In his insightful blog post "Lean Advertising," James Hurman contrasts the principles of "agile development" adopted by start-up incubators, with the now discredited "cloistered R&D processes" practiced by "lumbering pariahs."
He then wonders whether this approach could be applied to the advertising business? After all, “as nice as luxuriating for months in our own thinking up and crafting of a beautiful advertising thing" can be, isn’t that the same mentality the old product developers had?
As I continued to read, there was a nagging familiarity to it all.
Start small, learn as you go, let the market show you the way.
Then it occurred to me: that's essentially what we in the performance television business - DRTV and the like - have been doing for decades.
For a relatively small investment it's possible to test the waters using the power of TV, with its obvious and proven sound + pictures benefits, not to mention its extensive reach. You can test multiple executions, with various offers and insights. Learn as you go. Refine, adjust, repeat. And with the advent of more and more precise targeting, the data just keeps getting richer.
Perhaps the most important aspect to Lean Advertising is letting the market show you the way, making improvements based on actual consumer behavior, instead of relying on "predictive" methods like focus groups or on-line panels; we've learned that what people actually do is much more accurate than what people might tell you they'll do.
Even the notion of a "minimum viable product," meaning an advertisement in this case, is one we embrace fully. This doesn't mean cheap or schlocky. It means finding the most efficient way to deliver the most impactful message, investing just enough to succeed.
So here's to the Lean method. It's today's hottest trend for the start-up crowd. And it's something we've been doing for years. Just didn't have a cool label for it. Thank you, Mr. Hurman.
Source: "Lean Advertising?" Warc.com
TV Network trends for 2015-2016.
For those in the media industry, this is likely how you feel now that the Prime Time Upfronts have concluded. Yes, although informative and fun, the Upfronts can make for a really long week.
The final takeaways, however, are always interesting. The biggest trends this year include greater diversity, revamping of old shows and a giant push for both greater accessibility and transparency of audience data. Now in case you didn’t get to attend, we thought we’d summarize the highlights from each network.
NBC. Sports, special event programming and late-night shows continue to be the backbone of NBC. Noticeably absent from the line-up are the strong comedies such as “Friends” and “30 Rock” that once defined the network. In keeping with in the theme of “what’s old is now new again,” NBC will bring back “Coach” and “Heroes Reborn.”
ABC. With hits like “Scandal” and “How to Get Away with Murder,” ABC will continue to highlight onscreen diversity while appealing to a broader demographic. This year they will launch “Dr. Ken” and “Uncle Buck,” as they look to hold their position as the network with the most minority leads. ABC also unveiled its All Access Dashboard that allows, “targeting ads based on consumer attributes,” for media buyers and planners, says Geri Wang, president of sales at ABC. She also adds, “This takes television beyond the traditional demographics, allowing for more data and personalization.”
CBS. Calling 2015-16 the “Gold Season,” CBS plans for an exciting year with the 50th Anniversary of the Super Bowl and Stephen Colbert premiering as The Late Show’s new host. CBS will also make a push to bring in a younger audience. This effort can be seen with shows like “Supergirl” and a TV adaption of “Limitless.” Both are clear departures from typical CBS programming.
FOX. “Empire” “Empire” “Empire.” Fox’s midseason break out hit earned the spot as TV’s #1 series. The diversity of the cast and bold story lines has FOX proving that when it doesn’t play it too safe, it works. In contrast to “Empire,” FOX lost shows such as “Glee,” “Mindy Project,” and in its final season “American Idol.” Hoping to bolster ratings, they’re attempting to repurpose movies and books like “Minority Report” and “Lucifer” for TV. And of course, they’re bringing back their own cult classic “X-Files.”
CW. When something works, stick with it. That’s the way CW is approaching their lineup. Remaining true to its younger-skewing audience, CW will return the existing superhero/comic book series, “The Flash”, “iZombie”,” Arrow” and “Supernatural”. And certainly they’re hoping for repeated success with “Jane the Virgin,” which earned CW its first-ever Golden Globe award. The only new series they announced was “Crazy Ex Girlfriend.”
Overall, the Prime Time Upfronts are a terrific reminder that TV continues to thrive. The networks keep bringing forth distinctive and entertaining content. Viewership across all TV platforms is increasing. And the reach and scale of broadcast still can’t be beat. It’s an exciting time to be a part of everything TV.
While it may not be as hyped as a Mayweather v. Pacquiao bout, the battle for TV Viewership Measurement is in full force. Nielsen - the once the indisputable champ – has taken a few blows in recent years as technology and available data have evolved. The biggest threat to their dominance is the measurement platform developed by Rentrak.
Nielsen’s data still provides the ratings currency upon which TV advertising has been bought and sold. However, their system has not gone without criticism. On a local market level, industry experts have frequently questioned their sample methodology for smaller markets. And on both a national and local level, the standard age/gender viewership reporting is not sufficient in today’s data-driven world. Nielsen is developing products that address these issues.
Rentrak’s set top box (STB) measurement system may offer an alternative that provides more data in smaller markets. Additionally, they are able to provide audience measurement that goes beyond age and gender. Recently, the Media Rating Council (MRC) determined that Rentrak’s TV ratings are not ready to receive accreditation – but this is not unusual for an initial audit of a complex system. Rentrak will make refinements and the MRC will likely audit it again later this year.
It’s important to monitor and assess all available measurement platforms and data sources. While we continue to use Nielsen as our primary source for audience measurement, we also have developed partnerships with Rentrak and other providers to meet the needs of our clients.
The beauty of this battle is the advancements being made during every round. It promotes innovation and pricing efficiency, which benefit our clients and us. So it’s safe to say, the unanimous winner so far is the TV advertiser.
For more information on this topic, please see the following article:
To grab the attention of increasingly distracted viewers, advertisers are relying on more gimmicks and gags than ever before. Consider the recent Rob Lowe DirecTV spots. In them, the “real” Rob Lowe appears along side various freakish incarnations of himself—slick bodybuilder, geek and so on.
These spots are funny and likely got your attention, but to what end? After the weirdness wears off, you’re left with little reason to switch from cable to DirecTV. So much of the spot revolves around the disquieting version of Rob Lowe that the selling message is subordinated.
We’re seeing a growing number of commercials—from big budget branding spots to DRTV efforts--that use special effects (i.e. talking animals) and other forms of outrageousness to make people sit up and take notice. Here’s why. A recent study by global research firm TNS shows that 48% of viewers are checking email, using social media and shopping online while watching television. A 2014 Nielsen study also found a high rate of second-screen usage: two thirds of tablet users reported surfing the web while watching television, and 49% of smart phone users said they were also online while the television was on.
Television viewers are more distracted than ever before, and advertisers want to win back the primary focus of their audience. Startling imagery, black humor or emotional appeals may evoke surprise, laughs and tears, but they don’t always produce sales. As soon as the shock wears off or the tears dry, viewers are left with little reason to pay attention—or to think about buying the advertised product or service.
Certainly some television spots are more concerned with brand building than generating sales, and they use a variety of methods—emotion, imagery and yes, shock—to create and maintain their brand. That’s fine. What’s not fine is overreacting to increased viewer distractability.
Those of us in the direct response television business have contended with the challenge of keeping distracted viewers focused on commercials long before the advent of social media and mobile communication—the effectiveness of a DRTV spot depends on keeping viewers glued to the screen until the offer is made and the 800 number or URL comes on the screen. The challenge of meeting this objective is even greater today.
Here are three options for gaining and keeping viewer attention:
- Use the door-to-door salesperson technique. Salespeople for an iconic brand such as Avon know that when you knock on someone’s door, you have only seconds before that door is slammed in your face; they use those precious seconds to describe the product’s benefits so convincingly that prospects don’t become distracted or disinterested. More than ever before, advertisers need to do the same. Trust in a product’s or service’s value proposition and convey it creatively, demonstrably and clearly. This will work infinitely better than an attention-getting gimmick.
- Make sure the spot airs at the right times, on the right stations and on the right programs. Some spots shouldn’t appear in network prime time. Viewers are easily distracted because they are general interest viewers seeing a niche audience spot. The ever-expanding number of special-interest stations and programming provides a great opportunity for targeting, but it also requires tremendous media buying savvy to capitalize on this opportunity.
- Test your spot’s “stickiness”. Most spots these days include a URL, even ones that aren’t officially designated as DRTV. Measure how many clicks and click-thrus a commercial generates. You know you’ve lost viewers to their other devices if few people are clicking. Instead, find ways to capitalize on the devices television viewers are holding and motivate them to respond via these devices.
People aren’t watching television with the same focus as they had years ago, but they also are quicker to spot a come-on when they see it; they’re far more sophisticated than in the past and whether you’re using a scantily-clad body or a bizarre image, they may be turned off by your inauthentic attempt at attention-getting.
If your objective is only to build the brand, that’s one thing. But if you want to sell, have faith in what you’re trying to sell. Believe that viewers who are in the market for the type of product or service you’re offering will give you their full attention if you do a good job of describing the offer and its benefits. Have the courage to be genuine, to sell without hype or hysterics, and you’ll be rewarded with many attentive viewers… and customers.
This is truly a golden age for TV…and for TV advertising. Over roughly the last decade, there has been more innovation in how advertisers use television than at any other point in history. Only now are some of the most exciting developments coming fully into focus.
One of the most intriguing marketing developments of 2015 is the rapid rise of a new broadcast-scale video platform for advertisers. No – I’m not talking about YouTube, Hulu, Amazon Prime or Netflix. I’m talking about Snapchat.
I’m sure at this point, many are raising an eyebrow at this claim. After all, Snapchat had inauspicious beginnings. For those who don’t know the service, it was conceived in 2011 by a group of Stanford undergrads as a way for them to “safely” send risqué pictures and messages to other users. The service automatically deleted the content after a brief period of time – so Snapchat users felt reasonably secure that their images and words wouldn’t wind up online for the public to view forever.
Over time, the service evolved into a bona-fide content delivery system. By 2012 – about 18 months after it was founded – Snapchat was growing exponentially, and outlining plans to expand into video sharing and content monetization. Huge investments from the capital community and even Alibaba.com followed, which further legitimized the company. High profile Silicon Valley executives were brought in to manage the growth and plot its future.
This year, Snapchat opened up its “Discover” series to advertisers. To say that the response has been tremendous is to put it mildly. Right now, ads are reportedly being sold at astronomical CPMs of $100 or more. That’s not just higher than most other online video ad products, that’s more than double what some video ad products can charge, and many times more than publishers can command for banner ads.
While this video product is wildly overpriced right now, just as Hulu was when it first started selling ad inventory, Snapchat is able to incite such a fever with advertisers because it is delivering something that no other online video platform can claim: broadcast scale.
Consider the most popular telecasts from broadcast and cable TV. In the top tier, you’re typically looking at an average of 15–23 million viewers. Last year, if you were willing to pay up for, say, “NCIS,” the show got you more than 20 million viewers on average. That delivery obliterates any view total you’d be able to get for your ads on a streaming site such as Hulu or another publisher.
But now, by advertising on Snapchat’s largest reach “programs,” marketers can hit the same number of viewers as they would by running on the highest rated TV programs. They might even be able to reach more – especially if they’re targeting the 18-24 age group. For years, it’s been all about smaller niches and precise targeting. But now, we are seeing the possibilities of scale and mass reach in video. And importantly, firms are starting to lean into that expanded role.
This will all continue. It may even speed up. Snapchat has already demonstrated that different story types – big news items, cultural movements and sporting events – can all drive massive viewership. And over time I’d think that delivery may actually grow. Snapchat certainly isn’t alone in its ambition. Surely Amazon and Netflix are looking at the success here and planning their own strategies to deliver content on this scale. Facebook and Apple likely aren’t far behind, either.
For advertisers, it is truly an exciting time. And as a TV advertiser, we at Eicoff continue to look at all avenues that can deliver results for our clients. So while it may not be right for many clients and their goals, Snapchat - with its TV-size reach - is definitely worth a look.
At this year’s SXSW festival, Netflix took a bold stance on defining the value of traditional demographics in guiding marketing strategy. After several years of testing and learning, Netflix has determined this user demographic data (age, gender, geography) is “almost useless”.
Todd Yellin, VP/Product Innovation went so far as to call big data “a mountain of excrement. With little pieces of gold buried in there.” He also poked some holes in the tried and true practice of seeking consumer input via surveys and ratings. “Explicitly telling us what you like…doesn’t work. People pretend.”
Netflix isn’t completely dismissing customer feedback or demographic targeting. But they have reset their priorities into a hierarchy of data points to optimize their marketing strategy. Yes, it includes a demographic layer. But it relies more heavily on testing, monitoring what subscribers do, and understanding why they did it.
These opinions aren’t groundbreaking to DRTV marketers. We have lived by a different set of rules for decades. Our campaigns have always been optimized based on actions taken. How many consumers picked up the phone to request information? How many went online to place an order? And what did it cost for each of these actions?
Netflix has a wealth of data based on what subscribers view. And they answer the “why” by talking with their consumers regularly. These conversations are purposely indirect, however. Structured carefully to provide more truthful answers. Instead of “What do you think of our new user interface” they’ll ask “was it easy to find something great to watch?”
DRTV response provides a great platform for answering the “why” as well. And sophisticated DRTV advertisers use various data points to optimize the full campaign. The call center script provides an opportunity to glean information about the effectiveness of the commercial message. Tracking branded and non-branded search will yield key insight into how consumers talk about your product. And online behavior taken in response to your ad can answer questions about where you stand among your competition.
When you think about it, Netflix’s claim isn’t so bold after all. What is a better indicator of a consumer’s likelihood to purchase your product… who they are, or what they do?
Ask yourself, are you relying too heavily on database segmentation or a third party consumer profile to identify and communicate to consumer prospects? Are there opportunities to leverage existing consumer touch points to use behavior-based data as a means to optimize your marketing strategy?
In today’s world of increasing TV fragmentation, hitting the right consumer with the right message is becoming more difficult. Applying the practices of DRTV, and taking a cue from Netflix, could keep your marketing platform from becoming a House of Cards.
Recently I was lucky enough to attend an incredible 3-day corporate retreat. During which, I was reminded how taking a step away from the office and focusing on the bigger business picture can really make an impact.
The event was known as the “Family Reunion.” And it was hosted by Dan Gilbert, founder of Quicken Loans and owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, as a way to bring together his large family of companies.
In line with Dan Gilbert’s unique approach to business, this was no common corporate retreat. The Family Reunion included over 100 companies and 400 attendees to network, collaborate and generate ideas at the Cleveland Convention Center. With the theme of “Anything is Possible", and through a mix of panel discussions, workshops, high-energy musical performances and powerful speakers, several key learnings emerged.
Here are 3 that I really took to heart.
1. Successful businesses nurture creativity and encourage innovation. Companies like Quicken Loans, Robb Report and Shinola all attribute much of their success to remaining innovative within their respective industries. All of them invest time and resources in creating an environment that seeks out and rewards new ideas.
Keynote Speaker Sir Ken Robinson, a leader in promoting creativity in our schools and businesses, shared that businesses, now more than ever, have to be creative in developing new products and services to remain competitive in a world of rapid change. But one idea is not enough; businesses need to develop cultures where creative thinking is routine.
2. “The best teachers are your mistakes.” Don’t be afraid of failure. Philippe Petit, French high-wire artist famous for his Twin Towers walk, believes that any new idea is a test that you will learn from, even if it fails. He spoke about the power of passion and tenacity to overcome your failures, attributes he has relied upon during his career as a high-wire artist.
I was reminded how well this translates to Performance Television advertising. Successful Eicoff clients understand that a test-and-learn strategy is critical to the growth of their TV campaigns as well as their businesses.
3. Anything is possible with perseverance, teamwork and collaboration. The Family Reunion event closed with speaker Amy Purdy, a world-class snowboarder, Dancing with the Stars finalist, author and motivational speaker, who spoke about how passion and courage helped her move forward after losing both of her legs and kidneys at age 19. She credited teamwork and creativity in successfully persuading the Winter Paralympic Games committee to include adaptive snowboarding for the first time in 2014, in which she won the bronze medal.
And to truly prove the point that anything is possible, the Family Reunion team published the ideas generated during our workshops into a physical book in less than 24 hours, complete with photos of participants.
So as you look at your business plans for this year, consider how these 3 insights might apply. And take it from me, don’t forget the power of stepping back.
- Ken Robinson, Out of Our Minds
- Amy Purdy, On My Own Two Feet
- Philipe Petit, Creativity: The Perfect Crime
Last October, an influential rock band was finally honored by their peers, albeit 15 years after they became eligible. KISS is now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Despite the fact that they revolutionized their industry, selling millions of records and concert tickets, the critics in charge of the Hall never liked them. What finally got them in was the belated inclusion of the fan vote, which was a landslide.
Now at this point, you might be asking: Is this a Rolling Stone article or an advertising blog? Or maybe you hate heavy metal bands, and think Lou Reed or The Clash are far more deserving Hall members. That’s fine. What this blog is really about is results, born of the collision of art and commerce. Just like in advertising.
Advertising was once broken into two worlds: “above the line” and “below the line”. The former tended to be more respected and critically acclaimed, the latter was where all the hard selling was done. It was in this environment that Eicoff began making direct response television. TV had been the most visible form of above the line advertising, so Eicoff’s approach was a new thing. And it connected with consumers.
An old CMO adage is “I know half of my marketing budget works, I just don’t know which half.” At Eicoff, this isn’t the case. After a predetermined test period, if we’re not moving the needle, a spot we spent 2-3 months working on will be pulled off the air. That's the unforgiving world of results. While our commercials are crafted with same quality as brand advertising, our goals are much different. We don’t always get a lot of critical attention, but our clients love us. We do great work and we get them results.
As you can tell, your humble author* has often been a fan of entities that weren’t necessarily critical darlings. But I became a fan because they moved me. KISS came to a local arena and put on a spectacular rock show for me, their fan. Eicoff taught me how to really sell a product. And a funny thing happened on the road to respectability. The world in general got more direct every year, because changing consumer (or fan) behavior demanded it. The lines are now gone, and the rest of the ad world often tries to act like Eicoff, with mixed results. But we’re doing just fine. And Kiss is now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Why?
U.S. Record Sales for Lou Reed: 800,000
U.S. Record Sales for The Clash: 7,500,000
U.S. Record Sales for KISS: 40,000,000
*The musical tastes of the author do not necessarily reflect those of Eicoff or its parent company Ogilvy.
Nearly ten years ago, baseball fans were introduced to a new concept in sports marketing, the "green screen" of rolling virtual ads behind home plate. Today, this advertising platform is really taking flight.
The Florida Marlins have lined their entire outfield with bright lime green walls, capable of showing stats, replays, movie clips, and of course TV commercials. And 17 NHL teams have brought this technology to their rink boards. After all, what’s better than watching someone get checked into your logo?
Director of Marketing for Skokie-based Jelmar, Adrienne Gibbons explains, "We are very excited for the opportunity to see the CLR logo during BlackHawks games. It also helps that the team is doing well and people are tuning in.”
For our clients, like CLR, the exposure doesn’t stop at just local airings. Their signage can be seen during any game featured as part of the NHL Center Ice package. This includes games viewed at bars & restaurants. Sponsors also benefit from any goals, fights or falls that make the highlight reels on local or national sports news.
Brendan Lewis of Comcast SportsNet Chicago adds, “The on-the-glass position really stands out for brands like CLR. And it not only enjoys the massive viewership that every Blackhawks home game garners; but the opportunity for additional visibility is a real bonus.”
Another technology-inspired breakthrough was implemented for the 2015 NHL All-Star game. For the first time, a player's sweater and the puck were outfitted with a microchip that sent stats to a control center and then to TV viewers. This application not only provides noteworthy data for coaches and fans, but it also introduces a considerable opportunity for sponsorship revenue. For example, "Puck Speed for that Goal is brought to you by Speedy Cash… Love that Speedy Cash."
Although our roots are in DRTV, we love any television or radio opportunity we can find to assist our client’s marketing efforts. Sponsorship and other added value are something with which we’ve seen real success. And putting brands on ice is definitely one of them.
In all the talk about devices that consumers have in hand while watching TV, we often forget the most common one: The Remote Control. Yep, the trusty, old remote. Luckily for DRTV marketers, Interactive TV is rapidly enhancing the power of this overlooked device.
Today over 85 million homes are equipped with some form of interactive TV. Dish, DirecTV, Comcast, TiVo, AT&T and others have all grown out a robust footprint of interactive TV homes. The technology enables consumers to respond to an offer, request a phone call, click to watch more content and even play games with their remote. And advertisers can take advantage of it all to drive incremental leads, sales and brand interaction.
At Eicoff, we recently tested these capabilities in a big way. Through the AT&T U-Verse system, we created a stand-alone TV channel for K12 Online Education. Simultaneously, while AT&T U-Verse subscribers were watching their favorite shows, we would air one of our K12 commercials. During that 30 or 60 second advertisement, a pop-up would appear and say, “If you’re interested in learning more about home-schooling curriculum, click OK for more information.” Once the viewer clicked OK, they were telescoped to our unique channel.
This channel then allowed viewers to really dig into what K12 offered. They could click on one option for detailed information about the products available, much like you would on a website. They could click on another and watch a longer ad or even a 30-minute infomercial. They could also request an information packet to be mailed to their home. Our prospective customers were not only guided to a place filled with useful information, but upon arrival they had control. They were transformed from passive viewers into active consumers, which is a huge step in any sales process. It all came together with the right messaging and configuration of content.
After six weeks on air, we were happy to see that this test was an overwhelming success. The cost per lead was about 50% LESS than the client’s overall DRTV campaign results. And there were close to 15,000 requests for information on a cable platform reaching only 6 Million Households. We were excited to discover another avenue to help our clients reach their goals.
Overall the growth of Interactive TV has been slower than many predicted. Today, however, the industry appears to be finally coming into its own. In addition to a large growth in scale, the technology of each platform continues to improve. The interaction is more streamlined, the options to engage with the consumer and drive response are all enhanced and more features are being added each quarter. As the technology expands we are actively testing which features drive the greatest ROI for our clients.
The great news is that all Interactive TV is highly measurable. You know how many people saw your Interactive Ad Unit, how long they engaged and how many responded, all on a very granular level. Interactive TV is proving to be a very strong tool to drive results. Immediate, measurable results. And just like the old remote control, that will never go out of style.
For more information about Interactive TV and emerging media, contact Matt Cote at Matt.Cote@eicoff or 312.527.7129