ethanbeute

Marketing | Environment | Culture

Tag: ads

If You Can’t Keep People in the Seats, What Good Is The Game?

You can build the stadium, field a team, schedule the game, arrange concessions, and sell corporate sponsorships, but if you can’t keep fans in the seats all season, season after season, what good is the game?

Answer: if it doesn’t work for the audience, it doesn’t work for anyone.

empty, chairs, crowd, audience

If you can't keep people in the seats, what good is the game? (Image from: theemptystadium.blogspot.com)

I received an email from a colleague at the office alerting me to a new offering from a competitor.  The offering’s a new website; its url alone was enough to inspire this post.  I’ll go straight to my take.

There are three primary stakeholders here: the website users, the advertisers on the site, and the company building, running, promoting, and selling the site.

This is the list stakeholders who were considered in rank order: the company themselves, their advertisers.  It’s a basic selling orientation, rather than a proper customer orientation.

The website, KRDO.biz, is a combination directory, deals, and portal site from a local television station.  Established competitors in this space include Google, Groupon, Craigslist, DexYellowPages, SuperPages, and dozens of others.  And that’s to say nothing of all the local and regional competitors with similar offerings, especially in the deals space.  The market’s saturated – both for audience and for advertisers.

It immediately reminded me of a site they offered up and backed with tens of thousands of dollars in local television advertising inventory a couple years ago, GColorado.com, a local classifieds site.  A visit to that site today is similar to, but far less interesting than visiting a ghost town.  There’s absolutely nothing on offer in most of the categories.  In the common “Cars for Sale,” there are three cars.  More importantly, there’s nothing the site offers that Craigslist didn’t bring to this market nearly a decade ago.

The problem: neither of these sites meets an unserved or underserved market need, solves a problem, makes something easier, delights or entertains, or provides anything unique or new.  A television ad may motivate you to visit (that’s a stretch, I know), but a tired initial experience won’t bring you back.  I would also add that the other audience – the advertisers – does not really have anything new in this offering, either.

Instead, the sites fit these criteria: we can definitely build it and we’re pretty sure we can sell it to advertisers.

The website users, of course, are absolutely critical to long term success.  Even in the short term, though, their interests supersede those of the two other stakeholders.  Yet they feel ignored in both of these offerings.

If there’s no sustained traffic, the sites will slowly die, as advertising contracts fail to get renewed.  I don’t know what the fate of the directory/deals/portal will be, but the classifieds site was DOA and never found its pulse.

Entirely Different Angle

Would the same people who are building, selling, and marketing this site invest in it the project with their own money?  Would they sacrifice their employment within the television operation to dedicate themselves to it exclusively?  If so, there’s more at play here than I’ve observed.  If not, then to whom does the offering seem viable?

Qualifier

My purpose here is not to denigrate a competitor.  They’re not alone in their approach; this is certainly happening everywhere all the time.  Bonus points do go to them for trying to open up new streams of revenue from non-television sources.  And it’s not like I or the local television operation in whose employ I remain for a few weeks is aggressively and insightfully innovating online (on the upside, we remain focused on continuing to be the top-billing station and most-watched news product in the market).

Admittedly – and finally – there may be more at play than I’ve observed (I hope there is).  It’s not like I’m on a “explain your underlying strategy to me” or “describe for me the finer points and assumptions of your business model” basis with these people.  If the site finds success, I’ll stand corrected and be served my own foot.

The Bottom Line

For whom did you build your product or design your offering?  If it’s not for a stakeholder necessary for long term success, it’s time to double back, review, and take another go at it.  Or … what good is the game if you can’t keep people in the seats?

Click here for an excellent overview of a successful local media company.

 

 

Upside Down: Traditional Advertising Relationships

This is how many of my posts get started: I recognize a pattern, see the same thing in two different contexts, feel something developing or seek to answer my own question.  In this case, I started with a pretty big idea that connects two books I just read with one of Terry Heaton‘s mantras (clearly expressed here as “the second ‘bigger boat'”).

The books are “The Idea Writers: Copywriting in a New Media and Marketing Era” by Teressa Iezzi and “The On-Demand Brand: 10 Rules for Digital Marketing Success in an Anytime, Everywhere World” by Rick Mathieson; they’re remarkably similar and overlapping.  Terry‘s a thinker, writer and consultant at the intersection of media, culture and postmodernism.

The moment I knew I had to organize my thoughts on this post’s topic occurred immediately upon picking up the latest Advertising Age, which opens with this headline: “ABC, Syfy and Best Buy? Retailer launches network.”  The sub-head: “Electronics expert turns publisher with multichannel net packed with original content – and it’s seeking ads.”  Per the story, written by Natalie Zmuda, Best Buy’s content will be distributed as an “‘online magazine’ and a huge in-store component with its content and ad messaging ‘broadcast’ on screens across the store.”

So what?  Well, one of Terry’s favorite phrases is “the people formerly known as the advertisers.”  And that’s exactly what we have here.  Advertising relationships are turning upside down.

Best Buy, a significant newspaper advertiser (think: Sunday inserts) and national advertiser across various other media, is now producing and distributing its own content at least in part to sell advertising to other brands and marketers.  Rather than interrupting people gathered around someone else’s content (think: national television commercial in the middle of 30 Rock), they’re creating their own content, distributing it online and in-store and selling impressions to other advertisers.

house, upside down, design

Advertising relationships are turning upside down, much like this house designed by Klaudiusz Golos and Sebastian Mikiciuk.

Another example of a major national advertiser getting into the advertising game – as a seller rather than a buyer – comes from one of the two books involved here.  Mathieson’s “The On-Demand Brand” is built on dozens of examples, as well as on interviews with top-notch agency, creative and marketing types.  In the third chapter, Mathieson describes Johnson & Johnson‘s social networking site, BabyCenter, which reaches “78% of all online women who are pregnant or are mothers of children under twenty four months old in the US” (p 66).

J&J designs, manufactures, distributes and markets loads of products for this demo.  Since they’re successfully enabling and encouraging more than three quarters of all new mothers and mothers-to-be in America to produce and share content within a J&J social networking site, why would they spend a dime on national television or a national magazine?  They needn’t.  Instead, all J&J product promotion within the site is “handled as any ad buy from any advertiser would be – and the site even accepts advertising from other marketers” (p 67).  Upside down.

The third reference point, Iezzi’s book, is a broad overview of the state of affairs as concerns advertising agencies.  It, too, includes many examples – many of which are also used by Mathieson, often to illustrate the same points.  Because her book is more agency- and writer-oriented, though, her allusions to this trend focus more on the threat to agencies seeking to sell creative services than to publishers and broadcasters seeking to sell advertising space.

In her own words: “There’s a lot of content being made, and brands are going to be responsible for making a bigger and bigger share of it” (p 11).  In the words of Spencer Baim, co-founder of Virtue, a new form of agency:  “We believe that every brand must think and act like a media company … You want people to tune into your brand, not to push a message out” (p 114).  In both cases: advertisers are becoming content creators and publishers.  In the latter case: content is an inbound marketing play that trumps commercial interruption.

The Bottom Line

Increasingly, the advertiser need not interrupt an audience assembled by a traditional media company.  Instead, they’re producing, publishing and selling advertising around content of their own; they’re becoming media companies themselves.  I’d also speculate that their content is better optimized for customer conversion – and it’s closer to the point of purchase.

That’s to say someone “tuning in” to Best Buy’s online magazine or in-store video channel is more likely to convert from prospect to purchaser for a Best Buy advertiser like Toshiba than someone tuning in to 30 Rock on NBC.  That’s also to say someone reading a new mom’s blog post at BabyCenter is more likely to convert from prospect to purchaser for a BabyCenter advertiser like diapers.com than someone watching Dancing with the Stars on ABC.

As you can imagine, this is yet another threat to publishers, broadcasters, cable companies and various other outfits whose entire business model depends on revenue generated from traditional ad sales.

Related Ideas

>A separate post could be written about the people formerly known as the audience – based in the thoughts and writings of Clay Shirkey and echoed in The Idea Writers, The On-Demand Brand and Terry Heaton’s blog.  Note: these people are the ones filling J&J’s BabyCenter with relevant content.

>A separate post could be written about “advertising” – its former constraints (church and state separation of editorial and advertising) and its current and varied forms.  Former constraints: I did touch lightly on the “news” side a few months ago right here.  Current and varied forms: both books are stuffed with great examples.

>A separate post could be written about content and inbound marketing strategies mastered and taught by HubSpot.

>You can see more images and read more about the upside down house here at Xenophilia, a blog dedicated to “True Strange Stuff.”

>I absolutely love 30 Rock.  I completely abhor Dancing with the Stars.

ForbesLife: Bridal Magazine for the Super-Rich

I like holding reading material in my hands and turning pages as I read.  I like folding a corner or tucking in a piece of paper to mark where I left off before setting it down.  As regards reading, I like not ever having to plug in, power up or power down.  I like books and magazines in physical form.  All that said, I also read a ton online, but that’s beside the point.

One of the magazines I enjoy reading when it arrives in my mailbox by way of the USPS is Forbes.  Occasionally, the magazine is supplemented by the obscenely rich ForbesLife, positioned as “Celebrating the Best of the Best.”  I’ve never seen a publication stuffed with more ads for watches that cost more than my car.

Speaking of being stuffed with ads, here’s the primary observation of this post: ForbesLife is stuffed with ads of all kinds.  Jammed.  Loaded.  Choked.  With advertising.

luxury, watch, Cartier, wristwatch, time piece

The Calibre de Cartier 1904 MC is advertised opposite the table of contents and is priced starting as low as $6,500.

One thing I like to do when a new magazine arrives at my home is to pull out all the postcard-sized, heavy stock inserts.  With the latest ForbesLife, though, I decided to pull out every page with advertising on both sides.  Just for fun and of curiosity.  The issue to which I refer is the 20th Anniversary issue, dated September 2010.

I pulled out 14 pages (28 single-sided pages).  That included a couple multi-page “advertorial” sections for Marquis Jet and for Charleston, South Carolina.

That left just 35 pages.  Of those remaining, 20 had advertising on one of the two sides.

In this tabulation, I was gracious enough to except the “Down Time, For Fall: Effortless Dress-Down Chic” photo spread from the advertising counts, despite the fact that every clothing item is brand-named and priced.  For your reference, I’ll run down item and price on one of those pages (randomly selected): $11,390 wool coat, $535 cotton shirt, $790 jeans and $70 belt.

To summarize: 49 total double-sided pages, 98 total sides, 48 sides with advertising.

That’s a fat lot of ads!  More than 50% the printed piece is advertising.

Bottom line: ForbesLife is a bridal or high fashion magazine for the super-rich.  In bridal and fashion mags, the advertising plays an important, functional role as content.

Beyond the obvious role of revenue-provider to the privately held media company Forbes, Inc., the ads are critical element of the publication for the reader.  The advertising in this type of magazine complements the content proper, provides supporting images and information and casts upon the reader a sought-after sense.

In the case of ForbesLife, it’s a sense of opulence.

Too Little, Too Late for Kindle?

(((Disclaimer: this is not a technology review or product comparison.  This post is about product positioning in prospects’ minds.)))

They’re the best commercials on TV right now … but they’re probably too late.  The first of these hit the air in March.  The iPad dropped on April 3.

Amazon hit up Ithyle for these fun, imaginative and insanely stylish ads for their Kindle reader.  Between the visual technique, music, props, scenes and transitions, they sing “the simple pleasure of stories” to me.  The feature or benefit sell is strictly limited to “books in 60 seconds,” which is subtle and sound.

Too bad this effort wasn’t undertaken a year or two back.

Check out the first three:

The Kindle has a very specific purpose.  It’s uniquely focused – no apps, no color, no video, no internet, just reading.  3G wireless provides access to a huge library of books, each of which can be downloaded in a minute or less.  That 3G access requires no subscriptions or monthly fees.  The battery life is very, very impressive.  Quite simply, it’s the best e-reader currently available.

Despite all this, I feel strongly that the iPad takes Kindle’s place in the mind of prospective buyers of e-readers.

That said, this isn’t a zero-sum game.  For the sliver who only want to read books and who do a rational side-by-side comparison, the Kindle should come out ahead.

For a couple years now, Amazon has done a nice job profiling Kindle on its homepage, particularly around holidays and other gift-buying times.  They have end-cap displays at Target complete with a live device that you can pick up, hold and explore.  They continue to roll out beautiful ads on television.

I hope it’s enough.

Link: previous post on iPad’s potential value to magazine publishers

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