Commentary

Bytes & Bites

In a stunning upset of monumentally ego-busting proportions, Anderson Cooper was named I Want Media's Media Person of the year--proving that readers who sent thousands of votes to the two-week-long Internet poll have failed to fully appreciate the wit and wisdom of my weekly columns. That I wasn't even among the 10 finalists and appeared nowhere on the ballot was an incidental outrage, knowing that my loyal following would mount a massive write-in vote that would propel me to my rightful place in the media firmament. That it did not occur gives one pause to consider if everything about the contest was on the up and up. I mean, last year's winner was Jon Stewart, and look where he ended up--on the chicken dinner circuit bashing the magazine publishers, who paid him for the punishment. I bash without regard to race, creed, color, or national origin, for no fee whatsoever. If in the past year I have somehow failed to offend your special interest group or company, by all means let me know and I will move you to the top of the list for 2006. Then perhaps I will end up at the top of the Media Person List next December.

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Meanwhile, television and cable industry representatives met last week to address concerns about racier shows and head off possible government regulations. After a furious round of negotiations, the representatives from most of the major television networks and programmers took time out to watch the Victoria's Secret runway show, back from a Super Bowl Nipplegate-imposed hiatus. Of the show, Elayne Rapping, professor of women's studies and media studies at University at Buffalo in New York, showed why she is on the faculty of some backwater extension campus. She contributed this stunning glimpse into the obvious: "Viewers will watch--they like violence and they like sex."

Richard Edelman, CEO of big deal PR firm Edelman, blogged that he "could not believe my eyes when I read the headline 'U.S. Said to Pay to Plant Articles in Iraq Papers'" (for a story which reported that a fellow Washington-based public relations firm, the Lincoln Group, is paying newspapers to print government propaganda--and has paid about a dozen Iraqi journalists each several hundred dollars a month because their past coverage has not been antagonistic to the United States.). I think he was frustrated because a similar domestic system would save his minions a lot of follow-up calls asking if reporters got the release, and "are you going to do a story?" Not to mention all those expensive lunches at Citronelle.

If you doubt for a moment that media-buying creativity is on life support, look no further than a study conducted for the American Advertising Federation in which leading advertising industry executives say that of all nontraditional ad tactics, the single-sponsor buyout of media, e.g., Target and The New Yorker, was the most effective. If anyone read that issue and subsequently visited his or her local Target store, raise your hand--and we will have the sergeant-at-arms remove you to the nearest mental health facility.

In a profound display of not understanding what your business is and who your customers are, TiVo Inc. is partnering with several big ad firms to offer its users a system that lets them search for commercials centered around a specific topic. Expected to launch next spring, the feature comes as Madison Avenue is contemplating a number of ways to reach consumers who use technology to avoid traditional advertising. Uh, primarily TiVo. No wonder Peter Drucker dropped dead.

Marketing could enter a "dark age" as technology becomes more intelligent and starts to understand consumers better, a futurologist warned the ad industry at the IAB Engage 2005 conference in London. Ian Pearson said that with AI, conscious computers would have feelings, and could understand their owners better than they (the human owners) understand themselves. But this could work against the marketing industry, as computers learn to filter out information that consumers are not interested in receiving. "The future is quite bleak for marketing," he said. Not to mention having to argue with your computer that you really do want the porn ads.

In a mismatch that makes the Jets vs. the Colts a toss-up, Simon & Schuster and four other publishing houses jointly filed a lawsuit against Google, charging the search company with willful infringement of copyrights because Google wants to scan various library collections and add the text to Google Print's searchable database. In 2003, the 200-year-old book industry sold $18 billion worth of books at retail. Pacific Crest last week projected that the seven-year-old Google will report earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization, of $5.37 billion in fiscal 2007. Denny Crane is said to represent the dead tree industry.

When USA Today reported that TV viewers are complaining about excessive commercials because the amount of "clutter"--including network and local commercials and plugs for other shows--has steadily increased on broadcast and cable, to the point where an "hour-long" drama is about 40 minutes of original programming, ABC ad-sales chief Mike Shaw said he's perplexed by increasing complaints. Viewers must "feel that way because they love the show so much that they really notice it when the breaks are there." Which pretty much explains why ratings suck and net ad sales are falling faster than shares of Primedia.

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