Articles of Interest

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Cubicle Dwellers' Funniest Home Video - New York Times

Cubicle Dwellers' Funniest Home Video - New York Times
Cubicle Dwellers' Funniest Home Video

"I love these clips," said Patrice O'Neal, introducing snippets from shows like "Maury" and "Judge Hatchet" in which men ecstatically celebrate a negative result on a paternity test. "Because there's no greater joy in the world than hearing those five beautiful words, 'You are not the father!' "

The montage was originally shown on "Jimmy Kimmel Live," after which it instantly became Internet viral video fodder — sent around via e-mail messages and posted on blogs and Web sites like, and From there, the video was scooped up by "Web Junk 20," a weekly countdown of Internet videos on VH1 that began in January and for which Mr. O'Neal serves as host. After being properly ridiculed there, the clips could once again be found online at VH1's VSPOT Web site

That's more or less the path that all the show's Web junk follows, and it may be perfectly suited to today's multiplatform (television, Web, mobile phone, iPod) media universe. "These things are becoming ground zero for pop culture," Brian Graden, president of entertainment for MTV Networks Group, VH1's parent company, said. "It's no longer the moment on the Jon Stewart show, it's 'Did you watch the viral video of the moment on the Jon Stewart show?' "

But many of the videos on "Web Junk" come from viewers — creative people using affordable digital video cameras and desktop software to shoot and edit and post their own clever shorts. "Saturday Night Live's" rap sketch "Lazy Sunday," perhaps the most widely seen viral video of late, has already inspired numerous parodies, including "Lazy Monday" (featuring two 11-year-old Chicago boys lip-synching to the original), "Lazy Muncie" (where the honor of the Midwest is defended) and "Lazy Saturday" (the West Coast answer to "Lazy Sunday"), which was featured on Episode 4 of "Web Junk 20."

It's an updated version of the long-running series "America's Funniest Home Videos," but with a twist: "The distinction," said Mr. Graden, "would be that I would call 'America's Funniest Home Videos' accidentally created, and these are often purposely created by people to express their own sense of comedy and commentary."

As on the original show, you can still see the occasional child mishap, or animal running amok, but on "Web Junk" odds are good you'll also witness someone throwing up, and there will be at least one clip celebrating the passing of gas. Mr. O'Neal, a rotund comedian who peppers his mocking commentary with numerous bleeped-out expletives and off-color jabs, embodies the other difference between the old show and the new: attitude.

"He's an equal opportunity offender," said Michael Hirschorn, the show's creator and VH1's executive vice president of original programming and production. "He's got a willingness to say the uncomfortable things that not everyone is willing to say." For example, "Web Junk" showed "Tom Cruise Kills Oprah," a homespun video that plays off the actor's infamous appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" but uses sound and visual effects so it seems he is electrocuting her. "See what happens," Mr. O'Neal asked the audience, "when white people touch black people?"

True to the nature of the clips themselves, the concept of using viral videos on television is spreading rapidly. Just weeks after VH1's show was first broadcast, Bravo — which had shown a half-hour special last November — began its own series, "Outrageous and Contagious: Viral Videos," which offers some of the same content but less of the mocking commentary.

Most of the clips look much better on the Bravo show than they do on VH1's, where videos are often so pixilated that they become indiscernible. But Mr. Graden thinks image quality doesn't really matter; in fact, he suggests, the worse the clips look the more effective they tend to be. "People want to believe these were completely homemade expressions," he said, "that they were discovered out in the universe and were brought to air. If they look like slickly produced television I don't think people would buy into the utter randomness that is that show."

Slickly produced they are not. While the shows do pay for some of the content (Bravo paid to use the recent computer geek sendup of "Brokeback Mountain," titled "Broke Mac Mountain," according to the clip's creators), it is obviously a lot cheaper to license these videos than it is to shell out for actors and set designers and so on. Additionally, by partnering with video Web portals like, which also is owned by MTV Networks, VH1 gains access to a virtual community of filmmakers and actors constantly uploading fresh content, each member waiting for his or her 30 seconds of fame.

"You can almost see a continuum with reality TV," Mr. Graden said. "Fame has become an overblown aphrodisiac in our culture, and now here you go: put your video you made on iFilm and maybe you'll be on TV next week."

NBC and USA Networks also have viral video shows in development. Carson Daly is to be the host for "The Net with Carson Daly" on NBC, and USA Networks has partnered with the "extreme content" site to exploit its digital content for a late-night clip show.

Ruth Caruso, head of development for Carson Daly Productions, identifies an ambitious goal for the show. "Now that our country is more culturally divided than ever," Ms. Caruso said, "we see networks struggling to find shows that have broad appeal. By tapping into the country's talent pool we hope to cross these gaps, much like 'American Idol' massively accomplishes."

And the more new shows there are, the more opportunities for the nation's grass-roots filmmakers to have their material seen. "The technology has opened up in a massive way so that everyone in some way or another is potentially the next great viral auteur," said Andrew Cohen, Bravo's vice president of production and programming. "I think that's great. I just don't want anyone to hurt themselves lighting themselves on fire or jumping off a building."

So far, nobody has reported doing either — though much of what's shown does look painful: one video on Bravo's show features a man getting a pair of scissors thrown into his arm. Both the Bravo and VH1 shows do encourage viewers to submit content online (as will "The Net with Carson Daly," according to the show's creators), driving increased traffic to their respective Web sites. And as "Web Junk 20's" television ratings have been respectable, VH1 has already seen a record increase in Web traffic to their VSPOT broadband channel and to each week since the show began in January.

With four viral video shows soon to be on the air, what's the next wave of user-generated content? "One could imagine a next generation version of 'Saturday Night Live' that's created entirely by the viewers," Mr. Hirschorn speculated. "It might even be better."

Google's Print Auction Fizzles

Google's Print Auction Fizzles
Google's Print Auction Fizzles
The search giant's auction of magazine ad space didn't generate much enthusiasm -- or business, in the case of one successful bidder

Google's effort to roll its advertising juggernaut beyond digital and into the world of print publications is struggling. And that may not be a good thing for the print industry.

In February, Google (GOOG ) auctioned off ad space it had purchased in about two dozen magazines, from Martha Stewart Living to Road & Track. The auction -- the latest twist in a six-month experiment with buying and reselling print ads -- was open to thousands of advertisers. However, Google was forced to extend the auction by several days to lure more buyers.

The tepid demand became evident in some of the winning bids, which were recognized earlier this month. Nicholas Longo, CEO of CoffeeCup Software, which makes tools for creating Web sites, wound up paying just $4,000 for each of three half-page ads in Martha Stewart Living. It was a long shot: The magazine's rate card pegs the price of a half-page ad at more than $59,000. Neither Google nor Martha Stewart Living would say what Google originally paid for the space, but it didn't get a similar discount.

SPIN CYCLE. Google can certainly digest a loss of tens of thousands of dollars. The outfit's net profits jumped 267% in 2005, to $1.5 billion, almost exclusively on its thriving business of selling text ads next to Internet search results. A company spokesman acknowledges that demand was light for its print auction, but says Google did little to market the opportunity to its network of several hundred thousand advertisers. Its primary goal, he says, was to test the auction process for print ads. "We're pleased with the data we've gathered and will use it to inform future experiments we conduct on different aspects of the print process," says Google spokesman Barry Schnitt.

Investors, who have bid up Google's stock valuation to more than $100 billion, are expecting the company to successfully diversify its business. Google executives have often stated that they are seeking to expand Google's online advertising stronghold into various offline media, including radio, print, and television ads. In addition to its efforts to broker the sale of print ads, Google in January, 2006, acquired dMarc Broadcasting, which facilitates the sale of radio advertising.

The lackluster appetite for its February auction is just the latest challenge for Google's six-month foray into print ads. Late last year, Google conducted its first trial by purchasing and reselling ad space in a handful of magazines. Although the Internet giant lauded the trial's outcome, a BusinessWeek analysis found that 8 of 10 participating advertisers were disappointed with the results and probably wouldn't buy print ads through Google again (see BW Online, 12/12/05, "Can Google Go Glossy?").

INDUSTRY SKEPTICISM. Several more advertisers spoke with BusinessWeek following the story's publication, echoing similar sentiments. Carl D. Haugen, president of BluePenguin Software, spent $3,000 on an ad through Google, which ran in the November issue of Budget Living magazine. Haugen offered a 20% discount on its antispyware software to Budget Living readers, so he could better track the ad's performance. Over one month later, the ad had only generated $181.37 in sales, says Haugen.

Google's struggle to transfer its online success to magazines doesn't necessarily bode well for the publishing industry. Hundreds of publications have contacted Google about the program, with the hopes that the online giant can extend their reach to Google's army of smaller marketers who otherwise would not consider magazine ads. But the weak performance may indicate that the true value of a page of print lags its list price -- at least in the eyes of Google's advertisers, who are used to high-return search engine campaigns.

Even Longo, winner of the bargain-basement ad space in Martha Stewart Living, is somewhat skeptical. "If at these rates it doesn't work," says Longo, "it never will."

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Simmons Chief: Behavioral To Supplant Demos

Simmons Chief: Behavioral To Supplant Demos
by Kristin Sidorak, Thursday, Mar 23, 2006 7:47 AM EST

BEHAVIORAL TARGETING, A PRACTICE THAT has been transforming the way marketers target consumers online, is poised to become a big factor in the media world at large, potentially replacing traditional demographic data as the basis for media planning. At least that's what Bill Engel, co-CEO of Simmons Market Research Bureau, told a group of marketing executives last week during a keynote at the 2006 Promotion Marketing Association Conference in Chicago.

"Targeting has become more complex than ever before," says Engel, whose company has transformed itself over the past several years to reflect that change. Once a big player in traditional, demographic-based audience estimates for magazine planners, Simmons in recent years has developed and adapted a wide variety of targeting tools derived from consumer behavior including actual product purchases and media usage. Such behaviors, asserts Engel, trump simple demographic analysis--which assumes that age, sex, income, and educational attributes are good proxies for such behavior.

"Given the proliferation of brands, a consumer who is a value shopper for one category may be a luxury shopper for another category, which seems perhaps counterintuitive," cites Engel as one example.

In another, he cites a consumer who shops at Saks Fifth Avenue to buy high-end haute couture for a ball, but who goes to low-end retailers such as TJ Maxx or Marshalls to buy white polo shirts. Thus, advertisers must understand the luxury versus value-based purchaser, and that they may be one and the same, he suggests.

According to Engel, the big picture concerning behavioral targeting from the advertisers' perspective is that they have their brand, they know who is buying their brand, and their questions are; what media should I buy from, and what messaging should I use? Moreover, he says those ad messages need to factor in what medium a consumer might be exposed to at any given time.

"The technology exists today for a number of clients to target behaviors," says Engel, touting Simmons' Television BehaviorGraphics study as an example. The BehaviorGraphics system integrates Simmons' National Consumer Survey data with actual TV viewing behavior from Nielsen Media Research's national TV ratings.

Some research purists are critical of such data integrations, but research pragmatists are beginning to embrace the practice as a means of correlating consumer behavior with media usage. By correlating Simmons' surveys on consumer behavior, attitudes, lifestyles, and product usage with Nielsen's tracking of TV viewing behavior, Engel claims that advertisers can more effectively target the audiences of national TV shows.

Engel says the application has two benefits: 1) Selecting media buys that target consumers more effectively; and 2) Scheduling advertising messages that are more relevant to those consumers.


New Study Finds Those With Degrees Underperform
March 21, 2006
By Jack Neff
CINCINNATI ( -- A Master of Business Administration degree is not only worthless, it can work against a marketer, according to a survey of marketing executives from 32 consumer-products companies by consulting firm Ken Coogan & Partners.

The study found that marketing executives from underperforming companies were twice as likely to have been recruited out of M.B.A. programs than marketing executives from out-performing companies.
Vote and comment on this M.B.A. issue in this week's Ad Age Online Poll
The study used scanner and panel data from VNU’s ACNielsen to show marketers from companies with significant market-share gains are far less likely to have M.B.A.s than those from companies posting significant share losses.
Major marketers
The M.B.A. factor wasn’t the only difference, but it was perhaps the most striking one between winners and losers among the companies, which included General Mills, Kraft Foods, Nestle, Pfizer, Clorox Co., Reckitt Benckiser, Energizer, Alberto Culver Co., Hasbro, Cadbury Schweppes, Kodak and Dunkin’ Donuts.
Marketing executives from 18 underperforming companies -- which had sales grow 7% less than their categories on average in the two years ended August 2005 -- were twice as likely to have been recruited out of M.B.A. programs than marketing executives from out-performing companies, which averaged growth 6.2% faster than their categories over the two years. Of executives from underperforming companies, 90% had M.B.A.s vs. 55% at outperforming companies.
Not all master’s degrees appear worthless in the study. Just M.B.A.s. About 10% of the marketing executives at the out-performers had master’s degrees other than M.B.A.s vs. none at underperformers.
That twice as many underperforming companies as out-performing ones participated in the survey may indicate something, too. Possible theories: Underperforming executives, particularly ones with M.B.A.s, spend more time filling out surveys, or are more likely to be in contact with consulting firms like the one that administered the study.
Recruitment practices
The out-performers in the survey got about a fifth of their marketing executives from undergraduate programs and another fifth from advertising or marketing agencies or other industry vendors. None of the executives from underperformers had been recruited as undergrads and only 5% came from agencies or suppliers.
Perhaps surprisingly, the out-performers were understaffed compared to their underperforming peers. Out-performers averaged one marketing executive for every $37.9 million in sales, compared to one for every $28.5 million in sales at the underperformers. But the out-performers spent more on marketing—averaging 12.4% of sales vs. 11.6% for the underperformers.
Ken Coogan, principal of the consulting firm, isn’t sure the marketing-budget differential is significant, but believes the staffing number might be. Possibly, it reflects staffing at both out- and underperformers not having caught up yet with their changing marketplace results, he said. But he said too much staff -- and bureaucracy -- could actually be slowing down the underperformers.
Outsourced marketing services
In a separate bit of counterintuitive research, Mr. Coogan said he has found marketers that outsource marketing-services functions the most actually have higher staffing levels than ones that outsource less.
Though they don’t value M.B.A.s as much, out-performers in the survey place a much higher value on personal and professional development once they hire people. The survey showed the share winners far more likely than the losers to support attendance at industry conferences and seminars, involvement in industry associations and peer-share groups, internal training groups, formal mentoring programs and graduate-level seminars.
The only professional-development perks supported more by the underperformers were -- you guessed it -- executive M.B.A. programs.
Equally unsurprising, executives at the out-performing companies were far more likely to believe career advancement at their companies was based on merit rather than politics. Underperforming marketers were more likely to see politics at play. Overall job satisfaction measures were higher at the out-performers.
Stock option differential
But executives were about equally happy with compensation at both the winners and losers. And the underperforming marketers were more likely to offer stock options than the out-performers. Both findings could create some interesting fodder for executive-compensation critics.
Retention programs that were more common among the out-performers than the underperformers included assignments outside marketing to groom for general management, part-time or job-sharing assignments for managers who request them and giving more tenured executives preference in job assignments.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

mcdonalds_bus_stop.jpg (JPEG Image, 320x242 pixels)

mcdonalds_bus_stop.jpg (JPEG Image, 320x242 pixels)
From AdRants:
Just what you want while waiting for the bus: that mouth watering, tantalizing reminder of how much you'd love to stuff your face with a 1,000 calorie burger only to be reminded later by your stomach it wasn't the best decision you could have made.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Nielsen: Network Prime-Time Clutter Surpasses Cable, Hispanic

Nielsen: Network Prime-Time Clutter Surpasses Cable, Hispanic
by Joe Mandese, Thursday, Mar 16, 2006 8:15 AM EST
A NEW REPORT FROM NIELSEN Media Research appears to refute the conventional wisdom that cable is more cluttered than the broadcast networks. The study, based on an analysis of the non-programming time on major national TV outlets during the fourth quarter of 2005, finds that the seven broadcast networks carried an average of 15 minutes and 23 seconds of so-called clutter--advertising, promos, PSAs, and IDs--during the average prime-time hour, 22 seconds more than the average prime-time hour on cable TV.

Spanish-language TV networks, which also are perceived as being heavily cluttered, prove to have the highest percentage of programming time per prime-time hour, with only 14 minutes and 16 seconds of clutter.

"The mix of non-program content varied significantly across the three media: 31 percent of the non-program content on the Spanish Language networks was dedicated to promotional announcements while cable devoted 17 percent and broadcast 15 percent to promos," found the report, released Wednesday by Nielsen's Monitor-Plus unit.

The report, an annual recap of all forms of ad spending during 2005, also found another form of commercialization expanding within programming time: product placements. And the biggest contender was, well, NBC's "The Contender," with 7,502 product plugs during 2005--more than twice the branded mentions of the next closest contender, NBC's "The Apprentice," with 3,577 product mentions during the year.

Prime-time Clutter
Network TV 15:23
Cable TV 15:01
Spanish-Language TV 14:16

Source: Nielsen Monitor-Plus, fourth-quarter 2005 analysis.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Satirical Superheroes for the Rude Set

Satirical Superheroes for the Rude Set

They don't leap tall buildings in a single bound or scale skyscrapers. They don't transform into not-so-jolly green giants or zoom around in tricked-out sportsmobiles. Instead, Minoriteam — a motley band of minority superheroes — uses stereotypes to fight their archenemy: racism.

Created by Adam de la Peña, Todd James and Peter Girardi — all alumni of the ribald Comedy Central puppet series "Crank Yankers" — "Minoriteam" is a provocative animated show that sends up bigotry. It makes its debut tomorrow night on Cartoon Network's late-night "Adult Swim" block of animated shows for viewers who have outgrown the Disney Channel.

Having found success with "The Boondocks," the animated series based on Aaron McGruder's comic strip that takes a satirical look at race and class in America, Mike Lazzo, the network's senior vice president for "Adult Swim," said he was more than willing to invest in another show with a distinctive voice on issues. "I think television is well served by social commentary, especially if you can make it feel like it's not a lesson that's being slammed over someone's head."

Metropolis had Superman. Gotham City had Batman. And Corporate City has Minoriteam:

The team's leader, Dr. Wang, is an Asian, wheelchair-bound mathematical genius with a freakishly large brain. He speaks with a heavy Chinese accent and is in the laundry business.

Non-Stop is the alter ego of Dave Raj, an Indian, former professional skateboarder turned convenience store clerk who is incapable of being killed by firearms. After having been shot 235 times during various attempted robberies, his skin is saturated with lead, which serves as a bulletproof armor of sorts; when necessary, his skateboard morphs into a flying carpet.

Landon K. Dutton, a black man awkwardly teaching women's studies at Male University, turns into Fasto, the world's fastest man. His extreme rage propels him to travel at breakneck speeds. When not fighting crime he spends his time "studying" the opposite sex; during one episode, it takes him only seconds to satisfy a roomful of Thai prostitutes.

Richard Escartin, a Mexican oil baron, trades his tailored suits and silk ties for a giant sombrero and a leaf blower when he becomes El Jefe, Minoriteam's hardest working member. El Jefe's blower is no ordinary garden tool. It can suck and blow with deadly force and rip holes through time and space. His kryptonite? Tequila. "I think a lot of people can relate to that," Mr. de la Peña said.

Neil Horvitz may be a wimpy mail clerk in his early 20's, but his alter ego, Jewcano, is a muscle-bound 62-year-old who sports an XXXL yarmulke and has all the power of the Jewish faith and a raging volcano. Watch him shoot molten lava from his wrists (move over, Spider-Man).

The multiethnic crew battles a gang of villains including the sniveling Corporate Ladder (an anthropomorphized ladder with a cape and a pipe), Racist Frankenstein (a bigoted monster) and Standardized Test, whose head is shaped like a No. 2 pencil and whose body resembles a Scantron test. White Shadow, the bad guys' bumbling leader, has a head that looks eerily like the pyramid found on the back of a dollar bill. He spews nonsensical corporate-speak, using words like "synergy" and phrases like "Let's all get on the same page."

"He's an amalgam of a thousand morons that we've all dealt with in our lives, starting with the lackey at the D.M.V. and all the way up to Dick Cheney," Mr. Girardi said. "Shooting your friend in the face is totally something White Shadow would do and Corporate Ladder would be like, 'Boss, I'm sorry my face got in the way of your gun.' " For recreation, the villains enjoy a nice relaxing game of Oligarchy or a racist version of Scrabble.

In one episode White Shadow and his minions travel back in time to destroy the accomplishments of minorities throughout history. Another episode finds Minoriteam on trial in a parallel universe. Their crime? Not being racist. And during the season opener, White Shadow, bothered by the rising power of black-owned business, kidnaps Sebastian Jefferson, a prominent African-American mogul. Grape-soda factories and soul food restaurants immediately close.

But it will take more than playing the race card for this show to succeed, Mr. Lazzo acknowledged. "You have to empathize with the characters," he said. "If the characters aren't interesting, then it will be a one-trick pony and it won't last because our audience will suss that out in a few weeks."

The creators have braced themselves for negative feedback. Surely someone will be uncomfortable watching a Jewish superhero get aroused while chasing a giant glowing nickel, they said. "But who exactly will it offend?" Mr. de la Peña asked. "I have no idea. We're really targeting Eskimos."

Unlike "The Boondocks," which is drawn in a sophisticated anime style, "Minoriteam" is crudely drawn and the show's color palette is limited to those available for comic-book printing in the 1960's, Mr. Girardi said.

"It's not a true animated show," he said, "it's more like a moving comic book, moving very little actually, which is on purpose. Using that style of animation is part of the humor. But we're not parodying those cartoons or cheap animation. We actually really love cheap animation."

The three self-professed comic-book junkies happily recall many an afternoon spent at their favorite local comic-book stores. "Mine was named Comic Book Castle and it was not a castle," Mr. de la Peña said. "It was run by a lunatic man who had a parrot on his shoulder that didn't talk, so it might as well have been a pigeon."

Based in Hollywood, their headquarters is a veritable shrine to Jack Kirby, the comic artist whose résumé included such iconic characters as Captain America, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and the Incredible Hulk. Kirby's work fills the cramped office the animators share, and each can discuss the legendary illustrator's contributions to the world of comics in exhaustive detail. "I think that's why we get along so much, because we don't have hierarchal distinctions between fine art and vernacular art," Mr. Girardi said. "To us good is good and Kirby is right up there with Picasso."

Mr. Girardi and Mr. James have known each other since they were adolescent graffiti artists, altering subway trains and abandoned buildings around New York City. "We expressed our youthful rage through urban artistry," Mr. Girardi joked.

Mr. de la Peña, a fourth-generation Mexican-American, was raised in a racially diverse community in Orange County, Calif. He has been a staff writer for "The Man Show" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and he co-starred in the 2003 Comedy Central series, "I'm With Busey," a reality show involving the actor Gary Busey.

Mr. Girardi's background is in digital media design. In addition to his "Minoriteam" work, he still runs Funny Garbage, the design company he started more than a decade ago. Mr. James has created logos for rappers like Eminem, Red Man and the Beastie Boys, and he was the puppet designer for "Crank Yankers."

Coming episodes of "Minoriteam" will poke fun at the Internal Revenue Service, illegal aliens and an assortment of conspiracy theories. But Mr. James said, "We're not sitting around and saying, 'Man, we've got to talk about this 'cause it's heavy.' That's not our m.o. It's about justice and condemnation of everyone for everyone."

The Web's First Rock n' Roll Success?

Friday, 17 March 2006
The Web's First Rock n' Roll Success?
Topic: music
The Arctic Monkeys came out of nowhere.

Well, not exactly nowhere, but a year ago, the impossibly young indie rock quartet were playing small clubs in their native Sheffield, UK. Now they have a best-selling album. They are currently playing a few shows in the major North American cities (all of which sold out in minutes), and afterwards, they will set out on a thirty-plus date tour of Japan and Europe before doing the obligatory festival circuit this summer.

None of this is really remarkable in a music industry that sees two or three overnight successes come and go every year. What makes Arctic Monkeys remarkable is that they are an indie band on an independent label, and that they achieved their sudden success almost entirely through grassroots promotion on the web.

The foursome got together in 2002. They started playing shows around Sheffield and passing out free CDs at gigs. They encouraged their fans to trade the tunes online and to post them to websites and P2P networks. Yes, they encouraged file trading. Eventually, more and more people found them on MySpace or on their website via word-of-mouth, and their reach started to widen. Fans started booking them in venues farther and farther away from their hometown. Wherever they played, everyone in the crowd knew the words to the songs. This is all before they even signed to a record label.

Then, when they finally signed to Domino Records (a UK indie) and released their debut album, "Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not," it hit number one on the UK charts, selling 360,000 copies in the first week. Nobody anticipated those kinds of numbers. In fact, those kinds of numbers made "Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not" the fastest-selling independent debut in UK history.

Their story is remarkable because of one fact: grassroots communication channels like MySpace and P2P file trading networks worked better than the major-label hype machine. The Arctic Monkeys became hugely popular because they wrote good songs, made them available to their fans for free, and encouraged them to share the MP3s with their friends.

Going by the current record company logic, that's a huge no-no. If a band gives away all of its songs for free, then puts out a record filled with the same songs (even re-recorded versions), so the old philosophy goes, nobody's going to buy the record. They already have the songs. It turns out that this scenario is decidedly not the case.

The final version of "Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not," was leaked onto P2P networks a few weeks before its official release. And it didn't seem to have hurt the sales numbers when the record hit the retail shelves.

Many of us on this side of the music business (the consumer side) have been saying that the old logic is a myth, and that trading songs via P2P actually encourages people to buy more music. They are exposed to more bands and a wider variety of music. They get a chance to get excited about new music in a much more direct and natural way. They aren't told about it by an advertisement or a video. They find it on their own or a friend tells them about it. They check it out, they like it, then they go to the store and buy the CD. And they probably buy more than just that one CD while they're there.

Of course, it's irresponsible to say that piracy isn't hurting the record business in some way. It certainly isn't healthy to your bottom line and your longevity to allow people to take your product without paying. And downloading without permission is stealing. But it's also true that downloading a record and realizing that it's a load of garbage is not going to get you excited about spending $17 on the real thing. Good music will always sell, either on CD or in the iTunes Music Store. But if you put out good music and allow people to hear it any way they want, it will sell, and it will sell well.

By the way, the Arctic Monkeys were the top sellers in the iTMS for ten days when their record was released stateside. They only sold one tenth of the amount of records here as they sold in the UK in the first week, but the sales were still rather impressive for a foreign indie act with minimal mainstream exposure.

Another point proven by the Arctic Monkey's success is that the major labels are misguided about promotion and marketing. Pure word of mouth and an open trading policy actually work better than big-budget videos and full-page magazine spreads.

Or maybe the AMs just have a better view of what works and what doesn't when you're promoting a band on the internet. It's probably because they are young — the four members range in age somewhere between 19 and 21 — and they have a sort of hipster radar that suits at the record companies usually lack. They mention ringtones and email in their lyrics. They know their audience.

In the end, the Arctic Monkeys are a really good band, plain and simple. They have good songs with strong lyrics, and they are well-produced. Thousands of bands know that giving away their music for free is the best way to get heard and the best way to reach new fans. They also understand that the fans you find on the Internet are far more loyal — and forgiving — than the fans you find through MTV or corporate radio. So why aren't those other bands succeeding? Maybe they are afraid to give it all away for free, maybe they aren't playing enough shows. Or maybe they just aren't that good.

All it took was one band from this new subculture to hit it big — really big — in order to signal that a change is needed. The major labels are still scratching their heads wondering why the kids aren't buying records they way they used to. And meanwhile, the Arctic Monkeys are selling hundreds of thousands of records and enjoying the success they made for themselves.

Posted by michael calore at 2:03 PM PST | post your comment (0) | link to this post

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Americans Get More Channels, Watch Fewer Of Them, Especially Broadcast

Americans Get More Channels, Watch Fewer Of Them, Especially Broadcast
by Joe Mandese, Monday, Mar 13, 2006 8:00 AM EST
AMERICANS ARE RECEIVING MORE TV channels than ever before, but they're watching a smaller percentage of them, especially those from broadcasters. Those are the top line conclusions from an important annual benchmark study on the way people watch TV released late last week by Nielsen Media Research. The report, which comes as Nielsen holds its annual client meetings in Orlando this week, shows that the average household received 96.4 channels during 2005, an increase of nearly four channels from 92.6 in 2004. However, the average number of channels tuned barely changed, rising to 15.4 from 15.0 in 2004. The data appears to support a fundamental principle of rising media choice: that given an unlimited number of media options, the average person will still opt to use a relatively small number.
What makes the principle especially interesting for TV, is that Americans are spending more time watching TV than ever before. During 2005, the average household was tuned to their TV 57 hours and 17 minutes per week, a huge jump over 2004, when the average household was tuned to TV 56 hours and seven minutes per week. That's up from an average of 43 hours and 42 minutes per week in 1975, the benchmark year in the Nielsen report.

Not surprisingly, Americans appear to be spending more of their time with cable and satellite TV channels than those from broadcasters. The number of broadcast TV channels tuned by the average TV household actually declined from 16.4 in 2004 to 16.3 in 2005, the first time Nielsen has reported a drop in broadcast channels tuned since it began benchmarking the data.

TV Channels Received Vs. Tuned

Receivable Tuned 1985 NA NA 1990 NA NA 1995 NA NA 2000 61.4 NA 2001 71.9 NA 2002 79.7 NA 2003 85.8 NA 2004 92.6 15.0 2005 96.4 15.4

Source: Nielsen Media Research.

MediaPost Publications - Nielsen Seeks To Engage Clients, Unveils Engagement Panel - 03/15/2006

MediaPost Publications - Nielsen Seeks To Engage Clients, Unveils Engagement Panel - 03/15/2006
Nielsen Seeks To Engage Clients, Unveils Engagement Panel
by Joe Mandese, Wednesday, Mar 15, 2006 7:45 AM EST

SEEKING TO ENGAGE CLIENTS DURING the opening session an annual two-day meeting in Orlando on Tuesday, Nielsen Media Research released plans for measuring one of the hottest subjects in the TV advertising business: audience engagement. As part of the plan, Nielsen said it would launch a separate panel next month comprised of households and individuals who are retired from its people meter ratings panel to participate in the engagement research. Households normally stay in Nielsen's people meter panels for two-year intervals, and then are replaced by new panelists. Nielsen has always considered the old panelists a valuable asset for ancillary research projects, because they are already installed with metering technology, they have agreed to participate in TV audience research, and because they have up to two-years worth of conventional TV audience measurement data, but this is the first time it will be utilizing them as part of an ongoing research endeavor. Nielsen has a policy of not conducting tests via its "live" ratings panel due to concerns that it could influence natural viewing behavior that would impact TV ratings.
Once they leave the official ratings panel, the new engagement panelists will continue to have their TV viewing behavior metered, but will also participate in periodic phone surveys to measure the connection between what they watch on TV and their recall, awareness and attitudes toward brands and products advertised on TV.

The new Nielsen engagement panel comes as Madison Avenue has become transfixed with engagement metrics as a solution to growing concerns that people avoid advertising. An industry-wide task force known as MI4 is expected to release its definition for engagement next week during the Advertising Research Foundation's annual conference in New York.

MI4, which describes the engagement effort as the "search for the 21st Century GRPs," a reference to Nielsen's conventional "gross rating points," has been using a working definition of media engagement as: "Engagement is turning on a prospect to a brand idea enhanced by the surrounding media context."

Nielsen is by no means the only researcher to jump into engagement measurement. IAG Research has made that the core focus of its measurement of TV programming, advertising and even product placement, and is expected to expand that soon into other forms of media such as online and print.

Nielsen Senior Vice President-Client Insights Howard Shimmel has been alluding to a Nielsen solution for much of the past year, and had been known to be championing an alternate panel concept.

Nielsen clients, meanwhile, have been developing their own solutions, especially spunky cable networks like Court TV and The Weather Channel, including a variety of custom studies, analysis of conventional Nielsen ratings, and even minute-by-minute ratings analyses.

During the first day of its annual client meetings, Nielsen also announced that it has committed to fund its so-called Council For Research Excellence for a second year for an additional $2.5 million. The council, which as yet to yield any research, currently is evaluating proposals for primary and methodological research, including a study that would measure the impact of the simultaneous use of media.

During Tuesday's session, Nielsen also updated clients on its so-called "extended home" sample, including the measurement of TV viewing done by members of Nielsen households residing on college campuses.

During today's final half-day session, Nielsen CEO Susan Whiting will deliver a keynote on "The Digital Consumer," and how Nielsen plans to measure their media behavior, followed by an overview on the "consumer technology landscape," including digital video recorders and video on demand, as well as long-term research methods and technology solutions by Nielsen's chief research and technology executives.

The event concludes with an open forum discussion between Nielsen clients and Whiting, which is typically a lively exchange.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


General Market and Media Agencies Are Split Apart Forever -- and for Good Reason
March 14, 2006
By Jonah Bloom
For an exercise in futility it is hard to beat the argument that ad and media agencies should be rebundled. It was a pointless, if forgivable, polemic when it was first rehearsed in Europe in the late ‘90s and with every rehashing it gets just a little more painful.
Jonah Bloom, executive editor of Advertising Age.

Today its proponents are not only wasting their time engaging in a nostalgic nondebate, but missing the opportunity to make collaborative progress instead of, Canute-like, ordering back a tide that has already swept past them.

Perhaps it was inevitable, in the run-up to this month’s 4A’s media conference, that a couple of the ad-agency folk who yearn for a time when they held strategic sway over clients’ budgets would yet again proclaim the need to reclaim the media high ground. Yet the terms they used, “bringing it back in-house,” for example, sounded a lot like they were laboring under the illusion that the entire marketing world still revolves around their shops -- “we are the house, these others houses aren’t houses” -- and, in tone, it sounded a lot like whining rather than the spawning of new models that suit their clients.

For the last time
So, hopefully for the last time, let’s get this straight: Media agencies are not going to be integrated into ad agencies. Have you been to MediaVest, Starcom, MindShare or OMD? Can you imagine squeezing them into the ad agencies? The bureaucracy, the politics, the confusion, the office-supply orders ...

The big media agencies are gigantic, busy-to-bursting businesses that plan and buy, between them, more than $50 billion in media in America alone. And, according to my admittedly half-assed, back-of-a-business-card calculations, they make over $4 billion in global revenue for their holding companies. You’d have to be crazy to imagine that Messrs. Wren, Sorrell, Roth and Levy are about to put that at risk by reintegrating those units.

What’s more, while it is critical that media and message are intrinsically linked in the planning of a campaign, it is questionable whether it benefits the client to have the organization that does its communications planning be the same organization that has, historically at least, produced one particular type of communication. That’s hardly the way to get broader, media-neutral thinking.

Linking marketer to consumer
Then there’s the fact that the separation of the media agencies has enabled them to equip themselves better for an era in which the navigation of channels between marketer and consumer is arguably the trickiest task in marketing. Today’s media shops have research arms, planning tools and processes that are way more advanced than anything the old in-house departments had to offer. And the truth is that they still need more data-analytics talent and deeper planning resources to take the reams of research and turn it into meaningful insight for their clients. To take away their P&Ls and return them to ad agencies where they might, in some quarters, still be regarded as second-class citizens, would be seriously short-changing them -- and their clients.

Rather than looking backward, wishing for the impossible and generally sounding regressive, these ad-agency bosses ought to be helping to create new, flexible and collaborative models to serve the client that make the best use of a variety of resources regardless of the name over the door. Some smart marketers have already demanded such arrangements -- think Coca-Cola City or SMG United for P&G -- and no two will look the same. What they will have in common, however, is that they’ll find ways to unite channel or engagement planners with brand planners and message masters without insisting that they all share a stapler.