Media Doesn't Need To Show All Its Advertising Cards To Consumers

How can you tell how TV programs are doing advertising-wise by just watching?  The presence of big TV advertisers can give you a broad, general hint.

See an AT&T commercial in an episode of Fox' "House"?  Everything must be doing fine, considering the show's high ratings. Maybe there's a Toyota commercial in NBC's "Life." That would be considered a job well done, especially considering the show's lower viewership.  

But the real answer is: you can't tell completely. Maybe that big car commercial in the "Life" example was a make-good commercial. Maybe the car marketer grabbed a cheaper CPM deal to hit a specific target.

Lots of factors go into TV commercials. In recent years some media sellers might smirk at competitors who sold commercials to a lot of direct-response advertisers.   Today's TV market - especially locally -- may yield a different response.

But what if something obvious happened: Say a program goes to a commercial break, and all you got was dead air, showing that a TV seller was unable to sell this specific commercial time?



A couple of weeks ago at a NASCAR race, Kevin Buckler of the racing group TRG Motorsports showed as much. On the roof of his car, there was a large white rectangle where, in theory, a Home Depot, Pepsi, DuPont, or Snickers logo should have been.

All this was to advertise... that he had no advertiser, no sponsor. It was a business-to-business marketing decision, one that many might avoid. Who, after all, wants to signal a business defeat?

Sports motor teams, as well as soccer teams, cycling teams, and other niche sports teams. typically need big-time sponsors to survive: companies that in return get big signage, logos on uniforms, and other promotion.

On rare occasions, some sports teams will go without, with the hopes of adding a sponsor later on.  Recently, for example, the U.S.-based Pro Tour cycling teams Team Slipstream and Team High Road went without sponsors for a period of time.

Then, last year, just before the start of the 2008 Tour de France, both got sizable sponsorship deals: Garmin, the electronics bike computer/GPS maker, for Slipstream, and Columbia Sportswear for Team High Road. But those teams didn't advertise to consumers their previous failures.

Media and sports properties play their cards close to the vest when it comes to advertising and sponsorship revenue. That's their right. Few want to disclose weak business, especially in this economy. It can feed on itself.
Blank advertising space might have business executives and TV viewers scratching their heads. That's a right of the media/sports owner as well. But eventually it tells another story.

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