no printing cost and very little distribution expenses.
It probably comes down to advertising. Ads in print generally command much higher rates than their digital counterparts, even when digital can reach many more readers. Many advertisers still prefer the glossy printed page for their ads, especially for products that rely on strong visuals -- food, fashion & beauty, travel, cars. Print still gets a higher ad readership, while research shows most of us totally ignore ads that run in digital media.
Digital does offer some benefits that print doesn't -- mainly, the ability for readers to click through for more info, sales pitches and even place an order and make a purchase. Print can offer that via QR codes, but the process isn't seamless since it requires extra steps and a smartphone.
Launches this year have been mainly specialty titles rather than general-interest books. Most, I'd bet, also have online components. Maybe once they've established themselves in print -- and as the gap between print and online ad readership and rates narrows -- they'll try to convert to digital only. But until that gap is much smaller, there will still be a place for print magazines.
That's good news for newsstands, printing companies and the Post Office.
Many of us New Yorkers can be a bit sensitive when someone criticizes our city. One frequent -- although really unfair -- criticism is that we New Yorkers are rude. I've come across plenty of rude and selfish people in other cities, large and small. It's not a trait we here in New York own.
So I have to admit, I was pleased to see a story in The Chicago Tribune by transportation reporter Jon Hilkevitch. I've dealt with Jon. He's not at all rude. But evidently many of his fellow Chicagoans are, which has caused the Chicago Transit Authority to launch a new campaign calling for courtesy on the trains and buses serving the windy city.
According to Hilkevitch's story, thirteen humorous messages addressing rude behavior began appearing this week on trains and buses and in stations. The ads address things like blaring loud music, littering and spreading out to take two seats. (New York's MTA has a campaign that addresses that same issue, which they call "manspreading.")
So it's good to see that rudeness is rampant in other places. It makes me feel that much better about this great place that I call home.
A new report from Nielsen, the TV ratings people, shows not only what we're watching, but how we're watching it.
It used to be very simple. A program was on at a certain time and either you watched it when it aired or you didn't see it at all. No DVRs or video on demand. Not even home recording on VHS or Beta.
But today, viewers have so many choices -- not only what to watch from among hundreds of channels and tens of thousands of shows and movies on demand and Netflix and Hulu. The choice now is also about how to watch -- live or delayed on your giant flat screen or on a variety of other smaller screens from computers to laptops to tablets and phones.
The report says Americans watched "traditional" TV 141 hours a month in the 3rd quarter of 2014. But live viewing dropped a little more than 4 percent, or 12 minutes a day, to 4 hours and 32 minutes on average. Instead, we spent an hour more per month watching time-shifted programs via the internet, which includes streaming services like Netflix.
For advertisers, the obvious challenge is getting their ads seen despite fast-forwarding. Many on-demand outlets now disable the fast-forward function so we can't zip through the ads. So instead, it may end up working the way it did in the "old days," when commercials breaks meant a run to the bathroom, refrigerator or a fast click around the dial to see what else is on. Or with today's technology, we might be checking texts and emails.
In a few weeks, longtime ad columnist Stuart Elliott will pen his last column for The Times. He announced on his Facebook page this morning that he will be taking "the very generous buyout" the paper's been offering to longtime reporters and editors, as it tries to reduce its newsroom headcount by 100.
Others who will be leaving by year-end include bylines we've been reading for some time, like Bill Carter on the TV industry.
But Stuart's departure will leave a real gap in The Times business section. He's written beautifully over the years about new campaigns, agency mergers and buyouts, marketing and advertising trends and, often after long holiday weekends, the 10 or 20 humorous questions he raises, always capped with the self-deprecating final statement "for a guy from Brooklyn, you ask a lot of questions."
I've always looked forward to reading Stuart's columns, in the paper and also online. And I'm pleased to say, while we're not close friends, I've had a cordial professional relationship with him. I've always tried to respect him by only pitching him story ideas that I honestly felt were on target, often telling a client "sorry, that's just not for Stuart." And he's treated me with respect, always repsonding to my calls or emails, even if, sometimes, to patiently explain why an idea just isn't for him.
He's been the longest-running ad columnist at The Times, going back to 1991. In terms of longevity, he beat out legendary ad columnist Phil Dougherty, who preceded him, by a year.
Actually, I go back with Stuart to 1990, when he was the ad writer at USA Today. I had just started my own PR business, and an early client was agency Geer DuBois -- a name, like so many others, now just a memory for us oldtimers. He did a nice piece on a new campaign by Geer client YooHoo chocolate drink.
I recall meetings with him and clients like media guru Gene DeWitt in the cafeteria at the old Times building on West 43rd, or more recently at his breakfast haunt at the Royalton on West 44th St.
I'm sorry to see him go, but I know there are many opportunities waiting for him, if he chooses. Or who knows... maybe there's a book in the offing.
Whatever he chooses to do, I know I'm among many who wish him the best and thank him for his good work over the years.
Joe Mandese, writing in today's MediaPost Real-Time Daily, recalls a 1975 study that estimated the typical American was exposed to about 500 brand impressions a day. Now, he says, Nielsen estimates we're bombarded with more than 5,000/day.
Ad messaging is no longer confined to the more obvious places of 40 years ago, such as TV and radio, magazines and newspapers, billboards and signs. Think about it -- every time you check your email, an ad banner opens on top, and often along the borders on both sides. Even when I opened the email with Joe's article, a pop-up ad came up and obscured some of his words until I clicked to close it. And when I got to the bottom of his article, there was another banner ad across the bottom of the message area.
Joe mentioned these numbers because his MediaPost group is launching a system that will track consumers' attitudes toward advertising as well as the media carrying the ads. It's being called the Ad Sentiment Index (ASI) and it should help marketers get a better idea of how ads impact consumers' attitude toward various brands.
Joe's article appeared just below another piece by George Simpson, who takes a lighthearted look at how we try to block some of those thousands of ads and messages that marketers aim at us every day. He talks about the annoying telemarketing calls and how he deals with them -- he doesn't; he just lets the phone ring unanswered.
Even though my home number is listed as a "Do Not Call" household, we still get several of those calls every day -- usually at dinnertime or during the evening when we're relaxing watching TV or reading. I often check the caller ID and if it's a number I don't recognize, I just let it ring. Or I'll pick up the phone and then just hang up. But sometimes, when I'm in a foul mood, I'll answer and as the caller begins talking I'll say something like "Oh, that sounds interesting. Can you hold on a second?" And I put the phone down and leave the caller hanging until they finally give up and disconnect.
Simpson writes about other things he does to avoid ads, like taking out all the blow-in cards in magazines and peeling off the ad sticker that often adorns the front page of the newspaper.
I agree with Simpson's parting advice to marketers. He writes, "None of it (the 5,000 ad exposures a day) matters unless you are selling a good quality product backed by flawless customer service. That's where loyalty and word of mouth come in, which is inventory you can't buy."
He's mostly right about that, except that with PR, properly done, you sometimes can buy (or maybe build is a better word to use) word of mouth and loyalty.
Thirteen years ago, the events of September 11th were a shock to all of us. It was the first time our homeland was touched by international terror, and it was a jarring wake-up call about how vulnerable we are here in this "land of the free."
For all of us, that day was so painful, even if we were fortunate enough not to have lost a family member or a friend. But here in New York, it hurt us extra hard. We saw a familiar icon -- two towers of steel -- crumble before our eyes, killing thousands. We saw and smelled the horrible smoke from the rubble for weeks. We got jumpy every time we heard a plane overhead. Our hearts broke when, everywhere we looked, we saw handmade signs plastered on lampposts and walls; signs with pictures and descriptions of people under the word "Missing."
Every year, we remember as a nation. The media carry stories, and we watch all or parts of the ceremonies at Ground Zero, in D.C. and elsewhere. It's part of a healing process, and it's very important that we, as a nation, remember.
But do we need marketers trying to hawk their wares and offer discounts by linking to the 9/11 commemoration? Social media makes it too easy for them to try to use a day of reflection as a marketing moment. What are they thinking?
Nat Ives, writing yesterday in Advertising Age, poses that question in a story titled:
Marketers Again Mistakenly Think 9/11 Is a Good Brand-Building Moment
Thanks for the Discounts, but No Thanks
Nat writes, "It's become an annual ritual: trying to convince marketers that the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, which killed almost 3,000 people, is not the right subject for engaging consumers.
It's possible for advertisers to come up with respectful tweets, of course. White Castle wrapped the World Trade Center towers in American flag imagery and told followers "We remember." And Cinnabon got involved with a somber flag image."
And many of us may remember a Budweiser ad that ran only once, a respectful several days after the tragedy. It showed the famous Clydesdale horses pulling the Bud wagon, crossing the country from the midwest, across the Brooklyn Bridge (never mind the geography mistake) and stopping on Central Park's great lawn to stand silently, facing south to where the towers once stood.
But as Nat points out, this is no time to launch a sale or offer special 9/11 discount coupons.
Nat's story shows some tacky examples. The agencies or marketing executives who approved these should be ashamed.
On Aug. 28, 1922 -- 92 years ago -- radio station WEAF in New York City aired a ten-minute pitch promoting affordable co-op apartments in Jackson Heights, Queens. The developer paid AT&T, which owned the station, $50 for the airtime.
It was the first ad on radio in the U.S., bringing dramatic change to a new form of mass communication.
The ad helped the developer sell several apartments, which brought the interest of retailers including Macy's and Gimbels, who soon became sold on the power of radio advertising.
It's interesting that David Sarnoff, who headed RCA, which soon after bought WEAF, had been vehemently against using broadcast stations for commercial purposes. RCA established stations and aired free programming simply as a way to create consumer demand for the Radiola radio sets that RCA built and sold. He eventually gave in and NBC, which Sarnoff built, had stations throughout the country whose programming was used to sell ad time, eclipsing revenues that came from selling the radio sets themselves. For decades, primetime programming on the major radio networks was produced by ad agencies and paid for by their clients.
That $50 spot 92 years ago has evolved into a $140 billion industry, with ads supporting 11,350 radio stations throughout the U.S. -- 4,726 AM stations and 6,624 FM outlets.
Nearly half of U.S. homes now have DVRs or other TV time-shifting capabilities -- video on demand, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon TV, for example. More than ever, we are living in the moment... and we get to control when that moment is.
TV and cable networks and ad and media agencies have been trying to deal with the changes in viewing habits that time-shifting is causing. Back a bit more than ten years ago, it was pretty simple to come up with viewership for programs, and thus the ad rates, by relying on Nielsen for ratings. But with the growing availability and popularity of DVRs, as standalone units like TiVo or as part of the home cable package, the media folks had to figure out a better way to measure audience. They first used numbers based on live viewing plus the estimate of time-shifted viewing over the following three days. More recently, it's been live plus 7, reflecting real viewing habits of the majority of us.
The numbers through time-shifting can be significant. A story in Medialife this week reports that the five broadcast networks averaged an additional 1,565,000 viewers when seven-day time-shifting is factored in. For 60 of the more popular shows, time-shifted viewing added 50 percent or more to the total audience. In these days when a modest hit show claims perhaps 4 or 5 million viewers, an additional 1.5 million makes a difference, especially when the nets set their ad rates.
For the mega-hit shows, the time-shifting can come close to doubling the audience. NBC's "The Blacklist" averaged 10.8 million viewers, and another 6.1 million watched the show at their own convenience over the next seven days of the initial airing. ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" gets 8.5 million watching the live airing and another 3.9 million via time-shifting.
Time-shifting is at fairly consistent levels across the age groups, with 33 percent of adults 50+ watching by DVR or video on demand, 38 percent of adults 18 - 49 and 36 percent of teens.
For advertisers, time-shifting presents problems. Many time-shifters with DVRs zip past those costly ads. Video on demand often prevents fast-forwarding, although some nets run fewer and different ads or network promos on VOD.
The "who's actually watching the ads" question is more critical now, with all the viewing options. But even back in the days when we had only three networks, that question was probably a valid one as soon as remote controls became available. And, remote or not, many take a snack or bathroom break during the ads, which then play to an empty room... or maybe just the dog.
For content marketing to be effective, it has to have good content. That probably sounds obvious, but too many of us overlook that when we create content for marketing purposes that use tools other than ads.
Content marketing via newsletters, social media and so-called "native advertising" must contain real, usable information rather than product pitches, blatant or disguised. Make it too commercial and you'll lose the audience.
While it's really just common sense, a new study bears it out.
The study, reported in Bulldog Reporter's Daily Dog newsletter, says 74 percent of the general public trusts content from businesses that aim to educate readers about a particular topic. It's "a fragile trust that businesses must take care in protecting—even signing off an otherwise objective blog post or newsletter with a product pitch will bring the content's credibility level down by 29 percent."
Other things that can hurt reader trust in what's being said include:
Information that can't be corroborated with other non-company sources: 46% Educational information from a company is more credible when it contains verification from named sources.
It doesn't address other perspectives or viewpoints: 17%
It Isn't clear that it's coming from a particular company: 15%
It's talks down to the reader: 12%
Women generally appear 11 percent more trusting of content marketing than men, and they tend to trust content shared though friends and family members 20 percent more than men do. 60+ year-olds are 17 percent more trusting than 18-29 year-olds, but the same 60+ age bracket is 14 percent less trusting of content passed through friends and family members than the 18-29 age group.
The bottom line... Keep it credible, identify sources and avoid overt product pitches. If you just want to pitch product, take out an ad.