Real Media Riffs - Wednesday, Aug 9, 2006

REMEMBER WHEN PEOPLE WANTED THEIR MTV? Now, it seems, they want their Google. MTV included.

Twenty-five years ago, when Warner Amex launched the innovative new music channel, it was the drawing card. Everyone wanted it. And Warner Amex's crafty marketing team used that to leverage one of the most rapid rollouts of a cable channel ever. Content-starved teens wanted MTV so much, they would harass their parents to get cable just to access the channel. It was for the youth generation of the mid-1980s what HBO was to their parents of the mid-1970s: A reason to get cable. Warner-Amex understood that, and with the help of ad genius George Lois, created one of the greatest pull campaigns ever designed. "I Want My MTV" may have been aimed at consumers, but cable operators got the message when their 800 numbers began ringing off the hook.

So we find it really interesting, and a bit ironic, that a media brand created via pull marketing is now embracing pull media--online search--as its new distribution strategy. But what a turn of events. MTV once was the reason consumers signed up to a media distributor--cable TV. Now a media distributorGoogle--has become a reason people sign on to MTV.



Surely, MTV and Google are not alone. The entire media content world understands what's going on. We've shifted from an era of pushing stuff at consumers, to one where they are pulling stuff from us. And increasingly, pushing stuff back at us. We all get it. But some have been quicker to understand this shift than others. Take NBC Universal's deal with YouTube. Same idea. But it only came after NBC U got YouScrewed and publicly humiliated for not understanding the power of the new pull media marketplace, and the influence of social networks. When NBC U ordered a cease and desist against YouTube for distributing its copyrighted "Saturday Night Live" skit "Lazy Sunday," YouTube's users filled the void with hundreds of user-generated parodies. In one of the quickest examples of if-you-can't-beat-them-join-them media-conglomerate-decision-making, NBC leaped exponentially from being square to cubing the Tube.

Lots of people took notice. And we have little doubt that Viacom chief Tom Freston was chief among them. Freston knows something about pull marketing. He was the young marketing manager at Warner Amex who helped craft the original "I Want My MTV" campaign. So we can almost hear him, moments after clicking on a news alert of NBC U's YouTube deal, tapping a rapid-fire, five-syllable e-mail to MTV chief Judy McGrath and newly anointed prez and former behind-the-scenes media strings-puller Michael Wolf. It read: "I want my Google."

Countless meetings, conference calls, and thousands of frequent flyer miles between New York and Mountain View later, and Freston's PR team typed out the following statement: "Collaborating with Google gives us a terrific opportunity to take our content and distribute it even more widely on the Web in a seamless and targeted way. This deal fits in perfectly with our strategy to deliver the best content to our audiences--wherever they are. We're very happy to be working with Google, a true innovator in content distribution."

Read between the lines. That white space you see translates into the real story behind this announcement: "A major power shift has just occurred. MTV, the reigning king of media brands, has just handed its crown over to its successor. Long live Google."

Hey, it's not just us who's thinking that way, but Freston's most important constituents. No, not Sumner Redstone and the Viacom board. No, not even its shareholders. It's consumers. Don't take our word for it. Just look at the kind of data that marketing-minded Freston and team undoubtedly were poring through as they calculated the terms they wanted to offer Google. Some of it surely included the recently released findings of Interbrand's annual ranking of the "100 Best Global Brands." Published in conjunction with BusinessWeek, the list ranks the top global brands based on their brand value --meaning the equity value created by the brand itself. In a world of pull media, brand value is everything, because it's the reason people pull media brands in the first place. Only two media brands rank on the top 100 list. That's right, Google and MTV.

And as you might have guessed, Google ranks considerably higher than MTV. With $12.376 billion in estimated brand value, Google ranks 24th among all global brands, placing it between Nescafe instant coffee and Dell computers. That's about twice the brand value as MTV, which ranks 50th with an estimated $6.627 billion in brand value.

Equally important is the trendline. Google's brand value has grown 46 percent over the past year, making it the fastest growing brand since Interbrand began tracking such things. MTV was flat.

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