Articles of Interest

Monday, February 21, 2005

Martha's new boss makes a mint - equity stake in projects
Martha's New TV Boss Makes a Mint
The Apprentice: Martha Stewart may prove the biggest windfall yet for NBC’s Mark Burnett.
Tuesday, February 8, 2005
By Grainger David

A simple producer's fee has never been enough for Mark Burnett. First he made aggressive product placement the centerpiece of reality TV; then he persuaded NBC to let him sell one-third of the ad time for his upcoming show, The Contender (for more on Burnett see "Hollywood Hitman" on But his newest strategy could be his biggest score yet: investing in his stars.

Turns out that last March, when Burnett was casting around for someone to host an Apprentice spinoff, he struck a deal with Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia in which he was given warrants to buy 2.5 million shares of stock at $12.59. By early February, when Burnett finally announced The Apprentice: Martha Stewart, the stock had nearly tripled, thanks in part to rumors his visits to Camp Cupcake helped flame, making his stake worth more than $50 million.

Burnett, who claims he will make "way more" on such deals than on his producer's fees, is also invested in Everlast, which will feature prominently in his boxing show, The Contender, which premieres in March. The company couldn't pay the traditional product-placement charges, so Burnett (and his five partners on the show including Jeffrey Katzenberg) cut a deal for 5% of Everlast's stock per season. "It's likely the stock price will go up drastically due to the exposure," Burnett says. Finally, for his CBS show Rock Star this summer, featuring INXS' search for a new frontman, Burnett has already secured rights to 50% of any subsequent touring and CD sales.

True, Burnett didn't get any such concessions from the original Apprentice, Donald Trump. In fact, in order to bring Trump onboard with Martha he was given a hefty but undisclosed fee for executive-producing the show. Meanwhile The Donald has committed to two more Apprentice seasons. "I hope her show does even better than mine," Trump says, then hesitates. "But it will be tough." One thing's certain: Burnett has plenty of motivation to make sure Martha succeeds.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Study Finds Papers, Magazines More 'Influential' Than TV, Radio

MediaPost Publications Home of MediaDailyNews, MEDIA and OMMA Magazines
AT A TIME WHEN ADVERTISERS and agencies are trying to understand the connection influential consumers have with the media they advertise in, new research suggests that print media, especially newspapers, are far more effective outlets than electronic media like TV and radio.

The research, which comes from NOP World, the parent of Mediamark Research Inc. (MRI), integrated an NOP study on "influential" Americans with MRI's Survey of the American Consumer, finds that 41 percent of "influential Americans" are among the most avid newspaper readers.

Influentials are defined by NOP as "the critical 10 percent of the population who drive what the other 90 percent think, do and buy."

The finding should come as some comfort for newspaper publishers, which have been struggling to prove their relevancy to Madison Avenue amid declining newspaper circulation, especially among younger readers.

Magazines also perform well among the influential set, accounting for 33 percent of the heaviest readers of consumer magazines.

By comparison, influential Americans account for only 14 percent of heavy users of TV, and 20 percent of heavy users of radio.

NOP has been studying the Influentials market for 30 years, but this is the first time it has released data integrating the consumer break with MRI's media usage database. Last year, MRI rival Simmons Market Research Bureau integrated a similar clustering system into its database utilizing the so-called "Tipping Point" segments developed by author Malcolm Gladwell.

Marketers and agencies have grown especially interested in reaching these clusters, because they are considered primary drivers of word-of-mouth marketing that can impact how larger segments of the population think.

'Influentials' Who Are Heavy Users* Of Each Medium

Newspapers 41%
Magazines 33%
Radio 20%
Television 14%

Source: NOP World. *Heavy users = the top quintile of
users according to MRI Survey of the American Consumer, Wave 51.

SuperBowl Ad Views on AOL

America Online reports Pepsi's Cindy Crawford commercial was the most viewed 2005 Super Bowl ad on AOL. Not suprisingly, GoDaddy's "Hearing" ad placed close second. The ads, which were available through Saturday on the Web at and on the AOL service, were viewed 18.6 million times, more than double the 9.2 million views recorded last year for the 2004 Super Bowl ads. AOL also announced that ads from its Classic Commercials package, which featured popular spots from previous Super Bowls, were viewed 3.8 million times, bringing the total number views for all Super Bowl commercials to more than 22 million. AOL ranked viewership as follows:

1. Diet Pepsi - Cindy Crawford -- 899,773 views
2. - Hearing -- 894,983
3. Bud Light - Skydiving -- 803,999
4. Bud Light - Cedric -- 648,430
5. Ford Mustang - Winter -- 605,585
6. Ameriquest - Store Trip -- 600,599
7. Diet Pepsi - P. Diddy -- 596,986
8. Bud Light - Sharing -- 573,280
9. FedEx - Ten Things -- 553,023
10. Ciba Vision - Bubbles -- 526,338
11. Bubblicious - Lebron -- 472,534
12. Visa - Super Heroes -- 459,337

While Pepsi took top viewership honors it was Budweiser's salute to the troops that garnered the most votes among AOL users as the best spot. Commercials receiving the most votes among AOL users are ranked as follows:

Rank Company Spot Percentage

1 Anheuser Busch Tribute to US Troops 15%
2 Bud Light Skydiving 11%
3 Ameriquest Romantic Dinner 8%
4 Ameriquest Store Trip 7%
5 Diet Pepsi P. Diddy 7%
6 Hearing 6%
7 Ford Mustang Winter 5%
8 Bud Light Sharing 5%
9 FedEx Ten Things 5%
10 Diet Pepsi Cindy Crawford 4%

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Online News Sites Struggle With RSS Challenge

MediaPost Publications Home of MediaDailyNews, MEDIA and OMMA Magazines
Online News Sites Struggle With RSS Challenge
by Gavin O'Malley, Monday, Feb 14, 2005 8:00 AM EST
AS INTERNET USERS DISCOVER CONTENT aggregation's merit, advertisers and publishers fear a loss of control over their content and how users experience it. Now, several newspapers have launched their own customized RSS readers, in an effort to solidify their relationships with online readers.
In the last several weeks, the Los Angeles Times, Britain's Guardian, and CNET each have acknowledged plans to offer free, branded RSS readers. The Los Angeles Times, part of Tribune Co., and the Guardian, owned by the non-profit Scott Trust, said they were putting their own brands on a reader called NewsPoint. Designed by Swiss-American software firm Consenda, NewsPoint currently is limited to a small trial phase.

For now, less than 5 percent of Internet users currently employ RSS readers. That minority consists mainly of media and tech professionals, and bloggers who contend with information overload on a daily basis.

But analysts say that RSS could quickly shed its niche status if consumers realize they no longer have to surf from Web site to Web site, scrolling their favorites menu for content. Instead, RSS readers pull in headlines and text continually, allowing users to create customized content from publishers, blogs, and search engines. Most offer alerts, which bring everything from product releases, sports scores, and natural disasters to users' immediate attention.

Each RSS reader comes pre-loaded with a list of feeds from its respective content site, but users can add additional feeds at will. By offering branded software, each company hopes to retain beleaguered readers and advertisers as the popularity of RSS increases.

CNET's Newsburst reader, now available as a preview release, is not a typical RSS reader because it adds an "editorial touch," said John Roberts, vice president of product development at CNET. The service is essentially an edited version of the Internet's entire daily news offerings. "I expect all or most publishers to do this in order to try and hang on to readers and control the environment," Roberts added.

Other Internet companies, are also establishing RSS footholds. Yahoo! relaunched its free My Yahoo! service in late September around its RSS reader. And search engine Ask Jeeves acquired Trustic Inc. and Bloglines last week, for an undisclosed sum. Founded in 2003, Bloglines lets users search, publish, and share blogs and RSS feeds for free. Last year, Google bought to gain a foothold into the blogosphere.

As RSS continues to grow in popularity, advertisers are struggling to adapt. "RSS will continue to take impressions away from sites as more users rely solely on headlines and teasers offered on RSS readers," said Bill Flitter, chief marketing officer of Pheedo, a company that offers a set of tools to create, promote, analyze, and optimize ads in blogs and content feeds.

Pheedo offers three different ad placements: within an RSS feed's header; as stand-alone blog units, where the ad appears as a separate blog post; and as advertisements embedded within the content of individual blog posts. The tool offers publishers the choice of pricing ads served on their sites by CPM, cost-per-click, or cost per action.

iUpload--a Web content management provider with clients like, Internet arm for Advance Publications, and Conde Nast--began offering Pheedo's services to its clients in late January.

Yahoo!'s Overture is in the midst of testing several possible methods for harnessing RSS as an advertising option for online marketers, according to a company spokeswoman. "RSS could be another vehicle for businesses to reach interested consumers through contextual advertising," the Overture spokeswoman projected.

CNET's John Roberts said Newsburst did not yet have a viable business model. "I've spoken with a number of firms that serve ads over RSS feeds, and I haven't found a compelling model just yet, but we'll continue to listen and respond as the market matures."

"Advertisers are coming to us will a lot of questions about RSS," said Gene McKenna, vice president of product management at Digital Impact, which manages the marketing campaign for the likes of HP, Gap, and Marriott. "I think it's still early yet, but we encourage advertisers to be forward-thinking and position themselves accordingly."

Monday, February 14, 2005

Volvo sponsors podcast on Autoblog

Volvo has signed a deal with Calcanis, Inc.'s Autoblog as launch sponsor of the automotive weblog's podcast. A podcast is an MP3 broadcast delivered via RSS making it easy and automatic for people to receive. The sponsorship consists of an announcer-read :60 at the top of the podcast, other mentions throughout and logo signage on Autoblog's Podcast page., which tracks podcasts now reports there are over 3,000 podcasts. Podcasts are an extremely low cost method of publishing audio over the web allowing small sites to produce radio-like broadcasts for download and later listening on people's computers or MP3 devices. As citizen-produced media and MP3 player usage proliferate, this channel is well positioned for exponential growth and offers advertisers yet another niche targeted medium though which to advertise. Just as blog advertising network and rss feed ad networks have sprouted so, no doubt, shall podcast advertising networks providing advertisers efficient means by which to tap this channel.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Outdoor Moves Toward Consensus For New Ad Metric, Could Gain Vs. TV, Print

MediaPost Publications Home of MediaDailyNews, MEDIA and OMMA Magazines
Outdoor Moves Toward Consensus For New Ad Metric, Could Gain Vs. TV, Print

by Joe Mandese, Friday, Feb 11, 2005 8:00 AM EST

IN AS SOON AS A few months, the outdoor advertising industry may have a new method of audience measurement in place giving it a higher standard than what is currently used for either electronic or print media. That standard, VAI, or visibility adjusted impacts, is regarded as a more precise metric of actual ad exposure because it measures, as industry guru Erwin Ephron has suggested, "a likelihood to see" as opposed to the "opportunity to see or hear" used by TV, radio, newspapers, magazines and online media.

The outdoor media industry still has a couple of big hurdles to cross before it can gain a consensus on exactly how to do that, as was evident this week during a confidential meeting in New York this week, at which Nielsen Media Research updated key industry players on the results of a test it is conducting in Chicago of a new, high-tech outdoor audience measurement system utilizing global positioning satellite technology. While no conclusion was arrived at the meeting on how the data should be used for calculating outdoor audience estimates, or when Nielsen would officially deploy the service or roll it out to other markets, executives attending the meeting said it is moving in those directions.

The central debate among Nielsen, advertisers, agencies, outdoor media vendors, an the industry's Traffic Audit Bureau (TAB), is exactly how to factor a probable size of outdoor the outdoor audience based on VAI, a concept that has been successfully utilized in the U.K. for several years. The idea is to create a U.S. industry standard for VAIs, would index the average percentage of pedestrian and mobile consumers who actually make eye contact with an outdoor ad, and use that for calculating the media impressions generated by an outdoor advertising schedule.

The TAB currently has requests out to several research companies for proposals on a primary research study that would help establish that factor.

A bifurcated market in which the TAB would continue to produce bulk outdoor audience estimates known as "daily effective circulation," or DEC, and Nielsen would generate demographic estimates based on the exposure of individuals to the data. What remains unclear is how agencies, advertisers and vendors would integrate the data, to develop their planning, buying and sales estimates.

Under one scenario, planners and buyers would utilize the data in a similar way they do now with magazine and newspaper research, gleaning demographic data from MRI for magazines and Scarborough for newspapers and combining that with circulation data from the audit bureaus. In that scenario, media planners would utilize the new Nielsen data to plan the demographic reach of their outdoor media buys, but would use the TAB's traffic audits as the currency for negotiating deals.

In another scenario, the TAB and Nielsen might develop a more integrated approach that fuses their two databases together in a way that simultaneously generates demographic and trading currency data for outdoor advertising buys.

A number of industry executives, including both buyers and sellers of outdoor advertising, have predicted that the shift to VAIs, as well as Nielsen's more accountable method for electronically measuring persons exposure to outdoor advertising, could greatly increase outdoor's share of total advertising spending, which has begun to slip in recent years and is now behind online in terms of the major ad media.

Clear Channel Finds Less Ad Time Driving More Radio Listening

MediaPost Publications Home of MediaDailyNews, MEDIA and OMMA Magazines
Clear Channel Finds Less Ad Time Driving More Radio Listening

by Joe Mandese, Wednesday, Feb 9, 2005 7:00 AM EST

CLEAR CHANNEL RADIO MAY NOT yet be getting any more from advertisers, but its decision to run few commercials in its radio broadcasts is winning more fans among listeners. According to results of two separate studies released by Clear Channel on Tuesday, the company's so-called "Less is More" initiative indicates that the reduction in programming interruptions and shorter commercial breaks is improving the involvement of radio listeners.

One of the studies conducted by Burke across nine markets--including Atlanta, Birmingham, Cincinnati, Chicago, Denver, Nashville, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and San Diego--tested commercials from a range of advertisers in the telecommunications, retail, automotive, beverage, insurance, and home improvement categories.

A second study conducted by Navigauge measured audience behavior during and around the commercial breaks of Clear Channel's stations. The research found two promising results:

* The first position, 30-second spot retained more audience than a comparable first-position, 60-second spot, no matter how many spots were in the break.

* With shorter commercial breaks (averaging four or fewer ads), roughly 80 percent of listeners were still listening after the second commercial, and roughly 70 percent were still listening after the third spot.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Sports Media and Business: For N.F.L., Deal Is Up, It's Good

The New York Times > Sports > Pro Football > Sports Media and Business: For N.F.L., Deal Is Up, It's Good
February 9, 2005
For N.F.L., Deal Is Up, It's Good

s the National Football League commissioner, Paul Tagliabue doesn't let his business strategy slip out publicly unless there is a reason. When he announced last Friday in his pre-Super Bowl news conference that the league was "giving very serious consideration to being part of the launch of another major sports network on cable and satellite television," he knew precisely what he was doing.

He could have ended his response to a question about the status of talks with ABC and ESPN with a comment that the league and the two Disney-owned networks "have a disagreement about what the rights fees should be." But he went beyond that.

By mentioning the league's interest in a new all-sports network, it appeared that Tagliabue had mind-melded with Rupert Murdoch, chairman of the News Corporation, who, two days before, told securities analysts on a conference call that he would not challenge ESPN with a new sports network "without a pretty full N.F.L. franchise."

That's obvious, of course. The N.F.L. is the bell cow of sports ratings.

In his remarks, Tagliabue did not name Murdoch's Fox Network because he might have also meant Comcast, the largest cable operator in the country, as a partner with the league, its NFL Network or other suitors. The venture could also be with more than one partner, and it could be a ploy to make ESPN realize it could lose the N.F.L.

The league might also tell ESPN that it can bid to keep half of its current Sunday night package and that the other half would be sold to the new venture.

It's good, as Tagliabue might say, to be the king.

But wait, there's more. By creating a package of eight late-season games that would be played on Thursday and Saturday nights, the league can satisfy a craving for more televised football that might involve TNT, USA or the NFL Network, if it is not a part of the venture that would compete against ESPN.

This is the N.F.L. doing what it does best: creating and maintaining leverage. As the most valuable television property in sports, the N.F.L. usually has more suitors than it has product to sell. That keeps prices up. And having a competitor to play off against the all-powerful ESPN is like having gold nuggets shooting out of your ears.

The league knows what it means for a network to have its games. Getting rights to the N.F.L. was a building block to ESPN's success. When it lost league rights from 1994 to 1997, CBS obsessed over how to get them back, and it did, leaving NBC behind to co-own the defunct XFL, then enter a risk-free deal with the Arena Football League. Buying CBS's National Football Conference package made Fox far stronger and a viable future home for Major League Baseball and Nascar.

DirecTV's profile was vastly elevated through the exclusive satellite rights to carry the N.F.L.'s Sunday Ticket to subscribers. The need to retain them led DirecTV, in which the News Corporation has a 36 percent stake, to pay $700 million annually for a new contract - more than the $622 million average CBS will pay and nearly equal to the average $712 million Fox will send to the league in their new deals.

The N.F.L. has been greatly enriched by the money paid by the networks and DirecTV, but it never got any of the equity upside from building those entities until it made its seven-year deal with Sirius Satellite Radio. In addition to $188 million in cash, the N.F.L. received $32 million in stock and warrants to buy 50 million shares.

The impulse to benefit from cash and stock in a media contract may be what is at play in Tagliabue's leverage dance with Murdoch, Comcast or other suitors. Why not get a lot of cash up front and reap some profits when the stock rises? But there is a risk. By being an equity partner in one of the networks carrying its games, the N.F.L. becomes a competitor to the other networks that only pay rights fees.

But that seems to be the road it is traveling. By creating the NFL Network, the league established itself in a business that will, when it carries regular-season games, compete against other networks it has always dubbed its partners.

The denouement of the suspense over what will happen with ESPN and ABC (will it keep "Monday Night Football" or have it switched to Sunday night, bumping the megahit "Desperate Housewives" to another day?) may not conclude until October. The league can talk to anyone it wants until Oct. 1, but it cannot make a deal; ESPN and ABC then have an exclusive period to negotiate from Oct. 1 to Oct. 31.


Beyond a 41.1 rating (down 1 percent from last year) and attracting an average of 86.1 million viewers (down 4 percent), Fox's broadcast showed a small benefit to having Paul McCartney sing at halftime. The performance rated a 40.1, a 4 percent drop from the preceding half-hour; over the past five years, the halftime drop has averaged 5 percent.

American Express interactive billboard in Belgium

American Express interactive billboard in Belgium :: AdLand :: by the adgrunts for the adgrunts advertising blog commercial archive
Those who can read French or Dutch or are good language guessers may head over to where you'll find their latest billboard campaign hidden under the giant television set on the flash site.
You may upload an image of yourself and pals, that will appear on the interactive billboard which is on a streetcorner somewhere in Belgium. You can then watch it on the website via a live webcam, and once you have been on the board you get an image sent to you in the mail that you may pass on to pals. Playing on everyones wish for 15 minutes of fame one can have a lot of fun with this billboard, but please, don't send the goatse image.....

Super Bowl Ad Campaigns Send Viewers Rushing to the Web

Super Bowl Ad Campaigns Send Viewers Rushing to the Web
Super Bowl Ad Campaigns Send Viewers Rushing to the Web
Tuesday February 8, 9:48 am ET

Late-Breaking Data Reveal Major Traffic Spikes at Advertiser Sites

RESTON, Va., Feb. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- comScore Networks today released an analysis of the online impact of Super Bowl XXXIX. In 2005, consumers came to expect that many Super Bowl commercials will deliver a call to online action, whether to learn more about an intriguing product, enter a sweepstakes or make sense of a purposefully vague advertisement.

According to a comScore survey conducted in the week preceding the Super Bowl,* viewers were well prepared for advertisements both on television and on the Web. Fully 28 percent of those planning to watch the Super Bowl reported that "watching the ads" would be their favorite aspect of the game, and 77 percent of respondents reported that they expected to use the Internet on game day. Was This Year's Top Gaining Advertiser Site

When asked to select which three brand advertisements they most look forward to seeing, 80 percent of survey respondents chose Budweiser/Bud Light. The brewer did not disappoint, based upon online activity; this year's top gaining advertiser Web site was, which saw traffic increase by almost 600 percent on Super Bowl Sunday compared to the average of the four previous Sundays. Moreover, the site was up significantly for much of the week leading up to the Super Bowl as users visited in search of an ad spoofing Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction," which Budweiser reportedly pulled from its Super Bowl lineup.

An undoubtedly controversial ad by Web services company drove traffic to that site 378 percent above average, while technophiles and others seeking more information about the Olympus m:robe portable media player turned up traffic volume at by 363 percent.

Apple iTunes saw a more than 170-percent jump in site traffic driven largely by the second annual Pepsi promotion offering the chance to win free songs through the pay-per-download music service; Napster, which advertised for the first time as a rival to iTunes, posted a greater than 30-percent increase on Super Bowl Sunday. A commercial promoting the Cadillac V-Series throttled traffic to 171 percent above average, while a pair of advertisements for Ameriquest Mortgage Company, in addition to sponsorship of the Super Bowl halftime show, nearly doubled activity at the lender's Web site.
Top Gaining Advertiser Web Sites
Super Bowl Sunday Compared to the Average of the Four Previous Sundays
Total U.S. - Home, Work, and University Locations
Source: comScore Media Metrix

% Change
Apple iTunes 172%
Subway 97%

Traffic Spikes Correlated to Time of TV Advertisement

With PCs within the reach of many Super Bowl viewers during the game, traffic spiked dramatically at the Web sites of several game sponsors within minutes of their commercials' airtime. comScore analyzed traffic levels to major advertisers' sites in 30-minute periods throughout the day compared to the average half hour, and discovered that:
-- Traffic at Cadillac's Web site shot up by more than 1,700 percent after
the company first ran its commercials advertising the high-performance
V-Series and directing viewers to When the
commercial ran again in the second half of the game, traffic soared by
almost 500 percent.
-- The number of visitors to grew by as much as 1,600 percent
compared to the daily average, following a somewhat risque commercial
that satirized government indecency hearings.
-- Although iTunes turned in stronger growth than Napster for the full
day, both sites increased visitor levels by almost 300 percent above
the 30-minute average following their respective commercials. This
year, traffic at iTunes peaked just after the advertisement featuring
the Pepsi-iTunes promotion, unlike last year when more visitors waited
until halftime to explore the iTunes site.
-- With clever commercials but perhaps less of a call to action,
Ameriquest Mortgage did not see any noticeable spikes immediately after
the airing of its commercials; however, during the halftime show
sponsored by the company, the audience at jumped
700 percent.
-- saw increases of more than 300 percent after the airing of
each of two ads for the Ridgeline, the automaker's first-ever pickup

Note: Unless otherwise noted, comparisons reflect increases in site visitors for the 30-minute period spanning each brand's television advertisements versus average traffic in all 30-minute time blocks on game day.

Sports Sites Score as Fans Follow Along Online

With a wealth of information beyond the TV broadcast about teams, players and plays, sports sites saw expected gains on Super Bowl Sunday. Compared to the four previous Sundays, the sites of the Super Bowl XXXIX competitors saw the biggest gains, with the Patriots coming out on top (230 percent to 89 percent), just as they did in the game itself.

Not surprisingly, official site saw a significant increase of 88 percent on game day. gained 45 percent on Super Bowl Sunday, as Americans flocked to the sites to buy Super Bowl merchandise. Finally, buoyed by FOX's coverage of the game and constant references to the Web site in the in-game ticker, FOX Sports on MSN saw a 38-percent visitation increase, while the sports entities of major Web properties such as Yahoo! and AOL also earned substantial gains.
Sports Category
Super Bowl Sunday Compared to the Average of the Four Previous Sundays
Total U.S. - Home, Work, and University Locations
Source: comScore Media Metrix

% Change
NFL Internet Group 40%
FOX Sports on MSN 38%
Yahoo! Sports 35%
USATODAY Sports 29%
AOL Sports 26%
SI.COM 12%

"We see continue to see advertisers growing more sophisticated in developing integrated campaigns that span different media," said Peter Daboll, president and CEO of comScore Media Metrix. "The Super Bowl offers an ideal opportunity to pique interest via television, and follow through online where marketers can make more enduring connections with consumers."
Based on a comScoreQ2 survey of 1,530 U.S. participants in the comScore consumer panel, conducted January 28-31, 2005. A press release announcing the results of the survey is available at the following address:

Monday, February 07, 2005

Firms To Monitor, Quantify Super Bowl's Buzz Marketing

MediaPost Publications
Firms To Monitor, Quantify Super Bowl's Buzz Marketing

by Shankar Gupta, Friday, Feb 4, 2005 8:00 AM EST

WHILE TENS OF MILLIONS OF Americans tune in to watch the Super Bowl this Sunday, advertisers, agencies, and buyers will be watching the Internet with bated breath for a precious commodity--buzz.

Two companies--Cincinnati, Ohio-based Intelliseek and Arlington, Va.-based New Media Strategies--will closely watch the Internet traffic on millions of message boards, Web logs, and forums to determine which ads are touchdowns with the consumers and industry insiders, and which come up a few yards short.

"The Web is a water cooler on steroids," said Intelliseek Chief Marketing Officer Pete Blackshaw. "The online consumers are such a critical panel--they tend to be more attentive and observant, and if they're not clicking with the ad, the general population probably are in a worse situation."

To monitor the buzz on game day, Intelliseek has compiled a list of millions of blogs, message boards, and forums to watch for ad talk--and has assembled a panel of 40-50 Internet-savvy consumers and bloggers to live-blog the ads on Sunday. (Only Intelliseek clients will be able to view the blogs.) New Media Strategies has compiled a similar group of sites to watch, and has industry analysts scouring the Web for commentary on the ads.

In the simpler days before widespread Web access, companies could produce a Super Bowl ad, air it during the game, and then cross their fingers and hope for good word-of-mouth. Now, the game is different, and if an ad goes over well on Sunday, it could still be circulating the Web for years to come. Or, if an ad flops, an advertiser could be reminded of it every time they bring up Google and search for the company's name.

"The ROI can escalate dramatically over time. You can't think about buzz as a fleeting, ephemeral exercise. Part of what makes it so potent is that it leaves a digital trail," said Blackshaw. "But, if consumers have a negative reaction, the problem is that when you post consumer-generated media, it sits on a publicly available hard drive called the Internet, and all the comments are indexed. That probably drives the sensitivity of why advertisers are probably more readily pulling out this year. If there is discontent, it will be put on the permanent record."

And marketers won't have to wait for people to gather around the water cooler on Monday morning to find out how their ads did during the big game. According to New Media Strategies founder and CEO Pete Snyder, 2005 will be a "breakthrough" year for multitasking at Super Bowl parties around the country. "Not only are you going to have your über-fans making sure they're on top of the all the stats on the game, but they're also going to be online checking up on the ads, too," he said.

In addition to watching the consumers and ad fans that are going to be abuzz about this year's crop of ads, Snyder also said that the judgments of industry insiders will be critical to the agencies that have been entrusted with $2.4 million for 30 seconds of airtime. "It's the media buyers and it's the CMOs of the brands saying: 'Which agency am I going to place this bet on?'" said Snyder. "It really, truly is--on the dollar side--an insiders' game. It's important that agencies, even more so than brands, are getting the right kind of buzz."

According to Blackshaw, however, the ads might face some interference. "If this is just the best game ever, that'll dominate attention," Blackshaw said. "Advertisers want the game to be good enough to keep people watching, especially if they're advertising in the fourth quarter--but not so overwhelming that people forget there were ads at all."

And, of course, Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" last year overshadowed both the game and the ads, and the fallout from that event still echoes in search engines. "What we're seeing is that people are praying that there's no wardrobe malfunction from Paul McCartney this year," Snyder said.

Majority Prefer Super Bowl Ads, Socializing Vs. The Game Itself

MediaPost Publications
Majority Prefer Super Bowl Ads, Socializing Vs. The Game Itself

by Joe Mandese, Monday, Feb 7, 2005 7:15 AM EST

MORE THAN HALF OF AMERICANS consider watching Super Bowl commercials and spending time with friends and family during the game more important than the game itself, according to the results of a survey of more than 1,500 people by comScoreQ2, the survey research division of comScore Networks. Overall, 28 percent of the respondents said that watching the ads was their favorite part, versus 49 percent who cited watching the game and 23 percent who preferred the socializing.

However, among female viewers, a greater percentage (38 percent) preferred the advertising to the game (31 percent).

Favorite Aspect Of The Super Bowl

Men Women Total
The Game 66% 31% 49%
The Ads 18% 38% 28%
Socializing 16% 30% 23%

Source: comScoreQ2 survey of 1,530 adults conducted Jan. 28-31. Not all columns equal 100 percent, due to rounding.

Asked which ads they most looked forward to watching during last night's game, the vast majority of consumers chose Budweiser/Bud Light, followed by Pepsi/Pepsi Light and McDonald's.

Regarding references to last year's infamous half-time show wardrobe malfunction, 63 percent of respondents said they believed that Anheuser-Busch made the right call in not running an ad it produced that spoofed the incident.

In fact, a majority of respondents believed the Federal Communications Commission either acted appropriately or not harshly enough in fining CBS $550,000 for the incident.


Online Shoe Spots Link Users to Instant Purchase Tool
February 07, 2005
By Marc Graser

LOS ANGELES ( -- Advertisers looking for proof that online entertainment can help boost interest in a brand and as well as ring up additional revenues may have to look no further than Converse.

An image from 'Remember Who You Are' by Dennis Pinheiro, one of the consumer-made commericals Converse is showcasing.

Last summer, the North Andover, Mass.-based shoe company launched Converse Gallery on its official Web site to showcase commercials created by creatives including independent filmmakers, artists, fashion designers and musicians, among others.

25-second spots
The idea behind Converse Gallery, developed by Sausalito, Calif.-based agency Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners, was to give consumers the chance to express what Converse shoes means to them in the form of a 25-second spot.

After 96 years in business, executives at Converse felt that the brand was an American icon that was "owned" by its consumers who embody self-expressive, creative attributes. (Nike bought Converse in September 2003 as a "flanker" brand, that is, one that would offer an alternative to Nike.)

"We said, fair enough. Put your money where your mouth is," said John Butler, creative director at Butler Shine. "If you believe that, why not let your consumers create the advertising? Why not let them tell us why it's cool? This is a brand worn by artists, athletes and other creative individuals who don't like being sold to. Give them a forum to say something to the world."

Submissions had to be somehow related to the Converse brand.

'Soul of the brand'
"They had to have the soul of the brand," Mr. Butler said. "This is not a contest. We weren't looking for someone who made the best commercial. We wanted something that made a statement above and beyond traditional advertising."

The Converse Gallery aimed to reach an audience of 13- to 35-year-olds, made up of various demos including extreme sports enthusiasts, young girls, artists, musicians, basketball players and hip urban professionals.

More than 700 films from 15 countries have arrived so far. Some of those who submitted spots include Mark Decena, a San Francisco filmmaker and partner in Kontent Films; Harry Bliss, an illustrator for The New Yorker; and Steve Daniels, a cameraman at WLTX, the CBS affiliate in Columbia, S.C. Filmmakers receive $10,000 if their spot is chosen.

The films submitted reflect a range of styles and approaches from stop motion and computer animation to live-action music videos, athletic stunts and spots that resemble more traditional ads. Shorts have played with the Converse logo's star and chevron, the shape of the shoes and the brand's heritage.

Seeking non-agency feel
"We've received some films that would have made great commercials," Mr. Butler said. "But they just felt too on the nose. It felt like a big agency would have created it."

Requesting submissions was risky, however. Butler Shine just didn't know what kind of ads it would receive, or whether they would be good enough to broadcast online or elsewhere.

"There was the risk of getting a lot of crap, but I had faith in the idea and faith in people," Mr. Butler said. "I thought if we got enough submissions some of them had to be good."

The first wave of eight spots was introduced on last August, with 12 spots chosen to air on MTV and other cable channels. A second wave of 13 consumer-created spots was unveiled in November. Additionally, Butler Shine recruited artists to create a series of print ads that targeted readers of various magazines, including Fader, Paper and Giant Robot.

Outdoor billboards next
Converse Gallery will launch a third wave of ads on its site and on TV in February, with a series of billboards in five major markets to follow, with imagery created by local artists.

Consumers have been tuning in to the online shorts.

Compared to August 2003 figures, traffic to surged 66% soon after Converse Gallery was launched last August, with more than 1 million people visiting the site and 400,000 people visiting directly. December traffic increased nearly 200% from the year-ago month.

And viewers have turned into customers.

Sales have doubled
Converse's online shoe sales doubled in just a month after Converse Gallery was introduced, with much of those purchases occurring after people viewed the spots. The company was able to track just how many people clicked on a link at the end of a short that took them to the Converse store on the site.

"If you saw a short that showed a shoe, you could go to the store and buy that shoe," Mr. Butler said. "Where else but the Web can you make a sale directly from a spot?" - How Ad Meter focus groups ranked the ads
Advertisers paid a record average $2.4 million per 30-second spot to get their ads in the game. The rankings:

10 most popular


Pilot jumps out of plane for six-pack of Bud Light after skydiver refuses.

Ameriquest Mortgage
Store customer's cell phone chat misunderstood to be robbery.

American troops get standing ovation thank you at airport.
Guy in boardroom won't kiss-up to monkey boss — but one monkey does.
Guy sits on whoopee cushion as prankster monkey colleagues laugh.
Guy can't get work done because he works with a bunch of monkeys.

Guy at game sees cell phone photo of his girl at home with another guy.

Ameriquest Mortgage
Romantic dinner goes awry after cat knocks over spaghetti sauce.

Emerald Nuts
Nut-loving dad takes grief from unicorn, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

Cindy Crawford, other women eye handsome Diet Pepsi drinker.

The rest of the ads

Ostrich, giraffe, kangaroo and cute pig audition to join the Clydesdales.

Cedric is designated driver who gets clubgoers doing his driving dance.

Tourists take pictures and groove with camera that also plays music.

P. Diddy, other stars start Hollywood trend driving Diet Pepsi trucks.

Parrot protects woman at bar from creep who wants to buy her a Bud.

Burt Reynolds dances with bear in ad with Top 10 Super Bowl ad tips.

Famous brand icons from Jolly Green Giant to Pillsbury Doughboy get together for MasterCard.

Cedric's island dream turned into nightmare by nagging beauties.

Rich guy not smooth, smooth guy not rich, Michelob Amber Bock is both.

Sony Pictures
Promoting the comedy film Hitch with Will Smith.

After kid hits ball over the fence, M.C. Hammer gets tossed back.

Paramount Pictures
Studio promote Spielberg/Hanks film War of the Worlds.

Buena Vista
Promotion for The Pacifier with Vin Diesel.

Police find two teen boys in steamy car eating toasted sub sandwiches.

Bridesmaids in odd dresses dance to camera that also plays music.

Verizon Wireless
Ad for new VCast Service that puts TV-like video on cell phones.

Pepsi bottles sing when caps are lifted in iTunes giveaway promotion.
Buxom woman's wardrobe malfunction upsets censorship committee.

Paramount Pictures
Studio promotes film remake of The Longest Yard.

20th Century Fox
Studio promoting upcoming animated film Robots.

McIlhenny Tabasco
Bathing beauty's tan lines display the hot sauce's unique qualities.

Paramount Pictures
Studio promotes film Sahara.

Eli Lilly-Cialis
Couples in romantic settings ogle to classic song Be My Baby.

MGM Studios
Studio promoting upcoming film Be Cool.

Ad promotes Toyota's hybrid vehicle Prius.

From school room to operating room, life is simpler with "Easy Button."

Warner Bros.
Studio promotes upcoming film Constantine.

Rocket launches with "My Other Vehicle is a Volvo XC90" bumper sticker, Virgin Atlantic's Richard Branson pitches contest for ride in space.

Animated superheroes respond after woman loses Visa check card.

Speedy new Cadillacs blast out of tunnel, disappear in puff of smoke.

Warner Bros.
Studio promotes upcoming film Batman Begins.

NFL icons from Vince Lombardi to John Elway hoist Super Bowl trophy.

New Honda pickup drives on mountain ridge.

Grown-up mama's boy can't let go of his mama in deodorant spot.

Gwen Stefani and Eve glam up iTunes giveaway promotion with their hit song Rich Girl.

Gladys Knight tears up the field as rugby star in Affinity credit card ad.

Couple hold Web auction for french fry that looks like Abraham Lincoln.

Cosentino Silestone countertops
Mike Ditka, Jim McMahon, William "Refrigerator" Perry and Dennis Rodman debate who best fits with Diana Pearl countertop style.

Baby Bob for Quiznos subs.

New Honda pickup appears to drive through clouds.

5 least popular

Taco Bell
Chicken enchilada dropped on sports card collection.

LeBron James blows big bubble for Bubblicious.

Introduction of Budweiser Select low-carb beer with no aftertaste.

Ciba Vision
People float in bubbles for O2OPTIX silicone hydrogen contact lenses.

Feline icon at football game holds up sign comparing price of new Napster service with rival iTunes.
4.37 - Anheuser-Busch still king of ads as marketers play it safe - Anheuser-Busch still king of ads as marketers play it safe
Anheuser-Busch still king of ads as marketers play it safe
By Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY
Even in a year when Anheuser-Busch (BUD) consciously avoided airing crude Super Bowl commercials, the beer giant bested the field, again, with one of its most potent advertising weapons: a silly sight gag.

For a record seventh year in a row, Anheuser-Busch has won USA TODAY's exclusive Ad Meter consumer ranking of the top Super Bowl ads. In this year's winner, by DDB Chicago, when a skydiver refuses to jump, his buddy tosses out a six-pack of Bud Light. The guy still doesn't jump, but the pilot does. (Video: See the winning ad)

Once again, Anheuser-Busch made winning look easier than popping the top off a Bud. Besides the top-rated ad for the evening, it also logged three of the top seven and five of the top 12. The beermaker was the game's single-largest advertiser, airing nine spots during the game. (Chart: How all the ads ranked)

"Budweiser always has the perfect commercials," says Elizabeth Prester, 53, a nurse from Ellicott City, Md.

Anheuser-Busch's global brand marketing chief, Bob Lachky, agrees: "It's an awesome feeling and a validation of the Bud Light (ad) strategy."

Even then, Anheuser-Busch faced some surprising competition from two Super Bowl rookies:, whose three chimp-as-office-worker ads all ranked among the top 10. And Ameriquest, whose ad about a store customer's cell phone chat being misunderstood as a robbery, ranked No. 2.

But the beermaker's big win came during one of the more uptight ad evenings in years. Hanging heavily on the minds of advertisers was the uproar from last year's Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction," which spilled over on the commercials.

Just one year ago, both the halftime show and the commercials pushed the edges of taste. This year, both the halftime show, with senior citizen Paul McCartney, and the ads, with boomer-era celebrities, were unusually tame.

"A lot of good taste in these commercials," says Arman Robii, 41, a project manager for an Austin sign company. "They're not putting too much sex into this year, which of course there used to be (a lot of)."

That may be a key reason two rookies scored so well. For, an online job-hunting site owned partially by Gannett, owner of USA TODAY and, it was a huge night: All three of its ads landed in the top 10 with an often-successful Super Bowl ad formula: chimps.

For Ameriquest, a first-time Super Bowl advertiser and sponsor of the halftime show, it was a big night, too. Both of its ads finished in the top 10 — real estate typically occupied by Anheuser-Busch.

Most advertisers were unusually conservative in both subject and presentation. The only outwardly provocative ad was from, a little-known domain registry site.

The ad showed a buxom woman have a wardrobe malfunction while testifying before a congressional panel. It upset some viewers.

"I don't get the one with the girl whose top was coming down," says Robin Dodson, 26, a student from Austin. "It was degrading, almost." Adds Ron Sarro, 66, an actor from North Bethesda, Md.: "Do TV and the NFL really call that reform?"

Even before the game, several controversial ads bit the dust. Anheuser-Busch opted not to air an ad that poked fun at the Jackson incident. And Ford Motor withdrew an ad for a Lincoln after an advocacy group charged that it made light of sex abuse.

To some, the game might have seemed like an homage to boomers, who watch the game in great numbers — and may have credit card limits to match.

Some ads seemed like minisalutes to their distant youth: There was Gladys Knight for MBNA and Burt Reynolds for FedEx. There was the Pillsbury Doughboy and Mr. Clean shilling for MasterCard. A bevy of superheroes hyped Visa.

It was a case of ad money chasing boomer money. Marketing giants from General Motors to Anheuser-Busch paid an average $2.4 million per 30 seconds of ad time to sell more stuff to a U.S. audience at more than 145 million viewers.

The one exception to the celebration of commerce: a touching tribute to U.S. troops by A-B that was No. 3.

"I really appreciate these (soldiers) being honored," says Joe Castillo, 62, of Austin, who says that's not how it was for Vietnam vets like himself.

When it came to selling stuff, however, subtlety failed to score for Super Bowl marketers in Ad Meter. In a Subway spot, viewers mostly failed to figure out that toasted buns will steam up windows like lovers in a parked car.

In an ad for Tabasco, few caught the visual reverse sunburn that eating Tabasco sauce gave a bathing beauty.

And the McDonald's french fry shaped like Abe Lincoln's head just didn't register with viewers.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005 - It All Connects -- and Converges - It All Connects -- and Converges
Consumer Electronics
It All Connects -- and Converges

January 31, 2005

The march of digital technologies through cameras, video and a flurry of gadgets is reshaping old standbys and broadening their use.

Clock radios are turning into überstereos, and cameras into slim wonders that beam images to a TV or printer. Television, which had evolved only gradually since the advent of color in the 1950s, is now a digital jungle of new screen types, shapes and technologies.


Here's a look at those and other major trends under way.

1. The Well-Connected Home

The home is becoming a digital network. Consumer-electronics makers are weaving into their products communications capabilities that allow music, video and Internet access to travel electronically from room to room. New devices are cropping up that allow PCs to connect to stereos and TVs via high-speed wireless networks or existing power lines.

Hewlett-Packard Co., Palo Alto, Calif., and D-Link Systems Inc. of Fountain Valley, Calif., sell media adapters that use wireless broadband frequencies like Wi-Fi to beam recorded TV programs, home movies, photos, or MP3 music files stored on a PC to stereos or TVs directly connected to the adapter. The catch is that these devices work best with new digital TVs, or with PCs running Microsoft Corp.'s Media Center Edition 2005 software.

There are other wireless links that don't require a PC at the center. Sony Corp.'s LocationFree TV uses Wi-Fi to transmit TV, movies and Internet pages from a base station -- which receives, processes and sends a TV signal -- to a portable liquid crystal display, or LCD, screen. A base station connects to a DVD player, a digital video recorder like TiVo or a broadband Internet connection, streaming recorded videos, TV programs or Internet pages up to 50 feet away from the station.

Japan's Sharp Corp. recently demonstrated the simultaneous transmission of high-definition TV and Internet access using electrical lines. This power-line network sends digital signals across existing copper wires, turning a home's electrical wiring -- with a node plugged into an outlet -- into a network. Sharp says it will be available in 2006 in the U.S., Japan and Europe.

2. A Cellphone That's a TV That's a…

Thanks to digital technologies, combinations of unrelated products are becoming commonplace.

Cellphone makers are embracing convergence most emphatically, adding cameras, music players, e-mail and video access to the cellphone. And they aren't done experimenting yet. Recently, Finland's Nokia Corp., Samsung Electronics Co. of South Korea and Dallas-based Texas Instruments Inc. have exhibited prototype cellphones with tiny TV receivers, paving the way for a commuter to watch the evening news on the train ride home.

Meantime, the combination of voice and high-speed Internet technologies should become more commonplace in many networked homes this year. Services like AT&T Corp.'s CallVantage Service and Vonage Holding's Internet Phone Service -- which allow calls to be placed via computer -- are now solid alternatives to long-distance carriers.

3. Keeping Tabs

Devices that more easily track people's whereabouts are on the rise.

Cellphones equipped with global-positioning-system devices can allow parents to track phone-toting kids by using services that store the location data and provide details for a fee on a Web site. Some rental cars are now equipped with black boxes that record the speed at which the vehicle is traveling, so rental companies can identify lead-footed drivers.

Technology already exists to help locate lost pets using chips that can be placed under the skin. And it's likely to be used for children in the near future. "The ability to monitor [children] with implants will be an overwhelming desire of parents in the future," says Art Fritzson, a vice president who tracks emerging technologies at consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton in McLean, Va.

4. The Big Small Picture

Digital television sets are unleashing a wave of innovation not seen since the early days of the tube. And consumers can't get enough of big TVs.

Market researcher iSuppli Corp., El Segundo, Calif., says sales of 40-inch and larger sets will about double to 14.4 million units in 2007 from 7.3 million last year.

Where traditional TV sets using a cathode ray differed largely by screen size, high-definition TV sets offer three new flavors: LCD, plasma and microdisplays, a digital technology that uses chip-based displays and bright bulbs to craft an image. And sizes range from 30 to 71 inches.

While none of the flat-panel technologies yet dominate, the fierce rivalry for consumer dollars among LCD, plasma and microdisplay sets is pulling down prices in unprecedented fashion. A high-definition-ready plasma set that cost $6,000 four years ago now goes for $2,000. The average price for a 32-inch LCD TV fell 37% to $2,379 last year from 2003, according to iSuppli. Microdisplays, which had been among the least expensive of the big TV sets, owing to their less-costly screens, also are falling in price due to higher volume and competition from plasma TVs.

5. One-Stop Storage

Electronics consumers are looking to a digital cupboard that holds all of their media -- music, movies and television programming -- in one spot.

Currently, even if all of a user's components are connected with a home network, a consumer must still store MP3 digital-music files on a PC, save the latest episode of "Desperate Housewives" to a digital recorder and use the cable box to store that evening's pay-per-view movie.

But several alternatives are now popping up. Microsoft's Media Center Edition software uses a souped-up PC as the cupboard, transmitting music files, recording TV programs and becoming a secure repository for storing home movies. D&M Holdings Inc.'s Denon brand offers the MediaServer NS-S100, which fits in a closet and sends music and video to networked stereo systems and TV sets. Computer users are using low-cost boxes to offload media files from PCs. These include the Network Storage Link, made by Cisco Systems Inc.'s Linksys unit, and the Mirra Personal Server, from Mirra Inc., Sunnyvale, Calif.

6. Smaller and Smaller

Gadget lovers crave portability. And to further shrink already-portable devices, electronics makers are using Secure Digital memory cards and hard-disk drives to replace bulky tapes and optical discs.

The most popular MP3 digital music players employ so-called microdrives that can store thousands of songs. Camera makers have almost universally switched to postage-stamp-size Secure Digital memory cards for recording digital pictures. Now, these ultrasmall devices are on the verge of reshaping camcorders, cellphones and perhaps even video.

Toshiba Corp. of Japan, which makes a 1.8-inch hard drive for the iPod, recently introduced a 0.85-inch device that is expected to show up in camera phones this year. Victor Co. of Japan's JVC brand has already introduced a camcorder that records video to a microdrive in place of the miniDV tape. Samsung has demonstrated camera phones with Secure Digital memory cards or microdrives.

Some think that the ability to put more storage in ever-smaller devices could wind up replacing DVDs for movie rentals or augmenting cable TV. For instance, TV makers are looking at offering TiVo-like store and replay services by incorporating tiny hard drives into their TV sets.

7. Point and Shoot – and Record

The decision on whether to take a still camera or camcorder for a weekend trip may soon become moot. Advances in imaging software and beefier memory cards are leading to the rise of "camera-corders," which can produce sharp 8-by-10 photos as well as DVD-quality video.

These camera-corders can shoot still photos and then, at the flip of a switch, record movies and sound. These hybrids are becoming possible due, in part, to better components and video-compression software. The devices are showing up with imagers that have resolution of three megapixels or better. And thanks to improved software, they capture video at 30 frames a second on inexpensive memory cards and minidisks. (TV is about 24 frames a second.)

Helping make these devices catch on are the rapid gains in memory cards. In the future, cards that hold two, four and eight gigabytes could provide several hours of high-quality video -- compared with current one-gigabyte cards that cost under $100 and can store 20 minutes of DVD-quality video.

8. What's Your (Digital) Frequency?

The lowly transistor radio is getting a makeover with digital encoding that will allow it to capture digital signals.

This year, radio stations are making a big push to broadcast ultracrisp high-definition signals over existing frequencies. So far, about 200 stations have gone live with digital broadcasts, offering the same content in both analog and digital.

Manufacturers including JVC, Kenwood Corp., Matsushita Electric Industrial Co.'s Panasonic Corp. and Sanyo Electric Co. are introducing car radios that accept these high-definition signals. And Boston Acoustics of Peabody, Mass., and Marantz, a unit of Japan's D&M Holdings, are promising digital radios for the home this year. First versions could be pricey, about $500, given the small number of companies making the needed chips and sets.

9. Join the Club

Weaving social networks around electronics products -- once just for hard-core gamers -- is going mainstream.

By offering events and dedicated Web sites, product developers are hoping to create communities of enthusiasts who otherwise might not find one another. The ultimate goal is to build buzz -- and sales.

The movement emerged from PC role-playing software such as Quake, made by id Software Inc. of Mesquite, Texas. As these programs moved from early single-player games to multiplayer and local-area-network versions, players started to compete against one another and hold so-called LAN parties where groups plug into a network and do battle. In 1996, id Software started an annual competition that attracted 150 players. Last year, some 5,000 players showed up.

Now, mainstream retailers are getting in on the action. Japan's Nintendo Co. hosts online chats with its game developers in addition to allowing customers to post reviews of its games.

After it noticed kids were tuning their radio-controlled cars with custom wheels, suspensions and running lights, RadioShack Corp. hosted a radio-car Web site and sponsored a national racing competition around its Xmods cars last summer. Its Web site is a gathering place for owners to swap tips on customizing and racing cars. Enthusiasts also use the site to recruit for racing clubs.

Sony holds Aibo days almost once a month at its retail stores, allowing owners of its Aibo robotic dog to gather and show off their training skills.

10. The New Home Computer

Laptop PCs, once prized largely by business travelers and well-to-do college students, are becoming the preferred home computer. Their built-in wireless networking and entertainment flourishes, such as wide-screen displays, have edged out desktops in most home PC sales.

NPD Group, which tracks retail sales, says laptop PCs were the second-largest sellers among consumer electronics -- after projection TVs -- during last year's Thanksgiving week.

Notebooks now rival TVs, with wide-screen displays that give a big-screen look to DVD movies. In the past year, wide-screen displays have become the dominant type for home and business notebooks. What's more, built-in wireless networks appeal to teens absorbed with instant messaging and gamers who tote their laptops to LAN parties.

Mr. McWilliams is a staff reporter in The Wall Street Journal's Houston bureau.