The ability to target TV ads has moved from a shotgun to a rifle and finally to a laser beam approach with the promise of addressable TV advertising for the spot cable market.
A deal signed last December now allows spot cable rep firm National Cable Communications to test technology from Visible World and SeaChange International. The technology gives advertisers the ability to put together different versions of commercials and deliver them to customers in different geographic zones using cable TV availability. The manufacturers say the variables that can be customized in real time include geographic selectivity, programming content, demographic clusters, date/time sensitivity, and product offerings.
National Cable Communications bills itself as the nation’s largest spot cable television ad rep firm, with access to 98% of the ad-insertable cable households in 2,500 systems and almost all 210 TV markets.
CEO Tom Olson says that several years ago NCC began working on an electronic platform that would enhance targeting possibilities and deliver “bulletproof” results within subsets. While that particular platform didn’t pan out, Olson says NCC has been on the lookout for another solution ever since. Visible World’s system brings direct-mail-type capabilities to TV.
Imagine a TV spot for a tourist attraction that includes segments targeting different groups — one aimed at young single adults, with an emphasis on nightlife; another for families, focusing on beaches and activities, a third, for seniors, highlighting dining and casinos. The TV ads could be created with this in mind and then served automatically to different parts of the viewing area based on demographics. This could eventually lead to ads served up personally to households via set-top boxes, although Olson says this is still years away. The capability to deliver by geographic zones is here now, though, Olson says, “This is just a starting point.”
NCC rolled out the current system in the Albany, N.Y., area through its CableLink Interconnects division. Olson says Albany was picked because of its proximity to NCC’s New York City headquarters and receptivity by advertisers and MSOs. The first campaigns will be for Disney Films and the A&E, and The History Channel cable networks.
The system will then be available in NCC’s other CableLink Interconnects markets by the end of this month. They are Buffalo, N.Y.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Cleveland; Hartford, Conn.; Providence, R.I.; and Wilkes-Barre, Pa. These markets give the new system access to up to 4 million homes. Visible World president Seth Haberman says the company is expanding the connection between commercial and programming.“
By providing the set of tools necessary to easily create dynamic-customized TV advertising, and the SeaChange equipment necessary to route specific creative, we are able to increase both the message value and the level of granularity by delivering it down to the cable zone level,” Haberman says.
Olson says the new technology makes it all the more important to bring in all areas of the agency and advertiser to brainstorm and bring everything to bear on the TV spots.
by John Gaffney
“We are not only born to a tribe, we are born to tribe.” That's the claim made by management and business consultant Sam Hill, president of Helios Consulting. He makes his claim in the new book Sixty Trends in Sixty Seconds. According to Hill, modern society can be split in some cases into tribes. Not the ones that separate Native Americans — these tribes are groups of people who have similar interests. Take video games: A 40-year-old father of two and his 12-year-old son may be Super Mario Brothers-in-arms. These are tribes at which a client can aim advertising.
“Thanks to interconnectedness, we are no longer limited to geographic tribing and retribing options,” Hill said. “People can now use the Internet to help form new communities, and chat on the telephone to a fellow tribe member across the country for $1. Cheap travel makes it possible for the new tribes to assemble relatively easily. Retribing is now a global activity.”
Hill's best examples are business communities that form around particular affinities. Oprah's Book Club is a good example; Harley-Davidson bikes are another. Liquid Blue, which has the exclusive rights to Grateful Dead T-shirts, makes money on a tribal basis. But Hill cautions that too many expectations and overly ambitious business models do not a successful tribe make. Remember Sixdegrees.com?
Hill believes that recognizing new tribes and addressing them intelligently can be an effective ad model.
“Aside from business opportunities, the potential of retribing to create groups of passionate people to enjoy each other is an exciting one,” he writes. “This is America. Reinvention of self is a God-given right, like freedom of speech and speeding. And retribes are the great self-reinvention vehicle. A poor kid from Kansas who earns a Harvard Business School ring has used retribing to become something else entirely than defined by birth. And more power to him or her.”
HotProperty: Rolling Stone
Retooled, and Still Rolling.
by Frank Saxe “Hope I die before I get old,” sang the Who in the ’60s anthem “My Generation.” Well, rock ’n’ roll’s magazine of record is old. But not dead yet.
Born out of the rock revolution of the late 1960s, Rolling Stone, Jann Wenner’s 35-year-old ode to rock and all things cool, found itself remarkably uncool earlier this year as readers defected to hipper titles like Blender and Vibe. While the median age of its readers is 28.4 (Fall 2002 MRI), its recent redesign is aimed at keeping that number from moving any higher.
“The key to our success as a business is to keep our median age in the twenties,” says publisher Rob Gregory. “The changes we made this year were not to try to move the demographic to a different place, they are preemptive changes to keep the demographic where it its.” So in late August, Rolling Stone got an updated rock ’n’ roll attitude. Its familiar logo and trim size remain, but it has a new look otherwise. “We want the magazine to be instantly recognized as Rolling Stone, but we also wanted to make it more modern, a little hipper, and a little sexier,” Gregory explains.
So Wenner turned to former Q magazine designer Andy Cowles, who was charged with making Rolling Stone a flashier read. The result was a magazine that resembled the “laddie” titles. They tripled the amount of photography, adopted a new font, and introduced a lot more short-read stories and boxed elements for the short-attention-span reader of today, says Gregory. “For them especially, the first third of the magazine is packed with a lot more points of accessibility and visuals,” he says.
The magazine won’t say its redesign is in response to the flood of very successful “laddie” magazines currently filling the newsstands with high heels and low cleavage. “Our redesign is a reaction to the way reading habits have changed with teens and young adults, primarily in our male audience,” says Gregory. “There are elements of what the lad books do visually that obviously work well, and I think we can always learn something from our competitors. But the changes we have made are not a reaction to anything, they’re preemptive changes. It’s all about audience demographics with advertisers.”
As part of its “preemptive” strike to remain relevant, Rolling Stone has hired a fashion editor and has committed itself to doing at least four pages of fashion every issue. “Fashion is so influenced by rock ’n’ roll now that it’s a natural move for Rolling Stone to increase our fashion coverage,” says Gregory. “Does it help us sell more advertising? Of course.” In fact, advertisers like Dolce & Gabbana and Christian Dior have now deemed Rolling Stone hip enough to carry their ads.
In October, ad pages were up 64% and revenues increased 71%, according to PIB. Year-to-date, the title has posted a 3% gain in ad pages, with revenues totaling $128 million. “Our ‘Women in Rock’ issue was our biggest in two years. It had 112 ad pages in it,” boasts Gregory of the October 31 issue. Since the redesign, Rolling Stone has been able to crack a number of new ad accounts, such as Mitsubishi, Mazda, and Cadillac in the auto category. It is also seeing new revenues from gaming and packaged goods companies.
Fallon Minneapolis print buyer Carol Pais, whose agency buys for such clients as Citibank and Starbucks, is taking a wait-and-see attitude toward Rolling Stone’s changes. “Rolling Stone is deeply rooted in this tradition of journalistic integrity; therein lies their strength,” says Pais. “I worry that they might stray far from that.”
HowTo...Unofficially Sponsor the NCAA Tournament
by Amy Corr
March Madness, the monthlong college basketball tournament that draws scores of college students and alumni, offers many exclusive and costly onsite sponsorship opportunities. But for the little guy with a fixed budget, there are alternative media companies out there that can help organize guerrilla marketing sponsorships to reach this audience at a fraction of the cost.
One company that specializes in alternative media is Boston-based Offline Promotions. CEO Adam Salacuse says there are numerous ways to reach attendees. You can have people hand out “cool and relevant” media, such as posters or inflatable balls displaying your brand, to attendees before they enter the stadium. You can also send “corporate ambassadors” to the event, armed with large signs to wave through the crowd. Lastly, placing flyers on cars or handing them out at local bars can be an effective way to reach potential consumers.
An unofficial sponsorship can cost from $40,000 to $80,000, far less than most corporate sponsorships. Planning for such events should be done 60 to 90 days in advance, and the more games you market to, the better chance your brand has of becoming noticed.
StartupCloseup: Robb Report Home Entertainment & Design
by Paul J Gough
With CurtCo Robb Media’s latest title, there’s no question about he affluent readership planners expect when they look at the company’s other magazines, specifically its flagship property — the uber high-end Robb Report.
But Robb Report Home Entertainment & Design brings another dimension to the franchise. It’s focusing on an ever-growing area of high-end consumer electronics, the buyers of home theaters and home automation systems. And like other CurtCo Robb media titles, it will attract those who are drawn to the architecture and interior design that is a hallmark of titles like Architectural Digest. The premiere issue was published Oct. 8 with a bimonthly run beginning this year. The initial rate base is 100,000.
Mark Mendelsohn, Robb Report Home Entertainment & Design’s publisher, says that affluent home entertainment and automation aficionados and experts haven’t yet had a magazine that focuses on their needs. And what needs they are: The entertainment and automation systems aren’t the kind you find at the big-box electronic retailer down the street. Custom-installed systems can range from $25,000 to $1 million, and the average cost for a system rivals that of a high-end sports car. “It really is an upper-end income earner,” Mendelsohn says of his target audience. “Our goal is to attract a higher-net-worth customer.”
Another feature of the magazine — and its typical reader — is that it’s not bogged down in technology. “People aren’t into this in a technical sense. They want their home to be their kingdom, their palace,” Mendelsohn says. He says that while home theater was the hot item a few years ago, the field encompasses much more than that now. These systems can control the entire house, including the security system, the on and off switch for the waterfall, and the heat for the hot tub.
Installers, designers, and decorators who create the systems; should also gravitate to the magazine since the edit is more focused on design than it is on the technology that goes into the systems, although that’s covered, too.