Sunday, October 21, 2007

Skate to Where the Puck Is, Not Where It Used to Be

Wayne Gretzky supposedly attributed his success to ordinary players “skating to where the puck is” while he “skated to where the puck is going.” (A tip of the hat to one of my favorite professors, John Greening of Medill) Of course, if it were that easy, we’d all be in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Fortunately, sometimes it isn’t even that complicated.

If everyone else is skating to where the puck used to be, then all you have to do is skate to where it is now. I realize that this sounds absurd, but look at the state of marketing today.

You would think (hope? expect? assume?) that marketing dollars follow consumer behavior. But, no. Changes in marketing spending seem to be a lagging indicator, not a leading indicator or even a current indicator. A recent Booz Allen Hamilton study for the Association of National Advertisers found that the 80% of Americans who are online spend as much time on the Web as they do television, yet marketers spend only 5%-10% of their ad budget on digital media.

Their plan to snap into action is to increase their digital marketing spending by 2010 – most of them, anyway. One hopes that despite the wording of the question, they are planning to increase their spending in 2008 and 2009, and not wait until 2010.

This inertia has been noticed elsewhere. A Forrester study released last week found that business-to-business marketers also indicated that they are responding to the behavioral shift of their customers to the internet with less than alacrity. Fortunately, that is not always the case: Intel was quoted in the New York Times that it is shifting ad dollars to the web because “We’re going where the consumers have gone.”

I would expect two things to happen as a result: marketers who are early to the web will gain market share which they may be able to hold against latecomers and the shifting of ad dollars will greatly accelerate the revenue growth rate of ad-oriented websites. Let’s see if this happens, and I’m also assuming that advertising on the web is effective, but that’s a topic for another day.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

VNRs Under the Gun (Again)

Successful industries go through phases during their lives, just as human beings do. An industry can be innovative and successful at the outset. Eventually, however, the environment may change significantly, and the business must adapt or perish.

The video news release (VNR), a tool in the broadcast PR or electronic publicity business, has been increasingly threatened due to a tightening regulatory environment. The legal underpinnings of the VNR business are based on a Congressional mandate requiring news outlets to disclose the origin of third-party material, with a limited-or-no disclosure exception for material provided to news outlets at no charge.

Continuing controversy over the nuances of these restrictions has resulted, in the latest instance, in the Federal Communications Commission proposing to fine Comcast $4,000 for airing a VNR without appropriate disclosure. The FCC claims that there was “too much focus on the product or brand name in the programming.” Wasn’t that the point of the VNR in the first place?

The VNR industry, in the form of the National Association of Broadcast Communicators (NABC), is reduced to arguing “against requiring disclosure,” which is a policy-oriented position. After all, there is nothing to prevent Congress from changing the law to require disclosure in all circumstances.

The continuing efforts of the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and Free Press ensure that this issue will not go away. CMD claims to have identified 140 additional instances of disclosure violations, and there is speculation that the FCC’s move against Comcast are the first of many pending actions, including possible disclosure of product placements. After all, Nielsen proclaimed Coke the top product placement of the first half of 2007 with 3,054 occurrences. The second-ranked Pussycat Dolls Lounge Nightclub recorded a mere 750 mentions. Sounds like fertile ground for an FCC investigation.

The VNR industry must either win in the court of public opinion or find alternate ways to meet the needs of its clients.

Friday, October 05, 2007

No Soup for You!

So, I'm wrapping up a 9-day road trip during which I've gone to the InterBike (I have no idea what that name means!) bicycle trade show in Las Vegas, the Podcasting and New Media Conference in Ontario, California (for which I drove 50 miles out of my way to claim a $40 webcam I won in a sweepstakes), the TurnPRon conference in San Francisco, and assorted other meetings. Enough is enough; it's time to go home.

After a long trip, I just want to get something to eat during the 2 hours I'm waiting for my flight at San Francisco airport. Eureka! I spot a little Japanese restaurant as I'm walking to security. I've had a craving for udon soup on this trip - I tried a bowl in Las Vegas and another one in LA. This will round out my epicurean sampling.

I have said from the very beginning that airports are funny animals. There are lots of reasons for this, and one big reason is security, which rears its ugly head and interferes with my culinary journey. Flash of unpleasant insight! Soup is a liquid, at least the last time I checked. I confirm this gustatory tidbit with the helpful clerk - soup is not allowed through security. Someone must have said that Japanese soup can be explosively hot, and TSA took them at their word. On the other hand, the clerk said that sauces are okay. I just won't tell security that the teriyaki tofu is dynamite!