Trade Event Report
TVs Same Ol' Story - The 2004 ANA Television Advertising Forum, + +
By Al Berrios (contact Al Berrios)

[Editor's note: the tone of this report is overly opinionated, and as a result, can also be found in Opinion Reports.]

Honestly, if I see David Poltrack, Jon Mandel, Mike Shaw, or David Verklin speak about how the upfront needs to change, how bad Nielsen is, or how broadcast rates are too high or just right, I'm going to pass out from boredom. Every couple of months, the industry gets together to discuss pressing issues. For the last 2 years, these have been the pressing issues. And every time these industry "old boys" have a chance to opine in front of more than 2 people, this is where the discussion ends up. Don't get me wrong, these guys are cool. However, can we have more action, less talk… please.

This is why Janet Jackson is such a refreshing issue. Her Superbowl antics gave broadcasters something new to talk about - government policy. Restrictions on how broadcasters use their air, staggering fines for violations, and a revised business model, focused on producing more conservative, family-friendly programming.

It's pretty clear advertisers consider broadcasters audience-delivery vehicles more than program-delivery services. So, forget the breast, the real issue is whether or not this new programming will attract a new audience or the same audience. And if this is a new "family" audience, is it worth reaching as much as the old crude and rude audience? It's a hell of a thing when your business model has lost the ability to attract customers, competitively and legally.

Anyhow, Mr. Mandel did have something interesting to say this time: one of the reasons the upfront is completely out of whack is because buyers go into it with the mindset of buying for the client, not the brand. If strategy were devised per brand, the upfront would yield greater results for the client. It shouldn't be about the cost per CPM, but the cost of selling a product. (This lead me to wonder if Mr. Mandel uses his $11 billion budget to do as he says, or if he simply goes with the flow.)

Somewhere during these illuminating discussions, someone may have said media is a lot like trading stocks on Wall Street. There are risks and hedges. There are futures and options. For a senior media buying executives to have epiphany'd something so profound gave me tingles. You have got to be a total space-cadet to not have realized something like this your first day on the job. And even worse, to insult the audience by bringing it up as an excuse for your piss-poor performance at managing media budgets. The tingle came from the realization that if this is the best the industry has to offer, I understand why clients are frustrated to the point of letting their purchasing agents deal with the agencies. But I digress. The ramblings of one senior exec shouldn't be generalized to the rest of his organization. These are the blowhorns of the industry, not the actual workers. The workers are off making great things happen, while CEOs take all the credit.

Then came the measurers. Nielsen and Arbitron spoke extensively about their (still) new people meters, which are supposed to revolutionize the measuring service, (possibly, if they're ever fully launched) even allowing per-minute ratings, important for rating commercials, which isn't currently done. Imagine, if your ads came with their own ratings, not those of the program? If I remember correctly, Mindshare presented figures that revealed an 8-25% discrepancy in the ratings of a program from when it starts to the end. If an advertiser pays for a certain ratings figure, she should receive that rating throughout the entire hour. Alas, she doesn't. This technology aims to fix that (someday).

I've been hearing about these people meters for a (very long) while and to see researchers foam at the mouth at the detailed data they're anticipating is quite silly. If advertisers spent over $8 billion per year on billboards, out-of-home media sellers would be able to tell you how long people blinked for while passing their billboards. TV, no one's impressed.

Lunch was tasty. It was at the Marriott Marquis in New York City. Nothing was terribly exciting, but the speaker was a gut-buster. William Safire made public speaking seem as natural as breathing. The man is a brilliant pundit with hilarious commentary on just about everything. He kept everyone in tears with his tremendous wit and political jabs. Kudos to the ANA for getting this guy.

Then came time for the advertisers to discuss the innovative ways in which they utilized TV. Moderated by the omnipresent Jack Meyers, it was pretty good. About the only two significant points I got from here were how a full marketing communications program, encompassing all forms of media and tactics, will escape the control of the marketer; and that such a campaign motivates not just consumers, but employees.

No marketer wants to lose control over his campaign, but consumers will interpret whatever however they want. Further, negotiations become exponentially difficult as emerging media and tactics, without clear ROIs, enter the mix. But that's all in a days work for marketers spending hundreds of millions of dollars.

And being that employers typically spend massive amounts to motivate their workforce, (IBM spends over $100 million annually), every little bit helps. If TV could measure the increase in workforce motivation and production resulting from ads, it would do wonders for amortizing the cost of producing the ads, and justify using TV more. Think, TV, think!

By this time, my brain was fried. There's only so much media and marketing that I can handle for one day. Between the "business development" networking opportunities and superfluous information offered, this forum merits just 2 (+ +) pluses.

Related al berrios & co. articles:
> "Janet's Boob"



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