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    This is the personal blog of Simon Kendrick and covers my interests in media, technology and popular culture. All opinions expressed are my own and may not be representative of past or present employers
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Green button advertising approaching launch

Channel 4 have announced that they are going to be marketing upcoming shows through the green button service on Sky. Sky’s own forays into green button – originally planned to launch last summer – are imminent.

The green button service is an interactive feature whereby viewers can bookmark content as they view (in real time or recorded). An advert that is interacted with – along with associated content (extended cuts, behind the scenes etc) – is downloaded onto the DTR hard-drive to be watched at a later date. It is effectively advertising on demand. This differs from red button services, which immediately transport you from the content you are watching to the interactive area.

Will it work? The idea is initially counter-intuitive. People choosing to watch more advertising? But we know from the viral/spreadable media successes that viewers can choose to watch adverts.

That is online, where people can remix and repurpose content. Will viewers interact to the same degree on TV? An article in the New York Times says that the market isn’t yet ready for internet TV due to cost, reliability and questionable demand.

But interactive services aren’t the same as having full internet capability, and viewers do seem willing to experiment. Figures from Sky show that more than 93% of digital satellite households pressed red to interact with their TV in 2007 – 16% interacting with adverts.

Although the most viewed interactive advert in 2007 was Cadbury’s Gorilla the campaigns using red button tend to be response-led, with relative success measured by requests for vouchers or for further information. Sky said that 40% of its interactive campaigns are from car manufacturers, who are able to measure sales conversion from the ads.

The appeal of green button appears less about direct response and more about branding. It is essentially viewing advertising as content consumed for entertainment. This is not going to be suitable for all brands or categories, but offers an interesting challenge to companies seeking to broaden their involvement in content marketing and storytelling.

Not only will advertisers have to convince viewers that their content is worth watching and interacting with, but with an on-demand service they also have to move from impulsive to considered consumption. I may see a potentially interesting ad and bookmark it, but will I choose to go back and watch it later?

Downloading content also contrasts with the current trend of streaming. Whether it is putting everything in the cloud, or Spotify emerging as a potential challenger to iTunes’ dominance, owning is partially being supplanted by streaming/renting. Unless I can actively edit or mash-up an advert, is there any benefit to having it stored on my hard drive?

Green button appears to be in direct competition with the Youtubes and microsites that facilitate streaming. Youtube already offers advertising-on-demand, with people able to interact with, share and comment upon advertising. The environment may not be suitable for all brands, but it is cheap. Microsites and branded areas aren’t’ so cheap, but the entire experience can be micromanaged. Green button services are going to have to find a USP that differentiates them and justifies a price premium.

That function may be targeting. I’ve already covered targeted advertising in detail but demographic information could be the pull. If Sky are able to integrate their Skyview panel information with green button, advertisers will know exactly who is viewing and interacting with their content. And that information is valuable.

It remains to be seen whether green button services can make an impact in the period before television and the internet fully integrate, but I anticipate some innovative case studies emerging in the field over the next couple of years.

And not just those looking to prove their environmentally friendly credentials by using “green” advertising.


Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/barbietron/


Is TV advertising responsible for Apple’s success?

I was in a meeting a few days ago where Apple was described as a company that had retreated from large-scale TV advertising, despite TV advertising being responsible for its success.

I disagreed at the time, and remain pretty sure that this is a fallacy. Am I right?

Buttressed by Wikipedia and recent “25 year of Mac” posts, my broad perception of the history of Apple runs like this

  • Set up in the 1970s to moderate success
  • Macintosh launched with ads in cinema and during the 1984 Superbowl (watched by 97m) – initially sells well and ad is regularly cited as one of the best of all time
  • Computer market slumps and Steve Jobs is fired in May 1985
  • Incremental success for the rest of the 1980s
  • Windows 3.1 and – more importantly – Windows 95 take the PC to the next level and nearly kill Apple
  • Jobs comes back in, ends most of the product developments and places his faith in the iMac
  • iMac becomes a success and a design classic
  • iPod launched – the aesthetic of white earbuds and “1,000 songs in your pocket” become ubiquitous
  • iTunes overhauls an outdated music distribution system
  • iPhone brings touchscreen technology and simple web surfing to the masses
  • Halo effect of the Apple range boosts the computers – Apple is currently the number 4 computer manufacturer in the US
  • Jobs’ ill health and the rise of netbooks raise questions over Apple’s continuing success in the computer market

To my mind, TV advertising doesn’t play a particular big role in this rise, fall and rise of Apple. There have been iconic campaigns – 1984, Think Different, the dancing silhouette – which have contributed to the success. But they have not driven it.

That is the Cult of Mac.

The iPod may be mainstream, and the iPhone may be getting there. But Apple is not traditionally a mass market company. Their computers appeal to a niche audience. They may be the no.4 manufacturer, but the choice is PC or Sony. It is not Dell, Acer or Mac.

However this niche audience is passionate. They follow. They promote. They evangelise. They attend(ed) Macworld every year and hang on Steve Jobs’ every word.

That community is what has driven Apple’s success. Apple concentrate on the product – usability, design, experience. That leaves the marketing to the community. Alan Wolk has an interesting post on this – good advertising can accelerate success, but a decent product to win over the public is vital. In the case of the iPod, the evangelism changed an industry.

TV advertising has made plenty of products successful – from Hofmeister to Barclaycard to Cillit Bang. But Apple isn’t one of them.

Unless someone like to correct me?


Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sigalakos/

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Observations from New York

1. With the notable exception of the staff at Century 21, everyone (whom I met in Manhattan, anyway) is really nice

2. With the ability to run air conditioned subway trains 24 hours a day, you’d think it wouldn’t be so difficult to have electronic boards telling you how long it would be before the next train will arrive

3. Speaking of air con, most stores I went in were freezing

4. Portions, even at non-American cuisine restaurants, are huge

5. Cars toot their horns an awful lot

6. Although it applies in London to a small extent, it must be a nightmare having the main office blocks right in the middle of tourist central

7. Having 3 ad breaks during a 30 minute TV programme is really annoying

8. It is a fantastic city


Why companies should advertise on TV during a recession

There is a depressing article on Brand Republic saying that total TV revenues for May could be down as much as 10%. It says that “the expected May fall comes as clients tighten advertising budgets amid worsening economic conditions”. In light of this, I offer an alternative opinion, and state six reasons why advertisers and agencies should have nothing to fear.

1. Higher real incomes: Although economic inequality is rising, real incomes rose for nearly all of the population between 1996-2006. If it weren’t for the rising levels of borrowing, this could have insulated people against a recession. As it is, some of their increased spending will be going on luxury items, which are of course…

2. Recession-proof industries: Not all industries suffer in an economic downturn. Wikipedia lists 15 recession-proof industries. These include such essentials as “necessities” but also “entertainment” and “cosmetics”. Last time I checked, these products and services weren’t inextricably linked to human survival. Advertising has made us consider them essential. And the advertising that does that best is…

3. Brand-building: Particularly with the FMCG industry, there is the temptation to use direct response advertising. These give a short-term boost but not necessarily a long-term. Aside from “brought forward” sales and provoking competitor retaliation, there are the effects of having the brand associated with promotional offers, rather than any emotional associations.

PwC Thinkbox chart

If advertising becomes more about branding than short-term sales, the overall benefits will be greater. And of course brand-building is particularly suited to TV advertising. A PriceWaterhouseCooper/Thinkbox study shows that nearly 45% of TV’s revenue effects are delivered after the year of the investment. (Of course, some might say this is an argument in favour of postponing spend for a year but I would dispute that). Not only will the effects be longer-lasting, but they will be longer-lasting among more people. Because…

4. Commercial impacts are up: As we move to multi-channel, we watch more TV and more commercial TV. Among DTR households, commercial impacts are in fact 5% higher (according to BARB, ACB/LBS and Skyview data). And of course, brand-building ads are more likely to be DTR proof than direct response. So, not only are more people viewing the ads but…

5. TV advertising is becoming cheaper: The IPA Marketing in the Era of Accountability study shows that TV advertising is cheaper now than it was 20 years ago. Another result from this study relates to…

6. Share of voice effects: Campaigns using TV see average market share gain of 2.7 percentage points per 10 percentage point excess share of voice (compared to a gain of 0.7 points for campaigns not using TV). Share of voice has long been shown to be linked to share of market. If competitors are reducing their budgets, now is the perfect time to increase share of voice and share of market.

Although given the compelling reasons outlined above, there could be a game theory style scenario where each company in the market maintains (or even increases) spend in the expectation that their competitors will be reducing theirs. So, spend remains robust but their market share remains constant (all things being equal). Which, from my perspective at a broadcasting company at least, would be nice…